The Beatles vs. Stones
I hate the question. Why can’t we be happy that we had and have both, that they are two very different bands. Everything has to be some sort of competition.
All I know is that I get so excited every time either one of them move up and I am about to play them. Every single time. Now there are other bands that I look forward to as well but both the Beatles and the Stones remain separate from all othr bands. They are unique, they are special.
They were hitmakers but after the movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help they settled in to become the greatest studio band ever, which meant that they could afford to be as creative and innovative as possible without the worry of having to promote an album with touring. So with the guidance of George Martin they settled into a partnership, they used different instrwauments, different sounds, different recording techniques and created some of the greatest albums including the greatest album ever made.
Now you want me to tell you what that album is, or maybe you guesed from the title of the blog and you are already shaking your head no. I would not likely think about the greatest album ever made if I had not become so interested in acquiring all 500 albums on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albms of all time. So for the record I have listened to all the great albums and if you look at similar compilations from other publications you will find the top 10 or so pretty universal. My top 10 is close to these but not exactly and one of the primary places I disagree is what’s number 1. Most puplications including Rolling Stone will tell you its Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think the Beatles have made 4 pretty close to perfect albums and Sgt Peppers is one of them. It is an amazing album a journey and whether you believe it was fueled by drug use doesn’t matter one single bit. From the opening chords to the epic single note finish that echoes on forever it as as close to any definition of perfection that you can get. It is not my number 1, its actually number 3 on my list. I absolutely love it.
It isn’t Rubber Soul which is number 11 on my list but higher on most others. Its a great album, and it marks a sea change for the band. Listening to the Beatles the way I do chronologically it follows the movie albums and you can hear the dfferences in confidence. They were nearly done with touring and what you get is a more mature less hit driven album that is beautiful to listen to.
Now I have many friends who are into music to some degree, some a lot and some a little all the middle ground as well and many will argue that their favorite album and the Beatles best is the White Album. To me the White Album is actually one of the worst albums the Beatles did. If you want to know where the breakup started well there you go. The White Album is a hodge podge of over 30 songs stuck together with little rhyme or reason. You can hear Yoko throughout the album. It was the first time an outsider had been allowed into the studio and Yoko did her thing, drivng wedges to John’s heroin addled amusement between all the members of the band. John treated everyone badly especially George who was his favorite to pick on. He may have written the greatest song ever and is loved for his songs of peace and love but in fact John was a horrible human being an abusive father, and husband a horrible friend and bandmate. He found the perfect woman in Yoko just as lousy a human being as he was. John threatened to quit daily and George Martin left unable to stand the spectacle any longer.
The Beatles should have done a better job of regrouping after they completed the album. Instead they took very little time off and did nothing to heal the rifts created in the recording process of the white album. When they returned to the studio Ringo was battling his own addiction issues, John still didn’t want to be there and George seethed with anger at everyone especially Paul and his optimistic attitude that the answer was making another album. Within just a few weeks everyone had walked out at least once and they got nothing of use done so they shelved everything and left to lick their wounds. These recordings would be sifted through by Phil Spector and Let it Be would be the result. And no Let it Be is not my favorite either although I think Phil Spector did a great job.
Some how, some way the individuals found it in themselves to come back and try again. They did their best to make up and move forward and the result is one of the great compromises in music history. Side A was John’s with contributions from George and Side B was Paul’s again with some help from George. The result was something magical, something nearing perfection and to rival anything they had ever done before; Abbey Road. It has one of the great rock songs that I think was always perfect for Steven Tyler who sang it years later Come Together. What person doesn’t love the medley on side 2 that continuous music that is impossible not to sing along with. I love Abbey Road but its still only 4 for me.
So what’s left, because the Beatles never recorded again as a band. Well you have to go back, back to 1966 after Rubber Soul. The Beatles recorded what may be considered the first real psychedelic album without really even trying. 14 of the most perfect songs ever to be found on any album anywhere, Revolver is my greatest album ever made. It gets you from the start, a George Harrison song Taxman. Then maybe the Beatles greatest song ever Eleanor Rigby, and its a story you follow you follow the intertwining lives the life and death wrapped up neatly in one package. It is simply full of great songs 3 alone by George Harrison and the overlooked song that I seem to always have trouble remembering the title Tomorrow Never Knows. Here, There and Everywhere, Yellow Submarine, She Said She Said, Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing, The conclusion of the album is a rock lovers dream, Doctor Robert, I Want to Tell You, Got to Get You Into My Life and the aforementioned Tomorrow Never Knows. It is a masterpiece written by four master craftsmen and one amazing producer. Every note is perfect and every lyric with multiple meanings and nuance. It is the greatest album ever made.