The first thing that needs to be said about Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood (2014)—the conceit of which is that the protagonist, Ellar Coltrane, the boy in question, ages twelve years during the course of the film—is that it is a masterpiece. Certainly among the very best American films of the last five or ten years, certainly a film that we will watch in the future as evidence of these times. The script is not beyond reproach, and as a result it has a loose, improvised feel in spots (which lends it a bit of Cassavetes magic here and there). The picaresque movement of the story is occasionally odd. But the way the film gazes upon its actors—and both Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are worth specifically celebrating here—and on their bodies, as they age, is humane, exacting, and spiritual in its generosity. Boyhood is an exercise in constructed memory; it’s about how memory helps us to create the illusion of stable identity, therefore, about where we were and where we are now. And it’s also about community (both Hawke’s wife and Linklater’s daughter appear in the film, so that the star system is therefore replaced with something closer to friends and family), and about how life happens. The haphazardness I have mentioned, the way characters and events appear and disappear without being milked for excesses of “dramatic content,” is perhaps a consequence of how the film was shot (over twelve years, on the cheap, when people were available), but the result of this meandering structural quality is that the shape of Boyhood suggests real life more than any recent film I have seen. It’s impossible, after watching Ellar Coltrane for twelve years, not to love him, or, at least, to feel great compassion for him. Let me even overstate just slightly: it’s impossible not to confuse Boyhood with life itself, a little bit, because of how genuine it feels.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of things to say about how music works in the film. First, it borrows from Jonathan Lethem’s seminal novel The Fortress of Solitude in that it relies on period songs, throughout the film, to allude to precisely which year we are in, and while this is historically admirable it gets a bit stale after a while (the songs function more as markers for era than as songs themselves, with the result that the music rarely adds to the mood—it’s as if the songs are data points). Second, there is a lovely moment in the last third of the film where Ethan Hawke’s character gives Mason, Jr. (Coltrane) a compilation he calls The Black Album, that purports to be a comprehensive anthology of material generated by The Beatles after the breakup of that band.
This is a fascinating moment in the plot for a number of reasons. Hawke, manifestly in the film, is sort of a failure as a musician, and there is no reason to regard highly his opinion on this subject, despite his passion. Moreover, Mason, Jr. has given no indication that The Beatles, or indeed his father’s opinions on music generally, are anything more than a curiosity to him. The gift, therefore, is freighted with an almost Lacanian auto-destruct quality—it is full of pathos, to a cringe-worthy degree. Moreover, Hawke’s list is bad. (A piece from IndieWire delineates the contents in full and BuzzFeed includes some of the dialogue from the script.) This catalogue substitutes scale for discernment throughout. Another way of putting it is thus: any post-Beatles anthology that includes “The No-No Song” by Ringo Starr is, prima facie, unreliable and/or avoidable. Nevertheless, there is the same sense of impulsiveness and community-ingathering about this gift, this love letter to the solo Beatles, as there is about the film as a whole. That’s why the Black Album sequence has generated so much chatter.
The Richard Linklater that I have loved best over the years is the Richard Linklater of Slacker and Dazed and Confused, and both these gestures I have alluded to—the songs-as-timeline increments, and the perseverating about Beatles as as a way to demonstrate paternal love—are remnants of the Linklater who made these two thrilling early films. This Richard Linklater is at the helm of Boyhood, especially in its attitudes about music. That doesn’t mean we have to like the film’s anthology, this Black Album. The provisional, obsessive quality of musical intention is enough. Go make your own list, if you can do better, the Linklater of Boyhood seems to say.
Therefore, in order to try to recreate the gift economy of the film, I thought perhaps I would try to rally some obsessive music listeners of my acquaintance to compile better versions of the Linklater/Hawke Black Album. This endeavor, which was crowdsourced over Facebook, was a very time-consuming undertaking, and this I know because I performed the activity, the anthologizing, alongside everybody else. And because it was so time-consuming, it largely appealed to the nearest and dearest. It therefore proves the affective order of the work: obsessively listening to the Beatles’s solo albums closely (when many of these albums are far less good than the Beatles albums), is an activity that you can only do out of love, and out of esteem for the people with whom you do it.
Music-obsessive activity, in general, appears to be about music. You could, on the surface, mistake it for being about music. But in fact what it is about is memory and love. This is not only the case because many of the Beatles songs are about love. (After the revolutionary period of, let’s say, 1967-1971, they reverted to writing a lot of songs about love, even John Lennon, who wrote almost exclusively about his relationship after 1973 or so.) It is the case also because the act of memory is often wrapped around the thorny stems of desire. Songs that mean a lot to us often mean a lot to us because they are fused to recollections of desire and longing. Obsessions with songcraft and detail are interesting, in music-obsessive activity, but they are a smokescreen for the much more primitive cathecting that takes place with songs, especially the songs of youth.
