Yesterday, Rubber Soul turned 50, which elicited a lot of “how time flies” stuff from Boomers. I feel like a consensus has built over the years that the two best Beatles albums were Rubber Soul and Revolver, although I’m just talking off the top of my head. There’s the early stuff, the movies, then the maturation of Rubber Soul and Revolver, followed by Sgt. Pepper, which I don’t think is as highly regarded as it once was. Then the gradual disintegration.
The main reason I disagree with this evaluation (if it indeed exists) is that I think it unfairly dismisses their earliest work, and I think it misses their greatest album. While the first albums were filled with, well, filler, they never recorded three tracks as great as “There’s a Place”, “Twist and Shout”, and “Money”.
Then there’s my favorite, A Hard Day’s Night. Care must be taken to allow for my biases. My favorite Beatle was John, and nine of the thirteen songs on the album are “John songs”. (I’m ignoring the awful U.S. release of the album.) My least favorite Beatle was George, although being the least of the Beatles is hardly an insult. Anyway, there are no “George songs” on this album. Simply put, I don’t think there is a bad song on A Hard Day’s Night, which makes it more consistent than both Rubber Soul (“Michelle”) and Revolver (“Taxman”). The latter has three George songs, and they aren’t his three best.
Rubber Soul, like all of the Beatles albums at the time, came out in two versions, one for the UK, one for the US. The latter has its champions, but it is missing “Drive My Car”, which I love, and “If I Needed Someone”, which is one of George’s better outings. I understand why people love this album, a lot more than I understand why they love Revolver. “In My Life” is one of their greatest songs, and yes, the “maturation” is important.
Here are some of my favorite Beatle songs from the above albums. It’s hard to get the original Beatles recordings on YouTube, so this is a bit sparse.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” (the stereo remaster ... I prefer the mono, but you take what YouTube gives you)
And finally this, which features a few songs from A Hard Day’s Night, and closes with the best-ever Beatles on film. As Roger Ebert wrote, “This is one of the most sustained orgasmic sequences in the movies.”