The Beatles Discography

I’ve been listening to entire albums on weekends, usually in the morning. The Beatles seem like a good band to listen on a Saturday or Sunday morning (at least that’s how I feel right now). But instead of writing reactions in the “Saturday/Sunday” morning thread, I thought I’d create a separate thread for Beatles albums specifically. My plan is to listen to the albums in chronological order.

18 thoughts on “The Beatles Discography

  1. Please Please Me (1963)

    Notes

    • A friend of mine said that some people don’t consider the Beatles a rock band. This album is almost pure rock n’ roll. If I made a list of the best rock n’ roll songs from this time, “I Saw Her Standing There” might make the list. At the same time, some may (understandably) argue that rock n’ roll, as exemplified by this music, is not really rock–that it is actually pop music.
    • I can hear how rock n’ roll is a white version of the rhythm and blues of the same time period.
    • “Baby It’s You” is not a Beatles song, but I enjoyed it. (I curious to hear the best version of this song.

    12/24/2021

    • “I Saw Her Standing There” still sounds good–and my earlier comment that this may be among the best rock n’ roll songs around this period seems sound. (With the caveat that I haven’t listened to a lot of music around this time period.
    • The cover of “Boys”–I liked Ringo’s drumming.
    • “Ask Me Why”–solid song
    • “Please, Please Me”–OK song.
    • “Love Me Do”–still sounds good.
    • “P.S. I Love You”–just OK.
    • Cover of “Baby It’s You” (good song)–cover is OK; I like the song more.
    • “Do You Want to Know a Secret”–solid song; like. The wiki entry says Harrison is singing here, butit sounds like Lennon. In any event, I like the singing.
    • “Taste of Honey”–just Ok cover. I’m not that crazy about the song, though.
    • “There’s a Place”–Not a great song, but OK–far from their worst.
    • “Twist and Shout”–I’ve always liked this cover. Lennon sounds really good singing on this.

    I listened to Let It Be right before this. Both are on par in my view–among my least favorite Beatles albums

    Original songs I liked the best on this: I Saw Her Standing There; Ask Me Why; Love Me Do; Do You Want to Know a Secret.

  2. I considered doing this once but couldn’t figure out a good approach. Early in their career, their UK releases and US releases were different, so chronological order was confusing to me. Follow the US chronology and you miss songs, or maybe it was the other way around, or maybe it’s both.

    Anyway, there’s pop rock and pop country and pop r&b so people who don’t think the Beatles are a rock band are putting a weird definition on what rock music is.

    1. If you allow for a distinction between pop rock and rock, then it makes sense that some would say they’re not a rock band. Between these two categories, I would categorize the Beatles in the former. At the very least, I think this is a legitimate argument.

      As for chronology, I’m just going by the dates listed at apple music.

  3. With the Beatles (1963)

    The songs aren’t bad, but my guess is that this might be one of the weakest of their albums. For whatever reason, I don’t care for the covers (although I really like “Till There Was You,” a song by Meredith Wilson, but I suspect that’s partly because this is the first time I’ve heard it. It’s a good song.) The original songs aren’t bad, but they’re not really strong in my view. The singing and performances are just OK, too.

    12/24/2021

    Notes

    1. “It Won’t Be Long”–one of those Beatles songs that may not be great, but decent–or maybe a little more than decent.
    2. “All I’ve Got to Do”–Interesting lopsided rhythm in portions of this; even better song than the previous one. I think it’s just as good as “All My Loving” or close to it.
    3. “All My Loving”–solid
    4. “Don’t Bother Me” (Harrison)–Not bad, if this was Harrison’s first song he ever wrote. Parts of this (the verses and chord progression) sound like another song that they wrote and sang later, but I can’t put my finger on it…”I Fell Fine?”…
    5. “Little Child”–OK rock n roll song
    6. “Till There Was You”–Still sounds good. What’s interesting is that some of McCartney’s most beautiful songs feel a lot like this song–like he was from the era of Gershwin, Porter, et al.
    7. “Wait Mr. Postman”–just one comment, which is not specific to this song: Lennon had a great rock n’ roll voice.
    8. “Roll Over Beethoven”–Again, Harrison sounds (sings) like Lennon.
    9. “Hold Me Tight” (wasn’t paying close attention)-
    10. “You Really Got a Hold on Me”–nothing stands out about this cover–except that I like the song.
    11. “I Wanna Be Your Man”–OK song.
    12. “Devil in Her Heart”–decent song and cover.
    13. “Not a Second Time”–What came to mind: This sounds like other Beatles tunes, but it’s not so memorable or distinctive.
    14. Money (That’s What I Want)”–another cover. Piano and bass intro sounds like “Venus.” I don’t think I’m familiar with the original. It sounds like a Ray Charles song, though. Lennon’s voice sounds good singing this in my opinion.

    Maybe I would place this below Please Please Me because the originals on the latter are better in my view. “All I’ve Got to Do” was surprisingly interesting, though.

    1. That’s not the first time you’ve heard it. It’s the love song in The Music Man. Marion the Librarian sings it to Harold Hill.