I asked, in this assignment, for two distinct LPs for this project: one an LP composed of material dating from Paul’s announcement that he had left the band in 1970 up to the commencement of John’s “lost weekend” in LA (late fall 1973), and a second LP composed of material from 1974 to the date of Lennon’s assassination, December 8, 1980. The participants also had the option to make a short selection of material post-dating Lennon’s death. (It should be noted, here, that David Ulin, a writer I admire, once performed a similar activity in The Believer, in 2009, and you can see a portion of his results here.)
A number of things became clear quickly—for example, that the two favorite solo albums by the men of my acquaintance (there were no women who felt like engaging in this very onerous task) are Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass. This is fairly revolutionary, because Plastic Ono Band is challenging in its uncompromising attitudes and its minimalist veneer. And All Things Must Pass, for all of its Phil Spector grandiosity (never mind that third disc of jams) is an album about spirituality. Note that the top of this list of beloved is not commanded by Paul, though many people like Ram and Band On the Run, and to a lesser extent McCartney, as well as some of the more recent material.
Also, while there are a number of songs that came up again and again—“Ram On,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Watching the Wheels,” “Wah Wah,” or “My Sweet Lord,” in general, there’s a lot more variety and range in the early solo albums than we think in any abbreviated backward glance. I was most taken by deep catalogue numbers that came up more than once, “No Other Baby,” by Paul (from Run Devil Run), “Walking On This Ice,” (a single by John and Yoko), “This Song,” from the very very underrated 33 1/3 by George. The surprising greatness of Ringo from 1974, which was perhaps the last quality release by Ringo (though he does surprise you now and again with a single). The excellence of the first Travelling Wilburys album. I will say, in my own case, that I found a lot more on Rock ‘N’ Roll by John Lennon than I remembered there, and the same with Walls and Bridges.
While the Beatles seemed to be adrift between ’74 and ’76, almost to a man (Paul is the only one who had his shit together at all for a few years), as if the horror of their solitariness had set in and they had no idea what to do, after John’s death the talent seems to return (despite the hideousness of the era of digital reverb), and the moments of grace again appear, if in less constant supply. Those of us who love the band and who love the four disparate people in the band did not have to give up hope between John’s death and George’s death, or even after. These lists turn up surprising and moving music by the solo Beatles in the last couple of decades, such that the dream wasn’t quite as over as John seemed to suggest on Plastic Ono Band.
On Facebook, where all of this hair-splitting took place somewhat in public view (and where there are a lot of links to interesting covers, and bootlegs, etc.) a few other strange things happened, like a debate about whether Ringo was really a good drummer or not, and a discussion about best tracks by children of the Beatles (see “Valotte,” by Julian Lennon, e.g.,or Dhani Harrison’s recent performance of “Let It Down,” on Conan). Occasionally, as happens online, when you aren’t face to face performing these Talmudic considerations, a moment of gracelessness or infelicity took place. I take responsibility for some of these. (I did refer to a certain rock critic’s “troll-like mediocrity.”) But these moments are to miss the way that the Black Album was used in Boyhood was as catalytic agent for affection between a father and son. The Black Album was, that is, transactional, about the wonder and love that was once felt about The Beatles. The Black Album is song transubstantiated into the material of love.
On the basis of this currency exchange, the perfect Beatles song, as George suggested in “All Those Years Ago,” is “All You Need Is Love,” in which all of the main themes of the Beatles songbook are boiled down into pithy apothegm, and there is a live orchestra, and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful, and John seems to be chewing sunflower seeds while singing.
The popular song, in a way, never could circumnavigate the perfection of “All You Need Is Love,” when considered as a message-oriented piece of musical rhetoric, though many tried (“The End,” by the Doors, or “Anarchy In the UK,” by the Sex Pistols, or “Street Hassle,” by Lou Reed). I am hoping that this collage of anthologies below, this set of improvements on what was demonstrated as the complex gift of intergenerational agape in the film of Richard Linklater, will be seen in a similar light, like a bunch of people hashing out some reiterations of what love is, another way of saying music itself.
