Looking to start in on the Beatles

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Sir_Elderberry
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Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:36 pm UTC

Bless me, music fans, for I have sinned. I don't listen to the Beatles. This isn't me averting hype by proclaiming that I listened to them and "eh, they're not that great." This is like, the only Beatles music I've been exposed to has been through popcultural osmosis. There's none on my iPod, none on my computer, none on my external HD. And somehow this feels like a great cultural ignorance on my part. So, where do I start? What album, compilation, or what have you?
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby gmm » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:43 pm UTC

I'm also a sinner, but I think a good album to check out would be Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as it is the best album ever according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Revolver, Rubber Soul and The White Album are supposedly quite good as they're all in RS' top ten.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Aethernox » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:47 pm UTC

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, most certainly, both from a musical and influential standpoint. From there, I would suggest Revolver and/or The White Album, and from there whatever compilation you would like; the amount of music released by the band is phenomenal, and for this reason Beatles compilation albums can be very helpful.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby kanavazk » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:53 pm UTC

I think you start with Sgt. Pepper, then listen to their albums from that point forward up to Let It Be, skipping Yellow Submarine. Then you listen to Revolver and work backwards or something. I dunno, but I think that seems right. My first Beatles album was Revolver, then I listened to LOVE, and then I did pretty much what I just explained. I'm not exactly a hardcore Beatles fan so I don't really know what you should do, because they're all pretty OK.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby tmcfulton » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:00 pm UTC

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR! That's where I personally started and fell instantly in love with them. I Am The Walrus, eh?
Honestly, you can start with Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The White Album, or Abbey Road: they're all so very good and indicative of their overall style. I personally wouldn't start with Let It Be, Phil Spector kind of fucked that one up (though it's still fairly good).

Pick any of their later albums and you can't go wrong.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby someguy » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:09 pm UTC

I suppose there are a number of ways. The most thorough would be to buy or check the albums out of a library one at a time, in chronological order, and give yourself a week or a few with each one. You probably won't get much from the first few ones, I don't remember the order in which they were released right n-- hang on, I need to know:

Please Please Me (Parlophone, 1963)
With The Beatles (Parlophone, 1963)
A Hard Day's Night (Parlophone, 1964)
Beatles for Sale (Parlophone, 1964)
Help! (Parlophone, 1965)
Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965)
Revolver (Parlophone, 1966)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone, 1967)
Magical Mystery Tour (U.S. only. Released as a Double EP in the UK) (Capitol, 1967)
The Beatles ("The White Album") (Apple, 1968)
Yellow Submarine (Apple, 1969)
Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)
Let It Be (Apple, 1970)

(I didn't bother to remove the parentheses after the titles, excuse that.)

Right. I would say, try Help! for a start. Many people would probably suggest starting right off with Revolver or Pepper or the White Album, but Help is the one in which they started getting interesting, to me; the earlier ones have lots of inconsequential boy-girl songs which you can afford to miss, at first.

Help is a fairly short album (I don't have it with me, but it's probably under 40 minutes; I used to have it on a C-90 cassette[*] along with Abbey Road, and Abbey Road spilled onto the Help! side) that still has a few of the earlier, sillier songs on it, but along with others which clearly show that the guys were 'turning the corner', so to speak.

Plus, if you choose to go on chronologically, you get to listen to Rubber Soul after that, which is probably their first seriously mind-blowing album, composition-wise. Then Revolver, then Pepper... they're all good after that point, really. Do leave Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Sub for later, though, they're a bit sub-par compared to the ones around them.

So, to sum up, my advice: chronological order starting with Help! and leaving out the two mentioned above. Then check out the earlier ones and the two you're missing, if you care. DON'T get a comp. It'll ruin the experience, you really need to hear the albums to get an idea of context, and of how they evolved-- dragging all of pop music behind them as they went along. Seriously.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:24 pm UTC

Alright. I wasn't sure how much a compilation would effect the sound--for example, I couldn't dream of listening to a Pink Floyd "greatest hits" album and getting the right effect. I didn't know if this would be similar.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby someguy » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:25 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:for example, I couldn't dream of listening to a Pink Floyd "greatest hits" album and getting the right effect.

Exactly.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby PatrickRsGhost » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:55 pm UTC

I started on Yellow Submarine when the movie was released to VHS back in 1999. A couple of years later, I then progressed to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, and The Beatles (White Album) simultaneously when I lived with my grandma. She had the White Album on LP, as well as Abbey Road, but Abbey was scratched all to hell.

You can buy the two Greatest Hits albums, but they won't give the same effect as would listening to the separate albums themselves.

