I have a new blog.

December 7, 2010

Six months ago this blog was totally over. And this will (probably) be the last post here. But now, a new day has come!

I’ve moved over to The Gospel According To Richard Eric where I’ll be blogging about music/film/TV in a more general way than I was here. I also blog about my own music at Richard Eric Music and of course I’m always on Twitter too.

SEE YOU THERE EVERYONE.

1. Michael Jackson – ‘Earth Song’ (1995)

June 10, 2010

“I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far”

Written by Michael Jackson

Produced by Michael Jackson/David Foster/Bill Bottrell

Taken from the album HIStory: Past, Present & Future – Book 1

Also released on Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix, Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson, Visionary: The Video Singles, King Of Pop and Michael Jackson’s This Is It: Original Soundtrack

UK #1, AUS #15

Last week, I was searching for Christina Aguilera’s new album Bionic on the day of release, going into every music store in Brisbane city, but none of them had their new releases in yet. I saw that the HMV on Queen Street looked different, and I realised that the outside was covered in signs saying “CLOSING DOWN SALE”, “EVERYTHING MUST GO”. Now HMV is mostly an overpriced store with very little variety, but it was also the only store left in Brisbane that sold CD singles, and over my last 12 years of music buying, I had still found a number of bargains and collectables there, not to mention the massive amount of music and movies I used to buy there in the days before JB Hi-Fi. Walking around slowly, I looked at the barren shelves where stock had either been returned or shoved into bargain bins, and it was like a kick in the face to my childhood. I spoke to the people at the front desk about how it seemed that every two weeks another music store was closing down, and they agreed it was depressing – not just because it’s likely they would lose their jobs or at least be split up and sent to other stores. As I walked out of there for the last time, I realised what was playing over the store speaker system: the one work that sums up my life as a music fan, the piece of music most important to me, my favourite artist singing my favourite song of all time. It was ‘Earth Song’.

The genesis of ‘Earth Song’ was a decade earlier, when Michael co-wrote one of the highest selling singles ever, ‘We Are The World’, the logical extension of themes explored in 1980’s ‘Can You Feel It?’. In the years that followed he continued to release songs of social justice and environmental concern. There was the classic (‘Man In The Mirror’, ‘Jam’) and the cringeworthy (but still good in some ways, ‘Heal The World’). In 1995, after getting the Janet collaboration ‘Scream’ and the big ballad ‘You Are Not Alone’ out of the way, ‘Earth Song’ was released as the third single from HIStory: Past, Present & Future – Book 1. Beginning with atmospheric “jungle sounds”, the song then moves into a beautiful piano loop, which is at once sad and hopeful.

“What about sunrise? What about rain?”

Michael’s voice starts off subdued, in mourning, and although the lyrics can sometimes look strange on paper – believe me, I’m aware that ‘Earth Song’ is not everyone’s favourite – he sells them completely like no other vocalist can. He makes the listener feel that pain in his vocals, just like he makes us feel the joy in ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’, and the paranoia in ‘Billie Jean’.

I suppose it’s ironic that I’ve gone on about choruses being so important, when ‘Earth Song’ barely has one at all. Well, it’s there, but it is just wordless sounds – supposedly composed so that non-English speaking fans could understand the message and sing along. I can’t imagine the song with a “real” chorus, I think the notion that no words could truly encapsulate the message of ‘Earth Song’ is much better. There are not one but two super-dramatic moments here – the first comes just before the second chorus, as the drums kick in for the first time, and the second comes after the verse quoted above, after the drums fall away and come crashing back with an almighty roar, harder and heavier than last time.

Speaking of almighty roaring sounds, here is where things really get going. Pushing all previous structure aside, Michael launches into a screaming tirade of questions beggining with “what about…” – it is the most intense section in any of his songs. As Michael gives his strongest, toughest vocal performance, a gospel choir behind him chants “What about us?”, and as the drums crash and the music soars, it all comes together to form a symphony of anger and hurt and desperation.

‘Earth Song’ was given one of the best music videos I’ve ever seen, featuring Michael and certain groups of people around the world turning back time, and washing away the sins of the world. They plunge their hands into the soil and scream and cry, and with Michael as their leader, they reverse the destruction of forests, end wars and bring people back from the dead. Pompous? Yes. Overbearing? Absolutely. But it’s Michael Jackson. Would we have expected anything less? The video still puts across the right message, and at the very least, the messiah complex is entertaining.

