When Rachel – my co-host over at The Criterion Project – picked A Hard Day’s Night as the subject of our latest episode (listen here!), I was suddenly taken by the thought that I should end my decade-old feud with The Beatles. Inspired in equal parts by social distancing and Colin Marshall,* I decided to listen, for the first time in my life, to every Beatles album. And when I say listen, I mean really listen. Pay attention. Try to understand what all the fuss was about.
Despite fond memories of singing “She Loves You” in the back of my mom’s car as a kid, at some point a teenage me decided that the Fab Four were simply overrated. This was around the time that the movie Across the Universe and the soundtrack of the Cirque Du Soleil show Love came out. The saturation that came with those bloated, obnoxious tributes to the band played a big role in my decision. I became a contrarian, I got yelled at by my high school girlfriend, and many years later I conceded that while the Beatles wrote many great songs, they were simply not for me. The first part of my listening experiment supported that theory – the early albums feature amazing songs among lots of filler. And then along came Help!
“I’ll Follow the Sun,” from the previous album, already presaged a move from the band’s original rock n’ roll to a sound that was more poppy, relaxed, and melancholy. “It’s Only Love” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face” may not be the biggest songs in the catalogue, but they are songs for me. I suspect my newfound appreciation for the band will fade as I enter the more conceptual and psychedelic era of their output, but for now, I find myself in the unexpected position of emotionally connecting to the Beatles for the first time.
* Colin Marshall is also listening to the Beatles for the first time in his life and posting about it on Twitter. Even if you’re not interested in a long Twitter thread about the Beatles, you should follow him. Most of the best articles I’ve read in the last six months or so I’ve found because Colin recommended them.