A lot of the albums have songs that are meant to be played together. Abbey Road has two sets:

Sun King--->Mean Mr. Mustard--->Polythene Pam--->She Came In Through The Bathroom Window

Golden Slumbers--->Carry That Weight--->The End

In Sgt. Pepper, there are some liner notes that tell you which order some of the tracks were placed in on the original LP album. When the original album was produced, the tracks were put into order a certain way so that they blended into each other, and gave the illusion of being a live concert with the fictional Sgt. Pepper band.

If you get Yellow Sub, get the extended soundtrack, with the bonus tracks, released 1998/1999. The original movie soundtrack is okay, but it contains some of the instrumental pieces played throughout the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, then it won't really affect you.

I think George Martin did a better job as producer than Phil Spector did. Spector made their music sound too...I don't know, cheesy? Some of it was cheesy to begin with, but I think Spector over did it in some cases. To me, their earlier works sound too much like the bubble gum pop that was popular in the early 60s. It wasn't until Martin took over that they really began to experiment with different sounds.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby someguy » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:09 am UTC

PatrickRsGhost wrote:I think George Martin did a better job as producer than Phil Spector did. Spector made their music sound too...I don't know, cheesy? Some of it was cheesy to begin with, but I think Spector over did it in some cases. To me, their earlier works sound too much like the bubble gum pop that was popular in the early 60s. It wasn't until Martin took over that they really began to experiment with different sounds.

I hope I won't sound like a jerk for pointing this out, but Spector only worked with the Beatles once, on their last album-- Let It Be. All the others are Martin. The earlier, 'cheesier' as you call it production style must just have been a product of its time (redundant sentence is redundant.) There were, however, different engineers involved, which did account for (sometimes big) differences in the sound of the albums (Geoff Emerick starting from Revolver, for example.)
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:09 pm UTC

Can I meddle with the discussion a wee bit?

Okay, so here it goes: there is a two-volume compilation called Past Masters, and even though it's a compilation, it's essential to any Beatles interested person, because there is no overlap with the albums whatsoever, and it contains all of the essential singles and EPs, with their respective B-sides. Get both of them. The first volume has a couple of bizarre things, like some uninteresting covers of 50's and 60's rock 'n' roll standards and German versions (sic) of their two biggest singles, but it's a greay way to see what was the big deal about Beatlemania; volume two has their most solid phase, and along with the quintessential hits, there are a few great oddities like The Inner Light and You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).

The next step, in my opinion, is to go for the albums. A few good places to start are A Hard Day's Night, their first album consisting 100% of originals and with a constant succession of great songs; Rubber Soul, a hell of a catchy album that's experimental without being heavily serious about it; Revolver, which packs up everything the Beatles were about in their peak (though it's horribly overbearing).

While you're starting, try to avoid: their first two LPs, with its annoying covers and few dodgy originals; Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- yes, I said avoid Sgt. Pepper's Fucking Lonely Hearts Club Band, because unless you're a complete connoisseur of the music scene around that time, by the end of the album you'll be frustrated and wondering why THE HELL this is considered the best album ever (hint: there is NO 'best album ever'); the self-titled white record, which shows why bands shouldn't be proud for being "diverse". Abbey Road is great, but it's completely different from what they were doing until then, so it may be a bit misleading.

Overall, get Past Masters; there'll be no need to throw it away once you have all the albums, and the songs are very good.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Eliminator Jr. » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:12 pm UTC

The albums I have heard by the Beatles are Revolver, Sgt. Peppers and The White Album. I'd recommend getting all of those. And I've heard the song Magical Mystery Tour and if the album's anything like it I'd recommend getting that album as well.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Chfan » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:17 pm UTC

My favorite is by far Revolver. It has a nice weird, trippy feel to it.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby If Chickens Were Purple... » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:13 pm UTC

What this thread demonstrates quite well is that it doesn't really matter where you start with the Beatles, it's all fine. Some people don't like Let It Be and like half of all Beatles fans don't like Sgt Pepper, but even hearing those ones you'll get the idea. The chances are you've already picked an album now anyway; in which case hopefully you're enjoying it, but if you're not, keep going. Contrary to what various people trying to explain away their popularity would tell you, it's not particularly easy music to get into.

One thing I would say is to avoid dismissing their very early albums right away. I'm in a terrible position to talk about this at all, since the only pre-Rubber Soul album I have is With the Beatles, and I only got it recently. But I've already decided I like it better than at least two of their later-era records.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Scaredcrow » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:25 pm UTC

Revolver.... If you never pick up another Beatles album you must listen to this one. It is the peak of the Beatles career as songwriters. Sure, other albums may seem more creative or more exciting, but this is the purest, truest, and most complete songwriting they Beatles ever put down on one piece of vinyl. The albums prior to Revolver were created for mass consumption and were, therefore, overly poppy. After Revolver the music becomes more experimental, which is enjoyable, but the Beatles themselves were not working on the music together at this point. Revolver, Revolver, Revolver.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:38 pm UTC

