“Hey Jude” (1968)
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)
“She Loves You” (1963)
“Get Back” (1969)
“Let It Be” (1970)
These are not my favorite songs by The Beatles, and I don’t think anyone is necessarily calling these the best songs by The Beatles. According to Billboard Magazine however, these are their biggest hits. These are the top selling songs of what is arguably the most important band in the history of popular music.
How do you feel about these songs? Personally, I love these songs. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is one of the very first Beatles songs I ever heard, and I remember being so sad listening to “Let It Be” when I realized it was also the name of their last album. There is not one song on this list I have not thoroughly enjoyed, sung every word to while driving in my car on a summer afternoon, and blasted away in my teenage bedroom.
But time, experience and perception changes. Now when these songs come on the radio, I usually will quickly change the station to find something more interesting, something I have not heard hundreds and thousands of times. For me, these songs have become tired, expected, almost routine.
On the other hand, there are other Beatles songs that, while I have also heard them numerous times, still remain fresh and interesting. Whenever one these songs comes on the radio, or finds a place in the song rotation at home, I always listen to it through and through.
I find myself particularly interested in different songs at different times. These days, I find myself interested in “Things We Said Today,” which Paul McCartney wrote for A Hard Day’s Night, though it ultimately was not included in the film.
This is an oddball song in The Beatles’ canon of works. It is not quite a ballad, not quite a rocker, and does not feature much in the way of orchestration. The Paul McCartney composition starts out with a staccato acoustic guitar attack, followed by some quiet drumming and arpeggiated guitar as the background. It is a gentle, sweet sound. Almost meandering.
“You say you will love me
If I have to go
You’ll be thinking of me
Somehow I will know
Someday when I’m lonely
Wishing you weren’t so far away
Then I will remember
Things we said today.”
You’ve experienced this before. Something that is happening to you right now. Something that someone is saying, or something you are feeling, you know you will remember this moment for the rest of your life. He is about to leave, she says she loves him. He will remember this moment.
“You say you’ll be mine, girl
‘Til the end of time
These days such a kind girl
Seems so hard to find
Someday when we’re dreaming
Deep in love, not a lot to say
Then we will remember
The things we said today.”
Such a kind girl is so hard to find. This song reads as a precursor to “When I’m Sixty Four.” What will their life be like when they are older? The day will come when, although they may not have a lot to say to each other, they will remember what happens right now, things they said today. The harmonies are lovely, the bass lopes with us through the narrative. Then, things pick up. The guitars are strummed harder. Ringo slams the high hat on his tiny drum kit. Paul’s vocal becomes more determined.
“Me, I’m just the lucky kind
Love to hear you say that love is luck
And, though we may be blind
Love is here to stay
And that’s enough
To make you mine, girl
Be the only one
Love me all the time, girl
We’ll go on and on.”
And then the song song quiets back down. The bass lopes. The guitar gently strums. Still looking towards the future, still a nostalgic young man.
The trajectory of The Beatles was lightning quick. From bright, shimmery pop songs in 1963 to cutting edge, experimental opuses in 1969, The Beatles grew and changed fast during the 1960’s, and “Things We Said Today” might be considered one of the early steps on that trajectory. This is not a simple pop song with a traditional structure. This is something special.
So listen to the hits. For many of us, the hits are what first attracted us to artists who we now love, and whose catalogs we know well. Start with the hits, but be sure to dive deeper. There are lots of amazing things to be found.
“Things We Said Today”
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Performed by The Beatles
Released July 10, 1964