The Beatles: Not As Good As Dylan

I know how enthralled you all were by my breakdown of every single Dylan album (see 88 Percent Perfection), so it was only a matter of time before I inflicted the same analysis on The Beatles.

I went through every single Beatles song on every single canonical Beatles album (except Yellow Submarine because: huh?) and ranked them according to the same vigorous scale:

  1. SKIPPER. I’d skip this song more times than not. Actively unpleasant.
  2. FILLER. I’d probably leave this song on, but might skip. Unmoved either way.
  3. BOPPER. This song would get me moving pleasantly and possibly singing along.
  4. BANGER. I’d be singing by now. A thoroughly enjoyable experience (the song, not my singing).
  5. KILLER. My life would not be the same without this song. I’d stop what I’m doing to listen and probably rewind when it gets to the end.

I won’t agonise over the details and let this chart speak for itself:

Dylan = Red (N=35 – four exclusions shown as 0), The Beatles = Blue (N=12)

Before you weigh in with invective, it’s worth remembering that over 60% POP is, as I said in my original piece, ‘a sublime album’.

Once they got their cover album training wheels off, The Beatles delivered six sublime albums, including one that almost rivals Dylan’s mid-sixties output.

Of course, no metric can fairly judge something as subjective as a song — our experiences are so fluid in our own minds, not to mention in other people’s. Already my Dylan chart has changed. I expect my Beatles chart to change with almost every listen.

But there are a few surprises in the data: I have long held as a truth self-evident that The White Album is my favourite Beatles album.

That’s as may be, but according to the POP chart it is surpassed in perfection by Revolver, Abbey Road, Let It Be and, top of the rankings, Rubber Soul.

Although it contains almost a quarter of my favourite Beatles songs of all time, The White Album’s rating is stuffed by a surfeit of tracks all too easily skipped.

Naming no names, but ‘Dear Prudence’ (mainly composed by Lennon), ‘Wild Honey Pie’ (McCartney), ‘Piggies’ (Harrison), ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ (Starr), ‘Revolution 9’ (Lennon), ‘Glass Onion’ (Lennon), ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ (McCartney), ‘Long, Long, Long’ (Harrison) and ‘Good Night’ (Lennon) could have been saved for a Bootleg Series-style retrospective.

But even if The Beatles had shown a little more, er, prudence in the cutting room, The White Album would still only have ranked fourth in a combined Dylan-Beatles album chart.

I suppose that’s why Dylan was awarded a Nobel prize for his songwriting and all Paul McCartney got was a red ribbon with a threaded golden border and the letters CH after his name.

(What about the others? Annoyed with Britain’s support of the Vietnam War and ‘Cold Turkey slipping down the charts’, John Lennon returned his MBE in 1969; George Harrison, hoping for a knighthood, refused an OBE in 2000; Ringo Starr, in 1989, accepted an Emmy for his role as The Fat Controller in Thomas The Tank Engine.)

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David

David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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