Magical history tour

They're back. The Fab Four are here, there and everywhere, all over again. On this latest wave of Beatlemania, we asked some well known musicians - today's 'little Beatles' - to name their favourite tracks
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Told and retold, then told once again, the Beatles story is now as familiar as a fairy tale. Amid so much attention, can there be a Beatle secret left to tell?

Actually there is. There are a billion Beatle secrets, and each of us has a few to ourselves. For whether we're sitting at home with headphones clamped about our ears or standing in a crowd at an open-air festival, music remains a peculiarly private experience. "No one I think is in my tree", John Lennon sang, while getting out of it himself. There was a democratic magic about the Beatles, whose art could touch the hearts and minds of entire populations. Yet we all respond to that magic in our own ways.

What did the Beatles' music do to the musicians who have followed them? Many will trace the day their creative juices started flowing to the first hearing of a Beatles tune. Some absorbed it subliminally on their mother's knee. Others just fancied having a shirt like George's.

It used to sound nutty when professors said these songs would outlive the era they were made for. It's nutty no longer. In 1995 there is a generation of British musicians - many not even born in 1970, when the four Fabs played their final notes and issued their first writs - who carry that Beatle-gene within them. Recently, when Paul McCartney recorded his bit for Help, the Bosnia fund-raising album, he looked around the studio in bemusement at Oasis, Paul Weller, the period guitars and the mod shirts and thought: "I'm in a room full of little Beatles!"


I was a Beatles fan when I was a little kid and what was important to me was sitting in front of the television waiting for the Ed Sullivan Show so I could shake my hair and go "woooooo" when the Beatles went "woooooo". Later, when I was about 20 years old and on the road with Chapter 8, we used to fool around with Beatles songs, and that was when I fell in love with "Yesterday".

Back then it wasn't the lyrics that spoke to me - I was way too young. It was the musical content. We used to trip out on that chord progression. It's irrelevant to me whether "Yesterday" has become a cliche. It's a great song. It's also a great song to sing, especially when you're old enough to sing it.


Ten good reasons to love this song:

1. It's on Revolver.

2. The guitar bit is dead good.

3. Not many titles begin with the word "And".

4. It includes a good example of "a Paul McCartney". A Paul McCartney is the name bass players have for a "hammer-on-triplet". It goes "woo- woo-woo" at the high end of the neck. He does it under the last chord.

5. When I was a kid, I thought it was about a bird singing. It's probably really about LSD or aspirin or something.

6. It's really Beatley.

7. Because you hardly ever hear it, you get an inkling of what it must once have been like to hear a new Beatles song.

8. It's not a new Beatles song. I'm scared. Aren't you?

9. The middle-eight's fab.

10. No one's ever done a naff cover version.


When I was three, my brother got "Twist and Shout" for Christmas and I got "Noddy's Car" by Noddy. Strangely, the rest of the family wanted to hear "Twist and Shout" all day. Nobody wanted to hear "Noddy's Car". The message was clear. My brother was fab and I wasn't. As a consequence, I've devoted my life ever since to being George Harrison.

"Tomorrow Never Knows" I remember fondly, however, from sitting in my front room in Birmingham listening to it on my parents' radiogram and hearing seagulls. You don't get many seagulls in Birmingham. Also, I always thought it was rather splendid that a working-class geezer from Liverpool should go on about turning off your mind and floating downstream. They were the governors of Britpop. They were the ones who showed that you don't have to be an English teacher when you grow up. You can be a god with a velvet collar and a gay manager.


This is on Revolver, just when the group was starting to be interested in psychedelic music. It has backwards guitars on it and weird sound effects. Appropriately enough it's the last song on the album, which itself was the bridge between Rubber Soul and Sgt Pepper, so it sounds like a door opening on to something new. At 38, I still don't listen to words much; it's always the sound and the tune that connect with me first. There's something terrific about the lazy, stoned delivery of Lennon's voice. You can hear echoes of it in what Liam Gallagher does now with Oasis.


I first heard it on the radio in a log cabin outside Winchester one spring afternoon in 1968. As with all the best Beatles songs, it sounded completely mysterious. I was seduced immediately.

The song hit me sonically first. What's beautiful about it is the attacking piano part that drives the song along, right hand staying in one place, left hand doing a sort of boogie baseline, which set up a running discord. This went really well with the near-hysterical singing on top. And the drumming is extraordinary. Straight, tough, loud, not at all Beatlesy. For a group that was so into richly harmonised polyphonous sounds, "Lady Madonna" is a distinctively rhythmic record. Back then, the presiding visual sensation of the record for me was of silvery gold with purple streaks. I listened to it again this morning and it still is.


