Before discussing my final three picks, I decided to rank the albums by adding up the ordinal values, then dividing by the number of tracks on the album; the lower the number, the better. I know this is particularly unfair to Abbey Road, since those brief tracks didn’t make the cut, but the suite would have fared far better, and the album still did quite well. And comparing ordinals, with no other weights, is bad math. Whatever.
These are the British albums, so these are the British release dates:
# Title Release date
1 Please Please Me 1963, March 22 -137/125.86 (14)
2 With the Beatles 1963, November 22 – 126 (14)
3 A Hard Day’s Night 1964, July 10 – 62.54 (13)
4 Beatles for Sale 1964, December 4 – 136.29 (14)
5 Help! 1965, August 6 – 86.64 (14)
6 Rubber Soul 1965, December 3 – 87.64 (14)
7 Revolver 1966, August 5 – 59.57 (14)
9 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967, June 1 – 92.54(13)
17 Magical Mystery Tour 1976, November 18 – 96.91 (11)
10 The Beatles 1968, November 22 – 123.5 (30)
11 Yellow Submarine 1969, January 17 – 141 (4)
12 Abbey Road 1969, September 26 – 118.47 (17)
13 Let It Be 170.33/155 (12)
28 The Beatles Past Masters, Volume One 1988, March 7 – 107.89 (18)
29 The Beatles Past Masters, Volume Two 1988, March 7 – 96.13/88.6 (15)
My affection for Revolver is well known to me, but A Hard Day’s Night did amazingly well. I prefer Rubber Soul to Help! as an album, but I was feeling burned out at the time over some of the better tracks on RS (In My Life, Norwegian Wood, Michelle). And unsurprisingly, Let It Be did poorly.
Notes: Magical Mystery Tour was released in the US in 1967, but it wasn’t considered as part of the canon in the UK until nine years later.
Wow: With the Beatles, the album that spawned many of the songs from the US Meet the Beatles, was released on the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination. The sociological implications…
The albums with two numbers involved me substituting a different version of the same song; all the second versions ended up at end of the list.
Album #8 is A Collection of the Beatles Oldies (But Goldies), 1966, December 10, which essentially served the same function as Past Masters 1 did years later.
3 Help! from Help! A little after 09/09/09, my daughter and I watched the movie Help!, her for the first time, me for the first time since watching a quadruple feature of A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine and the ever depressing Let It Be in the early 1970s. Help!, which I also saw when it first came out in 1965, was less good than I remembered it. But I fell in love with the music all over again. This specific song my daughter knows all the lyrics to, without either encouragement or prompting from me. Moreover, I connect with the notion of Lennon actually making the song a cry for help, overwhelmed by making records and movies, touring, et al. Also, if one were on an island, needing help seems quite appropriate.
2 Got To Get You Into My Life from Revolver. Imagine, if you will, a teenage boy home alone in the late 1960s playing a great album. This McCartney song comes on, and he’s enjoying it well enough. But as it gets to the final chorus, he starts slowly increasing the volume, making the horn so resplendent in his ears and down his spinal column that he practically weeps for joy.
1 Tomorrow Never Knows from Revolver. So the stereo is pretty loud when the last song, by Lennon, comes on, and he’s utterly transfixed by the backwards tape, the chanting. Totally mesmerizing. Ultimately, the bass/drum section could be applied to any number of Beatles songs. Try singing A Hard Day’s Night or any number of other songs to it; it works. I realized this when I heard the LOVE album, and the mashup of Within You Without You with Tomorrow Never Knows really elevated my appreciation of the former, and in doing so, stoked my appreciation for the latter. Heck, it even goes with Jingle Bells. Some background on one of the most audacious recordings the Beatles would ever attempt.
Well, that was fun. Or something.