    2. When I wrote that I never heard of that song, I wondered if that were the case. I figured there was a good chance that if I did hear of it, you would let me know. And voila!

      I think I like the Beatles version better than the two you posted.

      On a related note, I think there are several Beatles songs where they have this kind of show tunes quality, and I tend to like these songs, particularly putting them in a pop-rock format. “Martha My Dear” would be another example. Off the top of my head, I don’t know if that’s an original, but that’s one of my favorites off the White album.

  4. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

    I’m not sure if I’m not just in the mood for this music, but this album feels a little flat for me. I had higher expectations for this, too–based on the soundtrack from the movie of the same name.

    12/25/2021

    Notes

    Side 1

    1. “A Hard Day’s Night”–good rock n’ roll song
    2. “I Should Have Known Better”–good.
    3. “If I Fell”–good song
    4. “I’m Just Happy to Dance with You”–OK, harmless song. Harrison sounds similar to Lennon, without the edge and angst.
    5. “And I Love Her”–solid song; nice touch nylon string guitar and wooden percussion.
    6. “Tell Me Why”–not great, not bad song.
    7. “Can’t Buy Me Love”–really good rock n’ roll song
    8. Side 2

    9. “Any Time at All”–Like Lennon’s energy coming into this song and on the chorus. Solid song.
    10. “I’ll Cry Instead”–solid
    11. “Things We Said Instead”–McCartney sounds strange on this–neither gravely or with a beautiful sound. Kinda singing in a mid-range without much flavor. It still a decent performance and a decent song, but I didn’t recognize him. I liked the acoustic guitar strumming.
    12. “When I Get Home”–solid again–the song and Lennon
    13. “You Can’t Do That”–Ditto.
    14. “I’ll Be Back”–Ditto.

    Not sure why the album felt flat to me on the earlier listening, but I responded to it more favorably this time around. The Beatles seemed to have found their stride here–specifically with their writing. No covers, and all the songs are at least solid. There is not a dud in the bunch in my opinion. Really, the challenge is picking out which song is the worst of the merely solid songs. In terms of choosing an album that represented rock n’ roll of the mid-sixties (or wanting to listen to this type of music), this would be a great pick.

    I felt like Lennon dominated this album–in terms of his singing. This is the album that could create the impression that Lennon is the better singer than McCartney. McCartney only sang lead on three songs, but even on these, he sounds like the lesser singer. (Well, he has that beautiful sound on “And I Love Her,” I guess.)

    Another observation: The songs are short, often under 3:00 minutes, sometimes closer to 2:00 minutes. But I don’t really notice this, nor think this is a bad thing. Indeed, I wonder if contemporary pop musicians would benefit by writing shorter songs. The situation might be like writing a paper. The goal should be concise. A song can be ruined if a composer is adding fluff. Pruning a song might make it better. If it’s under 3 minutes, who cares if the song is good?

    This is odd, but I would probably put this ahead of Beatles for Sale and Help!, and I feel like this is on par with Rubber Soul, and Revolver.

  5. Beatles for Sale (1964)

    With low expectations and maybe the right mood, I found myself enjoying this. Recently, I’ve been listening to their later albums. Hearing them play rock n’ roll, including the covers, was refreshing. They’re good at playing rock n’ roll, although I think there’s an interesting contrast with the Stones. Specifically, the Stones seem grimier, not as clean-cut.

    I think I liked some of the tunes because they were unfamiliar (e.g., “No Reply,” “What You’re Doing”). A song like “What You’re Doing” may be a weaker one in their catalogue, but that speaks to how good they are, I think. It’s the type of song that might be a big hit for another group.

    I really like “I’ll Follow the Sun.” I think it’s among my favorite songs of theirs.

    Edit

    I listened to most of this again, after listening to Help!. My sense is that these two albums are similar in quality.

    12/27/2021

    Notes on the songs

    1. “No Reply”–I don’t know how to describe the groove and style of this song, but it’s the 60’s rock n’ roll that I most associate with the Beatles. That is, it seems like they either played this first or perfected it, and then many groups attempted to imitate it. This is a good song in this vein. Lennon’s gruff sound of anguish sounds good, too.
    2. “I’m Loser”–similar vein stylistically as the previous song. Harmonica solo.
    3. “Baby’s in Back”–Solid song.
    4. “Rock and Roll”–cover of Chuck Berry tune; Lennon and the band sound good. Lennon dominates the album.
    5. “I’ll Follow the Sun”–Lennon and McCartney alternating on lead sounds good. Essentially accompanied by acoustic guitar, which I really. I read somewhere that McCartney wrote this when he was 16. Wow!
    6. “Mr. Moonlight”–OK cover of Roy Lee Johnson tune. OK tune.
    7. “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey”–McCartney singing lead, but he hasn’t quite gotten that raw, raspy sound, which he’ll develop later. Lennon is still superior in that regard in my view. McCartney still sounds good, though. McCartney sure likes the Little Richard “wooos.”
    8. “Eight Days a Week”–another good song in the 60’s rock n’ roll vein.
    9. “Words of Love”–Buddy Holly cover. This almost sounds like “Everyday.” The song and the rendition of of it are just OK.
    10. “Honey Don’t”–Carl Perkins cover. Ringo sings the lead, and he’s OK at best. McCartney’s bass is more out front here. The song and groove are pretty good. I like both better than the Holly song. Harrison has a solo which is not that great.
    11. “Every Little Thing”–OK song. Lennon sings lead.
    12. “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”–A bit of a country lope and twang in this. OK song–I prefer it over the previous one. Guitar solo (Harrison?) is dull. Nice harmonies.
    13. “What You’re Doing”–I can’t tell if I like the song, or if I like hearing McCartney. Guitar solo is kinda boring again. Whatever the case, I like this better than the previous two songs.
    14. “Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby”–another Carl Perkins. Harrison is the lead vocalist (kinda echoey). At times he sounds a little like Lennon. OK cover.