Kurt’s Black Album: 1970-1973 (Kurt Hoffmann, Musician)
“Ram On” Paul and Linda McCartney
“Instant Karma” John Lennon
“Wah Wah” George Harrison
“Uncle Albert” Paul and Linda McCartney
“Love” John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
“Teddy Boy” Paul McCartney
“Isolation” John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
“Every Night” Paul McCartney
“Be Here Now” George Harrison
“It Don’t Come Easy” Ringo Starr
“Mrs. Lennon” Yoko Ono
“Smile Away” Paul and Linda McCartney
“Look At Me” John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
“Maybe I’m Amazed” Paul McCartney
Philip Schatz (Lawyer, Lennonite)
1. Mother/Plastic Ono; 2. Dear Boy/Ram; 3. Junk/McCartney; 4. Little Lamb Dragonfly/Red Rose Speedway; 5. Jealous Guy/Imagine; 6. Without You/Best of Badfinger; 7. Without Her/Beacoups of Blues; 8. I Live for You/All Things Must Pass; 9. The Back Seat of My Car/Ram; 10. The Light Has Lighted the World/Living in the Material World; 11. Love/Plastic Ono; 12. God/Plastic Ono; 13. That is All/Living in the Material World.
Jason T. Lewis (Writer/Teacher/Musician)
In compiling this list I tried to stay away from “hits” for no other reason than I figured folks knew them and I wanted to concentrate on material that spoke to me when I looked back at these records. Honestly, other than Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass, I haven’t listened to any of these records for a long time. I also concentrated on records I actually own.
1. “Mother”—I was adopted. This song (and the majority of the Plastic Ono Band record) resonated for me in a very personal way.
2. “I Found Out”—Great uptempo rocker, so raw in comparison to late Beatles output.
3. “Isolation”—Again, raw emotion, but sheathed in a beautiful mid tempo soul arrangement.
4. “Jealous Guy”–Orignially called “Chile of Nature” and later turned into an amazing confessional tune.
5. “How Do You Sleep?”—Maybe the best fuck you song ever written?
6. “Glasses/Junk”—To my ears, McCartney was at his best in the 70s when he was fiddling around and not trying to hard. He could write effortlessly beautiful music, seemingly without trying. These two pieces together are perhaps the best examples of that phenomenon.
7. “Too Many People”—Response to “How Do You Sleep?” Maybe. But what makes this song for me is the transition between the plodding verses and the lyrical refrain. Another example of Macca’s next-level melodic gifts.
8. “Long Haired Lady”—A pretty love song that’s not trying too hard to be anything more.
9. “It Don’t Come Easy”—Had to include a Ringo song and this one is better than the rest. Yes, it’s a hit, but lyrically (thanks, George) it stands up strong.
10. “What Is Life”—It’s arguable that George had the better early solo material. Of course, he had a huge backlog from the Beatles days. What’s striking to me is how the output in this early solo period really seems to settle in on the personalities and demons of each of the three principle songwriters. George’s questioning throughout all of All Things Must Pass remains germane to me and my life in ways that only John’s output rivals. As a recovering person, I look at these songs and see in them the questions that I have to answer for myself still encapsulated to near perfection in pop songs. There’s something about how centered George is on this record that inspires me to continue to try.
11. “Art of Dying”
12. “All Things Must Pass”
I’m not going to do a song-by-song-breakdown of this disc. It was a trudge to find 12 songs worth including, but I told myself I’d find 12 for each “disc.” Ringo and George were notably absent from the land of good throughout the ’73-’80 time period. Their selections here are just above tokenism. John’s output flagged as well, but he still had his moments. Mostly I fell back onto thinking of how these songs hit my ears when I was 11 or 12 and I was John-obsessed. The Rock ‘N’ Roll LP was the first of his solo records I bought and for years I was more familiar with his versions of these songs than I was with the originals. John’s Double Fantasy (at least his songs on the record) rivals the spiritual journey that George encapsulated on ATMP. Paul got the better of the late 70s. Yes, the records are incredibly uneven, but there’s a lot to choose from. I could have stuck with Band on the Run, and chosen great songs from him, but I eschewed the hits on purpose to find again those little moments where he was letting melody guide him in spite of what seemed like an almost pathological obsession with proving he was a pop genius without the other three dudes. I included “Silly Love Songs” because I think it’s a great, great tune.
1. “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)”
2. “#9 Dream”
3. “Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy”
4. “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”
5. “Watching the Wheels”
6. “Crackerbox Palace”
7. “No-No Song”
8. “Let Me Roll It”
10. “Venus and Mars (intro and reprise)”
11. “Silly Love Songs”
Adam Dalva (Novelist, Dealer in French Antiquities)
I refuse to reveal how long I worked on this. Stuck to the main solo albums as best I could. John’s “Be My Baby” cover is mildly pushing it, so sub in “Stand By Me” if you think it’s a cheat.
