Sep 052007

My wife and I were asked this question tonight. He did not want to hear about “Yesterday” or “Something” being the most covered song (whatever that may have meant to him). He wanted to know what their most famous song was, what we would call a “signature” song, such as The Who’s “My Generation” or Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”.

Perhaps we can help answer this boy’s question as follows: Had The Beatles continued playing live through their recording career and maybe even another 10 years of possibly declining releases, what would be the one song the fans had to hear in the encore?


  53 Responses to “A 10-Year-Old Asks, “What’s The Beatles’ most famous song?””

  1. saturnismine

    great question.

    I’d say it’s “hey jude”.

    “little help”, “yellow submarine”, and “i wanna hold your hand” deserve honorable mention.

  2. I say “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

    Imagine that, instead of retiring from the road in ’66, the band simply retires 99% of their ’62-’65 output. On ensuing tours, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” always shows up in the encores, the default lone nod to their prior incarnation as lovable moptops.

    In ’69, the band announces they’ll be bringing back several of the “old numbers” for their upcoming tour, but it all falls apart during the filmed rehearsal sessions at Twickenham studios.

    I sincerely hope Hrrundi enjoys the Beatle fan fiction that will probably ensue now.

  3. I’m with Saturn: “Hey Jude.”

    However, if we’re going with the Oats scenario, I think “She Loves You” is a far more likely answer. It was their signature song, even in the US where “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was the bigger hit.

  4. For period: “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

    For mid period: “Eleanor Rigby”

    For late period: “Here Comes The Sun”

  5. Well, according to my kids (ages 10 & 12) it was “Yellow Submarine”

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    Oats sez:

    I sincerely hope Hrrundi enjoys the Beatle fan fiction that will probably ensue now.

    I say:

    Trust me, I am shaking my head ruefully already.

  7. She Loves You

    Lucy in the Sky

    Let it be

  8. saturnismine

    these are all good choices…and it’s easy to make an argument for any of them (though i must cast a critical eye at anyone who’s copping out and giving more than one answer…mrclean!!!…the thread asks for one signature song!).

    but i still think that hey jude is somehow more iconic / monolithic than the rest.

    it just appears that way from here…others are welcome to beg to differ, of course.

  9. The first one that comes to mind is “A Day in the Life.”

  10. mockcarr

    I agree with She Loves You. You can’t go wrong with Yeah.

  11. (though i must cast a critical eye at anyone who’s copping out and giving more than one answer…mrclean!!!…the thread asks for one signature song!)

    Then I’ll commit to just “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

    Sure they had all kinds of amazing songs after that but if a “signature song” is what you’re after – thats it.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    Good answers, so far! Thanks, Saturnismine, for pointing out the need to make ONE choice. I’m not yet ready to choose one, but I’m currently weighing “Hey Jude” versus “A Day in the Life” with “She Loves You” close behind.

  13. Geez, Mr. Mod – another tiresome Beatles thread, only this time with the excuse “Think of the children!”

    I’ll drop the stink bomb into the room and say that had the Beatles played live straight through to 1980 or so, the set list would’ve changed constantly. 1971’s show-stopping encore would have been 1978’s mid-set breather.

    Seriously, I don’t get this question. None of us needed The Beatles reduced to one song when we were young.

    There – I think I’ve ruined just about everything in this discussion!

  14. alexmagic

    Most famous, specifically separated from best or other qualifiers? She Loves You: When people who don’t even like them think of the Beatles, they think of “Yeah yeah yeah!” and the head shake that goes with the “whoooooo!” Any kind of caricature of them involves one of both of those, and its cameo in All You Need Is Love probably meant they thought so, too.

    I also think it would be the one they’d play for the encore in Oats’ scenario, but for more on that, you’ll have wait for the upcoming publication of my Choose Your Own Adventure volume “You Are William Campbell” or read one of the many Beatles/Back To The Future fanfic crossovers I’ve penned. I recommend starting with Not A Second Time, people seem to love the Biff/Albert Goldman scene.

  15. BigSteve

    I agree that She Loves You is the iconic early Beatles number. Unfortunately I’m afraid that later period Beatles material is more “famous” right now, if you take into account all demographic groups.

    I don’t think the early stuff gets played on ‘classic rock’ stations does it? In other words something like Let It Be gets heard more these days than their best early work.

