Feb 042011

Lacking Depth

What’s the LeBron-led Cavaliers of great rock ‘n roll albums?

This Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will meet in the Super Bowl despite suffering key losses through the grind that is the NFL season. Above all their meeting is a testament to each team’s depth. The Steelers withstood the suspension of their star quarterback for the first quarter of the season, and the Packers have been starting third stringers owing to a run of season-ending injuries to starters and their backups. That’s depth! 

Sports teams depend on depth. There are instances, however, where one player, such as LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first half dozen years of his career, can elevate a team’s overall level of play and make it a contender. Look where the Cavs are this year, their first year without LeBron: last place and in the midst of one of the longest losing streaks in NBA history. That’s lack of depth, but no one can deny the strong team the Cavaliers were with James leading roughly the same cast of characters.

I’ve got this theory about the perfect television show being “5 deep,” that is, having 5 strong characters to carry plot developments, make the transitions between scenes, etc. Most of the greatest shows in television history are 5 deep. A show that’s 5 deep can usually withstand the loss of a key character. Think of Cheers and M.A.S.H. Charlie’s Angels, which was at best 4 deep, if you combine a half contribution each from Bosley and the disembodied voice of Charlie, struggled to maintain its quality as blond cast members came and went. Take a solid drama like 21 Jump Street, which was carried solely by hotshot newcomer Johnny Depp. Depp leaves the show, is replaced by Richard Greico, and the show’s quickly in the tank, like this year’s Cavs.

As with sports teams and television shows, record albums benefit by depth…I’d argue that one of the most remarkable things about Beatles albums is their depth. I’d be hard-pressed to name an album with a killer single or lead track that would greatly diminish my enjoyment of the album if it were removed. Maybe if Abbey Road didn’t kick off with “Come Together” I’d listen to that album even less, but I’m not sure I could say that about any other Beatles album. Think of Revolver, often acknowledged as the greatest Beatles album. What’s the killer track that makes or breaks that album? I’d say there is none. That album functions as a team, with Hall of Fame players, undoubtably, but with the depth of the Boston Celtics of the late ’60s and early ’70s, which ran John Havlicek as the sixth man! 

On the other hand, I’d argue there are great albums that depend heavily on the strength of a single or lead track. The Beach BoysPet Sounds puts the rock squarely in the hands of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and depends on that song’s tie to their recent past to motivate listeners to move forward into new territory. Similarly, I’d argue that The Rolling StonesExile on Main Street builds squarely on the dynamics of “Rocks Off.” It’s a tent-pole song for an album that sometimes strays from the game plan, so to speak.

Excluding albums containing a massive hit that no one otherwise cares much about as an album, can you think of great albums that may rest too heavily on the “skills” of a single song, that lack depth and may come down a few notches with the removal of that song? Conversely, what’s a great album that works because of its depth, that doesn’t depend on “star power?”


  99 Responses to “Album Depth and Lack Thereof”

  1. The Las. It’s a really strong album but There She Goes sets the template and would really be missed if removed.

    And I’m not sure how you’re doing your math but if Bosley and Charley add up to 1, I would say that Charlie’s Angels is 7 deep.

  2. 2000 Man

    Steve Miller’s The Joker. It’s really a pretty good album, but without the song, The Joker, I bet he wouldn’t even have been signed to the label to make another album. Then his next album came out, and it was Fly Like an Eagle, which was the exact opposite and a solidly deep album with plenty of great songs on it. That album pretty much guaranteed him a recording contract for the next ten years.

  3. Two good calls to start! I’m glad you guys get what I’m getting at. Of course I’m banking on some rock snob saying there would be no drop off to Exile if “Rock Off” had not been excluded, but that’s cool, that comes with the territory.

  4. misterioso

    Mod, as usual, you have everything about Exile completely backwards, inasmuch as Exile is exemplary of an album with depth. It’s the 72 Dolphins of albums. No name defense, perfect record.

  5. See what I meant?

    I contend that the average rock fan from our generation would not have been halfway as exposed to Exile without “Rocks Off.”

    That said, I dig your ’72 Dolphins reference.

  6. misterioso

    I could almost agree with you if you were making your case with “Tumbling Dice.” That and “Happy” were the only songs from Exile I knew from the radio, and that was growing up in the 70s. “Rocks Off” is just part of the package–a solid Bob Griese to Paul Warfield strike over the middle, sure, but not more important than a Csonka off tackle run or a Bill Stanfill sack. If you follow me.

  7. alexmagic

    Unrelated sports metaphor question I’ve been wrestling with, Mod, based on recent discussions of people leaving bands at inopportune times and local news: This week, the Philadelphia Eagles have been under fire for the baffling decision to promote their Offensive Line coach to the position of Defensive Coordinator. Has there ever been a musical equivalent of this, promoting someone so many ranks up and to such a completely different area of expertise from within a band?

