Posts Tagged The Beatles
Sunday night, February 9, 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show, television introduced The Beatles to 73 million Americans, or nearly 40% of the total population of the country at the time (by comparison, this past Sunday’s broadcast of the Super Bowl, the highest rated showing of that annual extravaganza, was viewed by an estimated 111 million Americans, or about 36% of the population).
The February 9 airing of Ed Sullivan’s weekly variety program (his “really big shoo”) was the first of three consecutive Sunday evenings on which the Fab Four appeared on the show. That night they performed five songs in two sets, opening with “All My Loving”, followed by “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You.” In the show’s second hour they came back with “I Saw Her Standing There” and ended with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This second full week of January is a week for debut albums. First-outs this week include The Beatles’ Introducing…The Beatles (1/10/64), Led Zeppelin’s 1/12/69 debut, Aerosmith’s 1/13/73 first effort and ZZ Top’s First Album from 1/16/71. Today, January 14, marks the 39th anniversary of Paul Simon’s eponymous debut album (click here for my Rhymin’ Simon playlist).
Hot off his decade-long, multi-platinum gig with partner Art Garfunkel in the acclaimed 60s folk-pop duet Simon & Garfunkel, Simon cooled off for two years to work on his debut album as a solo artist. When released 1/14/72, Paul Simon became the first of three straight Top Ten, million-selling studio LPs for Simon (not including the 1974’s Live Rhymin’).
Paul Simon expands from the straightforward folk-pop music of his Simon & Garfunkel years and includes reggae influences (“Mother And Child Reunion,” a Top Ten hit), African rhythms and texture (“Duncan”), and Latin tinges (“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”). This subtle exploration of different musical genres continued with the R&B and gospel influences on 1974’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon and the jazzy sounds of 1975’s Still Crazy After All These Years, which hit #2 and #1 on the U.S. pop charts (Paul Simon made it to #4 in 1972). After a relatively quiet 10 year stretch, Simon returned in 1986 with Graceland, an album deftly mixing American folk-pop with South African mbaqanga music. Those four albums, plus the heavy Latin sounds of 1990’s The Rhythm Of The Saints are Paul Simon’s best five and an incomparable collection of world-pop from one of the best all-around folk-pop songwriters of all-time.
The eponymous debut album by British prog-rockers Yes is considered to be the first progressive rock album. And Yes the band (for their playlist, click here) is considered to be the most venerable and commercially successful prog-rock band. Their debut album was released on October 15, 1969 in the waning days of psychedelic rock, and just ahead of the big splintering of rock music into a multitude of sounds and genres that made the 70s the best decade for rock music. With their next three albums, Yes became a major and defining force on the progressive side of rock music. But the debut LP didn’t fare well, even though it’s a decent collection of early Yes songs. The biggest reason: Yes was released within a few weeks of several notable late-1969 rock albums by the heavy hitters of the time, including Tommy by The Who, Led Zeppelin II, and the Stones’ Let It Bleed. By 1973, that would all change.
By the way, Yes includes two very ambitious and interesting covers of songs by the Beatles (“Every Little Thing”) and the Byrds (“I See You”). To download Yes from iTunes or for a CD from Amazon, click here.
John Lennon issued 12 separate albums between the 1969 breakup of the Beatles and his murder in December 1980. Six were studio albums recorded with Yoko Ono and/or the Plastic Ono Band, four were straight solo discs, one was a live recording and the last was a “best of” compilation of his non-Beatles singles, Shaved Fish (1975). Of the lot, his September 9, 1971 solo album Imagine is the best, due in large part to the peace and love exultation of the marvelous title track.
But Imagine also contains some of Lennon’s lesser-known gems. From the pot-shot at former composing partner Paul McCartney on “How Do You Sleep?” to the beer-hall bounce of “Crippled Inside” to the shuffling love song “Oh Yoko” to the piano-and-strings balladry of “Jealousy Guy,” they’re the best all-around set of Lennon’s non-hit, post-Beatles work. Imagine may lack the deep introspection, primal screaming and vehement protest themes of his other albums, but that’s a large reason why it was an across-the-board #1 seller in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Japan.