Ram On / Paul
Oh Yoko / John
What is Life / George
Back Off Boogaloo / Ringo
Jealous Guy / John
Uncle Albert / Paul
Beware of Darkness / George
Look At Me / John
Every Night / Paul
Mother / John
Dear Boy / Paul
All Things Must Pass / George
Just Like Starting Over / John
Coming Up / Paul
Goodnight Vienna / Ringo
This Song / George
Band on the Run / Paul
Be My Baby / John
Let Me Roll It / Paul
Watching the Wheels / John
1985 / Paul
Mind Games / John
The Answer’s at the End / George
Woman / John
Post 1980 EP
Walking on Thin Ice / Yoko
What Goes Around / Ringo
Stuck Inside A Cloud / George
Jenny Wren / Paul
Darin Straus (Novelist, Guitarist)
This was hard; pre-’73 wasn’t so tough; post was a walk through a junkyard.
If one could forget the year restrictions, and just make one album, it’d probably equal a few classic Beatles albums, and prove a suspicion I’ve long had: The Beatles gained more from their variety than their brilliance, such as it was. Those albums (Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour are my dark horse faves) barely cohere. But the gain of having multiple songwriters can hide many shortcomings; just ask Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac.
My bonus EP could be longer, but it’d be all Paul: I really like a bunch of Run Devil Run, his mostly-covers thing.
(With formatting, I used the accepted Dalva presentation.)
The Lovely Linda / Paul
I’d Have You Anytime/ George
Instant Karma / John
Every Night/ Paul
My Sweet Lord / George
That Would Be Something/ Paul
Oh Yoko / John
Mother / John
Wah Wah/ George
Teddy Boy/ Paul
Cold Turkey / John (Live version from Rock & Roll Circus, w/Keith Richards & Eric Clapton)
Isn’t it a Pity / George
Dear Boy / Paul
Jealous Guy / John
Early 1970/ Ringo
All Things Must Pass / George
Let Me Roll It / Paul
Watching the Wheels / John
With a Little Luck/ Paul
Just Like Starting Over / John
Coming Up / Paul
Band on the Run / Paul
You Can’t Catch Me / John
Listen To What The Man Said/ Paul
Number 9 Dream/John
Deep Blue/ George
Mind Games / John
Live and Let Die/Paul
Post 1980 EP
What It Is/ Paul
Got my Mind Set on You/ George
No Other Baby/ Paul
Mark Sarvas (Novelist)
My totally arbitrary, emotional list would probably change completely if I were to redo it tomorrow, but my attempt to improve on Hawke’s oddly poor selection mixes hits with oddities; I guess my fondness for Paul shows a bit here but lots of great George stuff gets overlooked (Remember “Dream Away” from Time Bandits).
1. Instant Karma
2. Maybe I’m Amazed (Studio)
3. All Things Must Pass
5. It Don’t Come Easy
6. Monkberry Moon Delight
7. Oh My Love
8. Cold Turkey
9. Live and Let Die
10. Give Me Love
12. Crippled Inside
13. Apple Scruffs
14. Hi Hi Hi
1. I’m the Greatest
3. Whatever Gets You Through The Night
4. Juniors Farm
5. Stand by Me
6. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
7. No. 9 Dream
8. You’re Sixteen
9. Letting Go
11. This Song
12. Blow Away
13. Getting Closer
14. Watching the Wheels
EP – Bonus
1. Dream Away
2. Nobody Told Me
3. Between the Devil & The Deep Blue Sea
4. My Brave Face
5. Calico Skies
Rick Moody (Novelist, Music Critic)
The Black Album
Volume One: 1969-1973
“Electronic Sound” (excerpt) … 2:00
“What Is Life” (ATMP) … 4:27
“Junk” (McCartney) … 1:55
“Mother” (Plastic Ono Band) … 5:36
“Isn’t It a Pity”(ATMP) … 7:13
“John and Yoko” (Wedding Album, excerpt) … 2:00
“Maybe I’m Amazed” (McCartney) … 3:49
“My Sweet Lord” (ATMP) … 4:33
“Ram On” (Ram) … 2:30
“Imagine” … 3:04
“John Sinclair” (Some Time in New York City) … 3:31
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Ram) … 4:55
“God” (Plastic Ono Band) … 4:12
“Bye Bye Birdie” (Sentimental Journey) … 2:12
“Live And Let Die”
“All Things Must Pass”
“Gimme Some Truth”
“Little Lamb Dragonfly”
“Try Some Buy Some”
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
“It Don’t Come Easy”
Volume II: 1973-1980
“Venus and Mars” … 1:20
“Rock Show” (Ibid) … 5:30
“Dark Horse” … 3:23
“Mind Games” … 4:33
“This Song” (33 1/3) … 4:14
“Silly Love Songs” (Wings at the Speed of Sound) … 5:52