    The first example I could think of would be if AC/DC had decided that, after Bon Scott died, Malcolm Young was going to front the band for them. But after giving it some thought, that comparison severely undervalues Malcolm’s role in the band, since he does sing back-up.

  8. GREAT unrelated sports metaphor question, alexmagic. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the long tradition of drummers being promoted to singer: Marvin Gaye, Iggy Pop, Joey Ramone… But those promotions happened pre-established career. We need to think about that, and this space is as good as any other to conduct this side-exploration. Thanks.

  9. Oh, Phil Collins’ promotion to lead singer in Genesis probably caused some shock waves among their fans. The band’s manager was heard to exclaim, “Phil was always a singer at heart. He often traded vocal ideas with Peter backstage.”

  10. I follow you completely, and I’m not necessarily asking anyone to agree with me. You do have to give me credit for raising an interesting question, one that we may argue over through the day, if we’re so lucky!

  11. misterioso

    Credit is duly given!

  12. I agree completely with misterioso (except for the football stuff, about which I know nothing).

  13. The Rock and Roll Peter Principle.

    Didn’t one of the guys from the Cure start off on bass and then move to keys (or vice versa) before getting the boot?

  14. Steven Tyler, Don Henley

  15. BigSteve

    The Kinks Lola album is built around the tentpole song Lola. Of course it’s a concept album built around the idea of the hit single. I guess it might be fine without it, but having the actual hit single itself right there in the middle of the sequence really makes it work.

    XTC’s English Settlement strikes me as a great album with depth that accrues cumulatively, without the benefit of a star power-type song. To be honest, as great as Rocks Off is, I think Exile works the same way. Trout Mask Replica too. Maybe double albums work better that way, and over the longer playing time a tentpole song might upset the groove. I could make the case for Electric Ladyland too, but maybe it breaks the rule by built around the last song as tentpole.

  16. mockcarr

    I disagree with five deep TV. I think four is much more comfortable number as in bands I favor. Naturally there are exceptions, ensembles where the number isn’t important, where the work/home dynamics of the main characters have to be satisfied, or where the reality of the situation requires more or less, but The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, All In The Family, Your Show Of Shows, Seinfeld, etc. had essentially four main characters. When you go past four, there’s a tendency to forget one of the main characters as you spend too much time fleshing out a lesser one. In extreme cases, monsters like “Klinger” are created, where he should be the guy who’s trying to get out of the army, not be the company clerk. Don’t forget how much energy was spent in later years on a subpar character like Rebecca in Cheers. And God help you, then come some TERRIBLE spinoffs. Rhoda. Phyllis. Were they the fifth or sixth characters on Mary Tyler Moore? AfterMASH?

  17. I agree that a show can be great if it’s 4 deep, but a show that’s 4 deep cannot as easily withstand the defection of one of the key members. I’m not saying 5 deep is “better,” just deeper. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was definitely 5 deep and then some. Hell, they withstood the loss of John Amos – as did another 5 deep show, Good Times. Think about how much the absence of Amos lent Good Times. Powerful stuff!

  18. Lola is a GREAT example of a tentpole song on a team of “scrappers.”

  19. mockcarr

    I would say there are usually two “key” members. Amos as Gordy probably had about two lines a show. He’s the equivalent of the director of that news show, whoever he was, in importance.

    Good Times was pretty bad, remember when the Bitman or whoever the landlord was became a good guy?

    21 Jump Street signalled the beginning of the 90s early, with all those bright colors, Yeech. The only reason to watch that was Holly Robinson for the boys, or I suppose Johnny Depp for the boys on the other team.

  20. hrrundivbakshi

    Don’t I remember a season or two of “Sanford & Son” where Fred Sanford was replaced by Grady? Just goes to show you that as amazing as second-banana characters can be — they’re usually just meant to be second bananas.

    Another example: The William B. Williams show.

    What’s the analog in rock here? Have there ever been bands started by secondary figures in “parent” groups that didn’t suck — and that weren’t side projects a la John Entwistle and so forth?

  21. mockcarr

    I see you are applying the Rolling Stones method, where I am applying the Beatles one. Now the Kinks were able to replace Quaife with Dalton without much disruption, for instance.
    If Bubba, Julio, or Grady are the fourth guys, it doesn’t matter to me as long as Fred, Lamont and Aunt Ethel are the first three.

  22. mockcarr

    That was like the season of Welcome Back, Kotter without Kotter.

  23. mockcarr

    Tweedy was the second banana in Uncle Tupelo I think.

  24. mockcarr

    The first Tom Petty and Heartbreakers album would be severely lacking without American Girl. At the END, yet!

  25. mockcarr

    Big Star’s #1 Record seems a team effort.

  26. alexmagic

    I have to pince nezther you here. It was Aunt Esther, not Aunt Ethel, turkey.

