tv 2015: the c's
by request: the theory of everything (james marsh, 2014)

music friday: the beatles, rubber soul

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.

There’s a Place

Can’t Buy Me Love” (the stereo remaster ... I prefer the mono, but you take what YouTube gives you)

In My Life

And Your Bird Can Sing

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.”



What does it say about the Beatles that I feel no need to defend my choices for best when I read or hear about others'? They're the one band where my default is to just allow that our individual mileages do vary. I think it's because of how good they are, mixed with how important the consensus understands them to be. There's nothing to win in the argument.

Steven Rubio

Like I said, being the least of the Beatles is hardly an insult. What's the worst Beatles album? Whatever it is, it's among the best rock and roll albums of all time. Yellow Submarine? Probably not even fair to call it a Beatles album, but it has my favorite George song, a good John throwaway, and "All You Need Is Love". The only other non-comp album that gets a mere 3 stars out of 5 on AMG (as does Yellow Submarine) is Introducing the Beatles, the U.S. reworking of Please Please Me. It has "I Saw Her Standing There", "There's a Place", and "Twist and Shout". And those are their (arguably) worst albums.


when I was a teenager, and my father went to England for a thing or something, I asked him to get me a copy of the British release of A Hard Day's Night. still my favorite, though I do have a weakness for Sgt Pepper because I listened to it with my old man when I was a kid. (I got an old mono copy of Meet the Beatles out of my grandfather's collection 20 years ago. it wasn't quite still in its cellophane, but pretty damned close. I haven't a clue why he bought it in the first place.)

[I do not know what to do with my old vinyl copies of their albums. tossing them seems like a bad plan somehow.]

Steven Rubio

I mostly gave away my vinyl. Somewhere I have a few "collectors items" ... Sex Pistols 45s, an Elvis bootleg. Same with cassettes, although there, I have tried to preserve playlists for tapes that people made for me. Now I'm trying to cull my CDs. It never ends.

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