    General notes

    • With this album and the previous one, I kinda feel like Lennon, as a vocalist, is at his peak–particularly in terms of his power. McCartney, on the other hand, isn’t there yet, or the Beatles just didn’t give him a chance.
    • Stylistically, and even in terms of quality, this album seems almost a twin of A Hard Day’s Night–although I’d give the edge to the latter because there are no covers.
    • From what I recall, the bass isn’t really prominent on this–in terms of the recording or the role it plays on the songs.
    • I said I liked this more than A Hard Day’s Night, but I think the latter day is superior to this one.
  6. Help! (1965)

    I don’t really have much to say except that, for some reason, I liked this less than Beatles for Sale, for some reason. I was distracted by other things, and I think that’s a big factor. The album may not be great, and it’s not something I’d listen to a lot, but it’s fine overall.

    Other comments:

    • “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” seems like a Dylan-influenced song–specifically in terms of the music (versus the lyrics). I like this song for what it’s worth.
    • The songs I’m most familiar with–“Help!,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “Yesterday”–are fine, but I might just be tired fo them, especially “Yesterday.”
    • Interesting: Two country-ish tracks–one of the cover of “Act Naturally” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face”…Actually, the latter is more folk-y; it kinda reminds me a little of an uptempo Simon and Garfunkel song, with driving acoustic guitar strumming
    • I like the drumming on “Ticket to Ride.”
    • The short guitar into to “Tell Me What You See” sounds like the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”

    12/27/2021

    Song notes

    Side 1

    1. “Help!”–solid song.
    2. “The Night Before”–I like this song. McCartney on lead. Another boring guitar solo–more like a fill.
    3. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”–Dylan influenced. Lennon’s vocals make this more enjoyable than most of Dylan’s songs. Solo from a flute or some flute-like instrument
    4. “I Need You” (Harrison)–decent song. Harrison on lead, and sounds solid.
    5. “Another Girl”–McCartney on lead, and I almost didn’t recognize him. He’s singing more in the middle register, with a more anonymous sound. Solid song, though.
    6. “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”–like this. It’s almost a girl band song–at least that’s what i reminds me of. Bongos(?) instead of drums, which doesn’t sound great, but the guitar strumming and bass drive the song. Lennon on lead and sounding good.
    7. “Ticket to Ride”–12 string electric intro sounds like the Byrds. I like the loping drum groove on this. Good song.
    8. Side 2

    9. “Act Naturally”–Johnny Russell/Voni Morrison cover. The Beatles do country, lead by Ringo on lead vocals. It’s OK, although this probably Ringo’s part of a group with McCartney and Lennon. Had someone with his voice performed this as a solo act, I don’t think I would care for it.
    10. “It’s Only Love”–Lennon sings a ballad. I feel like it’s one of his weaker peformances. To be fair, the song is just OK as well.
    11. “You Like Me Too Much” (Harrison)–bluesy piano intro, moves into 60’s rock n’ roll. Not bad not great–Harrison on lead and the song itself.
    12. “Tell Me What You See”–McCartney on leads–but I can barely recognize him. It sounds like he has a cold, too. The song is just OK.
    13. “I’ve Just Seen a Face”–I like the acoustic guitar intro. I reacted in a similar way to the above.
    14. “Yesterday”–Of all their popular songs, I think this one has held up the worst.
    15. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”–cover of a Larry Williams song. Lennon singing in a more growly style, which suits him in my view.

    General comments

    • Up to this point, even for the best songs, the structures (and chord changes?) are fairly conventional.
    • Side 1 is solid, but side 1 is pretty weak.

    Album Rankings so far

    From best to worst:

