The Beatles

1966: Parlophone/Apple CDP7 46441 2

  1. Taxman
  2. Eleanor Rigby
  3. I’m Only Sleeping
  4. Love You To
  5. Here, There, and Everywhere
  6. Yellow Submarine
  7. She Said She Said
  8. Good Day Sunshine
  9. And Your Bird Can Sing
  10. For No One
  11. Doctor Robert
  12. I Want to Tell You
  13. Got to Get You Into My Life
  14. Tomorrow Never Knows

I have a really tough time with the Beatles. On the one hand, they were revolutionary and prolific songwriters. On the other hand, they often sang so badly off-key it brings tears of pain to my eyes, and they wrote some appallingly fluff pop. So even though it’s blasphemous as well as tacky to say, I confess the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton did a better job with some of their songs for that ghastly movie of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in the late ’70s. (And I hasten to emphasize the word “some,” there, although Mrs Miller’s unforgettable rendition of “Hard Day’s Night” stands in a category of its own [thankfully].)

This album is a good example of what drives me batshit about them: some great great songs diminished by imperfect pitch and lazy “stylized” singing, some possibly-great songs putting ideas into tantalizingly brief forms, and some complete crap. And then there’s “Yellow Submarine” in the next category down.

But “Taxman,” “Doctor Robert,” “She Said She Said,” and “Love You To” are so close to the genius level of pop it’s aggravating. I suppose if I’d heard them at the time, on the equipment of the time, I might have a higher opinion of them. Then again I might just be pissed off at The Beatles for so nearly killing the US folk scene.

In the meantime I find myself in the embarrassed position of having to prefer other peoples’ cover versions of some of their songs, versions which bring out the quality that was written in and never achieved in the original recordings—Phil Collins made “Tomorrow Never Knows” almost a work of art on Face Value, for example, whereas here it’s an experiment just flung at us without much artistic presentation (and too trebly, to me). That track on this album is a complicated mess, combining as it does a lyric exhorting meditation while there’s drums hammering at your ears throughout and the sampled/backward tape loops whizzing by with trebly irritations, all of which hardly conducive to transcendence (let alone enlightenment). Maybe drugs were necessary. Mind you, I’m not saying “Tomorrow Never Knows”s is a bad track itself; it’s just a sonic pile of contradictions compared to its lyrics. And, having said all that, it is one hell of a good trip when heard on headphones.

At least Revolver provides a continuation of the shift initiated on Rubber Soul away from all that tosh of their earlier albums, although I can’t really describe most of this album’s content as deep even though it certainly goes deeper than that other stuff.