Like a lot of people, I’m a big fan of The Beatles. Like still a lot of people, but probably a smaller number of people, I’m also a big fan of the video game Rock Band, so I’m eagerly anticipating the Beatles: Rock Band game when it comes out in September. I thought it might be fun to try to guess at the initial tracklist given that we know there will be 45 songs on the disc, ten of them are sure things (noted with an asterisk), and another three (“Twist and Shout”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and “Paperback Writer”) show up in the introductory cinematic. Additionally, “All You Need Is Love” won’t be on the disc; it will be a download to benefit Doctors Without Borders. Here’s my guess thus far:
1. She Loves You (single, 1963)
2. Love Me Do (Please Please Me, 1963)
3. * I Want to Hold Your Hand (single, 1963)
4. * I Saw Her Standing There (Please Please Me, 1963)
5. Twist and Shout (Please Please Me, 1963)
6. All My Loving (With The Beatles, 1963)
7. Can’t Buy Me Love (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
8. A Hard Day’s Night (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
9. * I Feel Fine (single, 1964)
10. Eight Days a Week (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
11. Help! (Help!, 1965)
12. Another Girl (Help!, 1965)
13. Ticket to Ride (Help!, 1965)
14. I’m Looking Through You (Rubber Soul, 1965)
15. Nowhere Man (Rubber Soul, 1965)
16. * Day Tripper (single, 1965)
17. Paperback Writer (single, 1966)
18. Rain (single, 1966)
18. * Taxman (Revolver, 1966)
20. And Your Bird Can Sing (Revolver, 1966)
21. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Sgt. Pepper, 1967)
22. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Sgt. Pepper, 1967)
23. Strawberry Fields Forever (single, 1967)
24. Good Morning Good Morning (Sgt. Pepper, 1967)
25. * I Am The Walrus (single, 1967)
26. * Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles, 1968)
27. Glass Onion (The Beatles, 1968)
28. Oba-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles, 1968)
29. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles, 1968)
30. Happiness Is A Warm Gun (The Beatles, 1968)
31. Yer Blues (The Beatles, 1968)
32. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles, 1968)
33. Helter Skelter (The Beatles, 1968)
34. Lady Madonna (single, 1968)
35. Revolution (single, 1968)
36. Hey Bulldog (Yellow Submarine, 1969)
37. Come Together (Abbey Road, 1969)
38. * Octopus’s Garden (Abbey Road, 1969)
39. * Here Comes The Sun (Abbey Road, 1969)
40. Oh! Darling (Abbey Road, 1969)
41. Two of Us (Let It Be, 1970)
42. Dig a Pony (Let It Be, 1970)
43. I Me Mine (Let It Be, 1970)
44. I’ve Got a Feeling (Let It Be, 1970)
45. * Get Back (Let It Be, 1970)
I tried to capture a wide variety while keeping in mind that the song has to be more-or-less suitable for Rock Band (so no “Yesterday” or “Revolution 9″) and that this may have a similar structure to previous GH/RB games where every fifth song is going to be a bigger name song. Chronology, of course, is also key here; although the singles that may have been recorded at the same time as an album did not appear on those albums, so they may be interspersed accordingly.”Hey Bulldog” and “Rain” are arguably the least likely to show up, but they’re the two that I’m hoping for the most. Aside from “Yellow Submarine” (which I’m hoping doesn’t make the cut; see last post), are there any other glaring omissions from this list? Or any songs that you wish would make it in?
June 16th, 2009
Well, it was Ben that introduced the list of questions to me (his answers here) and I found them too compelling to not answer. So here, at some length, are my choices.
A record that reinvented the album: Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero
“Paul’s Boutique” might have reinvented the album if it hadn’t instead sparked a mountain of sample-related litigation. “The Beatles” is, of course, a contender for the category, being a double-album that is as ambitious as it is fragmented and unwieldy. Their love child, DJ Dangermouse’s “The Grey Album”, certainly changed how an album can be built and litigation be damned, but…
“Year Zero”: This is the concept album writ large. Spanning not just the sixty-three minutes it takes to tell the stories contained within the songs themselves, but the story began to be told long before the album even coalesced. USB drives surreptitiously placed in bathroom stalls at concerts worldwide contained sometimes a new track or two and white noise, later revealed to contain secrets in the static. Hidden messages of this sort, or found coded in highlighted letters on a NIN concert t-shirt, might lead to websites that revealed more about the dystopian future that would be revealed; the websites themselves contained yet more clues, leading to pre-recorded phone messages or locations of mysterious murals.
Even the CD itself that, once warmed up through playing, reveals like a Hypercolor t-shirt one last code: a binary code that, decoded into ASCII, leads you to the website for the “Extra Judiciary Federal Detainment Camp” in Guam.