    A Hard Day’s Night
    Beatles for Sale

    Please Please Me; Let it Be; Help! With the Bealtles

  7. Rubber Soul (1966)

    Notes

    • One thing I noticed: On many of the Beatles albums, many songs are closer to 2:00 minutes than 3. I’m not sure if this is normal for other albums in the 60s. For what it’s worth, they don’t feel too short.
    • Harrison’s two songs are solid–pretty much on par with Lennon-McCartney’s songs on this. (The chorus on “Think for Yourself” is catchy.)
    • While this album may not have any great songs, this could be a great album on the basis that it doesn’t have any duds, and all the songs are good-to-very-good songs, without any mediocre songs. My sense is that this is pretty rare. (What other albums could be described this way?)
    • One major caveat on the point above: The lyrics for “Run for Your Life” are awful, and I can’t imagine performing this song today. To be fair, there is a tradition of this type of music. I’m thinking particularly blues songs. Something like “Hey Joe” would qualify, but this seems a bit more menacing. Maybe I’m missing some irony or maybe I’m overly-sensitive, but that’s my honest reaction. Putting the lyrics aside, musically it’s a decent rock/pop song.
    • “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” is one of a few songs accompanied by acoustic guitar finger picking (“Blackbird,” “Her Majesty,” “Julia,” “I’ll Follow the Sun” and maybe their cover of “Till There Was You”). These songs sound great–I kinda wish they did more in this vein. (Actually, “Norwegian” is has more strumming than the other two. Still, it’s nice.)
    • “Drive My Car” was well known to me, and it’s still a fun upbeat song. But so are “I’m Looking Through You” and, to a lesser extent, “What Goes On.” (Maybe the latter would be better with a different lead than Ringo?)
    • “In My Life” might be my favorite song–but I also closely associate with John and Randy’s version, which combines “For No One.” I think I still prefer their version to the originals.
  8. Revolver (1966)

    Notes

    • To me, the weakest songs are “Love You To,” a Harrison tune, which has strong Indian influences, and “Yellow Submarine.” I think the latter is the first silly, children’s type of song the Beatles use. These two songs have the potential to drop it below Rubber Soul in my opinion.
    • On the other hand, this album may have a several songs that are stronger–or at least more appealing to me–than the best songs on RS. I think George Harrions (?) said that RS and Revolver are part 1 and 2 of the same album, and I can definitely see that.
    • The other Harrison tune, “I Want to Tell You,” is OK–it’s not so strong, but it’s not a dud, either; and I prefer it to “Love You To.”
    • “Taxman” kinda reminds me of Prince’s “Batman”–specifically when the sing the word “taxman.” The opening guitar riff to “And Your Bird Can Sing” sounds like the guitar riff in BOC’s “I’m Burning for You.”
    • I probably said this before, but McCartney’s bass is recorded way out front. I’m not sure when this occurred, but I want to say at least by the RS recording. I love this–not to mention the fact that I like the actual sound and note choices and groove. To me, the bass (and drums) are driving the music, and, again, I really like that, as I love the bass.
  9. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

    Notes

    • Is Ringo’s singing on “With a Little Help” his best vocal performance, at least in terms of his voice matching the music?
    • “Lucy in the Sky” is not a bad song, but I don’t really for it for some reason.
    • I really like the chorus on “She’s Leaving Home”–also the overall story. The melody of the chorus and the song itself kinda seems like in a similar vein to “Golden Slumbers” in Abbey Road–another song with achingly beautiful and moving music.
    • The sequence of songs on side 1 is strong. On an earlier listening of this album, I didn’t think so highly of this–I preferred Rubber Soul and Revolver, specifically the songs. I might still feel this way, but the sequence and collection of songs work well. I don’t think there’s really a duds, too.
    • “Within You Without You” another heavily Indian influenced song by Harrison. It’s OK, but along with “Lucy in the Sky” it may be the song I like least on this album.
    • I’m wondering if “When I’m Sixty-Four,” the first of the songs that are in that 1930s-1940s popular songs (tin pan alley?). I like a lot of their other songs in this vein (e.g., “Dear Martha”)
    • “Lovely Rita” is one of those songs that was unfamiliar to me that I ended up liking (more than some of their more well-known songs).
    • “Good Morning Good Morning” is another song like this. I like the rhythms on this, especially when it gets to the “Everybody knows there’s nothing doing,” part. I’m not sure if they’re using tape loops. There’s a solid, albeit short, guitar solo, too. Overall, just lots of interesting things going on here. (Supposedly the ending with the farm animals sounds is supposed to be a reference to Pet Sounds.
    • I’m not sure, but “A Day in the Life” might be the first of the type of songs that contains different movements within it, and it feels like a precursor to what they do in Abbey Road, where they really expand on this concept.
  10. The Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

    Notes

    (This is the British EP order.)

    • “Magical Mystery Tour”–not great, but not bad.
    • “Your Mother Should Know”–Wikipedia says this is influenced by teh “musical hall style.” The melody has an old-timey sound, but the music is more 60’s rock n’ roll. Decent song.
    • “I Am a Walrus”–absurdist lyrics; I like this one.
    • “The Fool on the Hill”–I like the music on this, especially the music on the verses. The development of the music from the verses to the chorus is really good. This has that old timey flavor (musical hall?), especially when the bass parts. My favorite song on the album.
    • “Flying”–An instrumental number that is a dud in my opinion.
    • “Blue Jay Way”–a Harrison tune. This was a dull to me.

    I believe the following songs were released as singles, but appear on the American LP of this album:

    “Hello, Goodbye”
    “Strawberry Fields Forever”–(This sounds like a different version from the one I heard on the radio)
    “Penny Lane”
    “Baby You’re a Rich Man”

    Of the four, I’m familiar with the first three. All of them are solid.

  11. (The White Album) (1967)

    The Beatles stretching out, exploring and expanding.

