This is largely off-topic for this blog, but I’m doing it because it seems like it will be fun. I’ll throw in some scans of cards from the 1993 River Group “The Beatles Collection” set just to keep it somewhat relevant.
Card collectors talk about building “Frankensets” where you fill a binder with cards from assorted sets numbered as if it were the same set; a card #1 from one set in the first pocket, card #2 from another set in the next pocket, etc.
In a moment of daydreaming, I decided to apply that concept to Beatles albums… To make one 14-track album out of the 12 Beatles Albums by selecting the best first track, the best second track and so on up to 14. I’d be excluding the post-breakup albums (Anthology, Hollywood Bowl, Love, etc.), the half-soundtrack “Yellow Submarine” album, and the “Past Masters” collections of singles and EP’s. This admittedly leaves out a lot of great songs (“She Loves You”, “I Feel Fine”, “Day Tripper”, “Paperback Writer”, etc.), but the competition will be fierce enough as it is.
This is clearly an objective exercise, so I’ll tell you up front where my Beatle tastes lie:
- The period from “Help” to “Revolver” as the absolute pinnacle of Beatledom.
- Sgt. Pepper is a bit overrated and overplayed.
- Over time I’ve grown to generally prefer John over Paul… Partially because some of Paul’s bigger songs had a limited (although very large) number of listens in them, and I’ve passed that point for songs like “Yesterday”.
Fear not, there’s also going to be a poll at the end of each post, plus the comments, so that you can let me know what an idiot I am for picking a particular track. At the end of all this, we’ll have two different FrankenAlbums: “Yours” and Mine.
I’m going to choose my tracks in a tournament format. First, I’m going to do a sort of March Madness “Play-in” matchup between the two disks of the “White Album”. After that, I’m matching the tracks up as if they were seeded by release date. So, Track 1 from “Please Please Me” (the first album) goes up against Track 1 from “Let It Be” (the last album); “With The Beatles” (2nd album) goes up against “Abbey Road”… you get the idea. Then the winner of “Game A” goes up against the winner of “Game F”, “B” against “E” and “C” against “D”. At the end of that round we’ll have three tracks from which I will pick the “winner”.
Now that this is out of the way, let’s get to today’s matchups. The first track is a tough one, because we’ve got four title tracks in the competition and you know those tracks are going to be big songs.
White Album Play-in Round:
“Back In The USSR” (White Album Disc 1) vs. “Birthday” (White Album Disc 2)
Right off the bat we’ve got two well-known Paul songs. Both songs are worthy, but I’ll go with the slightly-less-fluffy Beach Boys homage/parody.
WINNER: “Back In The USSR”
“I Saw Her Standing There” (Please Please Me) vs. “Two Of Us” (Let It Be).
“Two Of Us” is one of my favorite songs off of the “Let It Be” album, but I can’t in good conscience go against “I Saw Her Standing There”. One two three FOUR!
WINNER: “I Saw Her Standing There”
“It Won’t Be Long” (With The Beatles) vs. “Come Together” (Abbey Road)
Very little deliberating on this one.
WINNER: “Come Together”
“A Hard Day’s Night” (A Hard Day’s Night) vs. “Back In The USSR” (White Album)
In the end, I have to go with The Beatles being The Beatles, and not being The Beach Boys.
WINNER: “A Hard Day’s Night”
“No Reply” (Beatles For Sale) vs. “Magical Mystery Tour” (Magical Mystery Tour)
This was a tighter contest than you might think, but in the end the more famous track wins out.
WINNER: “Magical Mystery Tour”
“Help” (Help) vs. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club’s Band (Sgt. Pepper)
Help is an all-time favorite, whereas Pepper is a song I’ve grown a bit tired of over the years. For many people this would be a hard choice, but not for me.
““Drive My Car” (Rubber Soul) vs. Taxman (Revolver)
Another tight contest, but I can’t resist the snark and George will need all the wins he can get.
“I Saw Her Standing There” vs. “Taxman”
…But Taxman doesn’t make it past the second round. Both songs have great count-ins, but “I Saw Her…” is more iconic.
WINNER: “I Saw Her Standing There”
“Help” vs. “Come Together”
As I mentioned, middle-period Beatles (Help through Revolver) is king in my book.
“A Hard Day’s Night” vs. “Magical Mystery Tour”
In a matchup of movie title tracks, Hard Day’s ebullience wins the day.
Championship Round: “I Saw Her Standing There”; “Help”; “A Hard Day’s Night”
Oy, this is tough… But I’ve got to go with “Help” over the other two…. Especially if we cheat and include the ‘James Bond intro’ that was on the U.S. Album. I know it’s soundtrack music and not anything the Beatles actually performed or desired to be on their album, but I grew up with that intro always leading into “Help” and it’s *my* FrankenAlbum, so there.
And now, here’s your chance to be heard. You may, of course, express your disdain and incredulity over my pick in the comments, and you can vote for your own track. You have one week to vote (if I’m setting this up correctly) and I’ll share the winner in the next post (which hopefully will be next Saturday, depending on how quickly I can turn these things around).