    I could probably find this out if I put my mind to it, but I think most people alive today were born after the Beatles broke up, so all of the experience of the majority of the population is after the fact, and the Beatles later work would make more sense in the context of the other music they’ve heard.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks to those of you who have been thinking of the children. They are our future and the future of rock chatter. I’m convinced that all the famous early Beatles songs would make great opening numbers or great encore openers – maybe even great regular set closers. However, the grand finale needs to be something worthy of sucking down those last bowls of reefer, something worthy of raising your fist and singing along. I keep thinking this comes down to “Hey Jude” versus “A Day in the Life”. Do you agree the field has been narrowed to these selections?

  17. Do you agree the field has been narrowed to these selections?


  18. alexmagic

    There’s no way John agrees to let Paul send people home with Hey Jude or Let It Be. The third and final encore is A Day In The Life going right into All Together Now. Sometimes they mix it up and do You’ll Be Mine instead. Accordingly, the ticket stubs and set lists from these shows go for a lot more on eBay.

  19. BigSteve

    A Day in the Life is just not a song you’d play live. “Most famous” and “final encore” are very different categories.

    Actually I don’t think A Day in the Life is even in the running for most famous either.

  20. saturnismine

    alex, i’m surprised that you are unaware of john’s well-known affection for the song ‘hey jude’.

    the term “signature song” suggests a popularity with the masses — casual beatles fans — that “a day in the life” simply never enjoyed.

  21. Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand, but probably the English version of that one.

  22. dbuskirk

    And here I thought for sure it was “All You Need Is Love”. Doesn’t that seem like the idea the Beatles would want to send the folks home with? Besides, it’s got a great sing-along chorus. “A Day In the Life” is a horrible set closer.

  23. I agree with Massimo. The answer is…There is no answer! When you have the quantity of, and the quality of the Beatles hits, You cant pick one. Tell your son about life. Tell him that it’s more fun to debate and discuss all this stuff than to limit yourself with only one. You mention My generation by the Who. That is debateable I’m sure. (Pinball Wizard,Wont get fooled again,I can See for Miles?) Anyway getting back to the Beatles, You’ll never get a consensus on one song cause of something I call “The Beatles receptor.” It’s that part of everyone’s brain that undertstands the absolute greatness of the Beatles’ sound and songs. The human brain responds to The Beatles like no other music. We all have the receptors but our individual experiences and perception create natural healthy diversity. Picking the “most famous” song for other groups is possible, but I dont think it is for the Beatles. As for the last song of the encore, I think “The End” from the end of Abby Road would work OK.

  24. Mr. Moderator

    To those of you who say “There is no sole answer!” while countering with “It’s more fun to debate this stuff,” I say, it’s even more fun to watch you squirm when asked to limit yourselves to a sole answer. Don’t cop out on me, sethro. Or should I say don’t cop out on the children.

  25. I KNEW you’d push back! Thanks for being manly. Anyway, since I’ve had time to sleep on it, I would say “She Loves You”. That’s sort of my snap decision for today without putting too much thought into it and driving myself crazy.

  26. I had the most amazing/pleasurable/awesome (not sure of the best adjective) experience over the weekend. I’m sure many RTHers would appreciate it.

    My wife and I went to a wedding on Saturday. As we are sitting down at our table at the reception, the guy I’m going to sit next to (name of Frank) is finishing up a story he was telling to some others also already seated. “It was awesome because you know, McCartney has so many songs to choose from – Beatles, Wings, his own.” My wife says, “Oh no, a Beatles guy for you to talk to.” “Are you a Beatles fan?” “Yep.” “Well, if you really are a fan you might like to see my collection. My house is less than 10 minutes away, we can slip out later after dinner and I’ll show you. I think you’ll enjoy it.” “Sure, love too.”

    We continue chatting, he says he’s been collecting Beatles stuff since 1964, when he was 9 years old (which, for those keeping score at home, makes us the same age). He’s a Beatles fan and, in particular, a Macca fan.

    After dinner, we slip out, leaving the wives to undoubtedly discuss the travails of being married to the likes of guys who would slip out from a wedding reception to check out a Beatles collection.

    We arrive at Frank’s house and head down to his basement and I’m hit by the most spectacular example of musical fanaticism (really, any fanaticism) I’ve ever seen. It was literally breath taking. The basement is probably 25 feet by 25 feet and is wall to wall Beatles. (And anywhere here that I say Beatles, I mean fab four or solo.) There are several shelves of Yellow Submarine knickknacks. There are the five McCartney autographs that Frank has obtained in person. There are shelves of LPs, shelves of cassettes, shelves of CDs. There are even several carrying cases of 8-tracks. There’s a shelf of box sets – the Mobile Fidelity LPs, the CDs, the singles, the CD singles, the 9 (or so) CD boots of the complete BBC sessions, ditto for the Get Back sessions. There are butcher covers. There are boots (12 CDs of Chaos & Creation sessions, anyone?). At the reception Frank had mentioned that he had about 2000 CDs. Having seen them, I’d say 1,800 are Beatles.

