We discuss "Dreaming the Beatles," a new collection of essays by Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield, for no other reason than podcast host Will Hines recently read the book and liked it.
BUT we quickly realize that the two men on the panel liked the book, whereas the two women very much did not. Coincidence? Or is there something in this book that annoys female Beatles fans?
We get into a topic we're all interested in: is there a difference in how male fans relate to the Beatles vs women? Isn't it annoying when you just want to say "I like the Beatles" and you're greeted with what amounts to a trivia competition? Why is it that the Beatles were launched to fame by an almost completely female fan base, yet every book about them seems to be written by a man?
It's not ALL gender issues. We also talk about Rob's unique approach to writing about the band. Instead of doing anything like a complete history, he presents a deliberately opinionated discussion of Beatles events. Will likes how emotional this feels, and thinks it captures a feeling of loving the Beatles better than a dry history. But Jen and Katie are annoyed that the author doesn't do a better job defending his assumptions.
A different subtitle might have gone long way. Instead of "The Love Story of One Band and The Whole World" it's more "The Love Story of One Band and This Author."
Alex loves the revelations this book has of some little talked about parts of Beatles history: George slept with Ringo's WIFE? The month before he died, John was talking about a reunion? WHAT?
And there are very interesting takes: that the Beatles were more influenced by girl groups than we have realized; that the 90s did as much for The Beatles as the 60s.
This is an extra long episode because 1) we like it and 2) we're not releasing a new episode for two more weeks as the host temporarily has a life/vacation/travels.
Panelists: Will Hines, Jen Krueger, Katie Plattner, Alex Scordelis
This episode is possibly a bad idea: we got four bass players gathered around our recording setup, and then our panelists spent an hour raving about Paul's bass playing. Slides, counter melodies, variety, liveliness, off-tempo, playing in the pocket -- and half the time he was singing the lead vocal, too. Spoiler: We think Paul McCartney is good.
Panelists: Thomas Halloran, Will Hines, Adam McCabe, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
And yes there is a jam of our first takes of Beatles songs -- as always in the easy-to-skip post-closing theme position! Though you risk missing Brett's pretty damn great first take of Hey Bulldog and my backwards talking on Rain. No hard feelings.
Friend, comedian and Beatlemaniac Wayland McQueen asks the panel fun "which song" questions:
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Adam McCabe, Wayland McQueen
Part 2 of the JOHN VS PAUL discussion!
What songs are examples of true collaborations of the JOHN and PAUL sensibility? We each pick an OBVIOUS one and an NON-OBVIOUS one! Will forbids choosing A Day In The Life, but then immediately caves and just plays it anyway! Post-closing one-take jams include bits of: I've Got A Feeling and I Shoulda Known Better.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
EMERGENCY EPISODE (er, kind of): We review the new remix of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! We get deep into audiophile things, talking about where the instruments are panned in terms of "left" vs "right" and the what the previous versions of this album were like (mono vs stereo), and what the difference is between "remastered" and "remixed."
We check out the extra tracks a bit, including the first take of "Lucy in the Sky."
It is nerdy and specific and fawning and fun. Stick around after the theme to hear Brett Morris noodling on his guitar and talking a bit about John's songwriting.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence
The start of season 2 of the podcast! We discuss JOHN songs vs PAUL songs. The panel each plays examples of:
--an OBVIOUS John song
--an OBVIOUS Paul song
--a NOT OBVIOUS John song, and
--a NOT OBVIOUS Paul song.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
Another special bonus episode in which the guest is my Aunt Sue, who saw the Beatles live on their first American tour when she was in the sixth grade. We talk about this momentous event, whether or not it was fair that she didn't bring her sister Carol, how she feels about various other events in Beatles history and how she was briefly engaged to Paul McCartney.
Bonus emergency episode! Ariana Lenarsky and Will Hines are here to alert the Beatles community about this question: which TLC song lifted from Paul McCartney?