The Beatles have lots of awful, awful pop, and some really, really good folksy stuff. One of my favorite songs ever is Norwegian Wood. While my Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Rocky Raccoon, uhhh... Yeah, those are a good start. Dr. Roberts is pretty funny.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby cypherspace » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:39 pm UTC

The Beatles changed dramatically during their lifespan as a band. Their early stuff is inoffensive pop-rock, largely based on rhythm and blues, but characterised with vocal harmonies, whereas their later stuff becomes much more surreal, with much more interesting chord changes, harmonies, melodies and lyrics. I think it's interesting to start with their early stuff and see how they changed as a band. So I'd go in this order, missing out a few albums:

Please Please Me
A Hard Day's Night
Rubber Soul
Revolver
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Yellow Submarine
Let It Be

You'll get a lot of their best stuff, and you'll certainly see how they evolved throughout. I think the only other band that I can draw a parallel with in terms of musical evolution is Radiohead - no others I can think of changed so dramatically.

EDIT: It might seem like a lot at first, I guess. But I'm basing this on your statement that it feels like you have a hole in your musical knowledge. You can patch that hole by listening to all of those - listening only to one era or one Beatles album doesn't show you why they were so important and influential in so much of 60s culture.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Skizzle » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:49 pm UTC

I think you have to listen to Sgt. Pepper of Revolver first just to get into your head exactly what a Beatles album sounds like when it flows really well. However, for pure enjoyment and diversity I really have to recommend The White Album, theres so many good tracks and they're so diverse, you can hardly not like any of them.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby 1337geek » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:59 pm UTC

There's nothing wrong with getting a compilation if you're looking to "start in." The 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 sets (known as the Red Album and Blue Album, respectively) will get your feet sufficiently wet. Then if you decide you like the stuff, go ahead and do what everyone else has said above.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Clumpy » Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:17 am UTC

Hmm. . . I actually think that Abbey Road is my favorite. It's awesome the whole way through and the second half is just sublime. There isn't a lame track on the whole record, unlike the needs-editing White Album or Sgt. Pepper's, which is more interesting as a historical piece than a "best album evar."

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Phill » Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:07 am UTC

Hmmm... my first Beatles album was 'One', i.e. all their number one singles on one disc. I still listen to it as well, so it's not necessarily a bad thing to get a compilation :) Then I got 'Love', Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road and Rubber Soul (in that order).

Doesn't really matter where you start I think, I just love all the Beatles stuff (well, most of it).

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Various Varieties » Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:29 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Can I meddle with the discussion a wee bit?

Okay, so here it goes: there is a two-volume compilation called Past Masters, and even though it's a compilation, it's essential to any Beatles interested person, because there is no overlap with the albums whatsoever, and it contains all of the essential singles and EPs, with their respective B-sides. Get both of them. The first volume has a couple of bizarre things, like some uninteresting covers of 50's and 60's rock 'n' roll standards and German versions (sic) of their two biggest singles, but it's a greay way to see what was the big deal about Beatlemania; volume two has their most solid phase, and along with the quintessential hits, there are a few great oddities like The Inner Light and You Know My Name (Look Up the Number).

I was surprised that Past Masters wasn't mentioned until your post, because that would be my recommendation too. Specifically, Past Masters volume 2, as it contains a good variety of everything: the killer riff (Day Tripper), the pop classic (We Can Work it Out), swirly psychadelia (Rain), the anthemic singalong (Hey Jude), the heavy rocker (Revolution), the George Harrison Indian one (The Inner Light), the blues (Don't Let Me Down), some acoustic storytelling (The Ballad of John and Yoko) and the weird bit of silly-voiced nonsense (You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)). All that, and Billy Preston!

Covers everything, really! A few of the songs that the topic creator has no doubt "absorbed through popcultural osmosis", and some more obscure ones he probably hasn't.

The only caveat is that several of its songs (such as Get Back and Don't Let Me Down) are also available on Let It Be... Naked, slightly different and with better sound quality (and, in the case of Across the Universe, at the right speed).

The next step, in my opinion, is to go for the albums. A few good places to start are A Hard Day's Night, their first album consisting 100% of originals and with a constant succession of great songs; Rubber Soul, a hell of a catchy album that's experimental without being heavily serious about it; Revolver, which packs up everything the Beatles were about in their peak (though it's horribly overbearing).

Overbearing? :?

Revolver would be my second recommendation. Not only is it my favourite of their albums, but like Past Masters vol 2, it contains a good mix: catchy rock (Taxman, And Your Bird Can Sing), storytelling (Eleanor Rigby), Lazy Lennon (I'm Only Sleeping, which I like even more than the white album's I'm So Tired) and psychadelia (Tomorrow Never Knows is still great, even if the impact of its production trickery has lessened over time).

