The Beatles Discography Listening Party

Recently I was chatting with a friend about The Beatles, and was surprised that they only knew a handful of songs, and had never listened to an entire album! :scream_cat:

So I’m doing what any good friend would do, and instituting a full discography listening party to share the wonder of the most amazing musical progression of all time (not just the actual song content, but the recording techniques and everything in between).

Starting in October, I’ll be listening to each of the 13 proper albums (sans B-Side collection Past Masters) as listed on the Original Studio Recordings Wikipedia page.

It might sound like a lot, but most of the albums are well under 45 minutes :slight_smile:

I haven’t decided on an official schedule yet (or even organized this kind of ongoing listening party before) but rest assured that even if nobody joins me, I’ll be doing this anyways!

So, who’s up for listening to some most of the Beatles in October?

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I’m definitely down for this.

I’m in.

Up until my early 20s, I only knew their hit singles. Yesterday, I Want to Hold Your Hand, etc. I had no idea how deep the iceberg went. So one day I bought the White Album and am listening to it on the car ride back, and just hearing the intro to Back in the U.S.S.R blew my mind, and then hearing While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I couldn’t believe this was the Beatles; I thought they were just some saccharine pop band. After that I consumed as much of their stuff as I could.

I’m down for this too. I’m one of those people that only know a handful of songs and have never listened to one of their albums all the way through.

Have you seen the new film? Yesterday

It’s a comedy about someone who wakes up and no one has heard of the Beatles.

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Hey Mark, I did see it! A good date movie :slight_smile:
The roadie character reminded me of some of my old high school friends for sure…

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Sounds cool, I’m interested :+1:

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What stands out to you musically? Lyrically?
Which song is the keeper? Which would you cut?
What memories do the songs evoke?

My favorites are I Saw Her Standing There, because of the surf vibes, and Do You Want To Know A Secret, because of how it starts with minor chords then clearly becomes a happy pop song.

I think P.S. I Love You is the weakest song on the album. It feels like filler material, and the only thing I like about it is that it reminds me of Johnny Cash’s The Long Black Veil.

As much as I love the Beatles, this is one of my least favorite albums of theirs. You can tell they’re talented, and I think get a glimpse of where they’re going, but it sounds like so much other music released at that time.

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Sounds like we agree! P.S. is definitely the weakest… it definitely is a product of the time, but not that has the fun or interesting nostalgia going for it. The soul-style “You know I want you to!” at 1:25 feels forced.

While this is definitely their worst album, it’s super important to note that there are some cool things happening on it, and you have to listen to it in order to make the later stuff shine that much more!!

Here are my running “live tweet” notes:

“I saw her standing there”
I love the guitar solo. Right when it starts (~1:35) it sounds like George forgot he was going to play. The solo itself isn’t very good but that’s what makes it great.

“Misery”
I just picture the laughing they cut off after the “La la la la la” at the end

“Anna”
A pretty cool one with a great bass line. In some ways seems like a contemporary version of a song from the time.

“Chains”
I don’t particularly care for the harmonica in any of their songs. This song’s kind of ehh anyways.

“Boys”
Here’s the original by The Shirelles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnIhCCVmLEs

“Ask Me Why”
Better than the last couple. Guitar has some interesting moments.

“Please Please Me”
I like the way they sing the verses, with the monotone.

“Love Me Do”
My cousin played this song constantly when we were growing up, and I didn’t care for it much then or now.

“P.S. I Love You”
The pre-chorus change is nice. The cowboy style backbeat didn’t age super well.

“Baby it’s You”
Another Shirelle’s cover. Another solid bass part. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bjtnY45mY8

“Do You Want To Know a Secret”
My favorite on the album by far. I love the intro, the chord progression. The tentative lead guitar. The reverb on the backing vocal. Ringo’s drumming. The fade out.

“A Taste of Honey”
One of the first loops I ever played with was the guitar twang and “Do Do Do Do Dooo” part. The tempo changes are cool.

“There is a Place”
I like the chord changes, but a Weezer-style guitar solo instead of the harmonica would have gone a long way.

“Twist and Shout”
Cover of a cover! The original is weird: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsDpc-8iR8g. I really like Isley Brothers version, especially the horns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTaqn8_gMR0 but I think the Beatles did it best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvBCmY7wAAU

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Some of these songs are pretty ok (Twist and Shout, Do You Want to Know a Secret, Anna, etc), but some are really tough (Chains being the one I struggle with the most). I think that if this was the only album you had on a desert island you’d listen twice, say enough is enough, and throw it into the ocean.

Fun to relisten after not hearing it for 20 years or so!