    The secret MVP of Sanford & Son? Aunt Esther’s no-good husband, Woody.

  27. Good call. Not quite as good a call is Karl Wallenger leaving the Waterboys to start World Party.

  28. mockcarr

    Nez accepted, you heathen.

  29. mockcarr

    I miss the references to ripple from those shows. Are there still “drunk” characters, or have 12 steps been taken to rid our sitcoms of them? Otis was probably the best character in the Andy Griffith show. There no room for a young Foster Brooks, if he ever was young. Or really, that funny.

  30. misterioso

    Or the episodes of Chico and the Man without Chico. It was just the Man. And cousin Oliver, or primo Oliviero, or what have you.

  31. 2000 Man

    What is it with you non believers wanting to fuck around with Exile all the time? It doesn’t need anything added nor anything taken away. It’s done, and it’s perfect.

  32. 2000 Man

    Charlie Sheen is a pretty drunk character. I think he just plays himself, but he’s usually pretty funny about it.

  33. 2000 Man

    What about Dave Grohl? Was he second banana in Nirvana, or just the drummer?

  34. hrrundivbakshi

    Grady was FAR more important — and funny — than Aunt Esther! Aunt Esther was one-dimensional: a boot-faced harpy with a sunday-go-to-meetin’ hat and matching attitude. Grady was far more nuanced — and funny. And he’s not my favorite just because I do a *mean* Grady impersonation!

  35. Those are two good suggestions, mockcarr. I’m glad someone’s remembering this question of depth concerns albums – and remember: my “5 deep” thing concerns tv shows, not number of band members.

    That said, sure Grady was a much more nuanced character than Aunt Esther.

  36. machinery

    I’d say the first 6 Costello albums (skipping Almost Blue) are about as deep as you could wish for.

    That being said, “Allison” does prop up My Aim is True. Without it, it might not have made the quite the splash with the public. Same with Watching the Detectives. Remove that as well, and it’s a B, not an A-.

  37. Exactly – and a B debut is nothing to sniff at, but it wouldn’t have put that album deep into the playoffs.

  38. trigmogigmo

    Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks, so steadily solid that the standouts barely stand out. Drop your five favorite songs and you still have a great EP left over.

    I get the feeling the RTH consensus is anti-Cars, but the first Cars album is chock-full of goodness.

    McCartney fits your example of a one-hit album that pretty much no one remembers the rest of. I wonder if any album can really be considered great if it rests so strongly on the tent pole hit song. Of course, “Maybe I’m Amazed” is near the end of that album.

    “Precious” is a great big tent pole to kick off Pretenders, and the real catchy stuff is strewn across the rest of the album.

  39. Seems like all the good Bowie albums are propped up by their central track: “The Man Who Sold the World”, “Changes” on Hunky Dory, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Alladin Sane”, “Heroes”. I guess he needed a central character or idea to get him rolling.

    The handful of Van Morrison records I know well could lose their most popular track without damaging the album too much. Take “Moondance” or “Wild Night” off and they are still strong. Maybe stronger since constant repetition nearly killed those two songs to the exclusion of all Van’s other good work.

  40. God Only Knows is the MVP of Pet Sounds.

  41. What about that Nirvana record without Smells Like Teen Spirit. Would we have had “grunge” as a cultural phenomenon?

  42. I agree, Hank Fan, but would it have won the league MVP without “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” setting the table, as the team MVP, if you can imagine such a scenario (eg, one of the great teams that Ricky Henderson led off for, enabling a big slugger to pile up impressive power numbers).

  43. Good call, k. I agree that Bowie’s ability to write hit singles was amazing and essential to the success of his albums.

  44. saturnismine

    Sheesh…it’s been a long time. I see that the RTH aesthetic / ideology has a few more ingrown hairs than it did since I last posted.

    That La’s album is by no means “very strong” with or without that tune. They plucked that song out of the sky. A thing of beauty it is. And then they couldn’t get it up long enough to put an album of strength around it in enough time to capitalize on the popularity of that tune in England. That album’s a disappointing piece of crap.

    LOL at 2k’s continued tendency to allow the mod to push his buttons re Exile. I know, right?

    That Pretenders album is GREAT with the exception of Space Invaders. Talk about depth!

    “Nevermind” is way more than solid, like the mid-70s Dodgers with Don Sutton on the mound (“Something in the Way” is Doug Rau). The question of whether or not we’d have grunge as a phenomenon is neither here nor there in the context of this thread. This thread is NOT the appropriate venue for your (very retardataire) grunge backlash. The rest of us figured out it wasn’t that good while it was happening.

    I don’t have any suggestions for this thread because I only listen to the best albums ever made.

    Any of you baseball heads who are traveling south for Spring Training need to stop in and say ‘hello’ in Savannah. I promise I’ll be nice.