A top ten hit on the charts of almost every country it was released in, ‘Earth Song’ was radio-only in the United States but was number one in the UK for a massive six weeks, selling over one million copies and becoming Michael’s biggest UK hit, and the Christmas number one for 1995.  It was to be a major part of his This Is It comeback, but after his death one year ago, that lives on only in the film version.

At the risk of sounding about forty years older than I am, in this age of incredibly low attention spans, albums and songs leaking unfinished or in a state obviously not ready for public consumption, I present to you a song that I got to know and came to love through repeated listens on a CD in a discman, back when I had about twenty-five CDs in total. As I look now over my 1000+ albums and singles, not one song from all those records has connected with me like ‘Earth Song’ did. Growing up the nineties, I’m part of that in-between generation – we remember life without the internet, we remember before iPods and iTunes and leaks and YouTube and the death of the HMV on Queen Street in Brisbane City. But at the same time we break out in a rash if we go without our phones or our Facebook for more than a few hours. I guess I’m lucky I got to experience the best of both worlds. On the one hand, I got to spend my childhood obsessing over just a few artists and albums, getting to know them intimately, because that’s all I had access to. And in my adulthood I have all the music in the world at my fingertips, just waiting to be discovered. Will I ever again have the time or the attention span to get to know and love a song as intensely as I did this one?

From the piano to the climax to the video to the message to the vocals to the chorus to the screams of the final section, in my opinion ‘Earth Song’ summarises everything great about Michael Jackson, about the power of music.

It is the best song I have ever heard. And that, my friends, is The Gospel According To Richard Croft. Amen.

Music video:

A Sally Field-style thankyou and the question of the future

June 9, 2010

“YOU LIKE ME!”

Golly. When I started this blog a year ago I had expectations so low that Flo Rida would have written a song about them. I thought maybe I’d appeal to a handful of Madonna or Kate Bush fans, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it even halfway through this massive task. It’s not like the site became a runaway “internet phenomenon” or anything (I’d have dropped dead if that happened) but I have been overwhelmed by the positive response and the ridiculous amount of support I’ve had over the past 11 months.

To everyone who has visited and read my endless ramblings, without commenting on my overuse of certain phrases or pointing out that there was just way too much Enya – thank you. There are a couple of people who have just been unbelievable with their praise and their help along the way. You know who you are, I could not possibly have done this without you.

To everyone who has given me feedback, be that via a blog comment or an @ reply on Twitter, retweeted, spread the word, put a link to my site on your site – thank you thank you thank you.

To the Twitter and Popjustice forum communities, argh, you’ve been amazing. Just… amazing. Especially you guys on Twitter – you have sat through over a thousand links, and not one of you ever complained or said “Hey Richard, can you like, stop?” – so thank you. It might be the non-alcoholic wine I had with dinner talking, but I think our little corner of the internet is something really special.

To the people in my “real life” who have told their friends and shown support and sat through my endless, endless blog-related jabbering, especially my immediate family – thank you. Hey, I did shitty at high school, but I achieved something else instead!

To Annie, the only artist on this list to notice the list, and subsequently expose it to a new audience, you made my life.

Every single time someone says something nice about the site or comments or retweets or tells me they’re looking forward to number one, it is always awesome and it is still as exciting as it was in June last year. In the words of Dido, Alanis Morissete, Duran Duran, Jamelia and Jay-Z: thank you.

A question I get asked a lot is: what the hell am I going to do when this is over? Well, I’m happy to say The Gospel According To Richard Croft will live on as a more current-focused site without being tied to a format – although I’m sure many lists will make an appearance. There will be reviews and ramblings and rants galore. It probably won’t be at this web address or on WordPress, but I will make it known loud and clear where to find me in the future. I’m taking a break for a little while but in a few weeks that’ll be up and running – until then, if you need me for any reason I am constantly on Twitter at twitter.com/thericharderic and there is also my email: thegospelaccordingtorichardcroft@hotmail.com. Now, for no reason other than it’s stuck in my head, let’s sing this Alanis Morisette song, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for number one.

“Thank yew Indiugh
Thank yew taaaroor
Thank yew dis-aaa-lewshun-me-ant
Thank yew fraiiilty
Thank yew nothangnass
Thank yew, THANK YEW SI-A-LE-HENCE
E-YEAH E-YEAH”

Now that is beautiful.