Add in the story elements of government corporations, mandatory populace-controlling drugs, time travel, evangelical megachurches, a dose of unexplainable paranormal phenomena, and a powerful message with strong currents of anti-authoritarian sentiment– a particularly potent message in 2006– and the music itself is a soundtrack to something far more intricate and involving than ninety minutes of celluloid.
An album that you keep coming back to: Syd Barrett, The Madcap Laughs
The year was 1997 and I was living in Eugene in a house with my good friend who was a big Pink Floyd fan and a couple of random girls (who weren’t). It was college and all of the hijinks that go with living on your own in college ensued. We listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, and I gained a new appreciation for it, especially the earlier stuff. And then one day, walking into The House of Records, I saw the Syd Barrett boxset Crazy Diamond.
The various merits of Opel and Barrett are debatable, but I quickly fell for The Madcap Laughs, about which Wikipedia says:
“The album featured a rather unorthodox recording process, in which Syd would provide a backing track of his own singing accompanied by acoustic guitar, over which the session musicians would overdub the rest of the arrangement. However, Syd’s playing and singing were highly erratic and unpredictable—he skipped or added beats and bars seemingly at random, or otherwise he would strum on a single chord for a long time before unexpectedly reverting back to the main portion of the song.”
The session players, of course, found this immensely frustrating, but somehow the album did get completed and the result is a haunting collection of very good songs played in a very strange fashion. Twelve wholly original tracks, and a thirteenth, in an inspired marriage of the bizarre, taken from a James Joyce poem.
“Octopus”, of course, is the first track you come to, but soon “Terrapin” and “Love You” gets their hooks in. The disjointed feeling becomes familiar and you stray further into the embrace of “No Good Trying” and “Long Gone”. Ultimately you’re finding charm in the the most alienating tracks on the album, the last to be recorded trio of “She Took a Long Cold Look”, “Feel”, and “If It’s In You”. And it’s this journey that keeps you coming back to decipher one more cryptic lyric, to find one more gem of discord.
An album that expands your understanding of music: Unwound, Fake Train
I had been exposed to “noise rock” before, through the moderately noisy Dirty (Sonic Youth, 1992), but I was still young and just getting over being impressionable and listening to whatever was on the radio or MTV (this was back when MTV played music videos). My brother, who must have been back on break from college, played Unwound’s Fake Train for me and I didn’t know what was going on, I was being sonically assaulted. And I liked it.
Something was going on here that forever altered the aperture through which I viewed music. A song didn’t have to be pretty to be poppy; a singer didn’t need to be intelligible to be interesting; a song didn’t have to have a strict structure or, in some cases, even an ending. And finding the beauty amongst the chaos made the chaos itself beautiful.
An album that you’ve changed your mind about over time: Pavement, Wowee Zowee
This was an easy call for me, and I know it’s a story I’ve told before so I’ll be brief here. I got the album on a whim and I liked the first track, but I didn’t really cotton to the rest. But, I kept listening. Then, I liked the second track, even more than I liked the first track. So, I kept listening and I kept discovering, track after track, until the whole thing cracked, and made me a fan for life.
An album that you wish you’d made yourself: Grandaddy, Under The Western Freeway
A beautiful, fun, depressing album reminiscent of Pavement (in a good way). I remember living in Fresno at the time and picking up the single for “Summer Here Kids” from the local Tower Records– it had a sticker on it proclaiming them to be a local band (Modesto is close enough I guess) and as starved as that region can be for some good rock and roll, I was powerless to resist– and after giving the CD a few spins, went right back to find the full album.
It’s an instant classic, touching on themes of classism, futurism, and the neverending sunlight of depression that pervades Central California. It’s not as well-loved as the followup Sophtware Slump, but UTWF resonates with me more. The songs seem wistfully simple, but the production is layered and complex. If I can make one song that’s half as good as these, I’ll be happy.
An album that you hope parents will play to their kids: M. Ward, The Transfiguration of Vincent
Well, okay, it’s an album about death. Specifically, the death of M. Ward’s friend, the titular Vincent O’Brien. So at first blush, with song titles like “Sad, Sad Song” and “Undertaker”, M. Ward’s third album seems like an unlikely choice for something to play to your kids. But I give kids more credit than that. Hell, I listened to a lot of Beatles as a kid and I never liked “Yellow Submarine”.
Anyway, this album isn’t all gloom and doom, it’s filled with a lot of joy and inventiveness. It pulls from simple folk and foot-stomping ragtime, burned-out blues and fuzzed-out rock. It is in turns, inspiring, playful, nostalgic, and timeless. I think it’s the sort of record that I would have appreciated if I had heard it for the first time at eight years old or at eighty-eight. It makes you want to pick up the guitar and play.
June 4th, 2009