In a post about the Beatles in early November I wrote this:
A week later I’m listening to I Am The Walrus again and it’s just genius. It’s over forty years old and it’s as relevant and good and insane and perfect as anything anyone is doing today. It’s not just holding up. You can’t name a better song. There are no better songs. Goo goo gajoob.
Last night I listened to I Am The Walrus again, and I stand by what I said. I think it’s the greatest song ever. I don’t have a massive analytical treatise to back me up, or sales figures if that’s the only thing that matters to you, but on every level that a song is supposed to work, I Am The Walrus works transcendentally.
Tell me I’m wrong. Point to a better song by anyone. Classical, disco, whatever you’ve got. I don’t think you can do it.
Update: a link to a YouTube clip of Walrus from Magical Mystery Tour. I think the song has outlived the images, so feel free to look away.
Later Update: I found myself wondering where I Am The Walrus ranks in the various all-time great songs lists, and after a while I found myself reading through the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time (full list archived here). The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that Walrus isn’t listed, meaning Rolling Stone doesn’t think it’s one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. They do have Rick James’ Super Freak at 477, and Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe at 444, and Don Henley’s Boys of Summer at 416, but no Walrus.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that a list like this has to spread the wealth around, and you’re right. There are 4 Beatles songs in the top 20, 7 in the top 30, 10 in the top 100, and 21 in the entire list. By Contrast, the Rolling Stones have 4 in the top 100, so you know the Beatles are getting their due.
But here’s the problem. The last Beatles song on the list is Ticket To Ride at 387. For 1965, maybe it was head-turning stuff. But forty years later, it’s simply another catchy pop tune from the pre-Martin Beatles era. Whereas I Am The Walrus was and still is the kind of timeless musical statement that transcends its own context. (Look at the dated clip of the song from the movie Magical Mystery Tour and you’ll see what I mean.)
Any Top 100 Songs of all Time list that doesn’t have Walrus on it is a fail. Any Top 10 Songs of all Time that does include Walrus is a list I would pay attention to.
— Mark Barrett
Levi Montgomery says
Sorry, Mark, but for pretty much the first time since I discovered your blog, I’m going to have to disagree. And yes, I do realize that we’re on some rather subjective ice here, and there’s no way we’re going to change each other’s minds, but as much as I like I am the Walrus, I think Jane Siberry has several that beat it. For instance, Sail Across the Water, which I happen to think is her best song. Well, today I think that. She’s got a half-dozen that struggle for the honor.
(I hope the link and italics work)
There’s nothing better than finding music that clicks, is there? I’m going to stick with Walrus, but thank you for introducing me to Siberry — she’s wonderful.
Thing about Walrus is, I still remember where I was when I first heard it. I’m not sure I can say that about many other songs — except for the rest of Magical Mystery Tour, of course. 🙂
P.S. Here’s a link to a video of Sail Across The Water:
Levi Montgomery says
Oh, yeah, I was going to tell you, and I forgot: don’t bother with the (almost completely irrelevant) video for Sail Across the Water. Great song, terrible video.
As for Jane Siberry herself, She’s one of my all-time top picks.