What’s the best Beatles album? Wrong!
As my wife, or anyone that’s had a beer with me, will tell you, I bear the onerous burden of walking this world, being right. About everything. For example, I can say with some authority that the Beatles are the best rock band ever, and your opinion about them is wrong. Sorry, that’s just the way it goes.
If you have an opinion about the Beatles at all, odds are, you fall into one of three camps:
- You think they are a bad band, and that some other, roughly contemporary act (The Stones, The Velvets, The Who, The Kinks) is better.
- You have a passing acquaintance with their work, but know for certain that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is their best record.
- You’re a fanatic, and you’ve determined that their early records are all trash, and that they didn’t start being good until they got into drugs and wrote Rubber Soul.
You are, of course, wrong about all of these things, but especially the last one. The Beatles’ best record–their only perfect record, in fact–is A Hard Days Night.
Yep, you heard me, A Hard Days Night, the one your mom (or, more likely, grandma) liked. Not Sgt Pepper, not Abbey Road, not even Rubber Soul. So what makes that record so great?
1. No Covers
Hard Days Night was the first Beatles record to date, and the last until Rubber Soul, with all-original tunes. Not to say that the Beatles’ takes on rock and roll standards aren’t phenomenal. Only that there is no recording of “Mr. Postman” that will be better than “Anytime At All”.
2. No Ringo
Better. They would be better. Which brings me to my third point . . .
3. No Novelties
The Beatles are credited, fairly or unfairly, with “inventing” the album as we thought of it for the last 50 years or so, and much of the reason that Sgt. Pepper gets as much credit as it does is that it was a aesthetically unified album. But if you look at the band’s previous outings, Rubber Soul (especially the American edition released on Capitol, which, if it were “canon”, would easily top the charts), and, yes, A Hard Day’s Night have equal claim to being the first “real” Beatles records. Why? Well, other than having no covers and no Ringo songs (see above) they have no novelty songs.
Now, I don’t necessarily mean “novelty song” in the Dr. Demento sense (though, in some cases, I do *cough*“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”*cough*), but songs that fall well outside of the tone set by the surrounding album. These songs could be the musique concréte indulgence of “Revolution No. 9” or the ragafied meandering of “Within You Without You”, the incongruent singalong of “Yellow Submarine” or the Mellotron drenched filler of “Flying”. These aren’t bad songs by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re still jarring speed-bumps that interrupt an otherwise-coherent stylistic narrative.
And so it is that, without so much as mentioning the merits of more than one song on the album, we arrive at a kind of mathematical certainty that A Hard Day’s Night is the best record released by the Beatles. It’s a sort of pop musical tautology, a platonic ideal of mop-top Merseybeat.
Do you disagree? Go ahead, prove me wrong. I’ll just be over here, working on my next piece in which I will demonstrate that Paul is better than John. ^Mike