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The Friday Morning Listen: The Beatles – The White Album

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OK, I'll just come right out and say it: I've never been a big Beatles fan. Or even a little one. I do realize the huge weight of their game-changing influence, but the music itself, with a few exceptions, never really resonated with me. The Beatles exploded onto the scene, transformed and vanished during the time span when the little boy version of me was more interested in playing baseball at all hours of the day. My first record player hadn't arrived yet, though it's tough to say that this is an issue of mere timing.

For many years, the only Beatles albums in my possession were Magical Mystery Tour and The White Album. They were from the small cache of records my sister left behind when she left the house at the age of eighteen. Magical Mystery Tour was fun because it was so odd. The same can be said of the latter record, though the straight-ahead rockers ("Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Helter Skelter," "Yer Blues," "Birthday") made more sense to me at the time than oddities like "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" or "Revolution #9." Over the years, I grew to like most of the other tunes as well. Some people (including George Martin) think this should have been a single album. Yeah sure, did we really need "Don't Pass Me By"? Personally, I could do without "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" but my thinking on the whole matter aligns more with McCartney: The White Album is a document of the times and is fine just the way it is.

Oh right, I do have Revolver on CD. Yeah, "Taxman" is a great tune and I'll gladly put up with "Yellow Submarine" to get to "Tomorrow Never Knows."

Now that the entire Beatles catalog has been remastered, there's a whole lot of bluster going on. This is indeed big news in the music world, just not in mine. A few years ago, during the big resurgence of Brian Wilson, I read (for what seemed like the 50,000th time) that he came up with Pet Sounds because of the cohesive nature of Rubber Soul. So I went out and bought that CD, as well as Abbey Road, Let It Be, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They're all pretty interesting, but they've pretty much remained on the shelf. I'm still sort of amazed that people think of Sgt Pepper's as the best rock album of all time. It's easily my least favorite Beatles record. Maybe you just had to be there.

The audiophile in me sort of wants to check out the mono remasters (yes, 'audiophile' and 'mono' in the same sentence does seem odd, but you'll have to trust me when I tell you that it makes sense) but that probably won't happen either because I'd have to shell out cash for the whole set. I'm not that curious.

The White Album fan in me is indeed interested in the stereo remaster so I'll have to make that happen soon. As for the rest of the catalog? I know all about unrestrained fan juice, so don't think that I'm trying to spoil the fun here (well OK, except for that Rock Band thing…yeesh, don't get me started). The Beatles were huge and their influence is undeniable. They just weren't for me.

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About Mark Saleski

  • I was trying to resist these when they were announced, figuring they’d either be completely unspectacular sounding or truly awful, also thinking that what we got on CD previously was a realistic representation of what the mastertapes had to offer, but once some clips leaked out my excitement returned. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the very early albums, but it’s nice to have them for the tracks that I do love.

    That said, after hearing the stereo set, I’m all in for mono, unless something comes up. I’ve already, uh, “heard” the mono set and it’s pretty incredible sounding. I’ve also never been a huge Sgt. Pepper’s fan but I liked this a LOT more in mono than stereo. And Magical Mystery Tour may be a bit of a new/old mish-mash, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.

    Abbey Road and Let It Be, the two that most people think are their “lesser” albums, are the two I really find to be a pretty incredible emotional one-two punch. If you’ve overlooked these or are missing them, I urge you to pick up them up, remasters or not (but I really suggest the remasters, obviously.) A coworker asked me what my favorite Beatles album was after listening to the set and I had to pause – I realized that not long ago I would be torn between Rubber Soul and Revolver, but today it’s the combination of these two.

  • Jay

    random question… but why remaster? Is it because they can clean up noise in the music or something?

  • I have to say that I’ve never thought of Abbey Road as one of the “lesser albums” (comment #1)…


  • JC Mosquito

    Old fashioned hard-panned left and right stereo is annoying, maybe even more so with the renmasters. I picked up the RM Revolver – tried to listen to it on headphones and had to stop. Bring out the individual mono albums!

    Actually take Let it Be….. Naked and Abbey Road and play them back to back – an incredible finish to their career! Like Zeppelin’s Song Remains the Same Soundtrack, Let It Be profits from a proper mix and becomes a different album – not a document of a band fallng apart, but a last hurrah before going out on top.

  • Norman Therun

    My personal favorite #1 is Abbey Road and then come White Album, Revolver, Let It Be, Please Please Me and then Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band together with Magical Mystery Tour (because Magical was actually what left out of Sgt Pepper’s).
    I don’t understand why people don’t like Let It Be. Well, even The Beatles thought it was not good and that’s why they were not so keen of finishing them. Imagine that. Songs that the Beatles thrown away for other band could be something to die for.
    Many songs that people don’t like were actually the reason why I fell in love with the band, songs such as Wild Honey Pie, Maxwell Silver Hammer, Revolution#9, When I’m 64, You Know My Name (Look Up The Number), Bungalow Bill, Everybody Got Something to Hide Except for me and my Monkey. Actually, these songs that really WOWed me. (the same way songs like The Great Gig in the Sky, Crocodile Rock, Tears of the Clown fascinated me)
    The Beatles are simply the greatest band ever walked this planet