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Monday, March 27, 2023

10 Beatles solo songs that could have been Fab

Fans have constantly been questioning why The Beatles had to break up. It felt like the Fab Four were bound to go on forever until business and creative differences got in the way during the final months of 1969. Although the Fab Four never reunited, that spark from their old days never went anywhere. 

Across each member’s solo catalogue are those handfuls of songs that could have fit pretty snuggly on any mainline Beatles project. From odds and ends that didn’t make some of their best albums to songs that feel indebted to their old style, the solo careers of John, Paul, George, and Ringo still have a few common threads, sounding like something they could have made when they were Fab. 

That isn’t to say that these songs were meant to be Beatles tracks by any stretch of the imagination. The core catalogue of Beatles songs is unrivalled in pop music, but these are the hypothetical songs that could have been made had they stuck around. 

No matter how much creative differences got in the way, you can never break that musical brotherhood between the four lads from Liverpool. The lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo may have gone in different directions, but their shared history as one of the greatest bands in the world turns up in every one of these songs. 

10 Beatles solo songs that could have been Fab

‘My Love’ – Paul McCartney

In the wake of The Beatles’ breakup, Paul McCartney was considered the villain of the group. Outside of not signing with their new manager, Macca was starting to get called out for writing the more whimsical side of The Beatles catalogue, not nearly as serious as what John Lennon and George Harrison were getting up to. There’s a lot of schmaltz with McCartney, but he can make that syrupy songwriting work.

Off of Red Rose Speedway, ‘My Love’ is one of the best love songs McCartney ever wrote, sounding like it should be on the soundtrack to some lavish romantic movie. Although Wings member Henry McCullough takes the solo, the lyrical way he weaves in and out of notes is reminiscent of what George Harrison might have done had it been a Beatles song. 

In fact, there are many similarities between this song and ‘Something’, almost like Paul was trying to beat his old bandmate at his own game. While The Beatles wrote their fair share of love songs, this would have been one of the better ones they made had they kept going past 1970.

‘Band on the Run’ – Wings

Outside of his work with John Lennon, Paul McCartney always had his more adventurous side. Even though fans might remember him for some of the Beatles’ more radio-friendly songs like ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Ob La Di Ob La Da’, his need to explore new musical territories brought him to classics like ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Let It Be’ as well. Wings may have gotten into some bad habits by critical standards, but McCartney shut up all of his naysayers the minute Band on the Run came out. 

Although the album’s title song may have been written under the Wings banner, this is about as authentic a Paul McCartney song as you can, creating a medley out of different song fragments to tell a story of a musical prison break. The medley that capped off The Beatles’ Abbey Road paid off on a tune like this, as McCartney condenses every scene from the story into just 5 minutes, starting with our heroes being stuck in prison before the brass section introduces them breaking out towards freedom. 

Even when tensions were the most heated, McCartney’s fellow Beatles had something positive to say, with Lennon naming this one of the better things his writing partner had done since leaving. While this might have been McCartney at the top of his game, it would have been a much different story to hear him and Lennon going line for line on this song.

‘Jealous Guy’ – John Lennon

When the Beatles called it a day, John Lennon was a shell of the man who started everything. Lennon may have been the unofficial frontman behind the group, his time in primal therapy after the breakup made him look at how he was treated as a youngster and how he treated those around him.

Now available to open up, Lennon laid out all of his pain on ‘Jealous Guy’. While Lennon’s first album Plastic Ono Band may have been his emotional centrepiece, this is the first song where he feels remorseful for what he had done, talking about the times when he was violent to his friends and romantic partners.

Even though Lennon’s legacy gets a little murky when talking about his dark side, this is the first step in the right direction, as he looks to repent for his nasty ways and does whatever he can to keep himself on the straight and narrow. Lennon may have advocated for love and peace for most of his adult life, but that didn’t mean he was immune to fits of violence and anger. It’s all about how you deal with it, and hearing him pleading for forgiveness is all we can ask for from him.

‘Isn’t It a Pity’ – George Harrison

The final few months of The Beatles left with bad blood. Even though the band might not have been on the same creative page, it got a lot worse when business people stuck their noses into the situation, leaving the group at each other’s throats. Everyone was under some kind of pressure, and it took the Quiet Beatle to give us the most profound comment on it. 

After years of being kept at bay by the Lennon/McCartney machine, George Harrison came into his own with ‘Isn’t It a Pity’, talking about how hard it is to see all the hostile feelings around him. Coming from the months of the aborted Get Back sessions, Harrison sounds like he’s on the verge of tears as he’s singing this song, asking for some sort of end to all of the hostility and all the love that’s being squandered. 

In the context of The Beatles, this might have made for one of the better singles from a reunion, especially when they elongate the song towards the end just like they did with ‘Hey Jude’. Most of The Beatles were lost after the breakup, but you can always count on something like love to bring you back home.

‘It Don’t Come Easy’ – Ringo Starr

You can’t really have a proper Beatles reunion without a Ringo Starr song. Mr. Starkey was always the mellow one behind the Fab Four, and even took time to play with every one of his old friends in some capacity after the band broke up. He might not have been the strongest songwriter, but he did knock one out right out of the gate before any of his bandmates.

