Saturday Side Trip: The Beatles FrankenAlbums, Track #2

Last week I started with the concept of a Beatles “FrankenAlbum”, an album made up of parts of other albums. I went through the first tracks on all of the original Beatles albums picked what I think is the best track and allowed you to vote on your own Track #1.

The winner of last week’s poll for Track #1 was “A Hard Days Night”, which took 40% of the votes.  You may remember that “A Hard Day’s Night” was one of my finalists, but I went with “Help”.

In this post we’ll be running through Track #2, and you’ll be voting again (if you want to, of course).  I’m also upping the ante with something I thought of shortly after the first post… more on that later.

As with last week, I’m doing this in tournament format, starting with a play-in to see which track will represent the “White Album”. I’m also giving this post a visual element by inserting images from the 1993 River Group “The Beatles Collection” set.

White Album play-in round:
“Dear Prudence” (Disk 1) vs. “Yer Blues” (Disk 2)
Do I pick the song John wrote about Mia Farrow’s sister, or the song John wrote which kicks ass and name-drops Bob Dylan?  Decisions… decisions… But I think Mia edges out Bob.
WINNER: “Dear Prudence”

First Round
“Misery” (Please Please Me) vs. “Dig A Pony” (Let It Be)
‘I Dig A Pygmy’, by Charles Hawtrey on the deaf-aids! (ha ha ha)  Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats.
“Dig A Pony” is just a better song.
WINNER: “Dig A Pony”

“All I’ve Got To Do” (With The Beatles) vs. “Something” (Abbey Road)
Do I even need to justify this one? This is even with “Something” wearing thin for me over the years.
WINNER: “Something”

“I Should Have Known Better” (Hard Day’s Night) vs. “Dear Prudence” (White Album)
The hand-wringing over the White Album track was for naught, because neither track stands a chance against one of my favorite Beatles songs. “I Should Have Known Better” may prove to be a tough track to beat.
WINNER: “I Should Have Known Better”

“I’m A Loser” (Beatles For Sale) vs. “Fool On The Hill” (Magical Mystery Tour)
Can an album track beat a well-known song? You betcha.
WINNER: “I’m A Loser”

“The Night Before” (Help) vs. “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Sgt. Pepper)
Another tough battle, but “The Night Before”, while a favorite, isn’t particularly notable in any way and I’ve got to give Ringo some love.
WINNER: “With A Little Help From My Friends”

“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” (Rubber Soul) vs. “Eleanor Rigby” (Revolver)
Both songs were very experimental for their time, (sitar for “Norwegian Wood”, a string quartet for “Eleanor Rigby”). If you don’t care for my “Norwegian Wood is just a better song” argument, then I’ll fall back on “Eleanor Rigby only has one Beatle on it” argument. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the song countless times over the years, but I almost prefer the Anthology version of “Eleanor Rigby” which has the quartet but no Paul vocals.
WINNER: “Norwegian Wood”

Round Two:
“Dig A Pony” vs. “Norwegian Wood”
“Dig A Pony” is cool, but…
WINNER: “Norwegian Wood”

“Something” vs. “With A Little Help From My Friends”
Ooh, an epic knock-down drag-out battle between George and Ringo! If I could use cover versions, I’d go with the Joe Cocker version of “With A Little Help”… but never fear, Ringo, you get the upper hand anyway.
WINNER: “With A Little Help From My Friends

“I Should Have Known Better” vs. “I’m A Loser”
Remember what I said before about “I Should Have Known Better”? It still stands.
WINNER: “I Should Have Known Better”

Final Round: “Norwegian Wood”; “With A Little Help From My Friends”; “I Should Have Known Better”
I knew going in to the FrankenAlbum concept that the final round was going to be tough through all 14 tracks, but maaaaan…. I’d probably have a different answer if I did this again next week, but I have to go with Norwegian Wood.

So… I lit a fire.  Isn’t it good?

What?  A THIRD FrankenAlbum?

After the first post, I had an idea for another FrankenAlbum, one made up of my favorite cover versions of Beatles songs.  For me to get through all 14 tracks, I’m counting on the fact that there are huge numbers of Beatles covers out there… I’ve yet to give thought to this past the first two tracks, so I don’t know for sure that we’ll have a palatable Beatles cover for every track. I’m telling you right now, I will pull the plug on this third FrankenAlbum before using something like “A Taste Of Honey” by the Ray Conniff Singers.  If you’re not familiar with Ray Conniff a) consider yourself fortunate and b) ask your parents/grandparents.

Since I had the idea after the first post, I’ll go back and do the first track.

Track #1 on the Covers FrankenAlbum is “Come Together” by Aerosmith… A song which, within the context of the awful, awful “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie of 1976, is meant to be loud and discordant… but is possibly the best song on the soundtrack (or maybe the best soundtrack song is Earth Wind And Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life”…?)

And Track #2 on the Covers FrankenAlbum is “A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker (which I’ve come to enjoy more than the original).

These two are pretty conventional choices, but I promise you that it will stray further afield than these two choices.

Poll time!  Make sure to vote on your choice for Track #2 on the Readers’ FrankenAlbum:

Saturday Side Trip: Track #1 From A Beatles “FrankenAlbum”

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”

First Round:
“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.
WINNER: “Help”

““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.
WINNER: “Taxman”

Second Round:
“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.
WINNER: “Help”

“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).



Off-Topic And Buying Time: My Bottom Ten Beatles Tracks

What are the 10 weakest Beatles tracks? That’s precisely the question I asked when I started pondering ways to write a quick post.

For the record, I’m limiting this to official releases through 1970. No “Free As A Bird” or “What’s The New Mary Jane” here.

1994 Topps John Franco

Revolution 9, from the album “The Beatles” (a.k.a. The White Album) – I can still remember the first time I heard this, I spent 8 minutes and 22 seconds waiting for the actual song to start… and then it was over.

Good Night, “The Beatles”  – As far as I’m concerned, the White Album ends with Paul’s little doodle after Cry Baby Cry:  “Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back…”

The Inner Light, B-Side to “Lady Madonna” – I first heard this in the early 1980’s, when I found the 45 at a yard sale. When I got it home and listened to it, the disappointment was palpable.
1972 Topps Paul Schaal

Till There Was You, “With The Beatles” – A show tune? Really? Well, I guess they needed something to play for the Queen.

Honey Pie, “The Beatles” – I would be far from the first person to state that The White Album is a tremendously uneven effort.

Mr. Moonlight, “Beatles For Sale” – The song doesn’t live up to John’s introductory wail.

1980 Topps George Brett

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, “The Beatles” – Years ago, this song would’ve fared much better. It has not aged well.

Bad Boy, originally on the U.S. album “Beatles VI” – not a bad song, but a relatively weak effort.

I Wanna Be Your Man, “With The Beatles” – This Lennon/McCartney song was recorded and released by the Rolling Stones a few weeks before the Beatles version.

A Taste Of Honey, “Please Please Me” – Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I have to say that Herb’s version is far better. Heck, I even prefer the version by The Hassles, a Long Island “Blue-Eyed Soul” band from the 1960’s that featured a young Billy Joel.

1993 River Group Beatles Collection #145

Please note that some decidedly odd tracks like “Wild Honey Pie” or “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” did not make the cut. Sue me, I like them….

…And I freakin’ love “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”!  Let’s hear it for Dennis! HA HEY!

So tell me I’m an idiot. Tell me I’m deranged. Tell me what Beatle-y travesty I missed while quickly whipping this post together.