Abbey Road. How did we ever think there was an album better than this? Our panelists enter into a state of transcendental bliss as they listen to the entirety of this, the last album the Beatles recorded. We realize that we have loved this album our whole lives. Every track we find ourselves saying "oh, no, THIS one is our favorite." It doesn't seem to get old. The Beatles (+ producer George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick) use everything they've learned along the way -- and they've learned a lot. In just 7 years, the band has evolved from a merely brilliant blues-rock cover band into the greatest team of songwriters, performers and studio producers that has ever been known in pop music.
"Come Together" "Something" "Here Comes the Sun" "You Never Give Me Your Money" "Oh! Darling" "Because" "Golden Slumbers" "The End" - These songs are perfect ideas, made better by performance, better again by production and better yet again by being in proximity to each other. This is a perfect album. We will hear no dissent.
After this, they broke up.
This is the end of Season 1 of our podcast. There will be a Season 2. Stay subscribed to hear details once we've figured that out. Thank you so much to everyone who has listened to any of these episodes!
Panelists: Curtis Gwinn, Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Joel Spence.
Our panel dissects the strange album that is Let it Be. Part live album, part throwback, part new songs, part movie soundtrack - what IS it? Something like 10 producers worked on it (2 mostly) and it didn't even come out until after the Beatles broke up. (We're covering it now because we're doing the album in the order they were recorded, not released).
We still like it a lot.
Our panel also gets into what the sexiest Beatle song is, that Paul McCartney is Jackie's real dad, that Heather has weird taste in what counts as a sexy song, and that the song Let It Be is one of the most perfect songs ever.
Panelists: Lynsey Bonell, Jackie Johnson, Jen Krueger, Katie Plattner, Heather Woodward.
We get into the half-album Yellow Submarine. Not so much the movie -- more the album that came out with the movie which had a bunch of re-releases (title track, All You Need Is Love), some fun deeper cuts (All Together Now, It's All Too Much, Only A Northern Song) and then one of the coolest songs the Beatles ever did: Hey Bulldog.
Just like the album, this episode is a bit of mish-mash since we also go back and cover a bunch of singles we skipped on previous episodes: some early B-sides as well as Long Tall Sally and Lady Madonna.
We pose and then do not answer several questions like: which Beatles songs are fun for kids? Why does George complain about money so much? Did Yoko being in the studio make John want to show off for her?
Panelists: James Bachman, Will Hines, Jen Krueger, Joel Spence.
We continue on to the second disc of the White Album (or sides 3 and 4 to those preferring vinyl). We go over: is "Birthday" a great song (we say yes)? How great is "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey?" We also discuss the original lyrics to "Sexy Sadie," and which of the two "Revolutions" is better? Exactly how bad an idea was "Revolution 9?" Why did the mono version of "Helter Skelter" leave off Ringo's "I've got blisters on my fingers?"
And we ALSO go over the massive single "Hey Jude / Revolution" recorded during this session. I almost did a whole episode on this single. Another time.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Adam McCabe, Joel Spence, Heather Woodward
The Beatles double album, officially titled "The Beatles" but better known as "The White Album" because of its iconic white cover, is to many people the most special Beatles album of all. This is the one that feels personal, that you feel like only you understand and no one else. There's masterpieces, curious trifles, unfinished gems and a few damned silly tracks. Because it's a double album, we're doing two episodes to cover it. Today we go over Sides 1 and 2, which includes the jaw-droppingly great "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Blackbird," "Happiness is A Warm Gun," "Dear Prudence" and MORE AND MORE. Holy crap. Panelists: Manny Hagopian, Will Hines, Ariana Lenarksy, Adam McCabe, Joel Spence.
(audio re-mixed, yep yep)
MMT is one of the orphan albums -- not quite a full album, but certainly way more than an extended single. The presence of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" alone make this a must-have for any Beatles fans, but once you dig into the other tracks you find, as you almost always do with Beatles stuff, that everything is great. Except "Flying." No one really needed "Flying." Panelists: Will Hines, Jackie Johnson, Wayland McQueen, Joe Petric, Connor Ratliff.