Compared to the more emotional material we were getting out of his fellow Beatles, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ has a certain swagger as Starr sings about all the dues you have to pay to play in a rock and roll band. While Starr admits to not being the greatest singer in the world, this song really suits his voice; not too demanding vocally, but still, a lovely song to keep the good times rolling. 

If The Beatles were to have gotten back together, this could have been a great song to use as an opening single, starting things off on a high note while finally giving the drummer a prime-time spot on a single. The last days of the Beatles were far from happy most of the time, but you could always count on Starr to give us a song to lift our spirits.

‘Gimme Some Truth’ – John Lennon

It’s a shame that the Beatles didn’t write as many message songs during their tenure. Even though ‘Revolution’ was their first stab at political territory, most of the band’s feelings on society were reserved for their solo careers, with varying degrees of success. While John Lennon may have gone a bit too far in some places on Some Time In New York City, ‘Gimme Some Truth’ is the catchiest commentary he ever made. 

Looking to tear down the phonies and hypocrites running both England and America, Lennon puts his entire body into his vocal, sounding like he’s on the verge of screaming when singling out Richard Nixon and the money that’s being used for dope. Since this is on Imagine, the whole thing is also delivered with a bit of sweetness, with the backing track having a pretty guitar part courtesy of George Harrison. 

Now that the Get Back documentary has been released, fans are also aware that Paul McCartney had a hand in writing this song, including footage where John and Paul are going back and forth talking about what could work in the verses. There are all the pieces to a classic Beatles track on here, but this one had to lie on the shelf for a few years before Lennon finished it.

‘All Things Must Pass’ – George Harrison

George Harrison was a much different person once the Beatles broke up. While fans talked about The Quiet Beatle changing the most after the breakup, he was already leaning into his more mystical side, being far more worldly than his bandmates and wanting to achieve spiritual peace all his life. Harrison found solace in his music even if the dark clouds were looming large after the breakup. 

During the Get Back sessions, you can hear Harrison fiddling around with the beginnings of ‘All Things Must Pass’, talking about the world’s sorrows only being temporary and everything eventually passing away in time. 

Compared to the doom and gloom of the sessions, this is the kind of advice anyone can take to heart, but it was also a bittersweet reminder of what was to come. Even though Harrison’s fellow Beatles had helped him with this song, the end feels like a sad postscript of all The Beatles had left behind. Everything will pass, and not even the world’s most beloved band was safe from that message.

‘Imagine’ – John Lennon

After the dust had settled on the Beatles’ tenure, John Lennon finally seemed to find peace. Even with the massive tirades he was about to embark on after moving to America, John was always advocating for peace worldwide, with Yoko Ono right by his side. While Lennon was musically blunt more than a few times in the Beatles, ‘Imagine’ is the kind of song even the most jaded music fans can identify with. 

Although ‘Imagine’ is a classic plea for peace, Lennon does not compromise on this song. As much as ‘Imagine’ reads like a hymn for a peaceful world, John was talking about how much better it would be if we lived in a world with no countries, government, or religion to speak of. It might seem radical when you read into it, but the tune is the musical honey that makes everything go down easier, making you reflect on the violence in the world and wondering just what we’re all supposed to be fighting for in the first place. 

The Beatles may not have been that much of a political band during their tenure, but this isn’t a song calling for revolution. It just asks you to imagine a more understanding world, and if we take Lennon’s words to heart, we might be that much closer to that utopia.

‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ – Paul McCartney

At the beginning of the Beatles’ breakup, Paul McCartney seemed like a shadow of what he once was. After seemingly breaking up the band, he moved out to the country and started making songs with his wife Linda, which became the album RAM. While critics tore the album to ribbons when it came out, time has been kind to the whole record. 

Although much of the record stands on its own, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ is the most reminiscent of the wild experiments that McCartneyl would have done back in his Fab days, being a medley of different musical fragments that somehow blend. From one section to the next, it’s almost like listening to a musical audiobook as McCartney goes through different voices before landing on a joyous refrain about hands reaching out across the water. 

If the Beatles had gotten back together, though, this would have been nearly impossible to reproduce live, with so many bells and whistles to pull off convincingly in the early ‘70s. The Beatles were never about producing stuff live, though. It was always about having fun in the studio, and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of whimsy like this on a Fab record.

‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ – Paul McCartney

Considering how much of a perfectionist Paul McCartney was, hearing his first proper solo album is a bit of a strange beast. While some decent songs are accounted for, like ‘Junk’ and ‘Teddy Boy’, the whole album feels more like a demo than a finished product, as McCartney records most of the songs at home with no adornment. He did have one more ace up his sleeve at the end of the record, though. 

Right before McCartney’s debut grinds to a halt, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is the perfect song to leave the record on, as McCartney talks about settling down and how happy he is now that he has Linda in his life. While most of the record was recorded at McCartney’s house, this one track was done in secret at Abbey Road, with McCartney pumping out some George Harrison-inspired guitar licks towards the end of the song. 

Even though Paul gets to bust out his Little Richard chops yet again on this song, the backing vocals behind him would have sounded so much better had John and George decided to sing behind him. Towards the end of their run, The Beatles had talked about stripping things back and making a more basic record. Let It Be may have given us a glimpse of what that could have been, but ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is a better way to blend that basic structure with a show-stopping pop tune.  

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