Saturday, September 19, 2009

Electric Arguments

It's hard not to get excited about the Beatles reissues, even if much of the attendant press has been atrocious.* By almost every account, the remasters sound brilliant, and I'm dying to hear them, if a few dollars short of the $300 price tag on the Mono Box.

The project has been an interesting look at what remains canon for the Beatles. The news isn't big--the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver remain definitive, the LP-length US Magical Mystery Tour gets the nod, that Christmas compilation is ignored (but unlockable in Beatles: Rock Band), Anthology versions are absent--but I was sad to see that the Red and Blue albums weren't remastered. As a refresher: the Red and Blue albums, officially known as 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, were a pair of 2 LP best-of's released in 1973. They ran through the Beatles music in more or less the order that a pop-conscious listener would have heard the songs.

They have their shortcomings, sure: Pre-Rubber Soul material gets the short shift; the White Album gets three songs (10% of the album) to Rubber Soul's six (43%), while Revolver is represented only by "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" (14%); the sequencing is chronological, except when it's not; and of course you could argue with the song selection. Personally, I'm astounded McCartney allowed the string-laden "Long And Winding Road"--which he detests--to close the Blue album. Why not close things out with "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)", the last Beatles song released at that point, a track the band had worked on for years, and a tune that showcases the Beatles influences and goofy brilliance? Alas, the Red and Blue albums don't challenge listeners with obscure cuts.

But the Red and Blue LPs represent just about the best way to listen to the Beatles. These days, you could easily assemble a playlist of your favorite Beatles tracks, but I challenge you to come up with a collection of tunes that coheres and flows as beautifully as either of these:
Red album, side two: "A Hard Day's Night," "And I Love Her," "Eight Days A Week," "I Feel Fine," "Ticket To Ride," "Yesterday."

Blue album, side two: "I Am The Walrus," "Hello Goodbye," "The Fool On The Hill," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Lady Madonna," "Hey Jude," "Revolution."
I still listen to those songs, in that order, when I need a pick me up. I don't think I'll stop any time soon.

In other news, it looks like Rutles fans will be waiting a while longer for the Mononucleosis Box Set.

*The awfulness of the Times' Rock Band piece, authored by black hole of insight and video game critic Seth Schiesel, and the Star Tribune's review of the remasters, written by some guy called Chris Riemenschneider who managed to land a gig at the once-respected newspaper, is so apparent I need only link to them. The latter is particularly hilarious, and inspiration for a feature on this blog I may or may not follow through with. It'd be called "Review Of Reviews," in debt to a brilliantly-titled journal of the 1890s, and would be exactly what it claimed to be.


  1. As an antidote to the footnote, I found Tom Ewing's Pitchork reviews on the early Beatles records excellent. And Chuck Klosterman's history-rewriting analysis in "The Onion" made me laugh out loud at least 5 times.

  2. I've been thinking of doing a post about the order in which I would consider buying the new reissues, and why.

  3. I've also considered doing some sort of takedown of specific music reviewers and publications that deserve scorn--if you want any help from me on this project, let me know.

  4. You'd be welcome to do that on this blog--I'm not married to it being a single-author enterprise. Or if you just wanna run with the concept, that's cool too.

  5. It would be an honor to guest-blog--that would also give me the opportunity to review the Jack Black/The Edge/Jimmy Page documentary "It Might Be Loud" and perhaps leverage that into a critique of guitar culture.