    Soon, I’ll post my thoughts on Meg White. I’m sure you all can’t wait.

  45. saturnismine

    PS: are we talking Revolver American, or Revolver English?

    Revolver American has three good songs on it: Taxman, Tomorrow Never Knows, and She Said, She Said. The rest are Paul’s sugar-coated turds, and George’s continued tutelage as a B+ songwriter and a C- mystic.

  46. misterioso

    Obviously Revolver American skews the record bizarrely. But, “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “For No One,” “Got to Get You Into My Life.” Yeah, those are awful. The Beatles might have made some good records if not for that McCartney.

  47. misterioso

    Did we, in fact, have grunge as a cultural phenomenon? I don’t know that we did.

  48. hrrundivbakshi

    A long-lost Townsman re-emerges to pluck the nose hairs of the RTH faithful!

    Gotta agree with misterioso, Sat. Saying there are only three good songs on Revolver is weird.

  49. hrrundivbakshi

    P.S.: Saturnismine — please vote: “Nevermind” or “Revolver”?

  50. Depends what your threshold is for identifying a cultural phenomenon. Grunge was definitely a “thing” that is still known outside rock nerd circles 20 years later. (And I disagree with saturnismine -below – that its cultural impact is irrelevant. Having an impact outside of record stores is an attribute of many so-called “great” albums. I don’t think Nevermind would be widely considered to be a “great” album had Smells Like Teen Spirit been absent.)

  51. saturnismine

    @Hank Fan: Please learn to read. I said it was irrelevant to *this thread.*

  52. saturnismine

    first of all, the beatles cared WAY MORE about the American market than the British market. The track selections for their American albums make for much more unified packages than their british counterparts, with the comparison of the American vs. the British Rubber Souls being the best case in point. So, no, misterioso, discussing the American version doesn’t skew anything weirdly. please put your rock snob anglophile tendencies aside for a second.

    Secondly, I stand by my assertion: Revolver is the Beatles album where mcCartney falls into a steaming vat of his own self. Those songs you named are garbage to my ears, so much so, that I couldn’t tell if you were being sarcastic or not.

    And so, finally, hvb (and how ya been, brother?) I would listen to Nevermind without skipping tracks. Not so, with Revolver (unless the old lady’s within listening distance). I truly can’t stand Paul’s crap on that album.

  53. That’s what I meant. I guess I just don’t understand the thread. I’m not the sharpest tack.

  54. 2000 Man

    Hey, it’s great to see you!

    Being the founding member of The Exile Mafia, I have a lot of people counting on me to remind the planet at every opportunity just how great Exile is.

    It’s really great, by the way!

  55. 2000 Man

    Which one has And Your Bird Can Sing? I think that’s the best Beatles song, and that makes Revolver their best album.

  56. sat, WTF? We haven’t seen or heard from you in too long, and all of a sudden you’re contentious? Did Gergs get a hold of your log-in information?

    Seriously, hope you’ve been well – and you’re wrong about McCartney’s songs on Revolver – well, some of them. “Good Day Sunshine” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” are OK and responsible for Chicago (the band), respectively. The record will show I’ve been down on those songs longer than you, so don’t try to claim rock nerd points on this one, brother. The depth of your McCartney hangups is novel and well-represented, however, in your trashing of “For No One” and “Here, There, and Everywhere.” I’ve got to reconsider everything I’ve ever thought about you.

    “Eleanor Rigby,” while not in my Top 87 Beatles songs, is pretty amazing on a number of technical levels and even a few emotional ones. The other songs you trash are SOLID and, I think, rare examples of McCartney writing straightforward-yet-interesting songs that manage to have a majestic quality to them without being pompous. Countless singer-songwriter turds have tried to reach that remote peak that Revolver-era McCartney reached, and perhaps none survived the climb. Is it possible that you’re holding the failures of others against the man, in this case?

    All that said, what NL team will face the Phils in the NLCS this year?

  57. misterioso

    Misterioso (hands shaking with rage, spilling his tea and crumbling his crumpets, the veneer of his anglophile tendencies cracking): My point was not that your *discussing* the US Revolver skews things, but that the removal of key Lennon songs from the record skews it weirdly towards McCartney’s (beautiful and great) songs.

    As for the Beatles caring WAY MORE about the US configurations of their records, the facts aren’t with you there, chief. Ample evidence can be found of them railing against the slicing and dicing of their well-thought-out (British) lps. Listen to their song intros, even, when playing US concerts: “This is from our latest lp, I think it’s Beatles ’65 or something…” They had nary an inkling of what was on their US lps and, I am quite sure, no voice in their creation. No: they resented the “squeeze 2 US lps out of 1 UK lp & singles system.

    That said, your point about US Rubber Soul is valid: it is the one that in some way benefits from the reconfiguration and becomes more coherent. But that is a case of serendipity.