    There’s a box full of postage stamps from various countries. There’s a complete set of Beatles trading cards from the mid-‘60s. DVDs, VHS of any Beatles film snippet, TV appearance, whatever. There are posters. Lots of licensed junk from the heyday of Beatlemania (and speaking of license, his license plate was WINGS-1).

    There are hundreds and hundreds of magazines and newspapers going back to the beginning, some yellowing and brittle in their plastic sleeves. Books and books and books.

    On one side of the ceiling beam across the center of the room hang colored vinyl/picture discs 45s. Across the other side, hang 19 Beatles lunch boxes.


    And plenty of other stuff. It was staggering. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the stuff itself. I enjoyed the presentation. I enjoyed the pleasure and enthusiasm Frank took in his collection. I enjoyed Frank’s enjoyment of showing it off to someone who obviously appreciated it.

  27. Mr. Moderator

    Al, this Frank you met doesn’t work for an A/V company, producing corporate meetings, by any chance, does he? I’ve done work with a Frank who lives up your way and who seems like he might fit this bill. How small of a world would that be?

  28. I don’t think it’s the same guy. I can’t remember what it was he sold, but I’m pretty certain he was in sales of some kind because he mentioned his “territory” being eastern Connecticut.

  29. alexmagic

    I hope you appreciate the way your wife brokered the whole experience for you. Sure, like you said, she probably commiserated with the other guy’s wife while you were both gone, but that “Oh no, a Beatles guy for you to talk to” was a canny move to break the ice for you on her part. That’s love.

    It’s also nice that the guy was on the level and not looking to add you to a collection of living mannequins forced to recreate the Sgt. Pepper cover in his basement for all eternity. Because that would be a drag, especially if you got stuck being Stephen Crane or H.C. Westermann.

  30. Mr. Moderator

    Alexmagic makes his bid for Post of the Week!

  31. My wife has always been as indulgent of my music lust as I could ever want. Thanks God she never delves too deeply into just how much of our disposable income is disposed of in this way!

    As far as recreating the Sgt. Pepper cover, he tried to do that later on at the reception with all of the wedding guests. He let me be Diana Dors, so I was cool with it…

  32. BigSteve

    I feel sorry for the guy, because apparently all the good license plates like Fab-4 were already taken. Please tell me WINGS-1 was not his first choice.

  33. I had just met the guy, I didn’t want to ask a question like that – at least not til I’d seen the collection.

    And now I want to see it again and listen to some stuff, so it may be awhile before I ask it!

  34. saturnismine

    that’s a great story!

    this nonsense of confusing a fictive encore choice with the answer to the question your ten year old posed has got to stop (and by “has got to stop” i mean, “please don’t stop”).

    it’s leading us in all kinds of stupid (and by “stupid” i really mean “fun”) directions.

  35. Mr. Moderator

    You’re spot on, Saturnismine! I really want folks to give my son the answer he deserves.

  36. saturnismine

    go to hell, mod (and by “go to hell” i mean, “thanks”)!

    seriously, though…

    i’ve been casually polling the electorate.

    and by “electorate” I mean: moore students (…hey! no sniggering from the peanut gallery!), my parents, siblings, the dopes in my fantasy football league, art historians…a nice cross section of folks, both beatles fans, and non-beatles fans.

    my question is the same as your boy’s: “what’s the most famous beatles song?”

    “yellow submarine”, and “hey jude” are by far the most offered answers, with an edge to “submarine”.

    also mentioned a few times, at least more than twice: “i wanna hold your hand”, “here comes the sun”, “yesterday”, “she loves you” and “imagine” (yes, “imagine”: i told you i was asking non-beatle fans and art school girls…these respondents one happened to be both) .

    not a single soul has said “a day in the life” or “all you need is love”, songs that makes sense in the encore scenario, but not as answers to the question at hand.

  37. 2000 Man

    Not that it really matters, but I can imagine all the bootlegs on the Dime had The Beatles stuck together in the 70’s. The last song every night prior to the encore would be Hey Jude, and I’d have never EVER paid to see them because I hate that singalong crap, and Hey Jude would have lasted forever. The descriptions on the Dime would all be, “Excellent second gen aud from up close with great 21 minute Hey Jude where the band actually leaves the stage and the audience keeps it going for nine minutes on their own. Highly recommended.”


