A week is a long time. When we were here last, I’d finished telling you to buy all Beatles albums up to and including Revolver. Hopefully you’ve done that and have been spending your hard earned money and been rewarded with a positively perfect piece of musical history gold.
Now, I’m here to help you complete the next step in your Beatles back catalogue bonanza. By the end of 1966, things were changing: they had quietly given up touring, been on various holidays and John had even appeared in a film, ‘How I Won The War’. Even more momentously, they’d all had a bit of a haircut and grown moustaches. They were now in the process of recording what would become the ground-breaking album we all know as ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. And as if by sheer coincidence…
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
This album probably took the world by surprise more than any Beatles record had done. Gone were the breezy two minute pop songs, replaced by a cacophony of new sounds and ideas. From the opening sound of an orchestra tuning up leading into the drums and guitar intro of the the title track, you know this is something different and special. After the title track, you’ve got the sing-along ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ which is perfect for Ringo to sing (being as that was why it was written), followed by the controversial ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. Is it about LSD? Or is it merely based on a picture drawn by a young Julian Lennon of his friend Lucy? The BBC felt it was the former, and banned it. ‘Getting Better’ and ‘Fixing A Hole’ continue the album, leading us on to ‘She’s Leaving Home’ – Paul McCartney’s story of a girl sneaking out whilst her parents are still asleep to run away with a “man from the motor trade”.
Then you get John’s ‘Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite’, a smorgasbord of sound and noise, achieving the aim of actually sounding like the circus that John intended. More studio trickery and genius from producer George Martin, who was still guiding The Beatles through their musical adventures – helping them make the sounds they wanted. George Harrison’s only offering on the album ‘Within You Without You’ takes his Indian mysticism to the next level. This is followed by two chirpy efforts from Paul – ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ and ‘Lovely Rita’. As the album draws to a close, with ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ and the reprise of Sgt Pepper, we are then treated to the best song on the album. ‘A Day In The Life’ is a musical masterpiece that not only broke all boundaries, but picked them up, gave them a good slap round the face, then climbed into a juggernaut and ran them over again and again. And just when you think it’s all over, you get what could possibly be the world’s first ‘hidden track’.
Magical Mystery Tour
Released to coincide with the TV film of the same name, this was originally a double EP, but with the transfer to CD, the singles from around the time were added to make up a full album. Whilst the film was critically panned at the time, and left the public even more baffled than they were, the soundtrack album was still music to their ears. Stand out tracks for me are ‘The Fool On The Hill’, ‘Blue Jay Way’ (which incidentally is the name of my as-yet unproduced sitcom script) and, of course, ‘I Am The Walrus’. Add into the mix, singles ‘Hello Goodbye’, the forever brilliant ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the double A-side single that signalled the beginning of the era (but failed to reach the coveted Number 1 in the charts), ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’. It was always going to be difficult to follow ‘Sgt Pepper’ but this is a pretty damn good nontheless.
The Beatles (The White Album)
There are thousands of words in the English language, yet I struggle to find any good enough to describe this double album. The scale of it is mind-bending. Of the 30 tracks on offer, they all give something different. From ‘Back In The USSR’ to ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ via ‘Blackbird’ and the country rock of ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, Ringo’s first proper writing credit, after years of cleverly re-writing existing songs, much to the amusement of all! Then, when you change the record, you get battered over the head with songs like ‘Birthday’, ‘Yer Blues’, ‘Helter Skelter’, then soothed by ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ and ‘Good Night’. But only after the avant garde sound collage that is ‘Revolution 9’ – a Yoko Ono inspired John Lennon attempt at capturing the sound of revolution in action. Apparently.
It would be unfair of me to go on from this point until you’ve had chance to take it all in. I suggest you pop out to buy the albums featured in this blog, come back, find a darkened room somewhere and just listen. Then appreciate that this is music written and performed by people who weren’t even 30 years old at the time and had been through so much in such a short space of time.
When you’re done with these, I’ll finish the job off. And you had better be prepared for that!!!