Of course I knew about The Beatles growing up and could sing all the songs, but they never made it into my collection until CDs first came out. I picked up Rubber Soul and Revolver and from then on I was a student. There is a library full of books on the group and the songs, and almost as many documentaries, but the one I think best is “The Compleat Beatles” from 1982. It is only out on VHS because Paul McCartney bought the rights for the documentary when he was putting together his own documentary “Beatles Anthology,” which even at six hours is not as good as the 1982 film. As for the Beatles’ music, there’s not much more to comment on that hasn’t been written. Listen to the albums in order and enjoy the eight-year journey of the greatest musical group ever. Picking just five individual singles is difficult. These just happen to be personal favorites. “Eleanor Rigby” has what I consider the most brillliant lyric in modern music, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” The songs “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” stand apart as masterpieces. “Strawberry FIelds” is filled with John Lennon’s amazing word imagery, while “Blackbird” is simply a beautiful song. My wife was a high-schooler during the Beatles’ heyday, and I became husband-of-the-year when I got her tickets to see Paul McCartney in Indianapolis. Even at 70 years old, McCartney played for three hours without a break, and it was the best show I’ve ever seen. We saw him a second time in Fort Wayne in 2019, and the three-hour performance was just as amazing.
I know. You don’t have to tell me. This is supposed to be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” But picking the best Beatles album is like choosing the the best color on fleet of Rolls Royces. They’re all gonna be great. Starting with “Rubber Soul,” the music of the Beatles entered a whole new arena of popular music that had never been heard before. They were already a great pop band with a fresh sound. But with “Rubber Soul,” and then “Revolver,” the music was made to be listened to. It was innovative with instrumentation, lyrics, mixing, layering of sounds. The process would reach its zenith with “Sgt. Pepper’s” in terms of polish and concept. It also had the advantage of following the building wave from “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.” But listening to them side-by-side today, “Revolver” certainly deserves to at least stand side-by-side with “Sgt. Pepper’s.” Harrison’s “Taxman” opens the album, and marks the point where he steps out of the Lennon-McCartney shadow. The sound and style are a decade ahead of their time. That is followed by “Eleanor Rigby,” perhaps the greatest single track by the band (with all due respect to “Hey Jude”), with personally the finest lyrics. The string octet is beautiful, especially the mellow sounds of the cellos and violas. Then comes “I’m Only Sleeping,” which continues Lennon’s sound-as-art concept, fueled by his ever-increasing intake of mind-bending drugs. Two others follow with “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” There’s also “Yellow Submarine.” Who couldn’t like that? If Ringo can sing it, so can you. The second side has a little bit more of a pop feel, but again, songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Doctor Robert,” while they seems bit dated now, were years ahead of their time. “Got to Get You Into My Life,” has an R&B/funk feel with its full horn and and organ backing that only adds depth to the album.
SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
OK, here it is. The greatest album ever made, in the eyes of just about everyone. from concept to conclusion, it is a masterpiece. Every track has been analyzed by musicologists and lyricists and psychologists, and every kind of “-ists” there are out there. I’m not really concerned about the use of “Lydian mode chord progression,” or “major key double-plagal cadence.” It’s a great album to listen to. You’re brought into the band’s “concert” by the title track, right into Ringo’s charming “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and then to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” filled with its word imagery. The story of the making of “Being for he Benefit of Mr. Kite!” is just as amazing as the song itself, with the work of producer George Martin to create the calliope sound and feel of a country fair. The second side brings two of McCartney’s standards in “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita,” then ends, fittingly, with “A Day in the Life,” which takes the listener through a journey of dream-inducing sound and lyrics, many drawing from local news of the region. From the cover photo, to the range of sound and words, “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed not only music, but considering the time in which it arrived in 1967, changed culture as well. The individualism of each of the band members leading up to this album only increased after, and they inevitably drifted apart. The genius was still there, but the time of working together was over.
Eleanor Rigby / Revolver
Hey Jude / (Released as a single)
Yesterday / Help!
Strawberry Fields Forever / Magical Mystery Tour
Blackbird / The Beatles (White Album)