In preparation for the launch of Ron Howard's documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, five Hulu editors break down their favorite songs from the Fab Four.
The Long and Winding Road
My first real intro to The Beatles was a mix tape I found in a box of my parents’ old cassettes that someone made them while they were still living in Japan. And though I was already familiar with many of their melodies, this tape was the first time I really listened to – really heard The Beatles.
One track that particularly stood out was “The Long and Winding Road.” How it started with Paul’s melancholic voice paired with just a piano, followed immediately by a full orchestra rhythmically accenting the most beautifully hopeful chords. The soaring melody lines, the choir, the sigh-inducing lyrics. I was probably around 13. I had never been in love, but the song broke my heart.
To this day, I can only listen to this song with headphones – and it takes me right back to that awkward teenager in Canada, trying to process brand-new feelings.
In My Life
I love how moments in life can have such a strong and vivid association with a song. Unsurprisingly, many of my favorite memories are connected with a tune from The Beatles – like “Here Comes the Sun” from long cross country road trips or “Twist and Shout” from times spent dancing in the family living room with my siblings. Perhaps though, my most cherished memory is when my sister and brother-in-law danced to “In My Life” at their wedding. You could feel the affection that every guest had for them and the commitment they were making to each other. What was already a perfect day was only made more beautiful with the sweet, yet completely simple, lyrics about love from such an iconic band.
Strawberry Fields Forever
I had a Sociology professor in my last year of college that had his students study three “sociologists” - John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol. When we got to Lennon, he gave us a playlist, and “Strawberry Fields Forever” was on that list.
My only exposure to the Beatles was the poppy, goody-two-shoes sound that oldies stations love to play on repeat. So I expected the same when I downloaded an mp3 of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and listened to it on my iPod (This was 2005.) My mind was immediately blown. Never had I heard such an acid-soaked Beatles sound that haunted every part of my body for days.
As a soon-to-be college grad full of anxiety about looming adulthood, “Strawberry Fields” became a peaceful space in my mind as well as an anthem for dealing with my twenties. “Nothing is real” and “Nothing to get hung about.” Where was I going? Who did I want to be after college? I wasn’t really sure, but “Strawberry Fields Forever” made me feel like that was OK.
A Day in the Life
At one point, John Lennon stated “Sgt. Pepper’s is ‘A Day in the Life’ plus some other little songs.” Remember, this is from an album that boasts ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamond’, ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. So, if Sgt. Pepper’s is considered the seminal, groundbreaking, culminating album for The Beatles (and I’d argue it is), and ‘A Day in the Life’ is its defining song, that tells you a great deal about the song’s importance and influence. What continues to make it so special all these years later is not simply the song’s length, complexity, and haunting beauty – though it certainly has those things – but rather that its shifting form and tone seem to evoke the truth in life experience in a way only great music can.
The first time I heard it was on an old record player with friends huddled together in a dorm room. It seems quite cliché, but I can honestly tell you that I’ll never forget that final piano chord resonating into the darkness.
I Saw Her Standing There
The first time I heard the Beatles’ 1963 hit “I Saw Her Standing There” was when I was 12 years old. I thought it was a cover of one of my Tiffany songs: “I Saw Him Standing There.” I was ignorant enough to announce this to everyone around me at the time and I got smacked down by a Beatles’ snob so hard my ears are still ringing. The hit off the Beatles’ debut album “Please Please Me” is still my absolute favorite though, maybe because it’s the song that taught me that it was time to educate myself about the greatest band in the history of rock n’ roll. Or maybe it’s that I love the sweet simple innocence of the early Beatles, when falling in love was all that mattered.