— Dr. Rock www.DrRock.com
Parlophone and Capitol Records’ maddeningly frustrating policy of pressing two different versions of Beatles records continued with Revolver, which came out in the U.K. on August 5, 1966 and three days later in America. The British version had 14 tracks, while Capitol’s U.S. version had just 11 (“And Your Bird Can Sing,” “Doctor Robert” and “I’m Only Sleeping” appeared on the earlier Yesterday And Today). Nevertheless, Revolver is a remarkable album that completes the Beatles’ transformation in lyrics, sounds and subjects begun with 1965’s Rubber Soul and sets up the magnificent Sgt. Pepper’s that followed in June 1967. The album largely eschews the love themes that dominated all previous Beatles’ albums and offers a broad array of sounds and subjects, from the goofy “Yellow Submarine” to the lonely, McCartney-and strings-only ballad “Eleanor Rigby” to the sunny “And Your Bird Can Sing” to the trippy “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Beatles fans ate it up, regardless of which version they bought, as both hit #1 on their respective charts on either side of the Atlantic in the late summer of 1966. Revolver is available for purchase as a CD or individual mp3 files on Amazon but is not (frustratingly) available on iTunes. The Beatles have two playlists (First Set and Take Two) in Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault.
In the summer of 1964, Beatlemania was in full force and The Beatles’ movie, A Hard Day’s Night, was in theaters on both sides of the Atlantic. Frantically trying to cash in on the pop phenomenon and not get left behind, three record companies released very similar albums of material from the Fab Four that summer, with the latecomer being Capitol Records’ Something New on July 20, 1964.
United Artists owned the rights to the movie and in late June issued what was billed as the “soundtrack album,” although only available in the U.S. and with instrumental filler by Beatle manager George Martin’s orchestra. In the U.K., Parlophone released their version of A Hard Day’s Night on July 10 with songs from the movie on Side A and tracks written for but not included in the film on Side B. Not wanting to miss the boat, Capitol responded with Something New, which offered eight songs from the movie (but not the title track), plus three fillers including the infamous “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand,” the German-sung version of the January 1964 hit “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This infuriating practice of simultaneous issues of similar material in different packages by two or more record companies was S.O.P. in the US and UK in the mid-60s. Market and business differences dictated separate releases, which meant all consumers – from regular fans and serious collectors – were forced to double- or triple-up to enjoy the full menu of most top-level bands. With the Beatles catalogue, it finally stopped with Sgt. Pepper’s, the first Fab Four LP to hit the streets everywhere on the same day and with the same material and packaging.
Something New is a great album and a must for any serious Beatle fan. If you can’t buy all three mid-1964 releases, this is the one to own. It’s available for purchase as a CD or individual mp3 files on Amazon, but is not currently on iTunes. The Beatles have two sets in Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (released June 1, 1967) is an album of superlatives. It’s oft-described as the most influential pop album ever released, the first “concept” album, the album that launched FM radio, the best Beatles album of all, and the first by any artist anywhere/anytime to truly combine so many of music’s disparate elements – rock ‘n’ roll, pop, R&B, psychedelia, jazz, orchestra, Big Band, country, Eastern, and so much more.
Hyperbole notwithstanding, I still won’t argue any of those descriptors. Yes, it was all of that, and more. But despite being #1 on so many lists (including Rolling Stones’ Top 500 albums and my Top 25 for 1967), it’s still not the best Beatles album. In my book, The White Album claims that title, but Sgt. Pepper’s … paved the way and deserves a close second. The album completed the bridge between the pop-love fests of Please Please Me and Help! and the exhilarating, experimental sounds the Beatles produced on Revolver and The White Album. No longer a touring act but a cohesive band of mature musicians, composers and lyricists, the Beatles abandoned forever the notion of a carefully rehearsed and recorded, 3 minute and 30 second AM radio song for a free-format assemblage of tracks carefully crafted and spliced together from pieces and sections recorded at different times and (often) different places.
Sgt. Pepper’s… opened an artistic freedom and expression that rock music hadn’t seen, and quickly became the standard against which all future concept albums were judged. Unfortunately, its creators lasted only a short three years following the album’s release. The Beatles split up for good in 1970. There are two Beatles playlists in the Playlist Vault. Sgt. Pepper’s… is for purchase as a CD or mp3 downloads on Amazon (but not on iTunes).
The Beatles had broken up for good several months before Let It Be was released on May 8, 1970. And, while it is sequentially their last release, the music on Let It Be was actually recorded in January 1969, before the sessions that led to Abbey Road, so it really isn’t the Beatles last album per se. Either way, Let it Be is not a fitting swan song. It’s one of their weaker efforts and reflects the turmoil that was rending the band apart in their final year as a unit.