2. Madonna – ‘American Life’ (2003)

June 9, 2010

“Fuck it”

Written by Madonna/Mirwais Ahmadzai

Produced by Mirwais Ahmadzai/Madonna

Taken from the album American Life

Also released on Remixed & Revisited and I’m Going To Tell You A Secret

UK #2, AUS #7, US #37

I genuinely believe ‘American Life’ has great lyrics but none of them do a better job of summing up this project than “fuck it”. This was Madonna having her Second Great Freakout, coming roughly a decade after Freakout One, which occured around the time of Erotica. Seemingly obsessed with the world’s obsession with all the wrong things, all the while being obsessed by violence and controversy herself, it was a confusing time indeed. Madonna has always, in some way, reflected the world and projected it onto herself to become the ultimate version of performance art – in 2003, following 9/11 and just before the Iraq War, the world was in a state of distress, and so was she.

You can see it in her interviews and press around the time of the album’s release – bitchier than usual, snapping at interviewers, seemingly desperate to prove herself when she was already a legend. The main problem with 2008’s Hard Candy was that Madonna seemingly didn’t care, with American Life she cared too much, to the point where it came across pushy and self-important. In the public eye, this reflected badly on her music, which is a real shame considering how strong the American Life album is. I’m well aware that the title track is a polarising piece of music, either loved completely or hated with a passion, and obviously I stand on the side of love.

It helps that American Life was the first new Madonna album released after my decision to become obsessed. I got it for my 13th birthday in June 2003 and wore out that CD. For a while there the only albums in the world that mattered were American Life, The Immaculate Collection and Michael Jackson’s HIStory. As much as the rest of American Life spoke to me, it was the electroclash mindfuck of the title track that remained my favourite.

“Do I have to change my name?
Will it get me far?
Should I lose some weight?
Am I gonna be a star?”

The harsh beeps and bleeps of ‘American Life’ take some getting used to, and the sound is made all the more jarring by the transition into acoustic guitar for the chorus. Through the lyrics, Madonna contemplates her fame and her dreams, whether she truly made it to where she wants to be and if all she sacrificed was worth it. On 1998’s ‘Drowned World’, she concluded that any adverse effects of fame were her own fault, on 2000’s ‘I Deserve It’ she decided that “all the pain” was worth it after all. But here in 2003 she seems to be so consumed by confusion and scorn for the celebrity life that she turns it around on all of us. In the video, all the idiots in the audience are supposed to be us – we’re the ones sitting at home dissecting the every move of a celebrity, tweeting about them, arguing about which dress is better looking, writing extended blog posts about pop songs. Madonna might want us to take a look at ourselves but she created this celebrity culture by pimping herself out, she made us this way, dammit! All the contradictions and messy politics of ‘American Life’ make it all the more delicious, all the more interesting.

“I’m drinking a soy latte
I get a double shot-ay
It goes right through my body and you know I’m satisfied
I drive my Mini-Cooper
And I’m feeling super duper
Yo, they tell me I’m a trooper and you know I’m satisfied”

I fucking love the rap. I love it so much, that I want the whole extended verse tattooed on my face. In bright red. A forty-five year old white woman rapping like this shouldn’t sound so amazing but it just does – because it’s Madonna, because she’s gone absolutely mad, and because we’ve all been invited along to watch. I never dreamt the words “this metaphysic shit is dope” would come out of Madonna’s mouth. Even after the shock value wears away, it fits the whole theme of the song and the entire campaign perfectly. ‘American Life’ is the death of pop, it’s most famous woman in the world rallying against the concept of celebrity, ripping herself apart and screaming at us not to sew her back together.

“I tried to stay ahead, I tried to stay on top
I tried to play the part, but somehow I forgot
Just what I did it for, and why I wanted more
This type of modern life – it is for me?”

The song itself is so frantic, and so very “2003”, that it is impossible to forget there was a gigantic shitstorm that surrounded ‘American Life’s release, including an imminent war and a post-9/11 backlash on anything and everything even slightly controversial. If the Dixie Chicks, once America’s sweethearts, can become Public Enemy Number One, what chance did Madonna have, considering she has always hovered in the Public Enemy Top Ten? As the storm continued to rise, Madonna went and did the most un-Madonna thing she’s ever done: she withdrew the ‘American Life’ video just days before wide release, citing that she didn’t want to “risk offending anyone”. I suppose looking back, it was inevitable in such a political climate, but that doesn’t mean it was artistically right: ‘American Life’ is Madonna’s greatest video, a supreme and triumphant statement, and a seamless marriage of audio and visuals. Thankfully the video is still widely available thanks to the internet, but the fact that it hasn’t yet been released officially is a travesty.

