Friday, March 21, 2008

No. 420: With The Beatles

Band: The Beatles
Album: With the Beatles
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The second Beatles album is some of the greatest early rock and roll on record.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Having this and "Meet The Beatles!" is overkill.
Best song: The whole album is great, but "Don't Bother Me" is a favorite.
Worst song: "I Wanna Be Your Man" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

I complained about having both "Meet The Beatles!" and "With The Beatles on the same list before. That was kind of stupid, because I missed an opportunity to talk about Beatlemania there and the actual album here.

So it goes.

Anyway, "With The Beatles" was the band's second record in Britain, so the craziness that met "Meet The Beatles!" wasn't evident with this record. The tracklist is slightly different, as "With The Beatles" is the better of the two.

A few things to keep in mind in regards to the album:

  • There are several covers on "With The Beatles" and all of them are, in a word, awesome. "Money," "You Really Got a Hold on Me" "and "Please Mister Postman" are John-led songs that show his range. George tears through "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Devil in Her Heart" and Paul's often-overlooked softness peppers "Til There Was You."

  • "With The Beatles" also features the first Geroge-penned song, the angry "Don't Bother Me." It's snide and clever, as is George's way.

  • The album also features the first Ringo-sung song, the Lennon/McCartney track "I Wanna Be Your Man." The song was played by the Rolling Stones, released a month before the Beatles' version, and was a hit single for the Stones.

"With The Beatles," like "Please Please Me," doesn't have the depth of "Revolver" or "Rubber Soul," but the record is the near definition of early rock and roll. It's mop tops and dancing and girls screaming and suits and excellent harmonies. It's harmonic guitar lines and 4/4 Ringo beats. It's not "A Day in the Life," but no one was doing records like that in 1963.


And we've come to the last Beatles record on the list. The Beatles are, in my mind, the greatest rock and roll band in history. The Rolling Stones had more of an edge, Led Zeppelin were more of a one-trick pony and the Who became self-indulgent and pompous after a few years. The Kinks were more clever, but also considerably less catchy and interesting.

I love Pink Floyd and I consider Floyd to be a more challenging and interesting band. I often cite Floyd, Mogwai and Tortoise (as you can see on this site) as my favorite three bands, but those three are my favorites with the assumption that I consider the Beatles the greatest band of all time.

I've never not been in a Beatles mood. There is, basically, no emotion that can't be amended, fixed or helped by a Beatles song. The Beatles ruined love songs for me because they wrote about 95% of the greatest love songs, including two of my favorites ("I Will" and "Something"). The band's ability to create those records at such young ages astonishes me.

As we saw with "Band on the Run," the whole was always greater than its parts. Even the best post-Beatles work by any of the four -- in my eyes, George's "All Things Must Pass" -- isn't near even mediocre Beatles songs. Even though John and Paul mostly wrote on their own post-1965, the songs got clear input from both songwriters. And each had their strengths to the process.

And the songs were unparalleled. Any Beatles record stands up to just about any band. They're the best.


kellydwyer said...

I (tried to, the MS software sucks) convert my LP of this one to mp3s last summer, and gave it a listen for the first time in ages. One thing that stood out was the almost proto-metal guitar solo on "I Wanna Be Your Man." Never really noticed that before.

Barbara - Layla said...

YES! Seeing this album cover brings back a rush of memories for me. I actually have this album, an original, from 196?. I was a little girl, about 4 years old, when I saw the Beatles with my dad on the Ed Sullivan show. He had this album and it sat in the front of his stack of records for my entire childhood so I would see it daily.

All the songs on this album are great. They changed the music world when they came on the seen and I am not ashamed to admit I am old enough to remember it :)

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing: we should really be careful about calling the Beatles the greatest rock and roll band, or even a rock and roll band at all. They are a pop group who makes a few songs that are considered rock and roll. Good as those songs are, that doesn't make them the best rock and roll band in the world, and that is extremely insulting to the bands that are rock and roll, and not this thing called pop that the Beatles revolutionized.

And I'll get off my soapbox now.