I'm twisting up in knots just having to name one Beatles song above all others. I have to say that the Beatles are in the seminal fibres of my being; whenever I hear a Beatles song I know where I was when I first heard it. And "Norwegian Wood", from the point of view of the craft of songwriting, is a Zen-like vessel. It's very beautiful. The first thing that gets me, whenever I hear it, is the warmth and woodiness of that guitar lick - I just hear ... wood. I never bothered much with what the song's about. I just love the sounds of the guitar and the words. Their grace comes from their enigma. This is a song that loses nothing by its impenetrability.


That was the song that changed everything for me. I first heard it when I was 16, at my convent school, and I knew immediately that it was important.

I think I was running about at the time, and maybe it was winter. I think I was quite happy. And I felt its impact physically. I've always felt everything physically.

Other important Beatles songs for me were "She's Leaving Home" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun". Like "Love Me Do", they also operate on a very pure level. Musically, not morally.

They are as pure as Bach in that respect. They're like a perfect manifestation of an idea from God.


The Beatles' Help period has always been the most important for me. It seemed so dark, and a far better summing-up of the Sixties than the free love thing, which I've always found rather unattractive. "Ticket to Ride" has a real melancholy to it, and I used to think that this was how cool adulthood was going to be when I got there. The film Help was not a comedy to me. It was a serious business. Maybe this was because I spent the year of Help in England. It was the last time I saw my mother.


I first heard this tune on the radio in 1978, when I was five. I thought it was crazy, completely crazy. My Dad really liked music and had it on in the house all the time, but I always thought the Beatles were the craziest. I think it's the way they sing. They just sounded really different to me. But then I was used to Seventies funk.

The funny thing was, the neighbours always used to complain about the music from our house but never when the Beatles were on. When John Lennon was killed, I thought maybe I could replace him in the group. Even then I wanted to be a legend.


The psychedelic sound appealed to me a great deal, but the thing I love best about this song is the fantastic rawness of John Lennon's singing, and the Wurlitzer, and all those mad strings that George Martin put on; it just seems like two different worlds colliding on one record - it's like this total pop song but with all these weird sounds and weird things happening on it.

It just seemed really exciting. As a producer, it's great to hear things and think: "how did they do that?" There aren't really many things that hit you like that nowadays, but I still think it about this. I'm a fan of psychedelia and probably everything I've ever done has striven for that effect.


The Beatles have to be the best band of all time. There's no one to touch them. Revolver is the only album I've listened to at least once a week ever since I first heard it. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is my favourite song from it. It's just way ahead of its time.

It also happens to be the first song I ever got stoned to - and it sounded completely different then.


I didn't know it was by the Beatles until today because I used to have this Bee Gees album of Sgt Pepper cover versions. I was listening to it around the time I was getting ready to leave school because I'd been doing odd jobs around places - I think I was painting somewhere when I got the tape out and I used to play it all the time. It was the decorating song of the decade. I don't know how different it is to the original 'cos I've never heard the Beatles one. All I know is that the Bee Gees one was really good.


"Here, There and Everywhere" was playing when I had my first kiss. "I Am the Walrus" was on during my first acid trip. "And I Love Her" I first heard when I got the chance to be in A Hard Day's Night. Me and my sister Patsy were in it, we were screaming in the crowd.

I was only about 12 and we had to pretend we were teenagers and wear loads of make-up. Everyone was screaming and I remember I just really wanted to listen to the song. In the film when that shot comes up you see my sister screaming her head off and then there's me straining to hear the song. We stayed behind afterwards and hid in the toilets to try and see them, but we got thrown out.


This is my favourite Beatles track because it's a great song, and it is totally true. Although I'm not a huge Beatles fan, I have always been a big fan of John Lennon because I think he was a great songwriter; and he's been a huge inspiration to me in terms of songwriting. I remember being devastated when I heard he'd been killed - I was having a guitar lesson at school and was coincidentally learning how to play "Imagine".


I first heard this when the album came out, I guess. I went to see the Beatles in Scarborough where I lived at the time and that was the one song I was desperate for them to play. It's my favourite because it's one of the best vocal tracks I've ever heard by anyone, ever. It's up there with "Don't Explain" by Billie Holiday or "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye. The Jamaican expression is it's "gan clear": it's just gone beyond, there's no telling what it is or why it is, it's just one of those things.

I make compilation tapes of tracks I've enjoyed throughout the year as Christmas presents and only last year I put that on my compilation. So many people came back and said: "Jeez, I'd forgotten how good it is." One of those was Jools Holland - he said: "Damn, that thing's amazing!"

A lot of other Beatles tunes you attach things to - they were in tune with the Zeitgeist or they had LSD overtones or whatever - but "Money" is just something which cuts through all that, even the fact that it's the Beatles. It's raw, like soul music. The verse after the solo is just incredible, the delivery, it sounds like he's going to explode. And they did play it in Scarborough. God, what a moment! For me, it was up there along with singing with James Brown.

'Anthology', a series including interviews and unseen film of the Beatles, begins on ITV on Sunday 26 November. 'The Beatles Anthology' CD will be released next Tuesday.