I randomly picked up Plastic Ono Band (the Lennon one, not the Ono) at a record shop in Baltimore a few months back. I had never heard the album (gasp!) and was always of the opinion that Lennon had by far the worst solo career of all the Beatles. “Imagine”? Come on does anyone really like that sentimental, tacky crap? Turns out Plastic Ono Band is brilliant, and there are many gems to be found in Lennon’s discog. In honor of Dave picking me up a significantly better copy of POB, here are the All Time Top 6 (I couldn’t decide on just 5) songs by solo Beatles!
My Dad is a huge Beatles’ nut and had most of their albums on vinyl when I was growing up. He also had Ringo Starr’s first rock solo album Ringo. For some odd reason, my 8 year old self couldn’t get enough of that shit. In my older, wiser years I realized Starr was the crazy, least talented Beatle and I forgot about that album for a long time.
When I finally revisited it, I found to my surprise that it is by far one of the strongest solo Beatles albums. Now, this is probably because all his fellow ex-Beatles played on it and wrote some of the songs along with big names like The Band and Harry Nilsson. Nevertheless, Ringo pulled some talent out of his butt with this one. The stand-out track to me is the self-confident, bragging jam “I’m The Greatest” that is (of course) written by Lennon and has Harrison shredding.
I should probably rank my Beatles at this point. While in the Beatles, my order was as such: Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, Starr. McCartney’s solo stuff always seemed pretty cheesy to me and a little too radio-friendly. But I’ll admit it. Band on the Run is a pretty great album. And “Jet” is just a flat-out fun song. It has awesome horns and that reggae swing. And McCartney constantly yelling shit. That’s a win in my book.
I know this isn’t the most profound song on Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. I just love it. This album spawned out of Lennon’s primal scream therapy and served as a way to release his deep emotions about his family and upbringing. The heat and passion explodes all over your face throughout “Well Well Well” as Lennon does his best Wilhelm Scream. Over and over. And over.
This was probably the hardest choice for me. Picking the best song from All Things Must Pass is like choosing between an amazing sandwich and tuna steak. It’s impossible, because it’s all so amazing. “If Not For You” is one of those simple love songs that would only be written in the 1970’s. It’s so straightforward and sentimental. But Harrison kills it with a pedal steel and a great vocal performance. Miss ya, Georgie.
I know I gave “Imagine” shit earlier, but the album had one of the greatest solo Beatles songs on it. “Oh Yoko!”, despite it’s namesake and throwaway lyricism, is a rollicking, undeniable, addictive pop tune. It’s so ridiculously catchy, you just want to put it on repeat and listen to it for the length of a 6 hour road trip. Not that I’ve ever done that….it was only a 3 hour trip. Also, I can’t say the inclusion in Rushmore didn’t help.
I read a great word describing this album once: “unflinching”. Lennon bares it all on Plastic Ono Band like maybe nobody has since . “Working Class Hero” is stripped down and bare. It’s a man, his guitar, and decades of sadness and emotion. It’s profound, universal, and personal. It’s also the greatest solo Beatles song.
-Words by Kyle