Today, Apple Corps/EMI released to iTunes Tomorrow Never Knows , a 14-track compilation showcasing some of The Beatles' most influential songs, spanning their nearly decade-long musical career. The digital download contains songs that have been cited as inspiring by many of today's contemporary musicians, including Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park), Will Butler (Arcade Fire) and Adam Levine (Maroon 5.)
The following is a track-by-track listing, which includes my personal takes on the songs and their aesthetic impact on rock'n'roll:
Revolution (from The White Album) - From the ricocheting guitar riffs that open the tune, to its strange homage to '50's doo-wop, this song is the typical feel-good Beatles rocker, except for the fact that John Lennon's sociopolitic lyricism belie the upbeat proceedings: "When you want money for people with minds that hate/All I can tell you is, brother - you have to wait."
Paperback Writer - This 45 never appeared on an album proper until the compilation, Past Masters, Vol. 1, but it, along with its B-side stunner "Rain" was one of the earliest examples of the flawless pop-rock that would become the foursome's hallmark. A great lyric and vocal by Paul McCartney about a struggling writer trying to hawk his manuscript is highlighted by its verse/chorus changes, as well as that clever tap-echo effect, "paperback wri-ter-er-er-er."
And Your Bird Can Sing (from Revolver) - Great guitar work by Lennon highlights this relationship song that again showcases Lennon's uncanny knack for turning a phrase: "You tell me that you've got every thing you want..../but you don't get me." My favorite part is the repeating guitar line at the end, which dissolves into a minor chord as McCartney's ominous bass trails off.
Helter Skelter (from The White Album) - Irish rockers U2 covered this tune on the underrated Rattle and Hum album, and it is undeniably the hardest rocking song in the Beatles catalog. A fierce slice of distortion-laden blues rock, it would serve as a template for everyone from Led Zeppelin to Bad Company to Aerosmith.
Savoy Truffle - The second of George Harrison's contributions to The White Album, I must say this song's inclusion is a bit of a puzzler for me. Musically, the song is all over the place: from its pop-funk horn arrangement to the seeming "Glass Onion" cannibalism, to Harrison's weird-ass lyrics ("A ginger sling with a pineapple heart"? Huh?) - it scares me to think this song inspired any successive rock bands in the least.
I'm Down - Originally released as the B-side to "Help", this song exemplifies how the Fab Four blatantly plagiarized Little Richard in their early years, and frankly, not very well at that. McCartney's wailing might try to assimilate Richard's, but The Monkees' Mickey Dolenz did it ten times better, and with genuine sincerity.
I've Got A Feeling (from Let It Be, Naked) - Featuring one of McCartney's strongest vocals, this blues-rocker is supported by the legendary Billy Preston on keyboards, who would later record his own version. John Lennon's verses during the second half ("Everybody had a good year/Everybody let their hair down/Everybody had a wet dream/Everybody saw the sun shine") are admittedly edgy, reflecting a Summer Of Love consciousness.
Back In The U.S.S.R (from The White Album) - The Beatles owed a tip of the inspirational hat to Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, and this song was a musical homage of sorts, right down to the clever bridge "Moscow girls make me sing and shout...." while the "woo-ee-ee-oo" backing vocals by the band get drowned out by the sound of a jet liner taking off toward the end.
You Can't Do That - This track was featured on the soundtrack to A Hard Day's Night, and features Lennon on lead vocals. Typical of the band's sound during their Quarrymen days, the songwriting is pretty much boilerplate here, but benefits from Lennon's sincere reading.
It's All Too Much (from Yellow Submarine) - The Beatles' animated feature merged pop art culture with psychedelic overtones, and as such George Harrison's songs here (including "Only A Northern Song") were not only apropos, but are among the coolest tunes they ever did. From the stately organ to Harrison's lyric ("It's all too much for me to take/The love that's shining all around you") this tune has always been a personal have of mine.
She Said, She Said - This track from Revolver is said to have evolved from a conversation Lennon had with generational icon Peter Fonda, sparking the refrain "you're making me feel like I've never been born." Lennon's vocals shine here, his couplets delightfully acerbic "Even though you know what you know/I know that I'm ready to leave", and the guitar work, sublime.
Hey Bulldog - While the conventional wisdom is that Magical Mystery Tour was not a proper album (as it was the companion to the band's inscrutable 1967 film for the BBC,) the disc nonetheless cobbled great singles that were never on LP before. "Bulldog" is a vocal duet between John and Paul, and Lennon gleefully rhymes words like "childlike" with "jackknife", while his "you can talk to me" refrain remains a musical hallmark.
Tomorrow Never Knows - The closing track to Revolver would portend the direction The Beatles took on its follow-up, Sgt. Pepper. Ringo's complex drumming rules this number, as does the field recordings peppered throughout the track, while Lennon's lyrical adaptations from the Tibetian Book Of The Dead always led me to believe this tune was, in actuality Lennon/McCartney emulating the songwriting of their bandmate, George Harrison.
The End - The lone representation from Abbey Road, this track is at the tail end of a suite which includes "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight." Though released before 1970's Let It Be, the latter was recorded a full year before the Abbey Road sessions even started. In this regard, it's fitting and chronologically accurate that this song would be placed at the end of this compilation, as it is literally the last song The Beatles put on record.
footnote: For a limited time, visitors to the "Tomorrow Never Knows" album page on iTunes can download the famous video of The Beatles recording "Hey, Bulldog."