Being born in the 70’s I’ve been aware of The Beatles and the individual members all of my life but never really gone out of my way to listen to them. Of course it didn’t mean I didn’t hear them on the radio, TV, films or being covered by other artists so it was hard to not be at least familiar with some of their output.
However it wasn’t until the 2010 reissues of the Red and Blue albums that I decided to dip a toe in and buy some of their albums. For quite a while I thought this was all The Beatles I needed. This changed one day in late 2019 when I saw several of their studio albums going cheap in my local Sainsbury’s: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road and Let It Be. At this point I knew enough that Sgt Pepper was not only revered as one of, if not the best, albums by the group themselves but also possibly of all time. Based on that I thought it was worth a punt as my first Fab Four studio album proper.
Long story short, I loved it and decided it was worth taking a chance on the other albums I’d seen too. Enjoyed them just as much although found Let It Be to be a bit of a come down from what went before. Although further reading lead me to realise this was not much of a surprise. Anyway, from here I quickly picked up the White Album as the missing main album in the run of albums I now had. For about a month I immersed myself in this new found music when HMV had a price crash on Beatles albums. Striking quickly I picked up all the missing studio albums plus Past Masters.
I’ve been enjoying them ever since. Key takeaways for me which may seem obvious were that I finally better understood why The Beatles have the reputation they have. I was aware of it, of course, but without really immersing myself in the music I had no way of understanding exactly what influence they had. I’d always been wary of people my age or younger who would state that The Beatles were the best band ever in their opinion. I’d always wonder whether they had truly come to that opinion themselves or were they influenced by what history told us. Having worked my way through their catalogue I got it. Not only did I now appreciate how they developed in such a short period of time but I also realised how – from Rubber Soul onwards at least – what they were doing to resonate into other post-Beatles bands I was a fan of – both subtlely and not so subtlely – in terms of the range of song writing, album construction and sound. Rubber Soul particularly seems to me to be the major blue-print for Brit Pop which wouldn’t happen for another 30 years.
Final note: For what it’s worth all the albums I purchased are the 2009 Stereo remasters. I mention that here as I know this is a big deal for some people. I don’t particularly consider myself to be an audiophile but I am certainly aware of the ‘loudness wars’. Regarding these particular ‘remasters’ they sound fine to me. While I haven’t heard the original 1987 Beatles CD’s – and I don’t really have the time and inclination to search them out – I have heard other CD’s of the era which perhaps could benefit from a little extra depth, clarity and punch. I have certainly heard some modern CD’s which do sound as though everything is turned up to 11 and therefore lacking any sort of nuance. I don’t get that with these.
As to the other part of the statement ‘Stereo’. I do understand the history in that the majority of these albums were made to be heard in Mono and the Stereo was an after-thought with a lot less time and thought put into them. That being said, considering the limitations of both time and technology, they don’t fail to entertain me. I still can’t quite get over how recordings that old can sound that vibrant, spacious and relevant. Yes, I initially found it strange getting used to what appeared to be a strange placement of instruments but I got used to it. I even realised how they must have influenced others: two Queen album tracks The Millionaire Waltz and Who Needs You immediately spring to mind.
Yes, in time I may feel the need to seek out the original Mono versions not to many of the other Beatles releases out there. But for now I really do feel I have all The Beatles I currently need.