A woman walking on a path that came out of a cassette tape

Walking with The Beatles

I started walking regularly only in November of 2020. Before that, I could barely walk because I moved as much side-to-side as I did forward. It was frustrating.

But then I started using walking poles, and I took off. Since I am not a natural walker, I look for devices to help me keep going. One of those things is music.

Curating a walking music playlist

I have also found that it is fun to curate music playlists. I think of myself as a Director.

One playlist that never goes out of style (for me, anyway) is Beatles songs. Since I walk almost every day, my Beatles playlist is for walking.

Each playlist I compose is divided into three parts: the warm-up, get-stepping, and the cool-down. These allow me to build from a slow pace to a faster pace and finally the slow down so I can wrap it up.

I have 4 or 5 Beatles playlists, but here is my favorite.

Songs for the warm-up

The warm-up is what gets me moving. When I walk out to the garage to start up, it is with a bit of dread. I must ask, "How is my RA today? Am I able to get moving? Will I be able to keep going?"

I have this sense of dread each day when I start. For that reason, I like to ease into my walk. While I am stretching and bending, my music is designed to get me moving, give me the courage and reassure me that I can do it.

  • "Don't Let Me Down" - The Beatles from Let It Be
  • "A Day in the Life" - The Beatles from Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • "She's Leaving Home" – The Beatles from Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

A few Beatles fun facts

This part of the playlist is my favorite. They each express some longing. In "Don't Let Me Down," John Lennon is reportedly singing to Yoko Ono and saying literally "please don't let me down."1

I understand the lyrics as Lennon telling Ono that he has put everything into, staked his career, and future on this relationship. He is pleading, "Don't let me down."

I think of this each day as I start. In my case, 'Rick, don't let me down. It is time to walk now. Please remember you are doing this for your health, so do not let yourself down.'

Especially moving to me is the end of "She’s Leaving Home" when Paul McCartney and John Lennon sing "She’s leaving home bye, bye." I think of myself telling my wife, Sheryl, "Bye, bye." And yes, I feel the same longing as I say to myself, "Bye, bye."

Incidentally, it is reported that Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said that when Paul McCartney sang a version of this song to him and his wife, "We both just cried. It was beautiful."2 Indeed it is.

Get stepping by upping the tempo

As I start my walk in earnest, I want to up the tempo and get things going. I could have picked perhaps 100 songs to list here. Instead, I decided to play 5 songs that I especially like on my playlist.

I used one song from The Beatles as a group and one from the members as solo artists. I do not think these are necessarily the best songs; after all, I do not believe there is a best Beatles playlist.

  • "Back in the USSR" – The Beatles from The Beatles (AKA The White Album)
  • "It Don't Come Easy" – by Ringo Starr as – a single with no album
  • "I Got My Mind Set on You" – written by Rudy Clark from Cloud Nine by George Harrison
  • "Figure of Eight" – Paul McCartney from Flowers in the Dirt
  • "Watching the Wheels" – John Lennon from Double Fantasy

Starting with "Back In The USSR" - it is a great fast-pitched way to really kick off the walk. This song is often thought of as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to Chuck Berry and his song "Back in the USA".3

Paul McCartney referred to the song as being written from the point of view of a Soviet spy returning from a long overseas mission.4 I compare the feeling as someone who loves his country as much as Americans love theirs.

My favorite song on this list is "Figure of Eight." This is a Paul McCartney song that harkens back to the early days of The Beatles. The earworm I have after I hear this playlist is, "You've got me dancing in a figure of eight. Don't know if I'm coming or going if I'm early or late."

One cool thing about the song is that the version released on the album is over 2 minutes shorter than the single.5 I cannot imagine the song without the instrumental additions.

Songs for cooling down

I cannot end a Beatles playlist with anything but one of the best B sides of an album ever. When my playlist starts this melody, I know I have 16 minutes to finish up. Usually, I head for home as I am ready to finish up.

These tracks are "Mean Mr. Mustard" - "Polythene Pam" - "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" - "Golden Slumbers" - "Carry That Weight" - "The End" - "Her Majesty" – The Beatles from Abbey Road.

These are all written as separate songs and linked as a medley of songs with no breaks on the vinyl or CD. This melody contains the only drum solo in the history of the Beatles.6 Even today, Ringo Starr sounds excellent.

"Her Majesty" was discarded initially and not included on the album. McCartney originally tossed it, and the song was rescued from the trash and added by the engineers.

Paul McCartney liked that this track had survived a determined effort to discard it. So, while it remained a rough cut without any polish, it was released on the album.

Incidentally, it is not on the tracklist of the original album cover because by the time it was added, the cover had already been printed.7

(Side note, I had that cover.)

Music as a distraction from pain

Great music keeps my mind from obsessing about pain and these songs help me move. Will this cure rheumatoid arthritis? No, it will not.

Will it help me avoid ruminating about pain or loss? Yes, it does.

Do you have a Beatles playlist? What is on your favorite playlist? Do you like curated playlists? Let me know. I have several playlists I love, but I am an old guy, so mine may seem like ancient music to others.

Note on all references: I used Wikipedia as the primary source of reference. In some cases, I know the fact. However, I do not know how or why I knew it. Because of how Wikipedia collects material, it is essential to disclose that Wikipedia is not considered a credible reference for any academic paper. However, this is a fun playlist, so I thought it would be acceptable. But do not use these facts in academic work.

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