Recent relisten has made me think that the singles around early Beatles and Hard Days night this is Beatles at its melodic peak and as a result Beatles at their peak.
What I like about early Beatles. often no real chorus. rather it's really verse and bridge that almost function as separate themes and sometimes they are in a different key (akin to contrasting themes in a sonata form movement). A sense of melodic continuous melodies with limited repetition (at most repeating a melodic phrase a maximum of once before continuing to the next melodic idea, even if they repeat the melody once often there is a sense of harmonic changes). Melody that goes on a journey/dramatic arc where it goes up and down and have a sense of build up and climax. Lastly interesting harmonic shift either good use of modulation or interesting chords itself (that augmented chord in From Me to You "satisfied" gets me everytime)
One of the turning points in appreciating the greatness of early Beatles is listening to "I'll Get You" from Past Masters which is a song that isn't particularly famous and I don't really see anyone point out as a great song or a stand out song from their career. I note that this is just one continuous flow of melody from 'Imagine I'm in love with you" to "Yes I will, I'll get you in the end" and ": oh yeah". Basically eight lines of continuous melodies before it starts to repeat itself and there is a sense of build up and climax at the end of the phrase. I'm thinking this almost obscure Beatles song that I pretty much forgot about is a masterpiece in melodic writing. This is more substantial melody than many other great Beatles song such as "In my life"
Perhaps my all time favourite song of The BEatles is probably "Should HAve Known Better". The bridge is exquisuite example of continuous melody writing with a sense of drama(falsetto ah huh hah is just magical). The verse even with it seemingly repeating the original line, changes thing by modulating to the relative minor at the "can't you see" at the end is marvellous.
From Rubber Soul onwards, Beatles became more well rounded songwriting adding various strings to the bow such as emotional weight, production technique, songs based on other attributes outside melody (groove based music with Come together etc). however in the process of becoming well-rounded songwriter, their melodic greatness went from 10/10 to 9/10. I guess with my values now if a song is 10/10 in basic songwriting, I would rate it higher to 9/10 song which has 10/10 emotional resonance, 10/10 production values.
For example A Day In The Life I used to consider not just the greatest Beatles song but a contender for greatest song of all time. Now the John Lennon section is pretty great melody writing, however the Paul Mccartney section is basically an underwritten two note melody (with a third note thrown in towards the end). Paul McCartney section purely functions as a contrasting element but is completely insubstantial in of itself. I kind of think that song is slightly "inadequate" to coin George Starostin. Now this is still a great song but it's an example of 9/10 songwriting elevated by production. I find myself now enjoying "I Should Have Known Better" more now that you have a verse and bridge in different keys. sure the contrast is less dramatic but it's certainly more "adequate'
I'm starting to think that perhaps it's the early Beatles that is more harder to get into. When I was a teenager I immediately appreciated the sound effects rock minimalism collage of Tomorrow Never Knows, unique string quartet arrangement of Eleanor Rigby the multi-part suite of A Day in the life and the Abbey Road Medley. These things are surface level area of interest that are easy to appreciate as being unique/innovative on first listen.
It's only now that I'm older I am able to fully appreciate basic songwriting principles that makes early Beatles great. Maybe early Beatles is the more "sophisticated" material instead of the other way around :)
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