“I’d like to express my extreme point of view
I’m not a Christian and I’m not a Jew
I’m just living out the American dream
And I just realised that nothing is what it seems”

There was a significant downturn in Madonna’s career after ‘American Life’, one that she has never really recovered from. But I know she was proud of the song – the album title and campaign artwork was based around it, and it was a huge centrepiece of her Re-Invention Tour (with a tremendous, mindblowing live remix). When it wasn’t included on last year’s hits collection Celebration, it was disappointing, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And on the flipside of that argument, sometimes an artist has to put something out there that might offend and might divide listeners. Madonna built her fanbase and her legend on freedom and expression and honesty, and ‘American Life’ is the most extreme example of her desperate need to maintain all three.

Music video:

Re-Invention Tour Live 2004:

3. Kate Bush – ‘Breathing’ (1980)

June 9, 2010

“Outside
Gets inside
Through her skin
I’ve been out before but this time it’s much safer in

Last night
In the sky
Such a bright light
My radar send me danger
But my instincts tell me to keep breathing”

Written by Kate Bush

Produced by Kate Bush

Taken from the album Never For Ever

Also released on The Whole Story and This Woman’s Work

UK #16

I’ve sat here for a while trying to decide what on earth to say about ‘Breathing’. Here are the basic facts: it was the first single from Kate Bush’s third album Never For Ever, it was a top twenty hit, and it’s about a fetus. Possibly the only hit single about the subject (that includes ‘Teardrop’, which was merely “Massive Attack ft. A Fetus”), this was described by Kate as her best work up to that point, and her “little symphony”. That was most certainly true, and while she would continue to release quality work for decades to come, none of her songs ever managed to outdo this masterpiece.

This fetus isn’t just chillin’ in the womb, waiting to be born, the situation is much more sinister than that. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a definitive answer, but the general consensus is that the baby is either being born into a nuclear war, or being born after the world has ended. The first part of the song focuses on the fight to stay alive, the need to continue breathing no matter what. This is not a tale of lost love or relationship woes, it is a story of survival, which leads to an incredible sense of dramatic tension and suspense. At certain points, Kate’s voice comes screaming from the backing vocals into the forefront, as if desperately trying to hold on to life.

“We’ve lost our chance
We’re the first and last
After the blast
Chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung”

Following a frenzied repetition of “out, in, out, in”, the vocals fade away, and are replaced by a deadpan male voice reading seemingly straight from a textbook.

“After the flash, a fireball can be seen to rise, sucking up under it the debris, dust and living things around the area of the explosion, and as this ascends, it soons becomes recognisable as the familiar mushroom cloud.”

All the drama and theatrics come to a climax here and explode into a back-and-forth between Kate and a small group of male singers. “What are we going to do?” they sing, as Kate screams “BREATHE!!”, and is eventually able to spit out “God please leave us something to breathe!” – it looks ridiculous on paper but trust me, it sounds incredible within the context of the song. With a cry of “We are all going to die”, ‘Breathing’ comes to an end. Exhausting, cinematic and emotional, after a few seconds of false fade, it closes with a final pair of notes from the bass, a sonic representation of the barren landscape, the loss of life, the uncertain nature of the story and how it never gives us closure. It is Kate Bush’s greatest single-song achievement, a mindbending and engaging musical experience every time. For all of her other genius moments, may they be ‘Running Up That Hill’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’, at the end of the day I wouldn’t dream of calling any other Kate song my absolute favourite.

Music video:

4. Prince & The Revolution – ‘When Doves Cry’ (1984)

June 8, 2010

“Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat, the heat between me and you

How can you just leave me standing
Alone in a world that’s so cold?
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe I’m just like my mother
She’s never satisfied
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like when doves cry”

Written by Prince

Produced by Prince

Taken from the album Purple Rain

Also released on The Hits 1, The Hits/The B-Sides, The Very Best Of Prince and Ultimate Prince

US #1, AUS #1, UK #4

There are few sounds in the history of pop music more thrilling than the wailing guitar that opens ‘When Doves Cry’. As the bassless beat kicks in, the listener has begun a journey into a deep, fascinating new world based on secret desires and raw, undiscoverd sexuality. I might go so far as to name ‘When Doves Cry’ the hottest song ever recorded, not because it’s explicit but because it represents the more important concept of sexual freedom.