    As for Revolver, we’ll have to agree to disagree: meaning, I’ll agree to be right and you’ll agree to be completely off base and, seemingly, projecting Paul’s later crimes backwards onto some of his greatest work.

    Cheers, mate. (Hoists Union Jack.)

  58. saturnismine

    misterioso, i understand now what you meant about the ‘skewing.’

    But you’re not making sense. This is usually a symptom of arguing a point that’s not valid and that’s what’s going on in this case. If they were vexed by the American releases, as you say, then you can’t also say they didn’t care about them.

    And John’s nonchalance regarding “Beatles ’65” (“or something”) can hardly be construed as “*them* railing against” this sort of thing, anyway. John prided himself on irreverence, especially when it came to their own work. He was also the least concerned with the business end.

    Your hero Paul, however, was “very on” about this sort of thing and took an active role.

    In fact, it’s well documented that by the time of the recording stint that produced Rubber Soul /Yesterday and Today / Revolver (the very albums we’re discussing), they insisted on having a say in the track choices for the American releases, because, after all, America was their inspiration, the land of all their biggest idols and the place that gave birth to blues, country, and rock. They venerated America. If you think for a second that they didn’t care about their American releases, you’re mistaken.

    Re. Revolver, please don’t project your own misgivings about Paul’s output onto mine. You’ll scour my previous posts in vain to find any evidence of what you claim (that I’m projecting Paul’s later crimes backwards). In fact, all you’ll find is my genuine dislike for his songs on that album. Nice try, but sorry.

  59. saturnismine

    Mod, thanks for bringing some sanity to the thread.

    Yes, we’ve disagreed about Revolver and MMT most of all over the years. There’s gotta be a healing moment in this somewhere.

    But Paul’s tunes on that album….my God, I just can’t freaking stand them. I know you know this.

    That “countless singer-songwriters” have tried to scale those “heights” and failed only suggests to me that they might have been better off trying something else. It doesn’t make Paul’s songs any better. How DID he sleep at night? He was the pied piper of the tripe that killed rock!

    Thoughts turn to baseball: I don’t know yet, who I think will be standing in October. But in an effort to completely disrespect the Giants, I’ll talk about the Cards instead. Did they beef up their staff?

  60. saturnismine

    2k, it’s on Revolver England. But being an American (and thus a member of the most important Beatles audience), I must point out that “Bird” one of the songs that didn’t make it onto either Amerian version. And truly, it would disrupts the unity of either of the American releases, wouldn’t it?

    Like “Dr. Robert” it’s got a lot of nicely layered guitaring, but lyrically, it has had people stumped for a long time.

    I dig that tune.

  61. saturnismine

    2k! Exile is REALLY EFFING GREAT just the way it is!

    Yours in solidarity,

    Mr. ismine

  62. misterioso

    I am taking “care” to mean “take an active part in creating,” not “be vexed about.”

    If, indeed, “it’s well documented that by the time of the recording stint that produced Rubber Soul /Yesterday and Today / Revolver (the very albums we’re discussing), they insisted on having a say in the track choices for the American releases,” then I am prepared to read said documentation and be convinced. Please advise.

    Then, please send me the documentation showing their active involvement in crafting “The Beatles Movie Medley.”

    I was trying to give you an out by assuming you were projecting backwards onto Paul’s Revolver tracks. So, I note, with a mixture of sadness and incomprehension, your genuine dislike.

  63. I agree: the Cardinals will be tough this year. If that’s not an entree for healing I don’t know what is.

    You know, what all this tells me is that there needs to a be a database of Rock Town Hall positions over the year, a Rock Town Hall Record, if you will. Imagine how much more efficiently we could argue over topics like this one if we could simply tap into each other’s opinions on hot-button issues over the years. Imagine the further arguments we could conduct if we could more easily nail each other for flip-flopping. Ah, one can dream…

  64. saturnismine

    Hi misterioso,

    Check the thread. You’re the one who claimed you had evidence first. So the burden of proof is on you.

    When you find the proof of “Ample evidence…of them railing against the slicing and dicing of their well-thought-out (British) lps,” (and please don’t cite their song intros)….when you can prove (with documentation) that they had “nary an inkling of what was on their US lps” …. when you can make us all “quite sure,” of this, as you are, then maybe I will get off my skinny pimply duff and try to provide information to the contrary.

    Until then, let’s continue to pretend, as you seem to be doing, that there was “nary” (sigh) a package release like “The Beatles Movie Medley” in the merry old England of your anglophile wet dreams.

    And please stop acting like there’s an objective reality dictating the genius of Paul’s Revolver treacle to me, you, and every other Beatle lover.

