The Beatles are arguably the most revolutionary rock n roll group in history and spoiler alert (!) I’ve never listened to them until now. I’ve heard their most popular songs such as “Twist and Shout" and “All You Need Is Love” through snippets in movies or on the radio from time to time. But I’ve never sat down, listened to a full album, or given them a true try.
I didn’t grow up listening to rock n roll at all. My grandpa, whom I call Baba, is a music fanatic and an avid CD collector but his music taste was more infused with Motown tunes from bands such as The Supremes, Temptations, and The Marvelettes. My dad grew up listening to that type of music and when he was in his teens and twenties he listened to classic 90’s R&B and Hip Hop and carries the love for those two genres today. On my mom’s side reggae, calypso, soca, and hip hop were listened to heavily. So as you can see we never listened to The Beatles that much in my house.
My current music taste is all over the place spanning from hip hop to alternative, bedroom pop, r & b, and a smidge of rock. I want to expand my music taste because as much as I love them I’m tired of only listening to Drake, Travis Scott, SZA, Rex Orange County, and Frank Ocean on repeat. Well actually let’s take Frank Ocean out of the list. I can never get tired of listening to my king. And the smidge of rock on my playlist is only from Nirvana and Green Day so I thought The Beatles would be a perfect group to explore since they transcend through rock and many other genres.
The Beatles released 12 studio albums since their start in 1957 and after reading through various Rolling Stone’s articles I narrowed down five albums by the UK superstars that I would listen to. I watched several “Guide to The Beatles” videos on Youtube, read articles about how the band got its start, and tried to familiarize myself with as much as I could about the group before I finally gave them a listen! I listened to these five albums in this order: Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver and The White Album. And this is not a drill I can now say I LOVE The Beatles. Who knew John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, could make a little teenager like me swine to my knees 50 years after their breakup? I am so glad I gave The Beatles a try and I wish I would have hopped on the Beatlemania train a lot sooner.
Therefore, I hereby present my review of each of the five Beatles albums I listened to and their respective rankings from least to greatest. Enjoy!
#5 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Sporting an expansive and vibrant collage on the album cover featuring prominent people in pop couture, colors, flowers, and the members of The Beatles in neon-colored band costumes I knew this album would be divergent from the rest. Yearning for something exotic and an escape from his star-studded life Paul McCartney booked a trip to Kenya and the rest of the band embarked on the journey as well. On the plane ride back to England McCartney revealed how free he had felt in Kenya, where he wasn't tainted by his celebrity status and said, “I thought, ‘Let’s not be ourselves. Let’s develop alter egos so we don’t have to project an image that we know.” Then in turn Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was born, the band's only alter ego album.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this album, half of the time I had no idea what they were talking about because the instrumentals were extremely loud and clouded what they were saying. Track 2, “With a Little Help From My Friends” is all over the place and I don’t know what in the heck they are talking about but the beat is extremely cool and funky. One of the most popular songs from the album, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” however is an outstanding piece portraying a vivid and psychedelic story through exuberant lyrics. “With tangerine trees and marmalade skies”, “Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies” are just a few lyrics that make me feel like I’m in a fantasy world unknown to man, where you can listen to The Beatles and your dreams can run wild. Given the initials of the lyrics “LSD”, it is commonly believed that this song is about the effects of the hallucinogenic drug LSD. However, John Lennon insists that he was inspired after his son Julian came up to him one day and showed him a picture he drew of his friend Lucy amongst the stars. Julian titled the picture “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”. Either way, the song is amazing. I also loved McCartney’s hazy and stretched vocals on “She’s Leaving Home”, based on a true story he read in the Daily Mail about 17-year-old Melanie Coe who ran away to live with her boyfriend. McCartney and Lennon have perfect harmony on the chorus and the song is simplistic beauty. Besides those two songs, I didn’t feel a connection between any of the other tracks and couldn’t see myself adding them to my “Best of The Beatles” playlist. However, I did appreciate the sheer funk and experimental attitude The Beatles took with this album.
Overall : 3 / 5
#4 The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)
I feel very bad for putting this album at No. 4 because it is SO GOOD but The Beatles made all of their albums with such taste that it is incredibly hard to pick the best one. They're all unique in their respect but I have to try to rank them and therefore The White Album rests at No. 4. This a double album lasting for an hour and thirty-nine minutes with 30 tracks that span from rock n roll, bluegrass, jazz, and everything in between. The White Album is a complete contrast from Sgt. Pepper, from the plain white cover and the music within. I would say The White Album is a nice simple scoop of vanilla ice cream while Sgt. Pepper is a rainbow filled monstrosity. In an article by music writer Dorian Lynskey from BBC, he states, “Whether or not you consider it the best Beatles album (I do), it’s certainly the best Beatles album.” I couldn’t have said it any better. The title is literally The Beatles and because there is such an amass of tracks you can hear all of the sounds and feelings The Beatles contain. You can also hear each member developing their sound, Lennon and McCarthy didn’t have as many collaborations and rather crafted solo pieces of work. For example, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was written and sung by Harrison. His rough and rock vocals paired with the guitar solo in the back, lead by Eric Clapton, is exceptionally strong and makes this a classic from the start. This song is rightfully ranked #10 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Beatles Songs.” In, “I’m so tired” Lennon wrote this song in India and sang about how he had developed insomnia from missing his love, Yoko Ono. Upbeat “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is a fun jukebox song with blaring trumpets, tambourines, maracas shaking up and down and you can’t help but sway your head from side to side.