While you're starting, try to avoid: their first two LPs, with its annoying covers and few dodgy originals;

I'm rather fond of their early covers - especially Twist and Shout, Roll Over Beethoven and Money. With the Beatles also includes the fantastic All My Loving.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- yes, I said avoid Sgt. Pepper's Fucking Lonely Hearts Club Band, because unless you're a complete connoisseur of the music scene around that time, by the end of the album you'll be frustrated and wondering why THE HELL this is considered the best album ever (hint: there is NO 'best album ever');

But A Day in the Life! A DAY IN THE LIFE!

It's hard for me to look at Sgt Pepper objectively (cynics would suggest I can't look at any Beatles recording objectively...), because it was one of the Beatles albums I grew up with, as opposed to something like Abbey Road or Rubber Soul, which I didn't get to hear all the way through until university.

the self-titled white record, which shows why bands shouldn't be proud for being "diverse".

I've had my attempt at condensing it down to a single disc, as pretty much every fan has, but to be honest I wouldn't change it. I like its eclecticism. It's definitely their weirdest (spookiest!) album though, and more for those who want to keep digging into their song catalogue rather than newbies...

Abbey Road is great, but it's completely different from what they were doing until then, so it may be a bit misleading.

I would recommend leaving Abbey Road until later because then the emotional impact of The End will be greater if it really is one of the last Beatles songs you hear.


So, in conclusion: Past Masters volume 2 and Revolver.

While you're at it, pick up a copy of Ian MacDonald's fantastic book Revolution in the Head, too! (Amazon.com, Wikipedia) You'll find you'll disagree with a lot of his points, but it's an extremely impressive work which can only enhance your appreciation of the music.

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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby RoadieRich » Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:41 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:Alright. I wasn't sure how much a compilation would effect the sound--for example, I couldn't dream of listening to a Pink Floyd "greatest hits" album and getting the right effect. I didn't know if this would be similar.

Echoes?
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Wed Jan 21, 2009 12:25 am UTC

RoadieRich wrote:
Sir_Elderberry wrote:Alright. I wasn't sure how much a compilation would effect the sound--for example, I couldn't dream of listening to a Pink Floyd "greatest hits" album and getting the right effect. I didn't know if this would be similar.

Echoes?


I'm aware that such a thing exists, but I haven't heard it. (I assume you mean the greatest hits album, not the song. Obviously I've heard the song.) I'm just saying that most of those songs work better in context. I heard Comfortably Numb before I heard the rest of the Wall, and it's way better as a part of the whole.
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Re: Looking to start in on the Beatles

Postby PatrickRsGhost » Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:52 am UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:
RoadieRich wrote:
Sir_Elderberry wrote:Alright. I wasn't sure how much a compilation would effect the sound--for example, I couldn't dream of listening to a Pink Floyd "greatest hits" album and getting the right effect. I didn't know if this would be similar.

Echoes?


I'm aware that such a thing exists, but I haven't heard it. (I assume you mean the greatest hits album, not the song. Obviously I've heard the song.) I'm just saying that most of those songs work better in context. I heard Comfortably Numb before I heard the rest of the Wall, and it's way better as a part of the whole.


One of the best songs off that album isn't by Pink Floyd the band, but by Roger Waters, and often performed at Pink Floyd concerts, and was used in the movie The Wall. The song? "When The Tigers Broke Free". Very moving song.

A lot of the Beatles' songs could be played in context versus listening to the entire album. Magical Mystery Tour has several songs that can be listened to by themselves, since they don't tie in to each other, as does Sgt. Pepper ("She's Leaving Home", "Lovely Rita", and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" are my top faves from that album) and The Beatles (White Album). The Red and Blue albums have selections from a lot of their albums, and are set up in such a way that if two or more songs are meant to be played together, they are listed in the proper order.

Back to Sgt. Pepper: "A Day In The Life" is sometimes played on radio stations along with "Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)." The reprise sounds like the first track, but it's the closer for the "concert" of the fictional band. "Day" would be the encore/closer song.

The following song collectives are often played on radio stations, whether they're terrestrial (AM/FM), or satellite (XM or Sirius). Most can be played separately:

Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Songs:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band + With A Little Help From My Friends - On the CD, the second track begins when the band introduces the singer, Billy Shears.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) + A Day In The Life - Really, the song "Good Morning" should be included in this set, since the animal sound effects the lads make carry over into "Reprise".

Album: Abbey Road

Songs:
Sun King + Mean Mr. Mustard + Polythene Pam + She Came In Through The Bathroom Window - These songs could really be played separately

Golden Slumbers + Carry That Weight + The End - See above, but the way they blend into each other, it's hard to not let them run separately.

These are the only ones I could find on the albums I have.

One of my favorite songs on Abbey Road that can be played by itself is "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". It's sort of a dark, twisted, but funny story.
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