02. With the Beatles (1964)

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What stands out to you musically? Lyrically?
Which song is the keeper? Which would you cut?
What memories do the songs evoke?

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I basically agree with everything said. Listening to in it’s entirety made me realize how doo-wop influenced they were early-on. The harmonies, hooks, rhythms and swing on a number of them sound very doo-wop-y to me.

“Love me do” – @taylor’s comment made me chuckle because it was one of the first songs I learned on harmonica as well. Listening to it more actively now – the bluesy harmonica riff on top of the vocal harmonies sounds a little strange. You don’t have vocal harmonies like that in blues (at least that I’ve heard). It works, just an interesting combination I guess.

Speaking of harmonica, I’m not sure why the Beatles and many other similar acts (thinking of Bob Dylan especially) at the time we’re so into it. None of them seemed to actually be able to play it too well, especially when compared to harmonica pros active around the same time (and before).

For me, the standout tracks are “I saw her standing there” and “twist and shout”. It seems like the rock n’ roll style they had on those tracks carried into their later work more than some of the other styles on this album.

You put it better about the harmonica part-- I don’t not like the harmonica in general, but like you said it doesn’t feel quite right, but “everyone else had one so we better get one too”.

Thoughts on 02. With the Beatles

“It Won’t be Long”
I love the call & answer “Yeah? YEAH!” and the chord changes, and the different backing vocals. Solid.

“All I’ve Got to Do”
The drums are super effective here. The start and stop syncopation. Also get some Zombies - Time of the Season vibes here 4 years earlier.

“All My Loving”
Saved by the jangly guitar strumming for sure.

“Don’t Bother Me”
It’s got some cool stuff happening, particularly with the guitar. I’ll be referencing this again later when we get to their tracks “The Night Before” (vocal line) and “I’m in Love with her and I feel fine” (intro guitar riff).

“Little Child”
The harmonica fits better here, but song is a bit of a throwaway.

“Till There Was You”
I always liked this one. The Spanish feel is nice. Pretty timeless, and you can hear the increase in the quality of the production compared to that last album.

“Please Mister Postman”
You can tell this Marvellettes cover was done out of love. It only makes sense to listen to The Monster Mash afterward.

“Roll Over Beethoven”
If this is the take they chose to keep for the opening riff, the others must have been really rough. George can hardly play it. Let Chuck Berry show you how it was supposed to sound 8 years earlier. Also a rough overdub on the closing chord.

“Hold Me Tight”
At 1:40 in, it sounds like it’s about to get cool. They should have just taken those two chords and made it more punk rock. Not my favorite.

“You Really Got a Hold on Me”
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles cover. Solid and done out of love but yeah, original’s better but only a year older than the Beatles’ version.

“I Wanna Be Your Man”
Oh, Ringo… The chorus guitar part sounds like gameshow music, but there is actually some nice guitar tone going on. Here’s a clip from The Beatles anthology where Ringo Talks about the Rolling Stones recording it. I also love this live clip where Ringo’s trying to sing but it’s so loud nobody can hear anything.

“Devil in Her Heart”
More Spanish vibes. It’s a fine cover.

“Not a Second Time”
My old man Muppet joke would be “This answers the question of what I thought of listening to this album”, but that’s not really true. This track is fine, just suffers from too many ideas. Piano solo is fine.

“Money (That’s What I Want)”
Another cover, this time Barrett Strong who did it better. I’ve never really liked this song that much. I actually prefer the 1979 version by Flying Lizards.

It’s pretty funny to think about how many covers they recorded on these first couple albums!

03. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)


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My thoughts on 03. A Hard Day’s Night

“A Hard Day’s Night”
The double time bongos and the cowbell hammering because work is hard. Made possible by the 4-track.

“I Should Have Known Better”
The harmonica actually works here. Good chord changes. Solid.

“If I fell”
The importance of handholding in the 60s cannot be understated. I always liked the harmonizing in this. Tasteful drumming.

“I’m Happy Just to Dance With You”
The guitar playing and drums kinda save this one. The percussive hits during the verse are interesting.

“And I Love Her”
A great Paul song. Sweet lyrics, good percussion and vibe.

“Tell Me Why”
Always reminds me of Frankie Lymon - Tell me Why. Both with lyrics that feel a bit down for how up the music is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEHcTciiXQY

“Can’t Buy Me Love”
One of the hits. The multi track guitar solo saves it. I dunno. Ella Fitzgerald’s version is worth a dip into https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ymTwboFgT0

“Any Time At All”
The intro and solo break offer glimpses into how great the future songs would be. The tacked on chord at the end is weird.

