A Year With The Beatles

[hr] [dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of my goals for 2013 was to get more familiar with The Beatles.

I was born in 1970, the same year The Beatles released Let It Be, and subsequently took their own advice and broke up. I grew up hearing plenty of Beatles hits on the radio, but aside from a Abbey Roadtaped copy of Abbey Road given to me by an ex-girlfriend in the 80’s, I’ve never owned any Beatles albums.

That all changed this year.

This year, I bought one album a month, which gave me their whole studio catalog (OK, there were 13 albums, but I slotted in the songs from Yellow Submarine that I didn’t have from other album purchases). I have not bought the Anthology albums. Yet.

My general knowledge about the history of The Beatles was limited to widespread folklore and the music I’d heard on the radio over the years. It’s fair to say that my historical knowledge of The Beatles is still pretty limited compared to the hardcore fans out there, but this year’s listening has opened my eyes and my mind to a few things. In point form:

  • Just how progressive The Beatles were – I knew that The Beatles grew as a band, but I had no idea how much they grew. The sugary-sweet songs of their early albums are wonderful, but the sounds get incredibly experimental as you move through the catalog. You have to keep reminding yourself that these songs were recorded in the 1960’s because when your iPod’s on Sgt Peppersshuffle, it’s so easy to hear one of their later songs and think it’s some contemporary artist that you might have just picked up. I didn’t realise how widespread their influence became. I thought Jimi Hendrix changed music (which he did). The Beatles tipped music completely on its head.
  • The absolute genius of John Lennon – Paul McCartney delivers some very memorable songs (Rocky Raccoon, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Helter Skelter and Oh Darling are some of my favourites) but The Beatles were at their best when John Lennon was working his magic. I’m sure he must have been difficult to work with as he grew as an artist, but thank your chosen deity that they all persisted. I’m going to be collecting Lennon’s solo works next year.
  • The off-beat stuff – Songs like Piggies, I Am The Walrus and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer don’t just make you scratch your head. They stick with you and sometimes it’s most unexpected. These guys could make nearly anything sound good.
  • The occasional dark side – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer comes to mind immediately. But the one the takes the cake is Run For Your Life (from Rubber Soul) with lyrics like “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”. The song continues in the same manner right through. I don’t want to be accused of being too literal here, but it is a disturbing song. There is some written history (how accurate, we don’t know) of Lennon abusing his first wife, Cynthia, on the odd occasion. Songs like this one should be confined to another age, though sadly, they’re not.
  • Ringo – I’m completely surprised by the fact that I always look forward to hearing the songs Ringo sang, especially Honey Don’t, Act Naturally and Octopus’ Garden. Ringo was always the dopiest Beatle to me and I didn’t anticipate this, but I love his work. [hr]

    An aside – is Ringo Starr the luckiest man alive, or what? Lands on his feet as a Beatle, then lands on his feet afterwards with the whole Thomas the Tank Engine gig. He has an unlikely golden touch, of sorts. Either that or he’s just been in the right place at the right time more than once.

    Addendum: A friend sent me this overnight, which sums up Ringo quite nicely:

    Apparently John Lennon, when asked in an interview if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, jokingly (?) replied “He isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles”.

    Perfect.

[hr]

Absolute Favourites

Drive My Car – Rubber Soul

the-beatles-drive-my-car-parlophone-2Taxman – Revolver

Good Day Sunshine – Revolver

Oh Darling – Abbey Road

Come Together – Abbey Road

Twist and Shout – Please Please Me

Back In The USSR – The Beatles (White Album)

Strawberry Fields Forever – Magical Mystery Tour

Yer Blues – The Beatles (White Album)

HelterSkelterHelter Skelter – The Beatles (White Album)

Get Back – Let It Be

I Want You – Abbey Road

Rock And Roll Music – Beatles For Sale

You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away – Help!

Eleanor Rigby – Revolver

You Really Got A Hold On Me – With The Beatles

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Album of the same name.

[hr]

Favourite Album

Revolver is my favourite Beatles album. With that said, I like ’em all, but I really love Revolver.

revolverThe love starts with Taxman, one of my favourite Beatles songs and one that’ll head the list of Best Beatles Songs I Hadn’t Heard Before 2013 (see below). It follows with the classic Eleanor Rigby and the dreamy I’m Only Sleeping. Then they get their sitar on, with Love You To, which is one of those songs that sounds so much younger than it is. Tomorrow Never Knows is revolutionary in all sorts of ways and is an achievement that bands have been trying to replicate ever since, with very few seeing success.

Other favourites are the feel-good Good Day Sunshine, the beautiful And Your Bird Can Sing and the rocking Got To Get You Into My Life (which sounds sweet and lovey-dovey, but it apparently about pot).

Revolver is a cracker of an album although it has maybe the worst of the the Beatles album covers. My second favourite album, Rubber Soul, has the best Beatles album cover IMHO. It’s all in the font.

[hr]

Favourite Beatles Songs I’d Not Heard Before 2013

Taxman – Revolver

You Really Got A Hold On Me – With The Beatles

And Your Bird Can Sing – Revolver

The Word – Rubber Soul

Girl – Rubber Soul

Hey Bulldog – Yellow Submarine

Happiness Is A Warm Gun – White Album

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey – White Album

Kansas City (Hey Hey Hey Hey) – Beatles For Sale

Tell Me Why – A Hard Day’s Night

[hr]

This year with the Beatles has been immensely rewarding. I’m glad I took the time. I’ll probably get The Anthology albums in 2014 and I’ll definitely collect John Lennon’s solo works.

