Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Beatles from Worst to First

I've done these lists for Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Wednesday 13, Type O Negative, and Rammstein. Those were all fun (if not really, really time-consuming), but not doing a list about The Beatles would be a horrendous oversight on my part.

Well, now here is my list for The Beatles.

Ah, The Beatles. I don't think there will ever be any other group of people to ever truly forge such an impressive career. Hell, even their drummer was a reasonably talented songwriter and singer to an extent. Everyone has covered one of their songs, it seems like. And everyone seems to take sides as to which of The Beatles was really the key to their success. Was it John or Paul? Was it the quiet George? Or was it the goofy Ringo? To me, it was all of them together that made The Beatles what they were. And if they had been around at any other time then who really knows if they would be as renowned as they are today. I mean, can you seriously imagine what music would be like if The Beatles had never existed? There still would have been Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. Certainly a lot of the folks inspired by Little Richard and Elvis still would have been around, but I think there would have been a massive void left unfilled in today if there had never been The Beatles. Certainly, The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds (inspired by Rubber Soul) probably wouldn't have been made. 

Anyway, when I was about ten I hated listening to The Beatles. Of course, I didn't have a true appreciation for Black Sabbath, either. Now I not only have an appreciation for The Beatles, but I have an even greater appreciation for the ones that inspired The Beatles. I'm also going through a similar thing with movies. I find myself greatly appreciating older and older movies and sooner or later I'm going to make that jump to watching *gasp* pre-talkie movies on a semi-regular basis. For a while at least. 

Right now I'm watching anime strictly in Japanese so those silent films are on the backburner for the moment.

None of this information is really important to my ranking and my ranking isn't technically important to anyone else except me, but I think knowing where I'm coming from makes listening to me easier to understand.

Unlike my lists about Deep Purple or Black Sabbath, this list is easy when it comes to the band members. They are the Fab Four, of course. John, Paul, George, and Ringo. 

It's their catalog that is screwy. A lot of their albums were broken up into bits in different countries and naming all of them would be a real pain in the ass. Trying to point out the differences between mono and stereo releases of certain albums and all of the different versions of some songs (a la Let It Be... which four versions of the song do you prefer?) out there would also be a great pain. So I'm not going to go into any of that. I've limited myself to their twelve core albums as we all know them. 

12. Beatles for Sale - I'd take The Beatles at their worst over Metallica or Anthrax or Megadeth at their best. Released in 1964 and consisting of only seven original songs, Beatles for Sale comes from a band tired of Beatlemania. But even at their "worst," the Fab Four still managed to crank out great tunes like the somber No Reply, the upbeat Eight Days a Week, and the Dylanesque I'm a Loser. There's nothing too special about their covers, but hey, I'd take The Beatles covering someone else over someone else covering The Beatles eight days out of the week. 

No Reply 2:15
I'm a Loser 2:31
Baby's in Black 2:02
Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry) 2:32
I'll Follow the Sun 1:46
Mr. Moonlight (Roy Lee Johnson) 2:33
Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller/Richard Penniman) 2:33
Eight Days a Week 2:44
Words of Love (Buddy Holly) 2:12
Honey Don't (Carl Perkins) 2:55
Every Little Thing 2:01
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party 2:33
What You're Doing 2:30
Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby (Perkins) 2:23

11. With the Beatles - This album was recorded four months after their debut album Please Please Me. These days you have to wait about five years and two world tours until you hear a new single from a supposed new album that hasn't even been finished yet. The fact that The Beatles were only around for a whopping seven years before disbanding... Well, it's pretty easy to see why they only lasted for that long, but the sheer brilliance of their work during such a short span puts most bands with the exception of maybe Cream (recorded four albums in three years) to shame. Containing the hit All My Loving and a couple of rocking covers like Roll Over Beethoven and Please Mister Postman, With the Beatles is a fitting follow-up to Please Please Me, but it's nowhere near the level of later releases. 

It Won't Be Long 2:13
All I've Got to Do 2:03
All My Loving 2:08
Don't Bother Me 2:28
Little Child 1:46
Till There Was You (Meredith Willson) 2:14
Please Mister Postman (Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, Robert Bateman) 2:34
Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry) 2:45
Hold Me Tight 2:32
You Really Got a Hold on Me (Smokey Robinson) 3:01
I Wanna Be Your Man 2:00
Devil in Her Heart (Richard Drapkin) 2:26
Not a Second Time 2:07
Money (That's What I Want) (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy) 2:50

10. Please Please Me - I Saw Her Standing There and Love Me Do. These are easily their most well known original compositions from their landmark 1963 debut album. Naturally, the other songs are just as good. Even the bulk of the covers. Just listen to Twist and Shout or Baby, It's You if you don't believe me. The energy is here and that's the difference between The Beatles of '63 and The Beatles of '64.