“You Can’t Catch Me” (Rock n Roll) … 4:54
“Photograph” (Ringo) … 4:11
“#9 Dream” (Walls and Bridges) … 4:48
“Here Comes the Moon (Demo)” (George Harrison)… 3:40
“Watching the Wheels” (Double Fantasy) … 3:32
“With a Little Luck” (London Town) … 5:44
“Woman” (Double Fantasy) … 3:32
“Dear One” (33 1/3) … 5:08
“Rip It Up/Ready Teddy (Rock and Roll) … 1:34
“I’m the Greatest (Ringo) … 3:21
Erratum (CD), post-1980:
“Mystical One” (demo), George
“Free As a Bird” (Beatles)
“Honey Don’t” (Ringo, from Concert for George)
“Walking On Thin Ice” (Yoko)
“Marwa Blues” (George)
“No Other Baby” (Paul, Run Devil Run)
“Cut Me Some Slack” (McCartney/Nirvana)
“Sing the Changes” (The Fireman)
“Got My Mind Set On You” (George)
“Handle With Care” (Wilburys)
“Liverpool 8” (Ringo)
“Ever Present Past” (Paul, Memory Almost Full)
“Narna Parvati” George, Brainwashed outro
Joe Dizney (Musician and Generalist)
Working thesis: Over 17 studio albums, The Beatles averaged 12.8 tracks per vinyl disc. Let’s call it 13. I figure the breakdown to be generally 10 Lennon/McCartney, 2 Harrison and 1 Ringo. Vinyl rules, so two sides per album, sequenced for your listening pleasure. This is what I came up with by attrition over a week’s solid listening… and if I never hear some of those Wings tracks again, it will be too soon. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Ringo’s later output, so go figger.
Beatles Post-Beatles, Album I
1. “Imagine” [Lennon, Imagine] 2. “Maybe I’m Amazed” [McCartney, McCartney] 3. “Remember” [Lennon, Plastic Ono Band] 4. “Apple Scruffs” [Harrison, All Things Must Pass] 5. “Another Day” [McCartney, Ram] 6. “Loser’s Lounge” [Starr, Beaucoup of Blues]
1. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” [McCartney, Ram] 3. “Oo You” [McCartney, McCartney] 2. “How Do You Sleep?” [Lennon, Imagine] 6. “Junk” [McCartney, McCartney] 4. “Jealous Guy” [Lennon, Imagine] 5. “Beware of Darkness” [Harrison, All Things Must Pass] 7. “Love” [Lennon, Plastic Ono Band]
Beatles Post-Beatles, Album II
1. “Watching the Wheels” [Lennon, Double Fantasy] 2. “Back Off Boogaloo” [Starr, Goodnight Vienna] 3. “Old Siam, Sir” [McCartney/Wings, Back to the Egg] 4. “You Can’t Catch Me” [Lennon, Rock’n’Roll] 5. “Here Comes the Moon” [Harrison, George Harrison] 6. “Venus and Mars” [McCartney/Wings, Venus and Mars]
7. “Rock Show” [McCartney/Wings, Venus and Mars]
1. “Call Me Back Again” [McCartney/Wings, Venus and Mars] 2. “Crackerbox Palace” [Harrison, 33 1/3] 3. “Let ’Em In” [McCartney/Wings, Wings At The Speed of Sound] 4. “Woman” [Lennon, Double Fantasy] 5. “(Just Like) Starting Over” [Lennon, Double Fantasy (Stripped Down)] 6. “#9 Dream” [Lennon, Walls and Bridges]
John Gage (Filmmaker/Musician)
I certainly have fantasized about an anthology of solo songs that sound like The Beatles—”It Don’t Come Easy,” I’m the Greatest,” Uncle Albert,” #9 Dream,” etc., but this a far more interesting exercise.
Over the course of their 12 official studio albums, which counts such non-albums as MMT (a double EP) and the Yellow Submarine soundtrack (with one side being purely George Martin), the Beatles developed a pretty well-known formula for their LP selections: George was generally allowed two songs, and Ringo almost always sang one song, per LP. Following this formula, I selected 5 songs each from John and Paul, two from George, and one from Ringo. I tried to keep the selections strong enough that I could believe they would pass muster with the other members—that is, the songs would actually get worked on, and be allowed onto a Beatles LP, by the Beatles themselves (with George Martin’s input as well)… and no solo hits allowed, a rule which I pretty much had to break right away, but luckily the singles I used are pretty obscure (especially now). The interesting thing was finding that most of the “rockers” in the ’73–’80 period just did not have the dynamics, especially melodically, that mark the Beatles’s late ’60s rockers, so i wound up with a lot of ballads—very beautiful ballads, but still, I was surprised.
