“Eight Days A Week” is the Quintessential Beatles Song

30Oct12

It just is. It typifies what the Beatles were all in about three minutes. If aliens landed tomorrow and said, “We don’t have time to learn the whole history of this group — what with all the world conquering we have to do and all — so we need to hear one song that would give us a great idea of what the Beatles were about,” you should play “Eight Days A Week” just before having your mind incinerated. Here’s eight reasons why:

1.) It was a Number One Hit. This could be overlooked as too simplistic or mainstream. Picking a number one hit as someone’s favorite song for a band kind of reads as poseurism. Or it at least can be read that your opinion is not authoritative. Imagine someone coming to you saying their favorite band was Led Zeppelin and then saying their favorite song was “Stairway to Heaven,” the band’s most popular hit ever. A critic (as I am) might question that person’s level of fanship. Picking a Number One song as your favorite song does not show that you’ve done your homework. However, it’s hard not to pick a Number One song when you’re talking about a band that released 30+ of them. And to be fair, it’s probably not their Number One hit ever, so poseurism averted. THE POINT is that the Beatles were a hit machine, so their quintessential song should probably pay homage to that trait.

2.) It’s Catchy and Simple. This, itself, sound simple, but it’s obviously not, otherwise we all would do it. The Beatles being the ultimate pop band, catchy simplicity must be present in their quintessential track, and this one’s got it in spades. Down to the hand claps! It’s also the kind of catchiness the Beatles seemed to crap out on a nightly basis, which also seems to be very telling of who they were as a band. In fact…

3.) They Didn’t Like the Song Very Much. “They” being mostly John Lennon, who in some interview trashed the song. Said it was garbage. And I guess he’s right, in as much as most pop songs are garbage. But this kind of self-awareness (and even self-loathing) was paramount to the Beatles’ existence. They were both ahead of the curve and consciously of the curve at different points of their career. This is the band who referenced their own song “She Loves You” in “All You Need Is Love.”

4.) The Title Is Overly Clever, BUUUUT… that overly-clever-ness gets overcome by sheer craftsmanship. This is something I’ve recently come to realize about the Beatles: their name is garbage. It’s a pun, and not a very good one. But the idea of the band is so powerful, that I didn’t realize it was a pun when I came to know them. They were/are so powerful a force, they somehow overcame the detrimental power of that pun. I think of all the bad improv team names I’ve met in my lifetime (“Laughateria Ladies,” for example), and part of the reason they’re laughably bad is because the greatness performed on stage never eclipsed that shitty name. The Beatles were the exception, in name anyway. They were clever, and sometimes a bit too clever, as seen with the kind of forced cuteness of something like the phrase “Eight Days A Week.” Ha ha…. but the song’s power is undeniable, and therefore turns that forced cuteness into something amazing.

5.) Studio Mastery. It would seem no band would push the envelope of studio production more than the Beatles during their time. They broke many rules and established many more — they are the “Citizen Kane” of rock ‘n’ roll. So their introduction-to-aliens song must pay homage to that, and “Eight Days” certainly does. It was one of the first songs the band recorded entirely in the studio (meaning they entered the studio with nothing, and came out later with a song). They tinkered with the elements and instruments (a trait they would employ more and more on subsequent albums). Even that famous fade-in intro is manipulation, obviously. It’s also a bit of a joke, since you normally fade-OUT in songs.

6.) Democracy, Sorta. It’s foolish to think that we’re going to find a song that used all the talents equally, because some of those talents had very big egos. All love to Harrison, but he simply was not the most important Beatle, so the quintessential song must come from McCartney or Lennon. Yet the song must display those four (or five) parts in some way. This eliminates songs like “Yesterday,” because it’s written and performed by Paul McCartney. But with “Eight Days,” the influence of every member is made, however subtly. Ringo supposedly contributed the title with one of his trademark malapropisms. Someone will probably make an argument for a song featuring more Harrison — or even being written by Harrison — but that wouldn’t work. First off, he didn’t write enough songs to deserve the quintessential title. And secondly, just because he doesn’t have a guitar solo doesn’t mean his presence isn’t felt here. Open your mind, man. This is where the “Sorta” from the heading comes in. This band was founded on one of the great songwriting duos of all time, even when it wasn’t exactly a duo. Thus, the quint-title must come from that pairing.

7.) Common Theme. I haven’t run the numbers, but I would guess that the Beatles sang about some form of love in 82% of their songs. And I would also guess that they sang about love more than any other major band. So it makes sense that the quintessential Beatles song would deal with love in some form, as “Eight Days” does. And does so rather effortlessly. This is where they avert the trap of being too clever, because it turns out that eight days a week isn’t even enough to show how much the singer cares about the unnamed girl/person/subject.

8.) I don’t have an eighth. I just wanted to play on the number thing of the song title.

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One Response to ““Eight Days A Week” is the Quintessential Beatles Song”


  1. 1 Sheets Delight

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