How To Listen To The Beatles – Part 3 : Exploring The Early Years

First of all, I want to apologize to the people who read my first two parts of the guide and had to wait so long for the third one. I had a little problem, but, with a bit of a struggle, I eventually managed to do something about it. A little problem called laziness.

The Beatles’ earlier records are usually considered by many their weakest. But the term “weak”, when used in a Beatles contest, can only mean “less than incredible”. I know that you are probably already rolling your eyes over and preparing to write an angry comment that’ll sound something like “The God Damn Beatles can do no wrong in your eyes?!?”. Sure they can. It’s just that every time they did, there was also enough good to overshadow it. Every album this band released varies from good to great to incredible. And by album, I mean officially released work that the band intended and approved to come out a certain way. So, no compilations or soundtracks (yes, Yellow Submarine, I’m looking at you).

The Beatles’ early work consists of 4 good albums (‘Please Please Me’, ‘With The Beatles’, ‘Beatles For Sale’, ‘Help!’) and an excellent one (‘A Hard Day’s Night’). In my honest opinion, all of those albums should be absorbed by any rock music fan, but don’t expect them to be as good as their later work, ’cause they’re not. The thing with The Beatles is that they’ve always been caught in a continuing process of song-writing development and almost every album they’ve made is a step forward. In fact, the only early record that holds a candle to their late stuff is, in my opinion, the aforementioned ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Its catchiness and joyfulness sum up perfectly the whole Beatlemania and the things that made them famous back then. And the level of energy is just phenomenal.

The rest of the early material, even though, as I said, tends to approach the “good territory”, will mostly seem a hit and a miss on the first listen. When the songs are great, they’re as enjoyable as the latter material, and when they’re not, they can be even terrible. There will always be a cover song  that just doesn’t hold a candle to its original form or a little tune that they clearly wrote to fill up the empty space. When it comes to the order they should be listened to, well, it hardly matters. ‘Please Please Me’ was their first one, ‘With The Beatles’ their second, and a bit of a step up, Beatles For Sale came in ’64, and even though not as good as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ from the same year, it is still stronger than their first two. ‘Help’ is practically the last early Beatles album, and a very disjointed one as well, with the good stuff being just incredible and showing the listener how much they progressed in such a short period of time and the “filler-ish” songs just leaving you disappointed because the band could do so much better. So, the decision on what should be listened first and what last is up to you.

After you’re done, don’t forget to check out the first volume of the great ‘Past Masters’ compilation that I mentioned in the second part of the guide. Though having some really strange songs included, namely, german versions of two of their biggest hits (‘She Loves You’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), the rest of the material is pretty much essential for any fan.

So, I guess we’re done here. You go your way and I’ll go mine, as Dylan would say. Speaking of Dylan, here’s a neat picture of him and George Harrison of The Beatles performing together!

Ok, that was a terrible conclusion. I’ll give it another shot :

I want to thank everybody who took the time to read this little guides and I hope I managed to even turn some of you into Beatles fans.

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Categories: How to Listen to a Band

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4 replies

  1. As a huge Beatles fan, I actually prefer early Beatles albums over the later ones. Despite that, I still listen to the later albums because they contain songs I love as well. Being a tremendously talented band across many musical genres like The Beatles means there are songs for everyone to love. How can anyone not be a fan?
    By the way, you have a great blog. You’re a great writer with interesting and informed posts on music. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Keep up the good work!

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    • I wholeheartedly agree with you – there is something for everybody in the Beatles’ vast (genre-wise) discography.

      Thanks a lot for the kind comments. I am also glad to be a “Guitar Train passenger”. 🙂

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  2. I agree with quirky T, I think the early albums are the best, full of vitality that is missing later on….great blog btw

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    • Thanks, Kevin. It’s been a while since I wrote this post, but I’m still more of a late-period-Beatles person (not that I don’t love the early things). On first sight, I would agree that they never matched the energy and vitality of those early records. But then again, when The Beatles wanted to rock, they always had what it takes to do it, whether it was 1964 or 1968 (I mean, Helter Skelter – how cool is that?).

      Like

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