McCartney – Every Night
Lennon – Oh My Love
Harrison – Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long
Wings – Bip Bop
Lennon – Isolation
Wings – Let Me Roll It
Lennon – Love
Lennon – Oh Yoko
McCartney – Heart of the Country
Starr – Beaucoups of Blues
Harrison – Beware of Darkness
Lennon – My Mummy’s Dead
Wings – Dear Friend
Lennon – Out the Blue
Starr – Sunshine Life for Me
McCartney – One of These Days
Harrison – Dark Horse
Wings – Carrying
Lennon – Old Dirt Road
Lennon – Steel and Glass
Wings – Junior’s Farm
Wings – Warm and Beautiful
Lennon – Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)
Wings – Love in Song
Lennon – Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
Harrison – Here Comes the Moon
Mark Sanders (Writer)
The original Black Album was a two-disc set of Get Back sessions recordings; the Beatles actually performed a variety of interesting tunes over the course of 30 days (and a lot of crap, as well) while the tapes rolled. The Black Album collected some of the more interesting pieces that never appeared on the Abbey Road or Let It Be albums in finalized form, and also didn’t show up on the Anthology sets. Although this bootlegged stuff has been around for quite some time, it hasn’t seen commercial outlet.
One of the premises for Get Back was for the Beatles to “get back” to their rock and roll roots; hence, this compilation had many old rock and roll covers, some resurrected old songs, such as “One After 909,” and edgier new work that veered from the pop vein.
For this assignment, and keeping Rick’s rules in place, I’ve thought I’d build my song list on the same theme of the Get Back sessions and the original bootleg Black Album, but this time assigning only solo songs from 1973-1980. I have bunches of bootleg materials in my collection, but I’ve resisted including some really good material that never made in on a commercial album (referencing Rick Moody above, there’s a 10 minute bootleg of an alternate “Revolution,” which is really a remarkable piece—Lennon laid down on his back to sing it. So, this playlist is officially released stuff, grounded in rock and roll roots primarily. Rick suggests using Electronic Sound as a bridge between songs for the purpose of cohesion, but, since that predates the 1970s commencement, I would recommend other possible bridges (not included on the playlist). One, for the sake or irony, I would include the music of “Sentimental Journey,” sans Ringo’s vocal, and would use it where one track moves into a subsequent though musically regressive track; two, McCartney’s “Hot as Sun” (from his first solo album), may be used to bridge into various rockers, or “Zoo Gang”; third, Harrison’s “Apple Jams,” from All Things Must Pass would serve as interludes to headier, more avant-garde enterprises; and, finally, Lennon’s collaboration with the Mothers of Invention, from Sometime in New York City, has some bearing upon the brighter moments of musical dissembling. For the second disc, stuff from McCartney’s 1977 Thrillington would function as transitional music. In all honesty, though, I don’t see much value for the transitions; those of us who have deep affection for the Beatles, together or separately, have enough sound tracking through our memories as to create our own emotional bridges.
Following the Beatles’s practices, I gave Ringo and Harrison a very few spots per disc each. Is this fair? Probably not, but I wanted the pattern to be somewhat consistent.
My selections aren’t typically inclusive of all the popular stuff (there are a few, mind you). But, I always went back mostly to songs that weren’t charters. The volume of that material is probably more indicative of the spirit of the four working separately.