“I’ll Cry Instead”
Musically it’s fun, but lyrically a bit troublesome with the “you broke my heart so I’m going to break other hearts”

“Things We Said Today”
Feels like a a couple songs glued together, not in the good way. A bit jarring when the transitions happen. Some nice guitar work.

“When I Get Home”
The chorus could be a good loop

“You Can’t Do That”
Another threatening song. Musically some good parts. Too much cowbell?

“I’ll Be Back”
I really like the guitar work, the change to the chorus and the off-notes in the closing seconds…

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04. Beatles for Sale (1964)


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My thoughts on 04. Beatles for Sale

“No Reply”
So many good chord progressions here.

“I’m a Loser”
George’s guitar parts are great, even though the mixing of quickly cutting the volume on parts is a bit weird. Harmonica actually works here!

“Baby’s in Black”
It’s fine.

“Rock and Roll Music”
Another Chuck Berry cover. I wouldn’t ever think “You know, I want to listen to this”.

“I’ll Follow the Sun”
Hard transition from last track, but it’s a nice Paul track. I really like the “Someday / You’ll know” notes a lot.

“Mr. Moonlight”
A cover originally by Dr. Feelgood & The Interns, which is what I wanted to name my band but it was taken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhCHr7uAeyg another I wouldn’t put on.

“Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey”
Little Richard cover. This is the kind of track that’s just going to be better live.

“Eight Days a Week”
Just a nice sweet song. The claps are perfectly placed, and if I remember this is the first song credited with a fade-in.

“Words of Love”
Mr. Brooks, my elementary school gym teacher, smelled like aftershave and chewing gum to hide the cigarettes and played us Buddy Holly songs often. This is not a bad cover.

“Honey Don’t”
Ringo sings Carl Perkins. Here’s the original https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G070J29uAvs and here they are together in 1985 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XswcADHL5zc which is a thing that happened.

“Every Little Thing”
This song reminds me of Tom Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart” a bit. There’s cool stuff happening here, particularly during the chorus. Yes has a kind of funny cover that has different cool stuff and different cheesy stuff and the riff from Daytripper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIcpJFQDa64

“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”
Another case of happy music, downer lyrics which is alright by me. A classic guitar solo.

“What You’re Doing”
It’s really not bad at all, with some great moments of drums & bass. Could have been an early 90s hit, even though as a Beatles song it just kind of disappears.

“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”
Another Carl Perkins cover. Original wins again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-FD2EIgk3Y Here’s that same 1985 concert with George this time and terrible snare sound https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1VD2Lcx5xA

Beatles for Sale

“No Reply”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard this one before. I really enjoyed this one. It’s a little different from the typical Beatles love song. I liked the contrast between the soft, reserved verse and angrier chorus, as well as the cymbal hits on the “4-and”. Very catchy.

“I’m a Loser”
Interesting song, kind of different.

“Baby’s in Black”
Nothing really captured my interest in this song.

“Rock and roll music”
Figures that this is a Chuck Berry cover. I actually like old school rock n roll sometimes but not this song. Something about the “if you want to dance with me” line and how it resolves so neatly feels very… not rock n roll.

“I’ll Follow the Sun”
Easy to see why this is a classic. Great lyrics. I love the minor section (not sure what to call it, maybe it’s the bridge? this might be an AABA song structure. I’m not great at picking out the formal structure of songs). I think there’s something really pleasing and catchy about having a repeated tagline thing at the end of each verse (“but tomorrow rain so I’ll follow the sun”).

“Mr. Moonlight”
I like the creaky organ.

“Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey”
I didn’t realize the Beatles did so many covers in their early days. The covers definitely show their influences. Boogie woogie is funner to play or hear live than to hear recorded.

“Eight Days a Week”
Actually one of my favorite Beatles’ songs. Not sure why. I like the little bit of swing it has. I don’t know if the song technically swings actually but the hand claps on the 2 and 4 are definitely on the back of the beat.

“Words of Love”
Meh

“Honey Don’t”
Sounds like at least part of the song is a 12 bar blues, which is sort of different for the Beatles. Not crazy about it but I do like the vibe you get when you take an older style and sort of modernize it, which it sounds like they did here to me.

“Every Little Thing”
Nothing really stood out to me.

“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”
I’m feeling a bit of a country vibe with the rhythm and the jangly guitar. This is a nice song.

“What You’re Doing”
The little bit of a piano solo was a pleasant surprise

“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”
Funny how much having that reverb effect on the vocals makes it sound like an old blues rocker.

Thanks for posting the originals of covers @taylor. It’s fun to go listen to the originals.

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05. Help! (1965)


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