  65. Again, as I said to sat, we truly need a Rock Town Hall Record, probably an RTH-Span while we’re at it.

    misterioso, I don’t recall if you and sat had an opportunity to interact in the past, but I can assure you he passes the Good Egg test. He’s just as wrong as anybody else now and then, and willing to stand up for what he’s wrong about.

  66. saturnismine

    Thanks Mod. And please note: you’ll never catch me telling anyone else in RTH that they’re “wrong” for not liking this or that song. I’ll stick to talking about what I like or don’t like, and agreeing or disagreeing with others. But where their tastes diverge from mine, they are not “wrong,” they just have different tastes.

    In other words, in my view, Paul’s Revolver tunes are “tripe” *to my ears.* But in misterioso’s (serious) view and in the mod’s (tongue in cheek) view, I am “wrong” for not liking them. I’ve never pulled out the “w” word to describe your affection for that garbage. You’re entitled to it if you’d like.

    That’s what makes RTH so great.

  67. saturnismine

    I might be flip flopping…but not by much, I don’t think. I never understood the adulation for Revolver over Rubber Soul, and I’ve always argued for the track listings of the American releases of those two albums as having more artistic merit than the British ones, which sprawl quite a bit.

    I agree that there should be an RTH record, if only to see the evolution of this or that RTH’ers position. We all change our minds and grow up (or down as the case may be…).

    I think I’ve “grown down” where Paul’s tunes are concerned. I have less and less affection / patience for them as time wears on. They don’t hold up so well *to my ears.* John’s (and even some of George’s), however, keep on giving.

    The Dodgers will fall off the table this year, no?

  68. hrrundivbakshi

    Re: “growing down”: I’ll say it again — as much as I love XTC, Andy’s material has grown down in my estimation over the years, while Colin’s has grown WAY up. I should spend some time thinking that through a bit. Exactly why is that true for me? Anybody have any ideas?

  69. misterioso

    “And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountains green…..”

    Mod, no worries! I know plenty of good people who are clueless about certain records and facts. At least he has his head on straight about Exile. So, nothing personal.

    I will look into finding specific comments made by the Beatles on the U.S. releases.

    However, every Beatles bio I have seen refers to Capitol’s practice of slicing and dicing and stretching lps. It was not I who initially asserted “the beatles cared WAY MORE about the American market than the British market.” They cared about reaching the American market, yes; they cared about making money from the huge American market, yes; but they were not the ones tailor-making their American releases.

    Even Capitol itself, which one might expect to bend over backwards to legitimize the US lps by claiming they had the Beatles blessing, in the notes to the cd release of the Capital albums (vol. 2), says that “Record companies throughout the world issued songs by foreign artists as they saw fit, often reconfiguring and re-titling albums and determining which songs to release as singles. Capitol was merely following standard industry practice. Capitol’s alterations to the British albums were driven by song publishing and marketing reasons.” The notes also refer to Capitol’s “programming its version of Rubber Soul” and how “the company decided to hold back Nowhere Man, What Goes On, Drive My Car, and If I Needed Someone.” The company decided; not the band. “Capitol crafted a brilliant album with a cohesive folk rock sound” (notes). Correct. “Buyers did not know (or necessarily care) that these were Capitol’s compilations…The Beatles were not consulted over the song selections or the album titles” (notes vol. 1).

    Seems like this would have been a great opportunity to brag about how the band had direct input into the records.

    So, sorry bud, but the burden of proof is on you.

    Look: I am not trying to fetishize the British lps. In most cases, like most Americans, even pathetic Anglophiles, I got to know the US lps first. But facts are facts: and the band’s input was into the British lps, not the US ones.

  70. saturnismine

    It would be easy to say, as I suggest above, that the songs “don’t hold up.” But that just posits the burden on the object, which after all, hasn’t changed as time passed. So it’s not really fair to say that, right? Of course, it means that we change and we hear and respond differently than we used to. Our experiences intervene and make certain songs sound more important and others sound less important.

    But getting back to “the object nature” of the song, this can also mean that the song itself contains ideas (and i include melodies and rhythms under the rubric of “ideas”) that are more universal and timeless, less rooted in something fleeting.

    I’m being very abstract, I know. But I think there’s at least something to what I’m saying….

    I gotta get back the grading, or these kids are gonna KEEL me tomorrow!

  71. misterioso

    I didn’t say you were “wrong” not to like the songs, just off base.

  72. saturnismine

    Nice work misterioso!

    But I am *not* the first to claim having “ample evidence.” You are. I simply made a claim and I stand by it.

    But it looks like my skinny pimply duff is gonna get some work after all. I’m gonna have to dig around in my Beatle books and mags for the interview where Paul says a bunch of things with which I’m surprised you’re not familiar:

    By ’65, he claims, they were fed up with the re-packaging we’re discussing today, and insisted on having a hand in the track selections and sequence because, America was so important to them (for the many poetic reasons I state above about it being the land of their inspiration).

