In twenty years, John Lennon managed to be one of the leading forces in a group that changed how we do music, pushed boundaries that people didn’t even know existed, and etch out a great solo carrier that was cut tragically short. I can’t think of any modern day music luminaries that would even try to do that. Today marks the 30th anniversary of his death, and I thought I’d go through some of my favorites Beatles tunes of his. As usual, click the song title to take a listen.
10. Across the Universe: “Across the Universe” encapsulates almost perfectly who Lennon was in The Beatles’ last days. Mystic, melodic, and not quite making sense, but damn if it ain’t pretty.
9. A Hard Day’s Night (1964): And on the flipside, here’s Lennon towards the beginning of The Beatles. Pop perfection with that first chord (you know the one) and a great fade out.
8. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (1967): Who cares what it’s about, this song is still fantastic. The keyboards, the melody, and just hints of a flanged guitar…total psychedelia.
7. Nowhere Man (1965): Would you believe this is one The Beatles’ first songs not about romance? Instead, we see that even for all his success, Lennon was still adrift, just like you and me.
6. Revolution (1968): Later day John Lennon is always seen as this groovy “It’s all love” hippie. Between the scathing lyrics, the scream, and distorted guitars, Lennon kicks the idea in the face and then says “No thank you.”
5. Tomorrow Never Knows (1966): With all the heat that “Lucy…” takes for being LSD friendly, I’m surprised that “Tomorrow Never Knows” never comes up. The result of an acid trip gone right, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and studio experimentation all going perfectly together.
4. I’m Only Sleeping (1966): Lennon’s best pop song, without a doubt. Lennon was notoriously lazy (well, when he could be), and he ended up writing the perfect soundtrack for laying around asleep or reading.
3. Dear Prudence (1968): The second song on the expansive White Album, and some of Lennon’s best guitar playing, period. The song builds from the “basic” acoustic picking (Lennon was a renowned Travis picker) to an exuberant finish.
2. Come Together (1968): The song that opened what is commonly referred to as the great album of all time. It grooves like no other, and Lennon’s delivery is cool and confident to a tee. While not making a lick of sense. “He got hair down to his knee”, indeed.
1. A Day in the Life (1967): One of the gamechangers. A culmination of in-studio experiments, playing with song structure, and unchained ambition, “A Day in the Life” stands as perhaps Lennon’s greatest statement in the Beatles, if not in popular music. If we’d had thirty more years, I can only imagine what we would have seen.