A snippy, impatient thing, “Lady Madonna” sounds compressed – not in the modern and technical sense, but everything in the song sounds like it’s squeezed in too tight, chafing against everything else like passengers stuffed onto a rush-hour train (audible relaxation in the last few seconds as the doors open!). This works well with a cryptic lyric about family overcrowding and stress – inasmuch as it’s about anything. You could also hear the Beatles’ own situation in it, if you liked: band members stifled in the ever-tightening knot of Beatledom.

It’s good, but odd: there’s bite here, the detached sympathy of “Eleanor Rigby” switched for irritation and even cruelty – a kind of contempt, which stretches into the song itself, as whatever rocking claims it had are undermined by that mocking kazoo-esque break. That act of self-sabotage works fine, though – the strain that shows through makes “Lady Madonna” is a much more interesting record than the band’s more straightforward attempts to ‘get back’ to their roots.

Score: 8

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