At this point, we are just listening to these amazing albums and going "Wow." Sgt. Peppers was not just another amazing album, it was a transformative cultural milestone that officially cemented the "album" as a work unto itself beyond being just a collection of songs. The Beatles are at the height of their production capabilities, comfortably doing simply great blues-rock numbers like the title song, as well as professionally scored pieces like "She's Leaving Home," authentic Indian music with "Within You, Without You" and the mind-blowingly cool final track "A Day in the Life." Panelists: Will Hines, Curtis Gwinn, Joel Spence, Ariana Lenarsky.
After doing one of the best albums of all time with Rubber Soul, the Beatles follow with yet ANOTHER one of the best albums of all time: Revolver. The songwriting quality is just as high, and now they're pushing the boundaries of their style more than ever. Orchestral backing with "Eleanor Rigby," trippy free-flowing songs like "She Said She Said," the funky fuzz bass of George's "Taxman," the backing horns for "Got to Get You Into My Life" and of course the most experimental track they've done yet: "Tomorrow Never Knows." Panelists: Will Hines, Joel Spence, Brett Morris, Heather Woodward.
One of the greatest albums created by any band to this point, Rubber Soul is yet another peak for the Beatles. It was the first album where they set aside time in the studio to finish writing and developing the songs, and the extra attention shows. This is even though they still finished the album in, relative to modern standards, an insanely short period of time. As always, just a list of signature tracks should be enough to show how amazing this album is: "Drive My Car," "Norwegian Wood, "Nowhere Man,""Michelle,""In My Life" and there are more and more. This isn't even counting "We Can Work It Out," which was recorded with this album and released separately. Incredible! Panelists: Will Hines, Curtis Gwinn, Joel Spence and Ariana Lenarsky.
Help!, in addition to being an amazing album, is also representative of a transitional time for The Beatles: part "early" with songs like "The Night Before" and the title track, and part "middle" with mid-tempo grooves like "Ticket to Ride" and the instant-classic-for-all-generations-and-humans "Yesterday." Unsurprisingly, we love it all. Our panel of Will Hines, Adam McCabe, Joel Spence and Ariana Lenarsky get into this astoundingly great collection of songs.
The last of the truly "early" Beatles albums. Our panel of Will Hines, Joel Spence, Adam McCabe and Brett Morris get into it: the brilliant original songs ("No Reply" "Eight Days A Week" "I'll Follow the Sun"), the underrated deep cuts ("What You're Doing"), the covers, the country influence, the obvious fatigue that is setting in after their explosive first two years (two!) of recording.
Holy crap. Just three albums in and we are already at a masterpiece: A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. Spoiler alert: We love it. This is the first "all killer, no filler" album. It's so happy! But wait, it's sad! And holy crap: they had "Can't Buy Me Love" and also "If I Fell" on this album? And the title track? AND EVERY SONG? Panelists: Will Hines, Joel Spence, Curtis Gwinn, Ariana Lenarsky.
We get into the Beatles' second studio album "With the Beatles." We talk about how this album is a sort of B-side to the entire first album, and how amazing the song "All My Loving" is, and the amazing songs that were left off the album ("From Me To You" / "She Loves You" / "I Want to Hold Your Hand"). Was the intensity of Beatlemania in America a reaction to the assassination of the president? Or was the younger generation just so happy to tell its parents that time had passed them by? We also somehow talk about 9/11. I forget how that happened. Panelists: Will Hines, Curtis Gwinn, Joel Spence, Ariana Lenarsky.
We talk about the Beatles' first album: the incredible "Please Please Me." Recorded in a stunningly short 9 hours, this is the album that announced what would quickly become the greatest band in rock history. Although the band was still taking shape (Ringo, after all, had just joined the week before they recorded this), there is still plenty of evidence on this record of how great the Beatles were. What other band was writing so many of its own songs, never mind ones as great as "Please Please Me" (the song, obvs) and "I Saw Her Standing There." Who else was cool enough to cover Ray Charles and Carole King and Motown? Who could do songs in the style of classic standards like "A Taste of Honey" but also rock harder than all of Motown when John blows open "Twist and Shout?" Oh my God, look at me, this is just the first episode and I've already lost my mind. Panelists: Will Hines, Curtis Gwinn, Ben Rodgers, Ariana Lenarsky.