Over the six months The Beatles recorded the album, a lot was going on in the world. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in California, Andy Warhol survived an assassination attempt after his first exhibition in Britain, James Earl Ray was arrested for the killing of Martin Luther King, feminists were protesting the Miss America contests in Atlantic City, Britain’s first abortion clinic opened; so needless to say the world was at a turning point in every way possible. The White album addresses none of these issues directly because it didn't need to remind people of what a roller coaster 1968 had been. Every song on the album expressed emotions and their opposites, “Sexy Saide'' and “Mother Nature’s Son”, “Piggies'' and “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill''; through themes of love, sadness, fear, depression, and frustration. One of my particular favorites off the album “Black Bird'' is sung by McCartney and I am obsessed with his voice, the soft guitar strings and you can even hear him tapping his foot as he sings the soft rhymes. Decades later McCartney revealed that the song was an ode to the black women of the civil rights movement in America and two women of the Little Rock Nine, Thelma Mothershed Wair, and Elizabeth Eckford. The Beatles still manage to keep it fun with tracks like “Why Don’t We Do In the Road” which McCartney was inspired to write after seeing two monkeys have sex in the middle of the road in India, which he said was “a liberating sight to see.” Overall, The White Album is great and showcases The Beatles at their core.
Overall : 4/5
#3 Abbey Road (1969)
Abbey Road is the culminating album of The Beatles and in a sense, you can hear and feel the whisperings of goodbye from each of the members. Musically The Beatles have matured an enormous amount and the years of exploring their alter egos, psychedelic phase, were behind them as they focused on who they were at heart. Four guys who love making rock ballads and singing about love. The first track, “Come Together” has a deep thumping bass surrounding Lennon’s grainy vocals and I love the chorus and the catchy rhythm when everyone in the band sings. Then Harrison sings his heart out in “Something” and it’s nice to hear a solo song from “the quiet Beatle”! Quirky songs like “Maxwell's Silver Hammer” and “Octopus Garden” have a similar childlike beat such as “Yellow Submarine”. “Octopus Garden” was only the second song ever written by Ringo Starr and funnily enough Harrison created the bubble sounds in the background by blowing bubbles with his straw in a glass of milk. Then there is track 7, “Here Comes the Sun.” I think “Here Comes the Sun” is one of the most beautiful songs ever created by man to this day, and the first pluck of the guitar string makes tears pool up in my eyes but a smile creeps across my face. I think the song symbolizes that the “ long cold lonely winter”, the dark times in life, will always be over eventually because here comes the sun making everything alright once again. “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam” are both under a minute and 30 seconds and tell a story about wild characters that are based on real people paired with sloozy beats and authority. “Golden Slumbers” is another great song written by Lennon-McCartney that bleeds right into “Carry That Weight.” I first heard the mashup in the animated movie Sing because Jennifer Hudson’s character, Nana Noodleman sings it at the talent show and kills it with this rendition. The last song on the album “Her Majesty” is a short 24 second bit sung by McCartney that tells fans it’s been a fun ride but it’s time to say goodbye, and I love everything about it. Abbey Road will forever be one of the most revolutionary albums to ever exist and I find comfort in its simplicity. The album cover with Harrison, McCartney, Starr, and Lennon in their dapper suits and flare pants walking across Abbey Road shows how we all have to walk towards the next steps in life and you can always look amazing while doing it.
Overall : 4.5 /5
#2 Revolver (1966)
Revolver is an album where every track stands out from one another and it does not blend into one continuous loop when you listen to it. Sandwiched in between 1965’s Rubber Soul
and 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver offers 14 different songs that explore new sounds and meanings. In The Beatles Documentary on Apple Music McCartney states, “I don’t see too much difference myself between Rubber Soul and Revolver. To me, they both could be like volume 1 and volume two.” I certainly agree and I believe that's why I love Revolver so much, it has the same easy-going vibes as Rubber Soul but is more mature in certain aspects.
The album starts strong with “Taxman” a guitar rock piece sung by Harrison, which sarcastically attacks the taxes taken by the British Labour government. The Beatles’ accountant Harry Pinkser talked about how he had to remind the boys that of the millions they made they still had to set aside their earrings for tax, and with all the members of the band in their mid-twenties, they were not happy about that. According to George Harrison, “I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax.” “Taxman” then goes straight into “Eleanor Rigby” which is one of the best songs on the planet. McCartney started to take an interest in using characters and scenarios in songs, and there is nothing more intriguing than listening to him sing about Father Mackenzie and Eleanor Rigby on this 2 minute and seven-second gift. The next track “Here, There and Everywhere” reminded me of a barber quartet because of the cloudy backup vocals, and “She Said She Said” had a similar haziness but with an electric guitar sharpness. In between those two songs, Ringo Starr uniquely starts off “Yellow Submarine” which is supposed to be a children's song but doubles as explaining the perfect acid trip. “ Sky of blue (Sky of blue) and sea of green (Sea of green) / In our yellow (In our yellow) submarine (Submarine, ha-ha!)” On the final track, “Tomorrow Never Knows” Harrison again uses the sitar, like he did in “Love You too” showing his increasing love to Indian instruments and the musician Ravi Shankar.
