I recently finished listening to the Beatles' back catalogue care of Spotify. I'm with the recently late always great George Martin in saying Abbey Road is my favourite, but all of them are excellent and most of them great. To be honest for me the key date for Beatles albums is the same key date for asbestos claims (only fellow industrial disease lawyers will appreciate this!)-1965. Don't get me wrong before 1965 the Beatles were a top top band. After all they were the first British rock n roll act to conquer the USA, bringing it back to it's original home. They had a real charisma and energy on stage with a bit of cheeky boy scouser charm thrown in. Alongside some excellent standard rock n roll covers they wrote some very catchy toe-tapping tunes and lyrics: She Loves You, Can't Buy Me Love, 8 Days a Week, A Hard Day's Night etc etc. But that's it. Lots of etc etc. Lots of really good tunes and lots and lots of rather cliche love song lyrics written to no girls in particular or perhaps to every girl. Very catchy but nothing very new or unique. For me it's 1965 where the Beatles started becoming truly great (Ironically or not also the year they stopped touring).]
It started with the album Help! and its title song. Finally, a song that really meant something to the writer John and not just another cliche love song. Some great (and more cliche stuff) in between and then Paul's haunting wistful Yesterday. And they followed up Help! with the superb Rubber Soul, still many people's favourite. It's full of really well-crafted songs with some slightly more interesting lyrics, even in the love songs like Norwegian Wood and Michelle and one of the first of their classic cameo characters songs, Nowhere Man (the one Beatles song my brother Frazer and I covered in our band in the '80s). And from that point on the greatness just flowed out of them. Through the brilliant and innovative album Revolver (another popular favourite) , their fantastic psychedelic gift to 1967 Sergeant Peppers (the album I was listening to in the womb). They followed up with the E.P. of the film Magical Mystery Tour (released 10 days before I was born). When later transformed into a whole album by pouring into it the "homeless" standalone classics like Strawberry Fields, it too was magicked into a great album (just ignore George's dreadful Blue Jay Way! )
In 1968 they brought us a very interesting album with a very boring plain white cover and no name . Later it was christened the White Album after the cover(and perhaps sowing in Steve Jobs' mind his vision of apple white, their record label having already inspired his future company's name!). They could have made from it one outstandingly great album that would have equalled any other (including George's best My Guitar Gently Weeps). Instead they mixed with the great songs some bizarre and mediocre stuff like Revolution 9. And then to their apotheosis 1969's Abbey Road (also Brian May's favourite). With two outstanding George songs alongside the Lennon & McCartney classics (and even Ringo chipped in with the chirpy Octopus's Garden). The highlight for me is the side two section mostly penned by Paul, starting with You Never Give Me Your money. Almost seamless brilliant music and lyrics. Rock and pop music doesn't get much better.
Their final album Let it be doesn't quite live up to what came before it. It lacks George Martin's touch but it has an endearing rawness to it and also hosts two of Paul's most brilliant masterpieces, the title song and The Long and Winding Road.
So many great songs. But who wrote the greater songs; Paul or John? That's easy. Paul of course ! Some people almost seem to have a bias towards John because he's dead, but I reckon if most people were to pick their favourite Beatles' songs, whilst there certainly would be plenty of John songs, like the brilliant A day in the Life and Strawberry Fields, there would be rather more Paul songs in there. Like Yesterday, Michelle, Hey Jude , Hello Goodbye, Eleanor Rigby , Let it be and most of Abbey Road. And if you judge them by what they did in the 10 years between break up and John's tragic early death, Paul's song writing knocks John out of the park. Sure John gave us Imagine but not much else, whereas Paul gave us at least two more great albums in Venus and Mars and Band on the Run and of course one of the all time favourite Bond film songs Live and let die. Why on earth hasn't Paul been made a Lord when you think of the pleasure his music has given and think also of some who have been ennobled? (no names mentioned Alan Sugar! ) Perhaps sadly we will only fully appreciate him when he's gone . Too late then to be made a Lord , but since he's a catholic the Pope will make him a saint?