The chorus is probably the strongest of all time – and I say that while acknowledging the top three and paying them respect – but I’m afraid chorus-wise it just doesn’t get better than this. “How could you just leave me standing, alone in a world that’s so cold?”, Prince asks us, before having an internal conversation about what made him the way he is. “Why do we scream at each other?” is his next big question, one that has haunted many relationships over the years, I’m sure. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry” – doves represent peace, and when that peace is broken, so are they. Fairly straightforward, yet open for interpretation, the upfront clarity of the song makes for rewarding repeated listening, as we peel the layers away and discover new meanings.

Whilst the radio edit isn’t exactly a hack job, it is always advisable to listen to the album version wherever possible. This is mostly because the edit cuts out the jaw-dropping extended instrumental section towards the end, in which Prince’s voice melds with the instruments and becomes a giant, mixed-up orgy of drums and vocals and all sorts of other beautiful sounds. There’s even a synthesizer solo. You won’t find many phrases that inspire the joy in my heart that “synthesizer solo” does. An epic in the true sense of the word, when we look back on it now, how could ‘When Doves Cry’ not have been the highest selling single of 1984, and indeed one of the most universally acclaimed songs of the decade?

Audio:

5. Bjork – ‘Joga’ (1997)

June 8, 2010

“You don’t have to speak
I feel
Emotional landscapes”

Written by Bjork/Sjon

Produced by Bjork/Mark Bell

Taken from the album Homogenic

Also released on Greatest Hits, Family Tree and Homogenic Live

AUS #70, UK #109

Remember how stunning the strings from ‘Confide In Me’ were? Double that effectiveness, triple that intensity, and you have Bjork’s ‘Joga’. I think it’s safe to tell you that I haven’t hidden ‘Nattura’ or anything like that elsewhere in the top five, so this is her finest moment. With lyrics by Sjon, who also wrote ‘Isobel’, ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Oceania’, ‘Joga’ is named after Bjork’s best friend and dedicated to Iceland, and although the lyrics are by another artist, it was a close collaboration and the song is still one of the most personal in Bjork’s discography.

The repetition in the chorus – “state of emergency, is where I want to be” – is a strange line, but taken with the verses, which seem to describe a sort of supernatural connection between two lovers or friends, it makes sense. Pain and anger may be hard but at least they’re emotions, right? And even if you’re feeling bad, at least you’re feeling something. It’s better to be in a state of emergency than a state of nothingness. Furthermore, if you ever are in a state of nothingness, ‘Joga’ is so full of life and love that it is sure to bring you back from the brink. This song is the opposite of Regina George from Mean Girls: it’s a life-saver. It saves lives.

Of course, that is my own interpretation of the song – the actual meaning, and the meaning you take from it, is likely to be quite different. When an artist is so guarded and difficult with their lyrics, yet so intimate at the same time, it is easy to apply your own stories and allow the original purpose to fade away. But those rolling drums, those uplifting strings, Bjork’s most passionate vocal performance – those cannot be misunderstood. ‘Joga’ is a triumph in every way, a masterwork by one of pop music’s true originals.

Music video:

6. Culture Club – ‘Victims’ (1983)

June 7, 2010

“Show my heart some devotion
Push aside those that whisper never”

Written by Culture Club

Produced by Steve Levine

Taken from the album Colour By Numbers

Also released on This Time: The First Four Years, Spin Dazzle, The Best Of Boy George & Culture Club… At Worst, Greatest Moments: Best Of Culture Club, The Best Of Culture Club, Culture Club, Culture Club 2005: Singles & Remixes and Greatest Hits

UK #3, AUS #4

Even the most obsessive Boy George fan would have to admit that sometimes his lyrics were a little too cryptic, but on occasion, when his voice hit just the right notes and the music was played just right, everything made perfect sense and you took a ride into unknown pleasure. ‘Victims’ was one of those moments. With his most poetic and evocative lyrics, ‘Victims’ is a mature ballad, with Motown flourishes and even a Phil Collins-style drum breakdown – but this is not simply a tribute to other styles.

Carried by George’s flawless voice, ‘Victims’ glides along on a cinematic piano and drum combo, a story of loss, confusion and young love. “Feel like a child on a dark night”, he sings, “wishing we could spend it together”. The slight echo on his vocals and the simple backing make you feel as though you’re within the song, living every minute of it.