I Saw Her Standing There 2:54
Misery 1:49
Anna (Go to Him) (Arthur Alexander) 2:57
Chains (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) 2:26
Boys (Luther Dixon, Wes Farrell) 2:27
Ask Me Why 2:26
Please Please Me 2:03
Love Me Do 2:23
P.S. I Love You 2:04
Baby It's You (Mack David, Barney Williams, Burt Bacharach) 2:40
Do You Want to Know a Secret 1:59
A Taste of Honey (Bobby Scott, Ric Marlow) 2:03
There's a Place 1:51
Twist and Shout (Phil Medley, Bert Russell) 2:37

09. Let It Be - Oh, where do I begin. First of all, whether or not you prefer this album or the Let It Be... Naked version, there's no doubt that McCartney and Co. created some fine tunes for what would end up being their swan song. Paul McCartney obviously had issues with with Phil Spector's over-production and use of an orchestra on The Long and Winding Road, but I personally enjoy both versions although I typically do side with musicians on issues like this. I don't really see Let It Be... Naked as a Beatles album, though. I mean, it had Harrison's approval and obviously McCartney's but by the time Let It Be... Naked saw the airwaves the year was 2003 and The Beatles were long since broken up, John had long since died, and George Harrison had since joined John on the other side, too. Don't hate this version for the "wall of sound," but treasure this version of Let It Be as what it is: The final album by a band that should never have broken up. This album was of its time and therefore should be treated as the natural conclusion to a stellar career. Let It Be... Naked is just a neat alternate take.

But I will say that all the fuss over which version is better probably what drops this album so low.

Two of Us 3:37
Dig a Pony 3:55
Across the Universe 3:48
I Me Mine 2:26
Dig It 0:50
Let It Be 4:03
Maggie Mae (traditional) 0:40
I've Got a Feeling 3:38
One After 909 2:54
The Long and Winding Road 3:38
For You Blue 2:32
Get Back 3:09

08. Help! - The fifth album by the Fab Four and the one containing their most covered song, Help! is a welcome step in the right direction after their "slump" with Beatles for Sale. Containing songs like Help!, Ticket to Ride, the countrified I've Just Seen a Face, and Yesterday (their most covered song in case you haven't guessed that), Help! can now be seen as the stepping stone from their early days to their more legendary later days. But it's a pretty good stepping stone. 

Help! 2:18
The Night Before 2:33
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away 2:08
I Need You 2:28
Another Girl 2:05
You're Going to Lose That Girl 2:17
Ticket to Ride 3:10
Act Naturally (Johnny Russell, Voni Morrison) 2:29
It's Only Love 1:54
You Like Me Too Much 2:35
Tell Me What You See 2:36
I've Just Seen a Face 2:04
Yesterday 2:03
Dizzy Miss Lizzy (Larry Williams) 2:53

07. A Hard Day's Night - I sometimes get this one confused with Help! because they are very close in terms of sound and style. While Help! is certainly the more experimental of the two, I think that A Hard Day's Night is just the better of the two. It's tough to say why, but I think Any Time at All might have something to do with that. Don't know why, but that's one of my favorite Beatles tunes. 

A Hard Day's Night 2:34
I Should Have Known Better 2:43
If I Fell 2:19
I'm Happy Just to Dance with You 1:56
And I Love Her 2:30
Tell Me Why 2:09
Can't Buy Me Love 2:12
Any Time at All 2:11
I'll Cry Instead 1:46
Things We Said Today 2:35
When I Get Home 2:17
You Can't Do That 2:35
I'll Be Back 2:24

06. The Beatles - Double albums are typically frustrating for me. Why? Because they are too long and too full of filler. There's no point in making a double album when the material just isn't there. Double albums would be much better if they weren't double albums. As the case with the famous "White Album," this is also true. However, no one has quite managed to create one as good as this one. Even the filler, which is rather pedestrian by the standards of the Fab Four, isn't too shabby when you compare it to so many of the double albums that have since followed by other bands who wish to have a taste of the same brand of self-indulgence. Gun N' Roses, System of a Down, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, and even Nine Inch Nails have gone down the double album road, but very few of them could create the aura that surrounds this peculiar self-titled album. But this album, ironically called The Beatles, is actually a series of solo recordings where each member chooses to stand out on their own with their own songs. The "Lennon-McCartney" writing credits are rather misleading.

One of the most popular songs on this album, Helter Skelter, has been covered by everyone from U2 to Motley Crue and it is notorious for its odd relationship with Charles Manson. In fact, the entire album supposedly painted out Charles Manson's vision of an apocalyptic race war. Or something like that. But Helter Skelter seems like the kind of song a lot of rock bands would enjoy covering. Anyway, if there is one track to avoid on this album it is Revolution 9. I'm as much a fan of weird avant-garde crap as the next guy, but there could have been four more songs on this album that could have been much more interesting and listenable instead of this one nine minute time-waster. I blame the drugs and Yoko for this one.

Back in the U.S.S.R. 2:43
Dear Prudence 3:56
Glass Onion 2:17
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 3:08
Wild Honey Pie 0:52
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill 3:14
While My Guitar Gently Weeps 4:45
Happiness Is a Warm Gun 2:43
Martha My Dear 2:28
I'm So Tired 2:03
Blackbird 2:18
Piggies 2:04
Rocky Raccoon 3:33
Don't Pass Me By 3:51
Why Don't We Do It in the Road? 1:41
I Will 1:46
Julia 2:54
Birthday 2:42
Yer Blues 4:01
Mother Nature's Son 2:48
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey 2:24
Sexy Sadie 3:15
Helter Skelter 4:29
Long, Long, Long 3:04
Revolution 1 4:15
Honey Pie 2:41
Savoy Truffle 2:54
Cry Baby Cry 3:02
Revolution 9 8:22
Good Night 3:13

05. Magical Mystery Tour - This is not technically an album, but a compilation. The first six songs are a part of the Magical Mystery Tour film soundtrack and the final five songs are singles that were released in 1967. Capitol did this against the wishes of The Beatles because EPs generally weren't popular in the US. But I think that Capitol did the right thing. Hello, Goodbye and Penny Lane deserve to be on an actual album. 

Magical Mystery Tour 2:48
The Fool on the Hill 3:00
Flying 2:16
Blue Jay Way 3:50
Your Mother Should Know 2:33
I Am the Walrus 4:35
Hello, Goodbye 3:24
Strawberry Fields Forever 4:05
Penny Lane 3:00
Baby, You're a Rich Man 3:07
All You Need Is Love 3:57

04. Rubber Soul - You know, I really enjoy this album and I think it is a great album, but I don't quite see how it can be ranked as the fifth greatest album of all time according to Rolling Stones. Yes, it's a great album, but I barely consider it a top five Beatle album. Revolver on the other hand? Very much so. I think that what they started on Rubber Soul they managed to perfect on Revolver and then on Sgt. Pepper's. The difference in greatness is minute, I think, but still there. So while I don't consider this album a top five greatest of all time... I do consider it top ten. In My Life, Drive My Car, and If I Needed Someone are favorites of mine from this album. Run For Your Life is also a favorite, but only because it's got that sadistic edge to it than naturally falls within my territory.    

Drive My Car 2:25
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 2:01
You Won't See Me 3:18
Nowhere Man 2:40
Think for Yourself 2:16
The Word 2:41
Michelle 2:33
What Goes On 2:47
Girl 2:30
I'm Looking Through You 2:23
In My Life 2:24
Wait 2:12
If I Needed Someone 2:20
Run for Your Life 2:18

03. Abbey Road - This is one of those peculiar albums that make you wonder why it's so popular. Much like The Beatles, I suppose. Yes, it's good, but what makes it so good? The artwork is certainly iconic, but the song styles are unusual even for The Beatles. More importantly, why is this one generally held so favorably while Let It Be isn't quite at that level? I think it's because The Beatles just tried harder on this one and their songwriting was better, too. The first two songs alone are among their greatest. The second half of the album features a bunch of finished and unfinished songs stringed together in a medley format, but the weird thing is that it works here. You Never Give Me Your Money is probably my favorite of those particular pieces. I just wish some of those song fragments were more like actual songs. 

Come Together 4:20
Something 3:03
Maxwell's Silver Hammer 3:27
Oh! Darling 3:26
Octopus's Garden 2:51
I Want You (She's So Heavy) 7:47
Here Comes the Sun 3:05
Because 2:45
You Never Give Me Your Money 4:02
Sun King 2:26
Mean Mr. Mustard 1:06
Polythene Pam 1:12
She Came In Through the Bathroom Window 1:57
Golden Slumbers 1:31
Carry That Weight 1:36
The End 2:05
Her Majesty 0:23

02. Revolver - Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, Yellow Submarine, Good Day SunshineHere, There, and Everywhere. Man, the Fab Four really loaded up the hits for this one. And the songs that aren't "hits" in terms of the Billboard sense are still really good. I mean, The Beatles are one of those few groups that could probably play an entire album today in concert (if everyone was alive and put aside their personal issues to reform the band, of course) and everyone in the audience would still know the words to all of the songs. I don't know if The Beatles ever did anything like that back then (I know a lot of bands do that now, though), but if there's any album that could easily be played live from front to back then Revolver would definitely be one of those. 

