As I embark on an epic rewatch of The Beatles Anthology, I got to wondering. Where do I come down on the age-old Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band vs. Revolver debate? Which one is actually better? For a long time, it seemed that most people came down on the Sgt. Pepper side, declaring it not only the best of The Beatles' albums, but one of the best rock albums of all time. But Revolver has recently been gaining in popularity and status. So, what better way to determine this then a song by song match-up?
Taxman vs. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
While Taxman marks the beginning of George Harrison really making a hefty contribution to The Beatles catalogue, he comes off as kind of whiny. I'm so sorry that you have to give some of your millions to The Man, George, but seriously. We all hate paying taxes, blah blah blah. It does have a pretty kickin beat though. But Sgt Pepper is just....classic. From the fade-in on the audience, to Paul doing his gravely voice thing he does so well to the awesome random french horn quartet in the middle.
Winner: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Nothing beats the french horn, dude.
Eleanor Rigby vs. With a Little Help From My Friends
Argh! A really tricky match-up, and we are only on the second song. Eleanor Rigby, with its haunting melody, depressing lyrics, and amazing string accompaniment is one of the songs you turn on when the day is dreary and you want to feel better about your own crappy life. But With a Little Help From My Friends is the song you get drunk to and sing along with your buds (like in Across the Universe). Also, this is pretty much the perfect song for Ringo (I mean, Billy Shears) other than Yellow Submarine. But more on that later.
Winner: Eleanor Rigby. If this was the Joe Crocker verison of With a Little Help...it might take it, but for the blending of classical and rock sensibilities, you gotta give it to Eleanor.
I'm Only Sleeping vs Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
I'm a big fan of I'm Only Sleeping. Who doesn't want to just lie in bed all day and bitch at people who make noise? Also, it features George Harrison playing his guitar solo backwards and forwards. Not that I knew that until Wikipedia told me. Whatever. But Lucy...to me, it's like Willy Wonka, you know? It describes this amazing candyland and whether it's an acid trip or based on a drawing by Julian, it doesn't really matter. The tamboura and organ give it this off-kilter feeling, as do the key and meter changes. But underneath it all, Lucy is basically a nursery rhyme.
Winner: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Love You To vs. Getting Better
Confession: I am a sucker for a good sitar. I got my friend Julie at work (who is Indian) to make me a copy of this awesome CD she has with dudes singing in Arabic with sitar and hip-hop beats. And Love You To has a really great beat and, hello, sitar. But the actual melody and song = meh. Whereas Getting Better is one of those Beatles songs that I am convinced are part of our cultural memory, that we know coming out of the womb, and that I didn't even know was a Beatles song until I was like 15. But then, I think it was also used in a Target commercial which kind of takes away from the mystique.
Winner: Getting Better. It's classic, you can't fight it.
Here, There, and Everywhere vs. Fixing a Hole
Here, There, and Everywhere is a classic romantic song. And Paul's voice is so delicate. But Fixing a Hole is quirky in that Sgt. Pepper fashion, and it's also an ode to marijuana. Woo? And it's just so damn catchy!
Winner: Here, There, and Everywhere. Who am I to argue with Paul McCartney and George Martin who both say it is one of their favorite songs.
Yellow Submarine vs. She's Loving Home
She's Leaving Home is classic McCartney. Sweeping melody, lovely cello in the background, sung about loss and heartache. But Yellow Submarine is....come on, Yellow Submarine! It was required in my elementary school music class that we learn this song. You have not lived until you have heard a classroom full of 10 year olds singing this son. And he lived beneath the waves, in a yellow submarine...
Winner: Yellow Submarine. Sorry, Paul. In this case, quirk and cute beats lovely.
She Said She Said vs. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Hmm. Tough. She Said She Said has this insidious power of getting into my head and not leaving. Even sitting here just THINKING about the song is enough to lodge it into my cranium where it will probably remain for the rest of the weekend. Gotta love that syncopation. Mr. Kite is pretty much the quintessential Sgt. Pepper song, where on the surface it makes no sense, but when you look deeper...it still makes no sense. But, hey! It was written when John Lennon saw a circus poster, and that's cool, right? See how craaazy John Lennon is??
Winner: She Said She Said. Sorry, Mr. Kite.
Good Day Sunshine vs. Within You Without You
Winner: Good Day Sunshine. Come on. No summer day is complete without it. Within You Without You = yawn.
And Your Bird Can Sing vs. When I'm Sixty-Four
Oh, man. How am I supposed to decide? The harmonies in Bird rock my world. And the call and answer style is so fun to sign along with. But When I'm Sixty-Four is so great. It's cute, yes, but it also makes you want to love someone that way. Where you will take care of them even when they are old and slow and wrinkly. And it features clarinets, which is like, unheard of in a rock song. AND according to Wikipedia, it was one of the first songs Paul McCartney wrote; it was written when he was only 16.
Winner: When I'm Sixty-Four. It's probably one of my favorite songs of all time, and the great thing is, it appeals to all age-groups. Old people like it, because it's about them, and young people like it because it's awesome.
For No One vs. Lovely Rita
Nobody can appreciate a song about a meter maid as much as me, because I am the type who gets unrequited crushes on UPS guys, strangers on the bus, the grocery store bagging guy...you know, people who you see in these tiny little portions of their life. But For No One gets in your head, not in the catchy pop way, but in the "OMG this song is following me around and trying to tell me something about life."
Winner: For No One. You can get the same vibe as Rita from Lady Madonna. But there's not really another tragic tale like For No One. I mean, Eleanor Rigby is depressing (see above discussion), but For No One is about once-happy lives falling apart. That's rough. And important.
Doctor Robert vs. Good Morning Good Morning
I'm kinda ambivalent on both of these. Doctor Robert is fun I guess, and Good Morning is interesting, but *shrug*
Winner: Doctor Robert. It's just a better rock song. And those "good mornings" get really annoying.
I Want to Tell You vs. Sgt. Pepper (reprise)
You go, George Harrison! I Want to Tell You is cool. It's almost like...it's a long piece of taffy that stretches out and gets better and better. Does that make sense? It has a meandering, but not directionless sound, and while it gets wordy, the piano pounding in the background drives it forward. Sgt Pepper in the reprise is cool, starting in a new key and modulating back to the original (I love modulation!), but we've heard it before.
Winner: I Want to Tell You.
Got to Get You into My Life vs. A Day in the Life
Ooooh. Tricky. Ok, so A Day in the Life has that awesome orchestral chord and crescendo smack in the middle. And I love the little snippet of Paul's song ("woke up, got out of bed, ran a comb across my head..." This song is so progressive and so different than what other people were doing. It is one of the most famous Beatles songs and is probably one of Lennon's most powerful works. Got to Get You into My Life has the horns and the hints of motown. And the sparse instrumentation at the refrain. Sometimes simple is better. But I don't think it is this time.
Winner: A Day in the Life. It's just...the Beatles, you know? It's THEM. It encapsulates everything they stood for.
And bonus point for Revolver: Tomorrow Never Knows. Because there isn't anything else on Sgt. Pepper to compare it to.
Final tally: Revolver = 9 points, Sgt. Pepper = 4.
Ok, so I guess I Revolver is better. Alert the media, folks!