A Beatles Refresher Course for Pups and Middle-Aged Rookies
The Beatles are the greatest band to ever hit this planet.
You may have heard that. But how much do you really know?
What I have found over the years, both in the record store and while conversing with my friends, is that most people recognize the Beatles brilliance, but their actual familiarity with the music itself doesn't go very deep into the catalog.
I don't just mean the young pups... I mean middle-aged cats like me. After all, I'm 48 now. That means I was five when The Beatles disbanded. By the time I started paying more serious attention to music, they were a decade gone. The only way to "go deep" once you are that far down the road.. is to do the aural research. Most people don't.
But you should, because it's worth it. You can start by reading the rest of this column.
What Do You Know About the Beatles, Geek?
Let me qualify something: I'm not even in the top realm of Beatles geeks in this world.
In fact, I'm just asking for trouble even writing this. But hey, last week I wrote about women (10 Female Artists That Might Help Guys Understand Girls), so obviously I love trouble. Next week, maybe I'll do Star Trek.
But seriously folks, even beyond the ultra-geeks, there's a whole bunch of baby boomers (of which I am not a member, thank you) that lived through the Beatles, that bought the albums when they came out, saw them in concert, etc. They know more than me too.
But I know more than you (probably.)
Actually, as with all ramblings of this nature, it's all opinion anyway. So here's mine.
Listen to the Albums, My Friends
This is my advice if you are going to explore any artists worth their salt, but it's especially true with the Beatles. The albums are the true path to knowledge.
Like no other band, the Beatles led the charge of turning the album into a piece of art itself, rather than just a collection of songs.
A jaunt through their discography shows the true development of the band. Their fearless exploratory natures. Their willingness, almost their addiction, to reinvent themselves with each new album.
I put the albums in two distinct periods:
Early. Please Please Me through Help! In the most basic terms, these are more song-collections than flowing albums. They were still touring, still in the middle of Beatlemania.
Late. Rubber Soul through Let It Be. This is when they really hit their stride. They stopped touring and started focusing entirely on the studio. Oh yeah, they turned up their drug use another notch. The results were some of the greatest albums of all time, and the greatest pop band of all time turning into a rock band.
Both periods are amazing. That's why The Beatles have earned the opening sentence of this blog. That's why I recommend that you take the journey through a career that will never be matched again in terms of popularity or artistic achievement.
So Which Albums Do You Recommend, Geek?
It's hard to pick an album from the early period. It's basically one outstanding song after the other with signs of continued growth, including better collaborations with Lennon and McCartney, increasingly awesome input from Harrison, an expanded scope of instruments, and more intricate arrangements everywhere.
I guess I probably like the two soundtracks, A Hard Day's Night and Help!, the best from the early years. However, I don't put any of the early albums in my Top Five.
My Top Five goes like this:
1. Abbey Road. Although it was released second-to-last, it was their final recording as a band... and like John Elway or Ray Bourque, they achieved the pinnacle of their career and then rode off into the sunset (the last "official" song is even called "The End.") A great mixture of songs by all three of the main writers, performed mainly by just the four of them (unlike the previous two albums, which featured more collaborators.) In my opinion, the greatest album of all time.
2. Revolver 3. Rubber Soul I always think of Revolver and Rubber Soul in the same thought. They're the transitional albums that begin the late period, and to me reflect some serious growth both musically and lyrically. The final track on Revolver, "Tomorrow Never Knows," is the closest thing to a real drug trip that I've ever heard, and it leads you right into 1967's groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the beginning of the end.)
4. Let It Be Five years ago, this wouldn't have been on this list, but it continues to grow on me. It's full of hidden, rockin' gems. Of all the late albums, I feel like this one is the most under-appreciated... but not by this hoodlum.
5. The White Album If I could condense this double album down to one record, it might be number two on my list. In other words, this album has a fair amount of songs (especially for the Beatles) that don't do much for me. With that said, it also has some of their greatest rockers, and some really cool, quirky inputs from each member. Enough to knock Sgt. Peppers off the list.
But Geek, We Just Like Songs These Days
Yeah, I know. You just like songs. It's the way you listen.
Hey, no problem. I like songs too. Plus, I do understand how it is these days with digital delivery and convenience. We've got pretty much iEverything over here in Wileysworld.
In other words, while I always recommend albums, I don't care how you learn about the Beatles. My goal is only to get you to dig deeper and realize why they are the greatest ever. Even if you just discover a few new cuts, it's all good by me.
So let's talk songs. Here's 10 Beatles songs you probably don't know, but should. I'm not going to ramble specifically about each song. But if you don't know them, then I recommend you go to YouTube, or Spotify, or Apple, or whatever and give 'em a listen.
You won't be sorry you did.
16 Sweet Beatles Songs You Don't Know, But Should
- "For You, Blue" (Let It Be)
- "Doctor Robert" (Revolver)
- "Glass Onion" (White Album)
- "You Never Give Me Your Money" (Abbey Road)
- "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band - Reprise" (Sgt. Peppers)
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" (Revolver)
- "Getting Better" (Sgt. Peppers)
- "I've Got a Feeling" (Let It Be)
- "If I Needed Someone" (Rubber Soul)
- "One After 909" (Let It Be)
- "The Word" (Rubber Soul)
- "I've Got a Feeling" (Let It Be)
- "You Can't Do That" (Hard Day's Night)
- "I Want to Tell You" (Revolver)
- "I Me Mine" (Let It Be)
- "Taxman" (Revolver)
There ya go, kids (and middle-agers), a little Beatles primer for you.
Have fun. See ya next week. Thanks for reading.
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