“You’re always there
Like a ghost in my dreams”

‘Victims’ is about never letting go, whether you want to or not. It tells us that if you love someone they’ll always be there, somewhere in the back of your mind forever. “Push aside those that whisper never”, a line so beautiful they put it on the single cover, is the best advice a song could give you: forget about anything that stands in the way of your happiness. It’s not difficult to see why Boy George was a hero to so many – when you look at the similar bands and artists from around this time, not many were connecting with their listeners on such a profound and personal level.

Music video:

7. Kylie Minogue – ‘Confide In Me’ (1994)

June 7, 2010

“We all get hurt by love
And we all have our cross to bear
But in the name of understanding, now
Our problems should be shared
Confide in me”

Written by Steve Anderson/Dave Seaman/Owain Barton

Produced by Brothers In Rhythm

Taken from the album Kylie Minogue

Also released on Intimate And Live, Hits+, Confide In Me, Greatest Hits 87-97, Greatest Hits 1987-1999, Artist Collection, Ultimate Kylie, Showgirl: Homecoming Live, Confide In Me: The Irresistible Kylie and Live In New York

AUS #1, UK #2

The first seconds of ‘Confide In Me’ announce that this is like no other Kylie Minogue song, before or since. It’s extremely important to recall where Kylie was before this song, her reputation and style. She had certainly become sexually liberated over the last few years, but was nowhere near her goal of being taken seriously as an artist and as a performer. As the atmosphere unfolds and the orchestral strings kick in, it becomes apparent that all that was to change. ‘Confide In Me’ presented a new Kylie Minogue, no longer a singing budgie but a slinky, vampish goddess, able to fulfil your wildest desires and yet just out of reach. The classic music video for this track tell viewers to “touch the screen” – but that’s as far as this intimacy will go.

It also presented a stronger voice than we’d heard before, able to hold notes previously unheard on a Kylie record and able to take us places the old Kylie never could. There was a greater understanding of human behaviour here, and this song was not about the singer pining away for a lost love, hiding her sorrow by crying alone in a bubble bath. ‘Confide In Me’ is about moving on and growing up, sharing your fears and dreams and being open with one another. Yes, the song and delivery is unbelievably sexy, but it’s also mature and classy.

As that voice rises and the strings become more and more intense, you feel as though you could drown in ‘Confide In Me’. Who could resist her asking “should I offer some assistance?” or a video which plays on every vulnerability known to man? As six seperate Kylies dance around seductively in different outfits, text flashes on screen taken straight from a late-night advertisement: solo? Abused? Need a friend? 1-555-CONFIDE. The audio and imagery are the ultimate statement of artist emancipation, adult sexuality, and invites you closer to the brave new Kylie Minogue than you’ve ever been before. Touch the screen.

Music video:

8. Beatles – ‘Blackbird’ (1968)

June 7, 2010

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”

Written by Paul McCartney/John Lennon

Produced by George Martin

Taken from the album The Beatles

Also released on Anthology 3

There is a lot of history to be found within the Beatles discography, whether the songs are written about certain events or whether those events have happened after release and are now tied to the work in question. ‘Blackbird’ is no exception, with the slight, quiet ballad taking on the subject of the civil rights movement and race relations. The song is so simple, with very few layers and elements, mostly consisting of vocals and guitar. It runs only two minutes and twenty seconds, yet manages to completely convey the message and still leave time for the listener to admire the lyrical beauty and the pretty melody.

Like the recent songs on this list ‘Travelin’ Thru’ and ‘Darkness’, ‘Blackbird’ is about overcoming adversity, about finding a meaning for your life and a reason to continue. Like the African-American community struggled for recognition and equality, the blackbird in this song yearns to be heard, for the moment when it can spread it’s broken wings and learn to fly. It is such powerful imagery, and even if it isn’t immediately obvious what this song is about, you can apply it to any number of situations. I suppose that was one of the main reasons the Beatles were so acclaimed and popular – they were never afraid to make a statement, be it artistic or political, but they did it in such a way that it never intruded on the musical quality of their songs.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free”

I wouldn’t say ‘Blackbird’ is a popular choice for the best ever Beatles song, but it has had it’s fair share of recognition and cover versions over the years, and is generally regarded as one of Paul McCartney’s greatest compositions. It was never released as a single – there were none from The Beatles – but still became a fan favourite and one of the most famous latter-day Beatles songs. As a civil rights anthem or simply as an expression of freedom and personal change, ‘Blackbird’ is among the most beautiful pieces of music you will ever hear.

“Blackbird, fly
Into the light of the dark black night”

Audio: