So here we are, finally emerging into the Beatles’ world and finding out what they really were about. Even though their energy as a teenage rock n’ roll band during the band’s first years is hard to be topped, just as well as their influence as a pop band during ’63-’65 is undeniable, they only touched their peak, pushed artistic boundaries and rose to their legend status in the ‘Late Years’ era. So, the main reason for exploring the (late)’65-’70 era first is obvious, that’s where the magic happens. If neither of those albums get you interested, then the Beatles are not for you, and neither are many other bands from the late 60’s.
Anyway, let’s get straight to the point. Your first purchase should be, without a doubt, the album ‘Rubber Soul’. Released in 3 December 1965, it is a turning point for the Beatles, as they, slowly start to develop into an “album band”, as opposed to a “singles band”, which they used to be. In other words, many artists from that time started viewing the album format as a whole product, not only an excuse to sell their singles, and they tried to make the best out of it. And that’s what ‘Rubber Soul’ is. A wonderful collection of well-constructed pop songs that, coincidentally or not, works perfectly as a whole. And above all, it’s extremely accessible. It’s hard to say what made this album so much better than its predecessors. They started smoking pot? Sure, but was that so big of an influence? They experimented a bit in the studio? Definitely, but they sure aren’t messing around with tape-loops or sound effects yet, or god knows what many other things that would’ve made ‘Rubber Soul’ more than an easy-going listen and would’ve made me reconsider my whole guide. Was ’65 a big year and a lot of big bands took huge steps by acknowledging and combining each other’s influence? Maybe the biggest factor of them all, but it’s not like The Beatles relied a lot on other bands’ sound. Sure, they’ve always acknowledged their influence, but at the same time, incorporated it alongside their own sound. And ‘Rubber Soul’ may be the living proof of that.
After listening to the album, the next steps are pretty much simple. Just go forward through the superbness of ‘Revolver’ – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ – ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ * – ‘The White Album’ – ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let It Be’. Preferably, you should listen to them in that particular order for a better view on the band’s progress and for a better analysis of the band’s status through each year of the late 60’s. Notice how I left out ‘Yellow Submarine’, even though, as released in early ’69, it’s a part of the ‘Late Years’. Thing is, ‘Yellow Submarine’ is not really a proper Beatles album. It’s a soundtrack that accompanies the movie with the same title. It consists of 4 newly written songs (Hey Bulldog, Only A Northern Song, All Together Now, It’s All Too Much), 2 songs that were previously released (Yellow Submarine from ‘Revolver’, All You Need Is Love from ‘Magical Mystery Tour’) and 7 instrumentals composed by George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, specifically for the movie. So, basically, only the first category I mentioned is worth checking out. They’re not masterpieces or anything, but they’re all decent compositions. My advice is, after you’re done listening to the “proper” albums, you ought a check ‘Yellow Submarine’ if you feel the need to.
* ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ is not a proper album either, but rather a compilation made of an EP with the same name and some singles from the same year. However, neither of the songs appear on any other official album, so listening to it after ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ is a logical step onward.
So, supposedly you’ve absorbed all their official albums. Before going back and exploring the ‘Early Years’, there’s one more little bonus for you. Remember how I stated that the Beatles started to concentrate on albums, rather than singles? Well, while it was true, that didn’t mean the band stopped releasing singles. On the contrary, they wrote some excellent ones. Thankfully to a great market campaign, all those singles were released together on a two-volume compilation called Past Masters; Vol. 1 – the singles from the early years and Vol. 2 – the singles from the late years. You’ll definitely need this as well, maybe even more than ‘Yellow Submarine’.
That’s it. You’re free now. I suggest you take a little holiday before exploring the rest of their albums. Go outside and be fascinated by how the world has changed in the last 5 years which you’ve lost by listening to those 4 soul-taking bastards.
Or you might as well celebrate the fact that … uhm… well, the situation just asks for a celebration, doesn’t it?
Categories: How to Listen to a Band