  38. saturnismine

    that IS an icky scenario, 2k. thank GOD they broke up.

    btw, you ARE aware of mick’s admiration for that song, which ripened into jealousy when he heard the second part (in August of ’68), aren’t you?

    “bloody hell” he said, over and over…”bloody hell….bloody hell…it’s like two songs in one idn’t it?”

    then he scurried off to find keef, so they could write a song with a big singalong ending like that, too.

    i have a bootleg of them performing “you can’t always get what you want” in ’74, and it’s damn near 20 minutes.


  39. BigSteve

    The Dime? I had to really wrack my brain, but I eventually figured it out.

  40. Mr. Moderator

    Great work, all!!!

  41. 2000 Man

    I know Mick loved it, saturn. I think everyone but me loves it. But I’ve never loved it, even when I was a kid.

    I’ve got to admit, that even though I’m not a big Beatles fan, the last few trips to the store I made, I actually looked for Revolver, mostly because youse guys talk about The Beatles a lot, and I really like Dr. Robert, and I should get some Beatles besides the few things I have. But ya know what? The little indie stores don’t have many Beatles albums. I’m gonna have to go to something like Best Buy. Maybe I can bury them under a giant purchase of blank cd’s and DVD’s?

    Oh yeah, I’d like to hear that 74 show. It’s undiscovered, ya know.

  42. saturnismine

    2k, i’ll find the casette and burn it (i’ve been meaning to anyway)

    chances are whoever passed it on to me may have gotten the date wrong…

    but it’s a blazing, tight as hell / loose as fuck offering. they’re really on top of their shit on this particular night.

  43. saturnismine

    ps, 2k:

    i think the word to describe mick’s response to ‘hey jude’ was probably “fear”, not “love”. in fact, we could bump this idea over to mr. mod’s competition thread.

    i’m sure we both doubt the “undiscovered” status of the bootleg i’m describing. before we go off half-cocked, here’s a track listing of the casette that an old friend laid on me, which he entitled “gimme mick…stones ’74”. that’s gotta be an incorrect date, right? also, this is only a partial representation of whatever he had in his possession, probably re-sequenced for the casette his was making for me.

    so the track listing below is probably useless in determining which bootleg this is.

    Intro: (“ladies and gentlemen…the rolling stones”)

    1. brown sugar
    2. happy

    (dialogue…”alraaat…thanks keef”).

    3. you can’t always get what you want (it’s 11 minutes, not “damn near 20” as i said…it’s still way too long).


    4. midnight rambler (even longer…about 13 minutes)

    5. “rip this joint” goes right into
    6. jumpin’ jack which goes right into
    7. street fightin’ man

    vancouver ’72 (mick and stevie on the cover), “unreleased decca live album”, “Ft. Worth Express”, and “bedspring symphony revisited” all contain this last combination of songs. there are probably more….

    let me know if you’d like a copy of what little i have.

  44. BigSteve

    Saturn, you’re a titan, but you’re thinking small. If you can get these tracks in digital format, why not post them here? I’m not much of a bootleg collector (though I do have those Exile outtakes), but I’m sure I’m not the only townsperson who’d like to hear, and possibly discuss, these recordings.

    Speaking of which, the Aquarium Drunkard blog has made the entirety of Neil Young’s Time Fades Away (never released on CD) available again. It’s one of my favorite Neil albums, even if he hates it, and here’s your chance, if you’ve missed its internet distribution previously. This doesn’t relate to either the Stones or the competition discussion, I just wanted to share.

  45. 2000 Man

    saturn, yeah the date’s wrong. I was actually hoping you’d say it was Royal Albert Hall 74, which has some stuff from 78 that was unique to that album for a long time. My guess is your cassette is from what’s generally called “Brussels Affair,” which is from the 73 tour. It’s the tour that technically supported Goat’s Head Soup, and I was looking for the Wembley video of Street Fighting Man, which is probably the one on your tape (it’s BBC recordings and the old King Biscuit Flower Hour show used one venue to advertise the shows, and then usually pieced them together from other shows). I think it’s one of Mick Taylor’s best recordings, and I agree that YCAGWYW is too long (even the title is too long to type).

    That version of Midnight Rambler is awesome, especially if you like Mick Taylor. The whole thing is like 100 miles an hour, and that’s one of the things that makes me scratch my head over GHS – the band was really bringing it live in 72 – 73, why is GHS so mellow?

