In this latest edition of the Underrated Beatles Songs series, the tunes featured appear in both, some of their earliest works as well as their latest.
"The Inner Light" is arguably, one of George Harrison's greatest contributions to The Beatles' discography. It was recorded in early 1968 and released on March 15, 1968 as the B-side to the "Lady Madonna" single.
Harrison declared that a letter he received from a Sanskrit scholar at Cambridge, who had participated in a conversation along with Harrison and John Lennon about the benefits of transcendental meditation, inspired the song. The lyrics, though, are in a way a musical restoration of the 47th chapter of the Tao Te Ching.
In regards to the music and the melody, one does not have to guess too much to figure out its inspiration. It is well known that Harrison was very interested in and involved with Indian music, culture, and way of life. It is because of him that the Beatles were first introduced to and inspired to experiment with Indian music in their work, which was a constant in their latter years. The instrumental piece for this song was recorded in Mumbai, India in January 1968 while Harrison was working on his first solo album and is yet another tribute to Indian culture by a man who found himself obsessed with it.
"Got to Get You Into My Life" is one of Paul McCartney's strongest and most underrated contributions to what is arguably the greatest album of all time. Revolver is made up of one fantastic tune after another, thus it is no surprise for some incredible songs to be lesser known than others.
The melody of the song is an upbeat, and soulful piece inspired by Motown and it works perfectly with the lyrics and the joyful tone of the tune. Harrison's guitar solo is truly fantastic and the work with the trumpets is as well. The blaring brass fanfare that precedes McCartney's vocals gives me Goosebumps every single time I listen to the song.
The most intriguing aspect about this tune, however, is the lyrics. For most observers, "Got to Get You Into My Life" could very well pass for yet another exuberant love declaration from one of the greatest love song writers of all time. That could not be farther from the truth, however. In Barry Miles' 1997 Paul McCartney biography titled Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, McCartney confessed that the tune was actually a tribute to marijuana. The song was written shortly after McCartney first tried marijuana, which was several months after the rest of the Beatles had, and he had been fascinated by it.
"Don't Bother Me" has a special place and distinction in the Beatles' discography. It is the first song written by Harrison to appear in a Beatles album, having been released in 1963's With the Beatles. Another curious fact about the song and the album it appears on is that both were released on November 22, 1963, the day of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The musical part of the tune is the type of rock and roll song that the Beatles were well known for in that time period. Harrison's solo stands out among most musical aspects of the song, as well as its dreary and sullen tone, which is not that great of a surprise when one realizes that Harrison wrote this tune when sick in a hotel bed while on tour. That sounds like a rough situation to be in.
The lyrics were also a bit of a surprise at the time, compared to most of The Beatles' songs at the time. The band was known for publishing lyrics with more of an upbeat and optimistic outlook at the time, even those that dealt with heartbreak, so the sullen and moody tone of these lyrics was a bit unusual, but came to be a staple in Harrison's works.
While "Drive My Car" is a relatively well-known song, being the opener in Rubber Soul, one of the three members of what I call the Holy Trinity of the Beatles' discography, I still consider it underrated, as it often falls under the cracks, given the other brilliant pieces that appear on said album.
The musical piece of the tune is simply brilliant, as was most of their work in that time. The solo that opens the song sets the tone for the rest of the piece, and its quality only increases as it continues. The piano work and mid-song guitar solo are arguably the best parts of the song, as well as McCartney and Lennon's shared lead vocals.
The story behind the lyrics is an interesting one. It is known that McCartney arrived at Lennon's home in Surrey for a writing session with a first draft for this tune. After showing it to Lennon, neither of the two was pleased, thus they decided to rework the lyrics from scratch. As most bluesy songs from that time, "Drive My Car" has strong sexual overtones hidden within the main story of a headstrong woman who convinces a man to be her chauffeur after promising she would become a star, only to tell him at the end that she does not own a car yet. The story is mostly told from the driver's point of view.
"Don't Let Me Down" was recorded and produced as a part of the Let it Be album sessions, and released as the B-side to the "Get Back" single, but dropped from the album by producer Phil Spector.
The musical part of the song has a bit of a bluesy tone with a beautiful piano contribution from Billy Preston, specifically the solo near the end of the song. It is however, first and foremost a rock song, characteristic of the Beatles' last few albums, especially Let it Be, which in a way could be considered an ode to their beginnings and their roots. The most powerful part of the tune, however, is in its lyrics.
"Don't Let Me Down" is a desperate love song written by Lennon to his new girlfriend and future wife Yoko Ono (they were married on March 20, 1969 and the song was recorded in January of that same year). It features the eternal and beautiful contrast between excitement for the start of a new relationship and love story as exposed in lyrics such as "I'm in love for the first time, don't you know it's gonna last?" but then when Lennon jumps into and practically screams the chorus and title of the song, he expresses his fear of allowing himself to be totally and completely vulnerable to the point of having his heartbroken.
Both the excitement and the fear that Lennon expresses in this tune is one that every human being has felt at some point in his or her lifetime and the fact that Lennon genuinely showcased both his hopes and vulnerabilities for the entire world to see is what makes this a such a powerful love song.