    He was talking about the Beatles waking up to the possibility of having more artistic license, more say in album cover art, more say in production and, yes, in track selection. He claimed they wanted to “use” the record company as a vehicle for their artistic vision rather than feeling lucky that they were “signed.” And he was also claiming authorship for the “folk” conceptualization of Rubber Soul you note above.

    Maybe he was being revisionist and trying to take some of the credit.

    Maybe the label wanted the credit for this and thus made the claim in the label-authored sources you’re citing?

    More than likely, there is not a black and white answer and it was a process that changed over time to become a more collaborative effort with George Martin playing a large role in facilitating communications and giving the band more leverage.

    Note, too, that I’m only suggesting they had a role in the rubber Soul and Revolver releases because the label had been so heavy-handed with the earlier ones.

    I’ll find it…but not today.

    PS. I do not deign to note “with a mixture of sadness and incomprehension, your genuine like” for Paul’s Revolver tunes. My horse is not nearly so high as yours. I’m happy for you that you can enjoy them.

  73. saturnismine

    and below you call me “clueless.”

    get your act together over there!

    : )

  74. misterioso

    “Maybe he was being revisionist and trying to take some of the credit”–ding, ding! We have a winner! Anyway, that’s my hunch: that *IF* he said such a thing it was to claim retroactive credit for something cool or edgy, like the butcher cover. (Which was not his idea nor any of the Beatles’ idea.)

  75. saturnismine

    Why assume that the label’s word, issued decades after the events, is more valid than Paul’s?

  76. misterioso

    1. This assumes Paul said what you are saying he said; and

    2. I am taking Mark Lewisohn and Bruce Spizer, the authors of the notes, as reasonable figures of some authority and not as label hacks; and why would the label, at this point, not want to present the records as somehow being “authentic” expressions of Beatleness if that is what they were? It would make no sense to keep asserting that the records were the label’s own patchwork assemblages if they had a more viable explanation at their disposal. Anyway, so it appears to me.

  77. mockcarr

    My feeling is that Esther created the necessary recurring conflict for Fred, one that he could never fully rid himself of, as he was devoted to her late sister Elizabeth, unless Lola Falana was on the show, maybe.

  78. alexmagic

    I agree about Aunt Esther’s integral, though largely unspoken, role in the show, mockcarr. Which made it all the more disappointing that Redd Foxx left the Sanford franchise before they ever solved Elizabeth’s murder.

    Also, Bubba was better than Grady. This statement is controversial, but I will stand by it.

  79. saturnismine

    He said it. I promise you.

    Doesn’t their arc of increasing control over more aspects of their product validate Paul’s suggestion on some level?

    The guys you cite may or may not be credible, but their text is, ultimately, label sanctioned, no? It reads like they’re in an argument with someone, doesn’t it?

    and don’t be disingenuous. they wouldn’t want to present the north american releases as “authentic expressions of beatleness,” whether they were or not, if they could conveniently elide their early practice of slicing and dicing with a real artistic achievement like the American Rubber Soul.

    As I’ve said already, I don’t think this is black and white. I’m not saying that the Beatles wrested control from the label, I’m saying that they began to have input on this front as well, because they did care about their American releases. It’s not an unreasonable thing to say.

  80. saturnismine

    PS. Mod, the poll is effing hilarious!

    All you poofs who think the Paul Revolver tunes are so great make me sick.

    Don’t make me reproduce the bad high school love poetry that is the lyrics to “Here, There, and Everywhere.”

    Don’t make me!!!

  81. misterioso

    My man, I really think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Their control over their releases was not trans-Atlantic. The Lewisohn and Spizer essays are not “in an argument with someone,” unless you mean that they are somewhat apologetically noting what everyone already knows, i.e., that these U.S. lps were created not by the band but by the label.

    So far I have found comments by two authoritative figures on these (which I have provided), and can refer you to Lennon’s comments quoted in the Anthology book about Capitol’s practice of slicing and dicing. I also have other comments by other Beatle biographers/commentators/reviewers that refer to the widely-known practice, which I can send if you like. I will continue looking for other material as time permits.

  82. mockcarr

    Eleanor Rigby and For No One are very good. Yellow Submarine is fun, that’s three right there. You need to get in touch with your inner ponce.

  83. misterioso

    [Adding to the impression that the band had disdain for the treatment of their catalogue in the U.S.]

    Beatles Press Conference: Vancouver 8/22/1964

    JOHN: “…they make everything we make into a single over here.”

    PAUL: “In fact, we… we…”

    JOHN: (interrupting Paul) “We’ve made three albums.”

    PAUL: “…sorry.”

    JOHN: “Tell him… sorry, Paul.”


    GEORGE: (interrupting Paul) “In England, we made three albums!”