    I’d be happy to send along tracks to be posted. Things are finally back to normal fall/winter around here so I have some time.

    BigSteve – is there a valid reason why Neil Young doesn’t have everything released? I finally saw American Stars and Bars the other day on cd (I gave up looking because it just appeared to me he wasn’t going to do it). I should probably grab it before it goes OOP, but does he have a good resaon or does he just think they won’t sell?

  46. Mr. Moderator

    Like BigSteve says – and same goes for you, 2000 Man – contact me offlist and we can set up getting some Stones boots up to kick around for a couple of days. I’d love to hear that stuff! I love when the Stones play fast!

  47. saturnismine

    2k: “bedspring symphony” IS brussels ’73. it may be the one.

    i know you didn’t ask me, but i reckon that neil doesn’t have everything out on cd for two reasons:

    -one is the same reason that he didn’t have “on the beach” out on cd for such a long time: when it was time to give that album the digital treatment he had become fed up with the digital medium in general (surprising from the man who gave us “trans”, but he never was consistent, and was always prone to changes of mind), and claimed that he was not pleased that ANY of his stuff had come out on cd.

    another reason is that there are albums, even work from entire periods, that he has claimed he can’t stand anymore, even while arguing for the necessity of taking that direction at the time. and as a result, he just doesn’t want certain material out there.

    finally, there’s also this “archive” project that’s probably taking all his energy and time right now. it’s been delayed a bazillion times…

  48. BigSteve

    What Saturn said, with a few addenda .. Neil just supposedly hates Time Fades Away for some reason. To my ears it’s exactly perfect, but his dissatisfaction is I think not technical but artistic. I don’t get it. He’s an ornery guy. I also thought the (now delayed again … why did we fall for the Fall 07 release date?) archival series might contain other recordings from this era (and/or other darkened corners of his back catalog) that he prefers and hopes to revise history with.

    Also, I heard him say in an interview that he thinks CD/digital audio technology has now evolved to the point where he finds it an acceptable medium in general. And the Archives will have DVDs too, which I believe have higher bitrate audio files than CDs.

    Sometimes record companies are fucked up. They do worry about whether sales will justify the investment in a reissue (fucking capitalists). Plus they’re huge bureauracies, and I think some stuff just falls in between the cracks and goes out of print for no damn reason.

    Btw I balked at buying the new Live @ Massey Hall thing, but it’s very impressive.

  49. saturnismine

    bigSteve, i’m SO with you on “time fades away”. to me, it really is the innaguration of that completely fragmented, effed up phase that culminates in zuma. i’ve always been puzzled by neil’s distaste for “time fades away” because he’s so proud of “tonight’s the night”, “on the beach” and “zuma”, which really have the same spirit.

    i’ve owned boots of both the fillmore and the massey stuff for a long time, so i’ve known for a long time that those performances were superb. but these are really nice sounding releases…done so well that there’s no longer any reason to keep the inferior sounding bootlegs.

    i’ve always hoped he would release “homegrown”, the “country” album from that period that would’ve been the follow-up to “harvest”, and the precursor to “comes a time”. that material has come out here and there (some on decade, some on “stars”….dr. john and i have discussed this) and it would be great to hear it in its proper form.

    in other news, sorry about your saints on thursday. the thought of peyton manning playing football WITHOUT the monkey on his back was scary, but the reality of it was just downright sick.

  50. Has anyone else read that Massey Hall and Fillmore will both be part of this archive box if & when it ever comes out, so you’ll be buying them again when you get the box set? I’ve read that in two different places, once back when the first one came out and again just recently. That’s why I’ve held off on buying either of them.

  51. By all accounts, when Time Fades Away was being recorded, Young was stressed out, he was fighting with the band, and unhappy with his guitar sound.

    I think all that tension created something amazing, moving as close to the edge as he ever got. But I can see him feeling like he would want to get away from those experiences in his life. He went in similar direction on Tonight’s the Night, toning it down for the finished product. Along with Homegrown, I would like to see Young release the original version of TtN.

    I went out and got Massey Hall as soon as it came out, for who knows how long it’s gonna take for the Archives series to be released?

  52. BigSteve

    Thanks for the condolences, saturn, and now I get to return them. Peyton Manning is the best and the Saints’ defensive backfield sucks ass. Our game was a reality check, and maybe yours today was too.

  53. Mr. Moderator

    I wish I could get worked up about “my” (and saturn’s) team sucking today, but MY team won its debut today, 4-0!

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