This series on the World’s Worst Songs started at a now-defunct website sometime last year, and at that time, I honored (dishonored?) “Mr. Moonlight,” a track from Beatles for Sale, as the worst thing the Beatles ever did. But if you Google the phrase “worst Beatles songs,” you’ll find a surprising lack of agreement on just which Fab Four track is the least fab of all. LA Weekly says “The Long and Winding Road.” Houston Press says “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Entertainment Weekly says “All You Need Is Love.” And so on.
One way to gauge a bad song might be this: Do you skip the track when you’re listening to the album? By that metric, two songs jump immediately onto this list, appearing back-to-back on the same album: “Octopus’s Garden” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” When I’m playing Abbey Road, I almost always pass them by.
There’s not much to say about “Octopus’s Garden.” It’s the second song Ringo ever wrote, and it sounds like it. As for “I Want You,” it’s a more ornate production than it seems to be—the band recorded 35 takes and the final master is patched together from three of them. The building intensity of the record over its last three minutes is multiplied by the abrupt arrival of absolute silence mid-phrase. But the fact that it takes three minutes to get there is also the big problem with “I Want You”—it’s twice as long as it needs to be, and it feels every last second of 7:47.
Oddly enough, Lennon explained that the song was intended to be simple: “‘She’s So Heavy’ was about Yoko. . . . when you’re drowning you don’t say ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream. And in ‘She’s So Heavy’ I just sang ‘I want you, I want you so bad, she’s so heavy, I want you,’ like that.
It can take a long while to drown, apparently.
Feather-light weight and draggy ponderousness aside, the ultimate sin of “Octopus’s Garden” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is being so drastically out of place on Abbey Road. Each song is a far better fit with its creator’s solo work, and each would have been better saved for whatever John and Ringo ended up doing in 1970 or 1971. But at the time the Beatles were assembling Abbey Road, they knew their time wasn’t long, and the audience had to take what they could provide—which was an album with a black hole in the middle, and not just to put it on the spindle.