    GEORGE: “And they’ve got seven out over here, or about seven.”

    RINGO: “So work that out for yourselves.”

    JOHN: “They just make ’em up.”

    PAUL: “In fact, we’ve made less records than most people. So there. We’ve only made… I think we’ve only ever made seven singles, and it seems to me like thousands, you know.”

    JOHN: “Seven singles and three albums.”

    Q: “Over here, we get one every day.”

    PAUL: “Over here, yeah.”

    RINGO: “Lucky.”

    PAUL: “Well, we only made seven, you know.”

  84. misterioso

    George Harrison Interview: Crawdaddy Magazine, February 1977

    “We put all the songs together into an album form– I’m talking about English albums now, because in the states we found later that for every two albums we had, they (Capitol) would make three… because we put fourteen tracks on an album, and we’d also have singles that weren’t included on albums in those days. They’d put the singles on, take off a bunch of tracks, change all the running order, and then they’d make new packages like ‘Yesterday And Today,’ just awful packages.”

  85. hrrundivbakshi

    A hit! A palpable hit!

  86. misterioso

    Perhaps this is what you were thinking of. “I think we’re beginning to get more control now”–says Paul, in *Nov. 1966*, after the last of the butchered releases (Revolver) and before the first of the equivalent releases (Sgt. Pepper).

    Paul McCartney Interview: Beatles Book Monthly, November 1966

    As so many American fans had written-in asking why the Beatles’ American LPs weren’t nearly as good as the British ones, I asked Paul why their American albums feature as many as six instrumentals and only three new tracks, and why the rest of the tracks are made up of previous singles.

    “Actually,” said Paul, “It’s not as bad as it seems. We’re told that they like to have our singles on the LPs, and there’s more demand for singles over there… about two to our one.”

    “We’ve argued this out with our record company, but they say it won’t work if we release the same LPs over there because their selling is different. We’ve tried to compromise and asked if they would at least make the cover of the albums the same, but no deal.”

    “We also asked them to release fourteen tracks instead of twelve, but we were told that we’d lose the royalties on the extra two tracks, because apparently (in the United States) the royalties stay the same for six or eight tracks and also for twelve or fourteen.”

    “We wouldn’t mind if we lost the royalties, but the publishers have to be paid, and someone’s got to lay out the extra money for them. So we’d have to compromise and lose the royalties to make better (American) LPs… but I think we’re beginning to get more control now.”

  87. misterioso

    John: “We would design a cover or have control of more of our own covers in England, but America always had more albums so they always needed another picture, another cover. We used to say, ‘Why can’t we put fourteen [tracks] out in America?’ Because we would sequence the albums – how we thought they should sound – and we put a lot of work into the sequencing too. They wouldn’t let us put fourteen out; they said there was some rule or something. And so we almost didn’t care what happened to the albums in America until we started coming over more, and noticing [for instance that] on the eight tracks they’d have out-takes and mumbling on the beginning – which is interesting now, but it used to drive us crackers. We’d make an album and they’d keep two from two from every album.”

    (1974 interview quoted in Anthology, p. 205)

  88. 2000 Man

    Yellow Submarine blows.

  89. mockcarr

    Only when there’s ballast.

  90. saturnismine

    wow, dude. you’ve kicked my ass up and down the field with this shit.

    and i’ve been grading bad student writing for the past three days.

    what can I say? you’ve got all this research and all i have is (an apparently flawed) memory of something I read a while ago now.

    awesome work!

    I’ve *got* to find the things I’ve read that suggested to me, at least, that they a., did care about the American market (some of what you quote suggests that they did care but weren’t allowed to have a hand in it, as I was saying; at least we can both see that it was a huge issue for them, while England wasn’t, which posits more care) and b., that while they hated “Yesterday and Today,” they *did* have a hand in what *stayed* on the American Rubber Soul.

    The point of view I’ve been elaborating isn’t made up, I promise you. It maybe be a misinterpretation, but it’s not made up.

    thanks for continuing to pursue this…

  91. saturnismine

    my inner ponce and I had a conversation today, and they find those songs to be inauthentic.

  92. saturnismine

    actually, i’d put YS above a turd like “H,T, & E.”

    Yellow Submarine puts relaxes my 3.5 yr old enough to sleep almost every night.

  93. 2000 Man

    Considering they wrote it for 3.5 year olds, it’s a shame that it doesn’t have enough oomph to keep its intended audience awake.

  94. jeangray


  95. misterioso

    Yo, saturnismine, if this means I can stop looking for a quote from Ringo ripping the U.S. lps then I’m happy. Let’s shake hands and move on to the next pressing issue.

  96. Maybe you send a copy of Yesterday and Today to him to autograph, and see how he reacts. Oh, wait…

  97. I think “I Want to Tell You” is as underrated as “Here, There, and Everywhere” is overrated.

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