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  • A comedian listened to The Beatles’ “Michelle” because he couldn’t find any classical music.
  • He said the chorus of the song had lyrics that could easily have fallen flat.
  • “Michelle” appeared on a compilation album of The Beatles’ love songs.
John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney during The Beatles' "Michelle" era
The Beatles | Keystone Features / Stringer

A comedian went to India and listened to a compilation of The Beatles‘ love songs for a month straight. Subsequently, he said he found The Beatles’ “Michelle” “hypnotic.” He compared it to the work of one of the greatest composers of all time.

The Beatles’ songs were once the closest thing to classical music the comedian could find

Rainer Hersch is a comedian/musician. He’s known for combining humor with Western classical music. During a 2012 interview with The Telegraph, he named “Michelle” as his favorite Beatles song. He explained how he fell in love with the track. 

“I did my de rigueur, student backpack tour of India in the ’90s: took a Walkman but (doh!) no music,” he remembered. “In Mumbai, I called in at the one place I thought might have some — the very posh Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The closest to Western classical they had was an album of Beatles love songs. I listened to it for four weeks solid.”

Ranier Hersch said The Beatles’ ‘Michelle’ made some potentially terrible lyrics work

Hersch compared “Michelle” to the work of a classical composer. “‘Michelle’ is hypnotic,” he said. “I particularly love the middle section on bass guitar – the counter melody manages simultaneously to express both beauty and regret — reminds me of [Franz] Schubert.” 

Hersch said the hook of the song was a high-wire act. “‘Michelle, ma belle — these are words which go together well’ — could be so, so naff but it works just great,” he opined.


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How ‘Michelle’ performed on the pop charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

“Michelle” never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 because it was never a single in the United States. Hersch didn’t name the “album of Beatles love songs” he listened to in India, but it might’ve been the compilation Love Songs. That album includes “Michelle” alongside other classics like “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” “Yesterday,” and “Something.” Love Songs peaked at No. 24 on the Billboard 200 and lasted on the chart for 31 weeks. Love Songs is one of several Beatles compilations with an overarching theme, like the rock compilation Rock ‘n’ Roll Music or the self-explanatory The Beatles Ballads.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Michelle” never charted in the United Kingdom either. On the other hand, Love Songs reached No. 7 in the U.K. and lasted on the chart for 16 weeks.

While it wasn’t a hit in the U.S. or the U.K., “Michelle” became a standard anyway. Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Andy Williams, and Jan and Dean are among the artists who recorded “Michelle.” The ballad’s simplicity is probably part of the reason it’s so easy to cover in different genres.

“Michelle” hypnotized Hersch and it seems like many other artists fell in love with it.