Revolver is a clean and precise 35-minute piece with powerful songs and glitter like ambiance and as Starr commented, “some of the stuff on this and the Rubber Soul album was brilliant, nothing like it.” As McCartney explained why the album title was chosen, “We suddenly thought aye what does a record do? It revolves. Great! So it was a revolver,” I will be revolving this record on my record player as soon as it gets here from Amazon ;)
Overall: 4.5 / 5
#1 Rubber Soul (1965)
And we have a winner! The vibes on Rubber Soul are immaculate and a feeling of wanderlust, freedom, and easiness washes over you as you listen to each track. "Rubber Soul was the pot album and Revolver was the acid," said John Lennon in 1972. From the warped album cover featuring the Fab Four in the garden of Lennon’s Weybridge escape to the orange and bubble font letters in the corners, there's a warm sense of familiarity amongst this collective. The friendliness and nonchalant vocals each of the men possess are comforting and make this album fun to enjoy. Freshly starting with “Drive My Car” the riffs, shaking of the tambourine and cowbells by Lennon make this exciting and I could imagine people boogying to this in the diner (that’s what people in the ’60s did right ?). Next, “Norwegian Wood” begins with the strings of the sitar being plucked, making this one of the first Western songs to ever feature an Indian instrument. Harrison is the person playing the sitar on the track had begun to take an interest into Indian music and in Anthology he explained, “We would usually start looking through the cupboard to see if we could come up with something, a new sound, and I picked the sitar up – it was just lying around; I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it. It was quite spontaneous: I found the notes that played the lick. It fitted and it worked.” It is a beautiful and rich piece filled with unique sounds and a calming repertoire. Track 4, “Nowhere Man”, has a catchy and drips with essence as Lennon sings about his current frustrations in life. He didn’t know who he was a person or a musician and towards the end of recording Rubber Soul, he commented that “I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and going nowhere;” and “Nowhere Man” was born. One of my favorite tracks on the record is “Michelle.” Sung by McCartney he speaks in his faux-French voice he used as a teenager to make his friends laugh while attempting to attract women on the busy streets of London. Singing, “Michelle, ma belle / These are words that go together well” and in the bridge his grainy voice belts out, “I love you, I love you, I love you / That's all I want to say / Until I find a way / I will say the only words I know that you'll understand.” Irresistibly catchy.
As the album comes to an end “I’m Looking Through You” and “In My Life” are both nostalgic songs revolving around how The Beatles felt like their music was changing as well as remembering the past moments, people and places in their lives for how they were and not as they are. The album closes with “Run For Your Life”, an upbeat song about a sour subject, a man threatening to kill his girlfriend if she cheats on him. Once Lennon’s favorite song he began to dislike and called it his “least favorite Beatles song.” It may have been inspired by Lennon’s rocky relationship with his wife Cynthia Lennon at that time. As the song drifts to silence I remember that I felt fulfilled inside. If I had a jar filled with emotions, a hundred happy points were added. Rubber Soul is my favorite album by The Beatles because it simply made me feel good. Here we have thirteen clean tracks with their own emotions, lyrics, and instrumentals and this is where The Beatles truly became The Beatles. Before Revolver there was Rubber Soul. A nice and fulfilling hippie album that I can see myself falling in love with deeper and deeper as the summer progresses. Bowl cuts, polo necks, and oranges letters aside, this is everything an album should be.
Overall : 5/5
I’m so glad I went out of my comfort zone and listened to The Beatles because I was able to explore a different era and time where there was no autotune, mundane lyrics, and superficial feelings. As long as you had a guitar, a mess of instruments, and could carry a tune you could change the world. All of their albums are masterpieces and I found it kind of funny that there are hundreds of articles titled "Why The White Album is the best Beatles album", "Why Revolver is the best Beatles album", "Why Abbey Road is the Best Beatles" album and so on. Showing that no one album by The Beatles trumps one another, they all have a different taste, sound and feeling that still is attractive to people all over the world. Also, if you couldn’t tell already, Paul McCartney is my favorite Beatle and in the "Which Member of The Beatles Are You ?" quiz I took I got him as well ;)
Hopefully after reading this if you haven’t already you will start listening to The Beatles and I would suggest playing The White Album first since that has the most tracks representing the aurora of the group. I hope after listening you love The Beatles as much as I have grown to love them because as the Fab Four said, “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see” And the day you start listening to The Beatles you’ll feel like your eyes have been opened and life will never be the same.