Taxman 2:39
Eleanor Rigby 2:08
I'm Only Sleeping 3:02
Love You To 3:01
Here, There and Everywhere 2:26
Yellow Submarine 2:40
She Said She Said 2:37
Good Day Sunshine 2:10
And Your Bird Can Sing 2:02
For No One 2:01
Doctor Robert 2:15
I Want to Tell You 2:30
Got to Get You into My Life 2:31
Tomorrow Never Knows 2:57

01. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Frank Zappa didn't like this album and believed that The Beatles were "only in it for the money" at this point. Exploiting the hippie subculture just to sell records and all of that stuff. That could very well have been true, but Zappa's own Freak Out! was supposedly a large influence on this particular album so that means this album deserved some leniency from Frank as far as I'm concerned. I got to give The Beatles some credit for giving Zappa a nod. Of course, Zappa would release his own album not too long after called We're Only In It For The Money that blasted Sgt. Pepper's and the hippie subculture.  

This was going to be Zappa's original cover for that album, but it was relegated to being interior artwork out of fear of possible legal action.
At any rate, The Beatles released a fine album whether they did it just for the money or not. In addition to Zappa, The Beatles were also inspired by The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds (which, as I mentioned earlier, was inspired by Rubber Soul). With Zappa, The Beach Boys, and probably some mind-altering drugs at the ready, The Beatles obviously did something right by adding their own twist to that mix. Is this the greatest album of all time? Hmm... it's got to be close. If it isn't number one then it is number two. And I honestly can't think of a legitimate number one not named Sgt. Pepper's. The movie is god awful, though. 

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 2:02
With a Little Help from My Friends 2:44
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds 3:28
Getting Better 2:48
Fixing a Hole 2:36
She's Leaving Home 3:35
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! 2:37
Within You Without You 5:04
When I'm Sixty-Four 2:37
Lovely Rita 2:42
Good Morning Good Morning 2:41
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) 1:19
A Day in the Life 5:39


  1. Here's my list (we are almost the same on the bottom half of the list):

    12. With The Beatles
    11. Beatles For Sale
    10. Please Please Me
    (these three albums are filled with awesome songs but if there is a weakness, it is some of the cover material choices they made. If some of those weaker covers were replaced by some of the great non-album singles of the time, they would probably move up the list)
    9. Let It Be (I really do like the naked version better, though. I'm not a big fan of strings in my rock n roll and Phil Spector really screwed up a couple of the songs)
    8. Help
    7. Hard Day's Night
    6. Magical Mystery Tour
    5. Rubber Soul
    4. Abbey Road
    3. Sgt. Pepper (They recorded Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane during this time but left them off the album and released them as a single instead. If those two songs replace Lovely Rita and Within You, this is #1)
    2. The Beatles
    1. Revolver

    1. No love for Lovely Rita Meter Maid? ;) Yeah, I think Sgt. Pepper's would have been better without Within You (and a lot of the other Beatles albums would have been better without those trips into psychedelia), but as many times as I've listened to them it has just become ingrained into my psyche that they couldn't have been made any differently.

  2. Clarification on my strings comment: I don't dislike the use of strings, I just dislike them when they are used like Phil Spector used them. George Martin was brilliant at using them. Phil Spector is always looked upon as a genius but I think his "wall of sound" technique was overbearing and sounds dated now. When you listen to the stuff he produced in the 60s now, the "wall of sound" sounds overdone. Besides, John gave the Let It Be tapes to Spector just to piss off Paul (true).

    I might as well clarify the other thing I complain about all the time, my apparent hatred of synthesizers. I don't really hate them. I like many artists that use them brilliantly. My problem is with the bombastic way they were used in the 80s.

    1. Yeah, I really don't mind synthesizers as an instrument. And I really love actual stringed instruments when I think they are done right within the confines of heavier music.

      I love the story how Let It be was originally supposed to be a project called Get Back and it was supposed to be about The Beatles getting back to their original raw sound. In comes Phil Spector. That's called irony, lol.

      I do prefer Naked to Let It Be, though. I just don't really consider Naked to be canon.

  3. I hadn't listened to The Beatles for a while and this post got me to pull out Revolver and give it a couple listens. One thing that I really love about Revolver is how many great songs there are that you don't hear on the radio. George's best Indian song is here and 5 fantastic John songs, I'm Only Sleeping, She Said, Doc Robert, Your Bird and Tomorrow. Plus the radio songs are great too but I really love those John songs.

    Paperback Writer and Rain were the non-album singles from the Revolver sessions. Rain is a real unappreciated gem and another trippy John song from the era. The voice John uses on his more trippy songs is my favorite John voice.

  4. There aren't many "under the radar" Beatles songs but Rain is great. Here a some of my favorite lesser known ones:

    Hey Bulldog (Buried on the Yellow Submarine album)
    Bad Boy
    I Call Your Name (popular once but not on any of the cd era albums)
    The Inner Light (One of George's Indian songs - not on an album)
    The Ballad Of John And Yoko (popular when released but not on a cd)