The Beatles are one of the few bands in history where you know a fair bit about them simply by virtue of the fact that you’re alive, breathing and at least somewhat aware of popular culture.

There’s so much more to learn, though, and so many layers to their music. It’s an ongoing journey that I’m very much looking forward to.

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17 Comments

    1. The surprise being that I hadn’t heard it before this year? I don’t have any recollection of it before this year. Either way, outstanding song. Love it.

  1. Nice read, swade! How about making 2014 a Kinks year. One of the few bands of the era, if not the only one, that could match the Beatles when it comes to ingenuity. It is said that John Lennon admired Ray Davies so much he even wanted him to join the Beatles. Lennon’s favourite song was Wonderboy, by the way. Check it out sometime!

  2. Great post. I was born in ’71so my Beatles upbringing is similar to yours. We got kind of into them when we visited Liverpool back in the late nineties, but I think it’s time for me to revisit their music.

    1. I think you’ll find it’s worthwhile, Paul. I also re-discovered David Bowie this year so it’s been a great year for my ears 🙂

  3. I take the “dark side” with a pinch of salt. To me it comes across as boyish bravado rather than reality, “I can’t do it, but I can write a song about it.” The same argument comes up about the Stones’s “Under My Thumb.” Sounds to me like a broken-hearted teenager fantasizing about the tables turning, and who hasn’t felt that way after getting dumped?

    A classically-trained musician friend once explained to me that George Harrison is the only ex-Beatle who evolved musically. Paul kept plugging away at being one of the best writers of pop songs ever, Ringo released a few good albums, and John was the most disappointing (given his raw talent). I can see my friend’s point, although John didn’t get the opportunity to finish what he started.

  4. As one of the first countries outside the UK we in Sweden adopted the Beatles as early as 1963-64. Below are some links to that. And the love continued over the years.

  5. >>Is Ringo Starr the luckiest man alive, or what? Lands on his feet as a Beatle, then lands on his feet afterwards with the whole Thomas the Tank Engine gig. He has an unlikely golden touch, of sorts. Either that or he’s just been in the right place at the right time more than once.<<

    You left out marrying Barbara Bach.

  6. Sis was born in ’49, I in ’54. She was absolutely peak age to be a Beatlemaniac in ’63 and I was lucky enough to have her take me along with her to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium in ’66. They passed us in a limo on the Grand Central Parkway on the way to the concert and the girls in the car went berserk. Ringo wore a purple polka dot shirt on the way to the show but the band wore uniforms at the concert. See the outfits and check out those ticket prices at http://goo.gl/nrbHqh They opened with Help!, as I recall, and the Revolver album was for sale at the souvenir booths. It wasn’t until the past year or so I found out that ’66 show wasn’t even sold out, this being after John made his remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus Christ. And then they stopped touring shortly thereafter. I can’t describe the anticipation that came with a new Beatles album. You’d get it, bring it home, and play it over and over until you knew the whole thing by heart. A lot of bands were like that, it was a great time for music.

  7. Hello Swade, The Beatles have been part of my life since I was a young boy, they have brought me much joy and hapiness. I was born in 62 and remember listening to them in the late 60’s early 70’s, I have also been following their solo careers and I can never get enough of Beatle music. I’m glad you’ve discovered them, now we have three things in common Cars (Saab,Alfa…. etc), Beatles, and Canada (your wife’s Family). Happy New Year Swade

    Robert Sabini
    AKA
    MeanSabean

    Montreal

  8. Swade, I was “lucky” enough to be dragged as a 4 year old to ANZAC Highway in Adelaide to see The Beatles drive past in ’64, been a fanatic ever since. Make sure you get the 6 Anthology Discs, they are fantastic. The second pair has 3 versions if Strawberry Fieds as it evolved froma demo, to a near final cut. One can also only wonder how George’s demo of all things must pass didn’t make the grade. Also worth getting is the “live at the BBC” set, I have the initial 2 CDs another two have just been released. These are tracks of them performing totally live, in mono form only with no verdure. And some of the covers they did are amazing inc, some Country music.
    Enjoy.

  9. Oh I forgot to say. You’re a bit harsh on Ringo. Johns comment was tongue in cheek, John and Paul’s drumming can be found on some tracks. Paul’s on Anthology where he does the complete demo for a track he gave to Badfinger – ” come and get it” Paul did the demo one morning before the rest f the band arrived, it’s great but drumming not flash. Listen to early Peter Best on Anthology and you can see Ringo was miles better. In fact Ringo was already a big success (moderately) in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes prior to joining, the others all thought he was brilliant. Many other drummers say his “fill pieces” on “A day in te life” are amongst the best drumming in fill ever. Take a listen just to them.
    I had the scoop f meeting Peter Best and Johns sister Julia Baird at a breakfast a few years back, their autographs are on my copy of the book, The Beatles Anthology.

    Oh finally, grab a copy of The Beatles – Love done fr cirque de soliel by george Martin and hs son – brilliant. And if you are really flush with funds, get George Martins album inmy life” where he get celebrities to cover some beates tracks. Kim Carey, Robin Williams are great, bt Sean Connery doing In my life as a poken piece you realise what a brilliant work it is

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