Let It Be does contain several gems (“Get Back,” “Across The Universe,” “Dig A Pony” and the title track are keepers), but they can’t hide a handful of disappointing throw-aways and an overdone Phil Spector production of “The Long And Winding Road.” Three of the tracks on Let It Be, “Dig A Pony,” “One After 909” and “I’ve Got A Feeling” were recorded during the famous rooftop, impromptu concert for family, friends and Apple Studios employees on January 30, 1969. Of the three rooftop tracks, only “Dig A Pony” has any value; the other two were more a novelty and evidence the loose nature of the “live” appearance.
The tail end of the Let It Be sessions and the brief outdoor show included Billy Preston, whom George Harrison brought in as a condition for returning after he walked out of the studio in frustration earlier in the month. Preston’s presence was a calming influence on the proceedings, and the band completed the tapes in February 1969 and moved onto Abbey Road, which came out in September 1969.
The Beatles (playlist here) recorded the bulk of their debut album, Please Please Me at EMI Studios in London in one, 9-hour marathon in February 1963. The album was rush-released in the U.K. on March 22, 1963 to leverage the success of two singles, “Love Me Do” and the title track, both of which came out in late 1962. Beatlemania was bubbling in Britain, but it would be nearly a year before the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, bringing the brouhaha to the U.S.
Please Please Me contains 14 excellent samples of the Beatles’ early work. You’ve heard them all many times over, but they’re just a fresh today as they were 47 years ago when four brash young guys banged them out for a few pounds pay (but millions more to come in royalties). And it wasn’t that much trouble for them to get it down in 9 hours, as most of the songs were staples of their live shows honed in the clubs of Hamburg and Liverpool. Eight Lennon/McCartney originals mix with six covers, including Motown (“Boys,” featuring Ringo on vocals, and “Baby It’s You,” another Shirelles hit), a Gerry Goffin/Carole King mid-tempo rocker (“Chains,” sung by George Harrison) and “Twist And Shout,” a hit for the Isley Brothers in 1962. Of the originals, there’s a balance of rock ‘n’ roll (“I Saw Her Standing There” and the title track) with sweet ballads (“There’s A Place” and “P.S. I Love You”) and the eternal “Do You Want To Know A Secret.”
Unless they purchased import copies, American listeners would have to endure a 10 month wait for the Beatles’ first U.S. releases, Introducing…The Beatles on Vee-Jay Records and Meet The Beatles on Capitol (both released in mid-January 1964). Even the Canadians got in ahead of their southern neighbors, as Capitol released a Canada-only version of With The Beatles (the second U.K. release) in November 1963. Please Please Me is available as a CD or mp3 downloads on Amazon, but as with all Beatles music, not on iTunes.
An unusual collection of singles and B-sides never included on any of the Beatles mainline albums (except certain U.S. versions), Hey Jude was released by Capitol Records in the U.S. on February 26, 1970. Its original working title was The Beatles Again, but that was changed shortly before the album’s release to leverage the inclusion of the August 1968 single, “Hey Jude,” which still commanded significant attention on the radio and in stores 18 months after it hit the streets.
Hey Jude features ten former 45 rpm-only songs that span the Beatles’ career, including “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better” from 1964 (both of which appeared on United Artists’ soundtrack to the movie A Hard Day’s Night but not on a previous Capitol LP), sides A and B of the 1966 disc “Paperback Writer”/“Rain,” and three tracks from the acrimonious recording sessions in the winter and spring of 1969 that led to the LPs Abbey Road and Let It Be, “Don’t Let Me Down” (the B-side to “Get Back”) and both front and back of the disc “The Ballad Of John And Yoko”/“Old Brown Shoe.
Hey Jude was followed closely by the Beatles’ final album Let It Be (May 1970) and the long-rumored announcement that the band would dissolve. As the only one-stop source of all of the songs included on the album, it’s almost required for any serious Beatle collector, but it was never issued on CD and the LP versions on Amazon are quite pricey. Apple iTunes, of course, doesn’t carry any Beatles, but Dr. Rock has 50 of the best Beatles songs in the Playlist Vault for you to use as a guide for downloading mp3 files on Amazon or other sites.