The Top (Fab) Four Songs on Beatles' Solo Albums
While yesterday's wallow in negativity was a blast, it is time to restore the karmic balance as the Beatles would have wanted by focusing on the four best songs that John, Paul, George and Ringo produced upon being emancipated from the bonds of "Beatles," or at least as emancipated as they ever could be. While none of them would quite attain the status of cultural force that the Beatles had enjoyed, their solo careers were proof that each one had a unique creative voice within the band.
John Lennon - "Mother"
Leading off Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album, his first post-Beatles release, "Mother" remains one of the most emotionally wrenching songs ever to be released as an American single. Inspired by Lennon's experiments with primal therapy, in which the subject is encouraged to re-explore childhood trauma as a means to exorcise personal demons, "Mother" is the sound of one of the world's biggest celebrities confronting his absent parents with brutally honest emotion and committing the catharsis to tape. Primal therapy was known for its utilization of the "primal scream," a vocal externalization of inner suppressed pain and as the song builds to its climax, Lennon begins to amp up the intensity of his cries over a sparse piano, bass and drum arrangement. "Mama, don't go/Daddy, come home," he howls with increasing urgency and as the song fades out, you can practically hear his throat shredding. The intimacy borders on uncomfortable and it has to be heard to be believed. Every element of this song sounds lonely: the piano's sustained chords, the basic drumming and barely audible bass. The emotion is so naked as to render it almost uncomfortable to hear. It is precisely the kind of song that the Lennon could not have recorded within the constraints of the Beatles as a group and this fact is as good an argument as any for the breakup in 1970.
Paul McCartney - "Monkberry Moon Delight"
This song, track two of side two of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram, features a fantastically raw vocal performance by Paul lending the song an ominous sense of dread, dispelled only upon examination of the lyrics, which are classic McCartney silliness: "Well, I know my banana is older than the rest/And my hair is a tangled berretta/When I leave my pajamas to Billy Budapest/And I don't get the gist of your letter." It's the closest to early Captain Beefheart as Macca would get and it's glorious. The song was later covered by the two people who absolutely should have covered it; Screamin' Jay Hawkins, whose version can be heard here, and one of a kind Bahamian Exuma, whose version can be heard here.