    Notes on side 1 and 2

    • “Back in the USSR” is a fun, jokey response to the Beach Boys “California Girls” right? Old school rock n’ roll + the Beach Boys.
    • “Obla-di” another old timey song, more than pop-rock of that time in my view. Was there any other rock groups doing songs like this?
    • “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” is one of those odd Beatles songs that leave me scratching my head. (Others: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) I think this might be the first in this vein. I think of it as a kind of curve ball that you could say adds an interesting diversity to their album.
    • “Still My Guitar Gently Weeps” is another solid, if not more than solid, song by Harrison. The guitar solo is not as interesting, though. (And I believe it’s Eric Clapton.)
    • As far as I recall, “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is second Beatles composition, after “A Day in the Life,” with movements within the song–and this one takes this concept further. Within just 2:47 run time, there’s a lot of interesting musical developments. It might be worth breaking down a bit:
    • She’s not a girl who misses much
      Do do do do do do do do, oh yeah
      -guitar picking to a quiet, maybe a little plaintive melody
    • Next line: She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand
      Like a lizard on a window pane
      is introduced by pounding drums and introduction of electric guitar accompaniment–although the tempo and guitar picking accompaniment continues at the same tempo
    • At the end of this section (ending with the lines “And donated to the National Trust, we have an instrumental transition with the electric guitar introducing a new, ominous motif.
    • Lennon sings the new motif with the lyrics Man needs a fix because I’m going down–singing it in a monotone, creating an impression he’s drugged out or crazy.
    • Tempo and energy elevates a bit on the next lines, Mother Superior jumped the gun (whatever that means)
    • Then the next section–Happiness is a warm gun–switches to a doo-wop melody/harmony. There’s a nice development at the penultimate line of this section as well.
    • The lyrics feel similar to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”–something grisly and dark…although stylistically, it’s very different. I believe McCartney said that “Maxwell” was done tongue-in-cheek, but I’m not sure “Happiness” is the same–although I do get that vibe with the doo-wop section. I read that Lennon is the primary composer for this, which surprised me, because I associated this type of structure to McCartney. I also read this may have inspired McCartney when writing “You Never Give Me Any Money.”I Whatever the case, there is a similar kind of movements within a song structure.

    Side 2

    • “Martha My Dear”–I liked this song the first time I heard it. I didn’t realize that it was similar, musically, to songs like “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Maxwell.” The melody here is more beautiful and the song isn’t as jokey in a circus march sort of way, as this one–although “Martha” has McCartney’s bass imitating a tuba and a horn section. Also, in the section–Take a good look around you–the accompaniment switches to a more pop rock thing, which I don’t think occurs in those other songs. So the tune is a combination of old and new. I should also add that prior to that section–the hold your head up section is a further development from the original idea. So there are three developments–not dramatic as in “Happiness” or “Day in the Life”–but really well done.
    • The music on “I”m So Tired” is not as nice as “Martha,” but it displays similar type of development. You can hear the one idea, a variation on it, and another variation or shift, and then back to the main idea–following the “Happy Birthday to You” pattern. The song goes through two cycles of this. This is not a great song, but it shows how you can make interesting music.
    • “Blackbird”–I wonder if McCartney has a collection of songs that were meant to be accompanied by finger-picked acoustic guitar. To me, he could have made a career out of just doing that.
    • “Piggies”–a Harrison tune, which seems like another odd children’s type of songs. But it actually seems like a satire or attack on greedy people.
    • “Rocky Raccoon”–now, this is one of those odd Beatles songs–specifically, a hillbilly narrative. It also has some interesting musical developments that I didn’t really notice–for example, there’s an old-timey piano accompaniment section. The intro also has a strong hillbilly vibe. Musically, it’s actually kinda appealing.
    • “Don’t Pass Me By”–a Ringo composition and also sung by him. Initially, it kinda sounds like “Obla-di.” It’s actually decent, kinda fun. It pairs with “Rocky” fairly well, especially with that fiddle accompaniment.
    • “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”–solid blues, rock n’ roll.
    • “I Will”–Oh, I would add this as another one of those guitar picking songs, although it seems more driven by a galloping percussion. But again, a nice song–I could listen to McCartney do songs like this all day. “Julia” is also in this category–but Lennon sings it–and sounds good. Pretty song.

    Notes on side 3 and 4

    • “Birthday”–With the exception of “Back in the USSR”, the first album was mostly non-rock n’ roll tunes, so it’s nice to hear this. Fun groove.
    • “Yer Blues”–nice blues. Good to hear. Lennon and McCartney had good vocals for this type of music in my view. I kinda wish they did more of this in the later period. I liked the guitar solo, sonically, on this, but it was too short for my taste.
    • “Mother Nature’s Son”–another acoustic guitar accompaniment song, although at some points horns and percussion come in.
    • “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey”–a little odd, but fun rockin playing by the band. I liked the little instrumental section at the end, but I wished it went on longer.
    • “Sexy Sadie”–Just OK to me. Interesting element: almost psychedelic vibe, combined with doo-wop harmonies. Kinda reminds me David Bowie would sing in the early 70s.
    • “Helter Skelter”–one of the most rockin’ (and noisy) songs by the Beatles. Like! Wish they would have done more of this–and taken it further.
    • “Long Long Long”–another Harrison tune. This one is a reverie, almost as if Harrison wants to do a version of something on Pet Sounds. It feels incomplete and not really well-developed.

