First off, this isn’t a cop out having just done the Beatles as an entire mix the other day, nor, secondly will it be the typical singles loaded birthday celebration list that usually pops up around this time. Rather, this is a look back at some of the more original experiences with John on vocals, be them great vocal performances of his or simply great examples of songs he happened to be lead vocals on.
As I’ve aged and continued to learn more I appreciate the Beatles with a new perspective and love, particularly Lennon, who’s solo works as well as his time in the group manifest in so many unique approaches and ideas about music, lyrics, recording and image, impacting so much more than just the generalities of pop culture.
“A Day in the Life” – OK, it might sound cliche and John doesn’t sing the entire lead, but it’s a personal favorite and a classic for so many reasons
“Strawberry Fields Forever” Again, another probable cliche but given the contravercial lyrical content, vocal production and instrumention, and overall memorability why not include it.
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” By manipulating John’s nasaly range and letting his whistful approach to melody interpret the lyrics it created an entrancing feel over the layers of sound beneath to where some of the vocals are more a part of the sonic texture than lyrical delivery
“I am the Walrus” yes we’ll get the psychadelic stuff out of the way and point out the quirkiness of John’s approach, particularly with the nonsensical linguistics thrown in for good measure and again note the vocal production in addition to the way the vocals offset / play into the instrumentation
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flow)” extremely unique instrumentation with the sitar, personal lyrics with a bit of Lennon’s tongue-in-cheek approach and some beautiful melodies
“In My Life” Instrumentation comes up again with the Beatles but the single guitar lead and harpischord offselt John’s lilting vocal lines and that last falsetto on the chorus is a great touch
“Nowhere Man” it opens with harmonized John and moves elegantly from there. A rarity in it’s lyrical content for it’s era John’s whistful approach reflects the words as the song developes.
“Across the Universe” It almost has a childlike quality to it, innocent in John’s whimsical interpretation of melody sometimes squarely with the beat sometimes just nearby it but always moving the song forward
“(You’ve Got To) Hide Your Love Away” quentessential in its a simplicity and one of the more raw sounding and stripped emotional feeling examples of the warmth of John’s voice
“Happiness is a Warm Gun” the varying feels of the song bring together the different Lennon interpretations in intonation that made each of Johns’ approaches individually classic
“I’m Only Sleeping” The chorus probably stands out more than anything else lyrically but it’s the itnerplay between the reversed recorded guitars and the vocal melody that is most memorable about the song
“Dear Prudance” its sublte but John pushes his range a bit more than usual, uses the studder and undulates the melody particularly at the end to set the mood around the instrumentation
“Revolution” For a song about stirring things up, John sounds terribly relaxed and as-a-matter-of-fact but taken with the gritty guitar tone and throbbing bottom end and the melody gets a nice counter-balance of importance with the falsetto dropped in
“Help” I almost didn’t put this on, because I think the slower renditions of it suit the lyrics better, but John’s quirky approach to laying down melody make it seem anxious and penchant begging out of paranoidia and his range is best demonstrated as he drifts between the lower register and falsetto
“Ticket to Ride” The nasaly part of John’s range, the studdered approach in the chorus, the way the vocals lead the rest of the instrumentation (typical in their early songs overall) all are standouts
“Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey” Owing to the fact that John twisted and shouted and covered some of the early days this is a little more non-chalant in his approach but harkens back to that era with a nod as only John can the post-psychedelic era it was recorded
“All you Need is Love” We’ll begin and end with my all time favorite songs by the band and well, the 7/4 turnaround, the use of the brass particularly in the intro and outro quotes, oh, we’re talking about John’s vocals and how direct they are throughout even when the background harmony attempts to drag the beat and lighten the mood in direct contrast