Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Being For The Benefit Of Uncle E

Question for you.

Have you ever asked someone what their favorite Beatles album is? Did their opinion differ from yours? I bet you an autographed Ringo drum stick that it did.

At this point, I think you’ll agree, The Beatles are beyond any criticism. They introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century and are revered by millions of rock fans who universally agree that they didn’t release a bad record during their 7 years of recording albums.

But ask any Beatles fan what their favorite Beatles album is and chances are the answer will be radically different from yours.
For example my wife is a fan of the early stuff while I tend to gravitate towards the mid to late 60’s output. I know people who prefer the White album’s chaotic creativity over the structured brilliance of Abbey Road and still others who prefer the muscle bound rock and roll of Help! over the whimsy and sophisticated psychedelia of Sgt. Peppers.
With me, as I stated, it’s the latter half of the bands career I find most consistently enjoyable, but the ranking changes quite regularly. Here’s my (current) favorite Beatles albums, in order, for you to critique and debate over.

Agree? Disagree?

Have at it!

#1. Revolver

#2. The White Album

#3. Sgt. Pepper

#4. Rubber Soul

#5. Abbey Road

#6. Help

#7. Magical Mystery Tour

#8. A Hard Days Night

#9. Let It Be

#10. With The Beatles


Any major dude with half a heart said...

I used to think that Rubber Soul or Abbey Road were my favourite Beatles albums, until a few years back I set myself a test: rate every song on an album out of 10, and arrive at an average. Surprise result was that HELP came in at number 1, Abbey Road at 2 and Rubber Soul only 4th or 5th. Sgt Peppers did worse than Let It Be. Bottom was Please Please Me.

Matt said...

1) Revolver
2) Abbey Road
3) Rubber Soul

All the rest have varying rankings, depending on how I'm feeling that day. Even that top 3 is sometimes changed, but overall that's about how it stands.

Harry Ames, Jr. said...

Man, I never really ranked them before, but here, I'm assuming we're talking about the original English Parlophone (EMI) versions and not the bastardized Capitol U.S. releases...

1. White Album. I know what you're thinking, but for some reason this album lived with me the best. When it was released I think it was just the thrill of having a DOUBLE Beatles' record. Yeah, there's filler, but it's pretty good filler. Lennon was brilliant on this album...Dear Prudence, I'm So Tired, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Revolution, Yer Blues and Julia. Come on.
2. Revolver. Despite the accolades for Pepper, this was the most innovative record of the 60s.
3. Rubber Soul. Such a rich, textured sound. Of course, great songs too.
4. Help! The English version was home to "Yesterday" as well as John's sublime, "Hey! You've Got To Hide Your Love Away."
5. Abbey Road. Frank Sinatra said "Something" may have been the greatest pop song ever written, and Frank knew a thing or two about pop songs. The side two "medley" was a brilliant use of odd song fragments that had been lying around since the Pepper/White Album era. Brilliant production and engineering from George Martin, Geoff Emerick and Alan Parsons.
6. Beatles For Sale. The cover showed 4 Beatles who were starting to look pretty worn out by the whole Beatlemania thing. Again, John kicks ass with I'm A Loser and his vocal on Mr. Moonlight gives me shivers.
7. A Hard Day's Night. Beatlemania Beatles at their height of popularity. It's amazing they came up with these songs under the pressure they were subjected to. There are several minor "classics" lurking on this record, any one of which would have been career makers for any other band. Here, they go by almost unnoticed between the mega-hits.
8. Magical Mystery Tour. Not really an album in the way The Beatles had come to be making albums, but it contains some of my favorite tracks..."Strawberry Fields Forever" is an absolute masterpiece.
9. With The Beatles. We start to hear what all the fuss was about.
10. Please, Please Me. It's there...The Sound...the originals are the best tracks, weird for a band at the time.
13. Let It Be. Spectorized version should probably never have been released. There are great songs here, but an underlying sadness that is palpable. I love the record, but I feel kinda bad for liking it. It was their last American release, coming out after Abbey Road which should have been their coda.
12. Yellow Submarine. This one was thrown together and is really more of a George Martin record than a Beatles album. If this is the worst of the lot, then this was an amazing band. And they were.

Harry Ames, Jr. said...

Yeah, I left out Sgt. Pepper's. Didn't know where to put it. After Rubber Soul, I guess...or maybe #1. It's so hard with these guys.

Uncle E said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. It's a tough one, eh?
And Harry, your stature is legendary. And by that I mean I hear you're short.

Rob McCleary said...

Just finished reading the Alber Goldman bio of Lennon - YIKES!

Holly A Hughes said...

Are we talking critical judgment here, or just the ones we love the most? For sheer personal importance, it'd be white album first, then Hard Days' Night -- yes, the bastardized version, though I absolutely agree with Harry's remarks about how much better the UK releases were.

As for critical judgment, I too am surprised by how strong Help! comes out song by song, though as an integrated whole -- and that was where the Beatles were heading all along -- Revolver is stronger.

When I finally got Let It Be Naked, I was scandalized by how much better their tracks sounded without all the Spector crap laid on. At last I realized that I didn't have to apologize to anybody anymore for Maybe I'm Amazed.

But rising above it all I'd still say Sgt Pepper is #1 for me -- for personal importance AND objective song excellence AND the sheer historical mindwarp of what that album meant, politically, poetically, and production-wise . . . . it was a quantum leap like rock music had never seen before. I find it impossible to listen to it objectively, still, 40 years later.

But jeez, I still get excited by Beatles 65. I'm really a hopeless case on this one.