    Side 4

    • “Revolution 1”–blues shuffle,at a slower tempo than the one I’ve heard in the past. (Where’s the faster version?)
    • “Honey Pie”–20’s old-timey, oompa tuba song. I actually like it. Horns, Hawaiian steel guitar and even banjo maybe. This is even more old-timey than “Maxwell” or “When I’m Sixty-Four”.
    • “Savoy Truffle”–Harrison. Organ and horns create a very 60’s sound. I can’t recall other groups that played this type of music (Donovan?). Solid song and performance.
    • “Cry Baby Cry”–musically this stands in contrast to something like “Happiness is a Warm Gun” There is little musical development–basically, it has verse and chorus. There’s a different musical idea at the end, but it’s done a coda/outro. Just OK. Similar to “Sexy Sadie.”
    • “Revolution Number 9”–Literally experimental music–almost musique conrete. I thought it worked fairly well.
    • “Good Night”–lush strings, including harp. Sounds like more of a McCartney song, a la “Golden Slumbers,” but not as good. The kind of thing you’d hear in a musical. Ambivalent about Ringo singing this.
  12. The Yellow Submarine (1969)

    Notes

    • Of all the odd/novelty/children’s songs, this is a candidate for the one I like least. Maybe I’ve just heard it a lot more than the others?
    • “Only a Northern Song”–a Harrison tune. I don’t care for the composition, but I sort of liked the more experimental elements of it.
    • “All Together Now”–chugging solo, acoustic strumming to start. It’s kinda a fun, silly song that would be fun to play and sing. It actually has some interesting developments–the first few lines are sung with acoustic guitar only; then a band comes in, with a oompa-type bass and backing vocals; finally, the tempo increases.
    • “Hey Bulldog”–cool riff on the piano, and guitar and cool bass part: Lennon sounds good, as he almost always does. Besides this, the song is not just OK.
    • “It’s All Too Much”–Harrison tune. Love the almost “noise rock” intro, which moves into a distorted guitar riff–almost sounding like Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” The guitar sound is my favorite part. The song itself is not that great in my view.
    • “All You Need is Love”–It’s fine.

    This might be the worst album of the bunch. (I’m not including the instrumental movie score.)

  13. Abbey Road (1969)

    Introduction

    In my experience, the greatest works of art are the most difficult to write about–not because of the complexity or profundity of the work (although that could definitely reasons)–but one’s enthusiasm and adoration for the work can, ironically, get in the way. If the artwork is that great, what one says must be commensurate with that greatness–at least in terms of the effort and thoughtfulness behind the words. This creates a kind of (understandable) pressure on the writer–a pressure which prevents the writer from writing anything.

    That’s how I feel about this album.

    Now, while the album deserves my best efforts of analysis and expression, in order to overcome paralysis, I’m going to get my thoughts out there, without worrying about the adequacy of my expressing them. So, if the writing is poor, there’s at least a partial explanation.

    (Note: While I’ve heard some of the songs many times in the past, last week was the first time I listened to the entire album, from start to finish; and I’ve since been listening to it repeatedly.)

    Two Key Concepts

    Juxtaposition (e.g., dark-light, etc.) and development are two key concepts of the album in my view–the juxtaposition of ideas or moods and the development of musical ideas. With regard to the latter, I’m thinking some ideas about melody that I recently heard from Pat Metheny (in a Rick Beato interview). He mentioned the musical development in “Happy Birthday” serves as a kind of simple, but valuable model. From the second track of side 2 is a tour de force of this concept.

    A note about songs that may have ruined this album

    I’m thinking specifically of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Her Majesty.” Upon my first listening of this album, these songs left me scratching my head. I know they had songs like this in preceding albums, but I felt a sense of exasperation–partly because it seemed to mar the good music around them. (“Maxwell’s” macbre subject was a bit disturbing as well.) Indeed, I thought if you removed the songs, not only would nothing of value would be lost, but the album would sound better. Here’s what the sequence would look like:

    “Come Together”
    “Something”
    (Maxwell)
    “Oh Darling”
    (Octopus)
    “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”

    From “Something” to “I Want You”–you’d have a variety of romantic modes–and musically there would be a consistency there as well.

    As for “Her Majesty,” it’s really just a throwaway song tacked on at the end. Indeed, according to the wikipedia entry, McCartney originally sang the song in between “Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam,” but didn’t like the sequence after listening to it, and told the engineer to cut it out. But the engineer moved it to the end of the tape, twenty seconds after “The End,” because he remembered George Martin saying never to throw out anything. The engineer put a note to not record the last song for the final version, but the the person transferring the recording left it on. When the Beatles heard this, they liked it, and left it in.

    I actually listened to the album this way, and it sounded pretty good–although as time has passed, the sense that this diminished the album has grown stronger.