Album One: 1970-1973
1. It Don’t Come Easy – Starr
2. Maybe I’m Amazed – McCartney
3. I Found Out – Lennon
4. Oh Woman Oh Why – McCartney
5. Awaiting On You All – Harrison
6. How Do You Sleep – Lennon
7. Have You Seen My Baby – Starr
8. Instant Karma – Lennon
9. Sue Me Sue You Blues – Harrison
10. It’s So Hard – Lennon
11. Too Many People – McCartney
12. Well (Baby Please Don’t Go) – Lennon
13. Big Barn Bed – McCartney
14. The Mess – McCartney
15. New York City – Lennon
16. Give Me Some Truth-Lennon
17. Let Me Roll It – McCartney
18. When the Night – McCartney
19. Meat City – Lennon
Album Two: 1974-1980
1. Just Because – Lennon
2. Love in Song – McCartney
3. Here We Go Loopty Doo—Lennon with Nilsson
4. Crackerbox Palace – Harrison
5. Call Me Back Again – McCartney
6. Goodnight Tonight – McCartney
7. #9 Dream – Lennon
8. Blow Away – Harrison
9. Going Down on Love – Lennon
10. No More Lonely Nights – McCartney
11. Come Together (Live) – Lennon
12. I Saw Her Standing There – Lennon with Elton John
13. Tug of War – McCartney
14. Snookeroo – Ringo Starr
15. Whatever Gets You Through the Night – Lennon
16. With a Little Luck – McCartney
17. No No Song – Starr
18. Just Like Starting Over –Lennon
19. You Can’t Catch me – Lennon
You’re Sixteen – Starr
Rip It Up/Ready Teddy – Lennon
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Live) – Harrison
Medicine Jar (Live) – McCartney
Cold Turkey – Lennon
Good Rocking Tonight – McCartney
Chris Thomas (Musician)
Apr. 1970–Oct. 1973
1. Well Well Well (John, 1970 album track)
2. Every Night (Paul, 1970 album track from McCartney)
3. Wah Wah (George, 1970 album track from All Things Must Pass)
4. Remember (John, 1970 album track from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)
5. Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings, 1973 single)
1. Let It Down (George, 1970 album track from All Things Must Pass)
2. I Found Out (John, 1970 album track from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band)
3. Too Many People (Paul, 1971 album track from Ram*)
4. It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo, 1970 single)
5. The Back Seat of My Car (Paul, 1971 album track from Ram*)
*actually credited to Paul & Linda McCartney, but while her backup vocals sound fine here, who are we kidding?
I was going to include “Why” from the Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band companion piece to John’s solo songwriting debut because it has half the Beatles on it (5/8 if you count Klaus Voorman) and because it rocks like a bastard. Take that, Public Image, Ltd.! Likewise, Ringo’s 1972 b-side oddity failed to make the cut, but is worth a listen if you haven’t heard it. God knows what the movie’s like. Watch the whole thing here, for all I care. But nobody likes a snarky iconoclast, so never mind.
Late 1973 – Dec. 1980
1. Meat City (John, 1973 album track; this was a b-side that falls afoul of the date restriction, so I’m claiming it as an album track from Mind Games, which post-dated the single by a few weeks.)
2. Let Me Roll It (Wings, 1973 album track from Band on the Run)
3. # 9 Dream (John, 1974 single)
4. Dear One (George, 1976 album track)
5. Gimme Some Truth (John, 1971 album track from Imagine)
1. Venus and Mars/Rock Show (Wings, 1975 album track(s))
2. Photograph (Ringo, 1973 single—even though it had already appeared on the Volume I time-frame Ringo LP, the single had a U.K. release date of Oct. 19 that year, so I’m claiming it for Volume II, which, again, could use the help.)
3. No Words (Wings, 1973 album track from Band on the Run)
4. Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out (John, 1974 album track from Walls and Bridges)
5. Rockestra Theme (Wings + British rock all-stars, 1979 single. Not actually that good, but conveys an impression of grandiosity sufficient to wrap up the proceedings with an illusion of substance. Sorry!)
There are other glimmers of genius from this patch, but I can’t put them forward in good conscience because they’re patently pathetic compared to most of The Beatles’s actual canon. A nerd like me can gnaw on that stuff, but I’m not going to tout it in public.
Mike Landau (College Radio DJ)
I’m only entering the Extra Credit category, because (1) I’m just not qualified to enter the pre-1980 contest, except to say that “Let Me Roll It” needs to be on any winning entry, and (2) only doing the extra credit basically parallels my high school career…
I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with the running order, and I thought about it all week but didn’t have time to get out the cassette deck and actually mix one, blah blah blah,I hate my day job, etc., but here it is.
The Extra Credit Post-1980 Beatles Fade to Black 2014
1. “(Just Like) Starting Over” [Lennon]: Feels like this should be the place to start, because if we take it at its word, Lennon was ready to get back to music-making, and we all lost out on that. It’s likely his death is what makes it sound so poignant, as opposed to sappy, but so be it.
2. “All Those Years Ago” [Harrison]: Originally written for Ringo, and you can hear Ringo singing it. Despite the cheesy disco elements, the electric piano is kind of fun, as is the guitar. And it’s hard not to be affected by it, especially watching the video. Adding Paul’s vocals and Ringo’s drums was a nice touch, but they still couldn’t all sit down together in a room, apparently…
3. “So Bad” [McCartney]: Meanwhile, the 80s didn’t start off so smashingly for Paul. Pipes of Peace is really a terrible record. Tug of War wasn’t very good either. Give My Regards to… well,you get the idea. This song is total cheese, but, you know, Ringo’s drumming, and there’s something about the fact that he wrote love songs to the same gal for 20+ years and actually meant it. Even in a song as simple as this, the bass part is more interesting than you’d expect.
