Guest Spots: Thursday’s list of 10 absurd/wonderful Beatles songs

Thursday: No DevoluciónThursday: No Devolución (Epitaph, 4/12/11)

Thursday: “Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart”

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New Jersey-based post-hardcore band Thursday just released No Devolución, its sixth full-length album and second on Epitaph. The band’s lead singer, Geoff Rickly, is also involved in a side project called United Nations, in which he’s the only officially listed member, due to its various members’ contractual obligations. The music occupies the same hardcore-punk territory as Thursday and features comedic lyrical contributions from Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal. Before it was turned away by multiple retailers, its self-titled debut from 2008 originally featured a modified version of The BeatlesAbbey Road cover art. Here, Rickly explains his longtime interest in the Fab Four.

Ten Absurd and Wonderful Songs by The Beatles
by Geoff Rickly

When I was just a boy, my mother would sometimes drop me off at my Nana’s house in Connecticut, kiss me goodbye, and rush off to work.  It was one of my favorite places in the world: the way the sun came through the porch and made patterns on the curtains, the way there were treats of every possible variety (coffee cake, waffles, bacon, etc.), and, most of all, the way that my Nana had no regard for material things like money, possessions, security, or savings accounts.  She would often say to my mother, “Enjoy it, Patty, you can’t take it with you.”

Case in point: my mother’s complete collection of The Beatles’ records.  My Nana saw no harm in letting me play whatever record I wanted on my cheap, blue-and-yellow plastic Fischer Price record player.  It completely broke my Mom’s heart that I ruined those records, but I think she was able to laugh about it proudly when it became clear, many years later, that I was devoting my life to a passion for music.  A passion that started with destroying those records.

Being that I started my love for The Beatles at the age of four, I’ve always been drawn to the most absurd, childlike, and wondrous tracks by the Fab Four.  Here are my favorites.

1. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”

Nothing conjures the joy and mania of a grand circus like the multi-ring narrative of “Mr. Kite.”  The wide cast of mysterious characters like Mr. K, Mr. H, Henry the Horse, and the Hendersons dances, sings, and spins its way through Bishop’s gate and hoops of fire, while the band cartwheels through the pomp of a traveling circus band.  The crowning achievement of the song is John Lennon announcing the proceedings in the disaffected eloquence of a tired but consummately professional carnival barker.

2. “I Am the Walrus”

I am the egg man! I am the walrus! Cuckoo-ca-choo!  I had no idea about drugs at the time, so this song appealed to me simply as a kind of pre-Teletubbies kid-crack.  It has all of the colorful sounds and clashing imagery of a Sunday-morning cartoon, and it has a beat that’s perfect for jumping on the bed.  It doesn’t hurt that the production keeps getting weirder and weirder, switching vocal panning and introducing background laughing, talking, and phones ringing.  They knew how to keep kids interested before anyone ever uttered the letters A-D-D.

3. “Strawberry Fields”

The vocals in this song sound like honey dripping from the speakers.  Despite the swooning, summertime feel of the song, there is a sinister element that happens because of the recording process.  Since they used two different takes for this track, you get the impression of the song continually slowing down.  The crazy key change mid-song is one of the most absurd moments to ever crack pop music.

4. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”

If the title wasn’t absurd enough, the whole track sounds like they had the idea for Man Man 40 years too early and 20 times as guitar-lisciously awesome. Come on, come on, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…try and keep up with that end.

5. “I’m Only Sleeping”

Who has the idea to write a wistful and heartfelt love song to the act of sleeping? Who then makes a song so perfect that it actually captures the magic of a perfect nap in a bottle? Okay. Obviously it’s The Beatles.  Every time that I hear this song, it brings me back to Sunday afternoon in my parents’ house, catching sunny, couch-bound naps with my father.  He works 80+ hours a week, and those naps are one of the most freeing pleasures of our lives.

6. “I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends”

Ringo [Starr] sings like a kid forced to take a solo in an after-school chorus class.  No big deal, just get it done. Next to all of the angelic voices in his band, he sounds like a fucking madman though.  Great comedic relief.

7.  “A Day in the Life”

A very sad song that still manages to get seriously weird.  The bridge of the song was not coming, so they left it blank and later wrote an insane interlude about getting up and out of bed and then falling back into dream.  The transitions between the separate songs are some of the most dramatic and unnecessarily ambitious moments in music history.  “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”

8.  “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”

The bipolar swing between chorus and verse of this song is jarring.  The chorus is 100-percent schlock-TV-western theme.  Everyone cheering on Bill as he kills everything in sight.  Then the detail-oriented and sad verses come in and memorialize his trophies.  It’s sort of a preschool primer for PETA involvement.

9. “Revolution 9”

Presaging art rock as we know it, “Rev 9” drove people crazy with its repetitive “Number 9” phrasing and sound collaging.  Did they know that they were starting something important? Or were they just fucking off?

10. ” I Want to Hold Your Hand”

A very straightforward love song, but I remember going to see manuscripts for all of the original, handwritten lyrics, and the first draft said, “I want to hold your thing.” THAT would’ve been absurd.

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