    Are these songs really good? Or do they at least make the album better? To the first question, I must say that “Maxwell” grows on me and I like the more I hear it. I think of the music in a similar vein as “When I’m Sixty-Four,” a song I like. As to the contents, I believe McCartney used “tongue-in-cheek” to describe the song. Based on this remark, the song could be seen as black humor. Seen in that way, the song does become more appealing to me.

    For what it’s worth, I originally preferred “Octopus,” which is a song that I don’t love (although I like it more than “Yellow Submarine”), but justifying its inclusion, based on the nature of the song, seem more defensible.

    As for “Her Majesty,” I like the song–which reminds me of “Blackbird.” The thing is, at a little under a minute, it’s more of a fragment than a real song. (I would have liked to heard a fuller, more developed version of this.)

    Whether the songs are good, independently, perhaps the more important question is, do they fit in with the other songs, and enhance the album overall? I don’t have a firm position on this, but if I had to defend their inclusion, I would argue the lighter touch the songs provide could help prevent the album from becoming too earnest. Perhaps a more compelling argument would be the way the songs provide interesting juxtaposition with the other songs–moving from seriousness to humor and whimsy. As I mentioned, the album seems filled with the juxtaposition of opposites, both thematically and musically (which I’ll go into more below), and the inclusion of these songs would be consistent with this.

    Notes on the songs:

    Side 1

    • “Come Together”–I heard McCartney playing a version that originally Lennon played, when they first started writing it. The song was more of an uptempo driving song, and McCartney realized that it was actually Chuck Berry song (including the line “Here come old flat top’). But then they modified the song–in my view, significantly. I always liked this song, and still do. (Love the bass line and that “shut” sound.)
    • “Something”–I understand Sinatra loved this song, mistakenly praising McCartney and Lennon. This is no slight to Sinatra, as I thought this was a Lennon-McCartney tune myself. I understand James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves” inspired Harrison, which is interesting, because I would confuse these two songs. (Also, Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way” or “She’s Always a Woman” for some reason.) McCartney’s bass stands out. This might be their best ballad. One other thing: “Come Together” is about an odd, maybe even creepy, character, and the Beatles follow that with this beautiful ballad. Ugly, Beauty. The juxtaposition begins….
    • “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”–…and continues with this darkly comic song, not just in terms of content, but musically as well. I understand Lennon described this as one of McCartney’s “granny songs,” which I take to mean early 20th century popular music. I agree. (In the 3, 2, 1 McCartney doc, McCartney reveals the bass parts are indeed the bass–not a tuba.
    • “Oh! Darling”–a simple doo-wop song (piano and harmonies in particular) of anguished love (in contrast to the black humor of “Maxwell) but it’s surprisingly appealing. McCartney does those Little Richard “woos” and he sings with that yelling anguish that, to me, seems an underrated part of his singing. (Maybe more people appreciate this about his singing?)
    • “Octopus’s Garden’s”–I think I’m ultimately ambivalent about this song (and “Maxwell”). I sympathize with both arguments for and against it. I’ll say this: This is not a song I look forward to hearing–it’s something I waiting to get past.
    • “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”–Back to earnestness. The music has a dark, ominous sound. I like the way the song stops abruptly and goes into “Here Comes the Sun.”

    Side 2

    • “Here Comes the Sun”–another good Harrison song, turning the mood back to the light.
    • “Because”–This song seems to function more like an overture–providing a nice transition from the previous songs, serving as a pallet cleanser, as the previous songs are typical pop/rock songs, and what comes next is closer to a suite, where the songs function as individual components. The dreamy quality and harmonies of “ahs” also make me thing the song is reference to “Pet Sounds.”
    • “You Never Give Me Any Money”
    • Beautiful piano intro to one of the more beautiful melodies by the group in my opinion. This follows the pattern of “Happiness is a Warm Gun”–but I like it a lot better. It’s worth breaking down:

    • Section 1 (You never give me your money…): The music is beautiful, but the lyrics are a sad complaint. I can’t tell if the plaintive mood is from the music, or if the lyrics are just making me interpret it that way. (The music seems too beautiful to be sad.) The Beatles play this melodic idea twice, and then go right into the next section.

      Section 2 “Out of college, money spent…” (1:10). The music picks up both in tempo and tone–with walking bass driving the music, but the lyrics paint a bleak picture. Then there’s what sounds like another development of the melody at “But oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go…”1:30 This melodic line doesn’t last long, and goes into the (mostly instrumental transition).

      Transition: This starts with background singers’ harmonies at 1:47, with electric guitar line under it. As the background singer harmonies start to fade, the guitar line emerges at (2:09) and seven seconds later moves into what sounds like a transitional line (2:17), which repeats several times before moving into the next section (“One sweet dream…”)

      Section 3 “One sweet dream…(2:26). The music is more energetic and optimistic. Lyrics seem to now match the music. I like the music on the “came true today” part as well, with the repeated guitar(?) figure (2:47). Then an appealing distorted guitar sustained note and short bass figure comes in (3:03), going into the group singing, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.”) And this leads leads to an outro…

      Outro:…with chimes (3:28 and eventually croaking frogs, crickets (another allusion to Pet Sounds?)