4. “My Brave Face” [McCartney]: Luckily, by the end of the decade, Paul had pulled it together, with the help of Elvis Costello. “My Brave Face” is a pretty great song: insistent and catchy and it hold up 25 years later.
5. “Veronica” [McCartney]: Of all the songs they collaborated on in this period, “Veronica” might have been the best. These two songs demonstrate how a bit of the other tinged the work of the first—in this case, you can practically pick out the Paul bits.
6. “Wreck of the Hesperus” [Harrison]: Cloud Nine is a nice little record, and this track feels different from a lot of the other super smooth Jeff Lynne productions. It rocks out a bit, and the horn sound adds some punch. In a mix tape of the 80s, you’ll need to search high and low for some things to break up the sound-alikes, especially with Lynne so involved in everyone’s records.
7. “Weight of the World” [Starr]: I particularly like the interview Ringo gave to Q magazine when Time Takes Time was released and he carps about how all anyone wants to do is ask Beatles questions—no one wants to talk about his new solo work. I suppose after a certain amount of decades that might get tiresome. But that’s the price of being a Beatle. Don Was produced this one. It’s a very Ringo song.
8. “Handle With Care” [Harrison]: I think it’s fair to say that the Wilburys stuff may have been the best of the solo Beatles work of the period. The whole “let’s knockout a B side together in Bob’s studio” vibe may be why it turned out letter perfect.
9. “Really Love You” [McCartney/Starr]: The only interesting track on the otherwise bland Flaming Pie, which features a lot of overproduced and competent tunes lacking spark. This came via a jam session and has Paul just riffing some lyrics and playing some irresistible bass.
10. “Stranglehold” [McCartney]: If you could free this tune from its oh-so-80s production, you can see how it might be killer. One of Paul’s co-writes with Eric Stewart from Press to Play, which, amazingly, was the first Beatle-related LP I owned. Why exactly did everyone think Paul needed a co-writer all the time?
11. “Hope of Deliverance” [McCartney]: He was usually good for one Beatles-quality pop song per record—this one’s from Off the Ground, recorded with a band that he’d been playing with for a while, lending a breezy, comfortable feel, very different from some of the more desperate-sounding 80s albums.
12. “Cloud Nine” [Harrison]: The best track of Harrison’s post-Beatles work, if you ask me. The guitar is just mesmerizing. The rest of the album couldn’t keep up to this level, alas, but I never get tired of this song.
13. “Every Night” [McCartney:] If I had to select the best of the post-1980 McCartney records, I’d pick Unplugged, and not because of the handful of Beatles tunes—the band really does a great job with McCartney solo tunes like this one, which never sounded more beautiful. One of his best songs ever.
14. “Crackin’ Up” [McCartney]: Similarly, Choba B CCCP, the Soviet Union only release of cover tunes, had a loose feel that suited the tracks nicely. The Fats Domino tracks are great; the version of “Twenty Flight Rock” is solid, but there’s something about this one that Paul makes his own.
15. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” [Harrison]: George could do it too, as he shows with this ukulele-driven standard.
16. “Something (live)” [McCartney]: A touching way to remember George—Paul’s been playing “Something” live with a ukulele for some years now, and it works. It’s on a live album. I don’t think that’s cheating.
17. “Never Without You” [Starr]: Good for Ringo for writing a George tribute that feels like Ringo, and good for Eric Clapton for showing up to provide the Harrison-level guitar playing.
18. “Any Road” [Harrison]: First song on Brainwashed, which actually is not a bad record—short on great songs but bereft of terrible ones. I suppose death pretty much drenches this mix tape, but, there it is. It’s interesting that George’s take on mortality throughout seems to be more jaunty than morose.
19. “End of the Line” [Harrison]: Bookending “Handle With Care” on Volume One. Too easy to finish the mix with yet too good to leave off.
20. “Watching the Wheels” [Lennon]: Because John’s last entry should be this one, no offense to Milk and Honey, which felt like a dubiously authentic posthumous Hemingway novel.
21. “Singalong Junk (instr)” [McCartney]
22. “Marwa Blues (instr)” [Harrison]: Because it feels like it should end without words, just Paul’s pretty melodies and George’s guitar.