      A lot of good, interesting music happens in 4:02 minutes. This is one of my favorite Beatles musical moments.

    • “Sun King”–outro of the previous song is a really good transition to the intro to this song–which sounds exactly like “Don’t Let Me Down.” This is another airy, dreamy interlude (again, like the Beach Boys Pet Sounds). As a song, I don’t think it’s very strong (same with “Because”)–or it’s just not my cup of tea.

    Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came Into the Bathroom Window

    To me, you can’t or shouldn’t separate these three songs–and one could possibly argue that “Sun King goes along with this, but to me it feels more like an interlude connecting “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Mustard/Pam/Window” One thing to notice: the energy and tempo, to a lesser degree gradually builds. Each song is short “Mustard” (1:07), “Pam” (1:13), and “Window” (1:59) and they really function more like movements or sections–similar to the way “You Never Give Me Any Money” featured a three sections.

    • “Mean Mr. Mustard”–from a dreamy interlude right into music that’s not brisk, but a little more energetic, and yet the song seems to be about curmudgeonly homeless man, or is it the miserly person in “You Never Give Me Any Money?” I think the song has a similar old timey feel as “Maxwell” but the rhythm section provides a more rock accompaniment.
    • “Polythene Pam”–increased tempo and energy, jangly acoustic guitar strumming. Fun. A guitar solo comes in at the :53/a> second mark, which begins a short interlude that connects it to the next song.
    • “She Came Into the Bathroom Window”–I love the way “Pam” moves right into this song. The melody for the verses sounds good, but I also like the way the way music develops in the chorus (e.g., “didn’t anybody see” part (:26 second mark. This song also kinda reminds of a Wings song. I don’t know what to make of the lyrics of the chorus: Didn’t anybody tell her?/Didn’t anybody see?/Sunday’s on the phone to Monday/Tuesday’s on the phone to me. The music gradually fades out and there is some silence before “Golden Slumbers”

    Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End

    I linked “Mustard/Pam/Window,” and I’m linking “Golden/Weight/End” together, but separate from the first grouping. In reality, all six are tightly interwoven, whereas “You Never Give Me Any Money” is bookended by airy, musical reveries–although I think of those three “songs” as part of the six.

    But speaking about “Mustard/Pam/Window” and then “Golden/Weight/End” seems to work better. For one thing, “Golden/Weight/End” section takes the music to another level–to its climax and then brings closes out the entire suite.

    .

    • “Golden Slumbers”–The way “She Came Into the Bathroom Window” ends, with some silence in between that song and this one–I think it’s an effective transition–primarily because the Beatles bring the energy back down. The piano intro starts what sounds like a lullaby to me, but a really beautiful one. The way this music develops from the first note, all the way until the end McCartney gets to “golden slumbers” lyrics, where he’s singing his heart out, brings tears to my eyes. Super beautiful music,
    • “Carry That Weight”–this song comes in rather abruptly, and in some ways it shouldn’t work, particularly the lyrics. Golden Slumbers is a soothing, while this song talks about the burden one will have to bear. Again, the juxtaposition of opposites. Musically, it fits, though, and elevates the mood, which is odd given the lyrics).
    • “The End”–again a rather abrupt transition, shifting to more rockin music. But it works and the music sounds good to me. But then it downshifts into a lower energy. I’m not sure how to describe the music here–it’s not a lullaby, but it seems more similar to the first section of “Golden Slumbers.”
    • “You Never Give Me Any Money,” “Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came Into the Bathroom Window,” and “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End”–I love these three sections. If you take them all together–I think it’s the greatest 17 minutes in rock/pop–and among the best in any genre.

  14. Let It Be (1970)

    Notes

    • “Two of Us”–a short moment of the acoustic guitar intro sounded like slack-key guitar. The song overall seems different–more of a CSN-type of vibe? That’s not quite right. I’m not sure I heard this one before, but it’s
      a decent song.
    • “Dig a Pony”–first time I’ve heard this. Not bad, not great; I’m kinda indifferent to this.
    • “Across the Universe”–I haven’t heard this song a lot in the past, but the “nothings going to change my world” line is familiar.
    • “I Me Mine” (Harrison)–The “I Me Mine” refrain has an Irish folk flavor, at least in one section of the song. There’s a more rockin way they sing it, too. Decent song.
    • “Dig It”–Lennon almost sounds like Mick Jagger on this, at least initially.
    • “Let It Be”–the best song so far in my opinion.
    • “Maggie Mae”–incomplete song. This is the kind of thing that makes the album feel like a half-hearted attempt.
    • “I’ve Got a Feeling”–I like the feeling, but the song is just OK.
    • “One After 909”–old rock n’ roll/blues. This is the type of tune that would be fine, if most of the other songs were good or more than good.
    • “The Long and Winding Road”–one of the better songs on the album, but not as good as I remember.
    • “For You Blue” (Harrison)–Just OK.
    • “Get Back”–Liked. This, “Let it Be” and “The Long and Winding Road’ are probably my three favorites on this.

    This was a disappointing album. Maybe one of the worst I’ve heard, especially relative to the three or four albums that preceded it.

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