Thursday, September 3, 2009

LP Love: Beatles for Sale

As I'm out of the country until September 15, my normal song-a-day listening schedule is being put on hold. Instead, rediscover your love for the LP format by enjoying a complete Beatles album per day. Try to keep your finger away from the "shuffle" or "skip" buttons for the ultimate retro experience! See you in September to wrap up the Beatles' catalog song by song, remastered-style.

Beatles for Sale

Release Date: December 4, 1964

1964 was a year that would have killed anyone less strong than the Beatles. It was the year Beatlemania became an international sensation, and tours in faraway climes like the U.S. and Australia got added to a schedule that also included lots to do in the U.K. and Europe. Plus, they made a movie and a soundtrack album for it. But EMI wanted a new Beatles album for the holiday season, and Beatles for Sale is what they got. It's an album in which, arguably, the Beatles' fatigue is showing-- after the all-original A Hard Day's Night, we're back here to the early formula of mixing originals (eight of them, again) and covers (six), because the Beatles were literally running out of time to write songs. Even to get the originals they needed to fill out the album, they had to dig up an old one that Paul wrote as a teenager, "I'll Follow the Sun."

But Beatles for Sale is hardly any kind of creative nadir. It's interesting for a few reasons, not least of which is that you can hear the Beatles work a bit more here-- whereas A Hard Day's Night is shiny with confident genius, Beatles for Sale betrays a bit of uncertainty over what direction they want take the music in. We get some country rock stylings, both in covers-- "Honey Don't"-- and originals-- "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"-- but we also get some songs that show signs of continuing innovation, like "Every Little Thing" and "No Reply." This is also an album in which John in particular is writing more personal songs, "I'm a Loser" being a key example. Although the rocking covers like "Rock and Roll Music" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" are fun to listen to, you get a sense that the Beatles are saying goodbye to songs like this. They're just not sure where they're going from there yet, exactly. Even if you know the answer, it's fun to hear them work their way there.

High Points: "No Reply," "I'm a Loser," "Eight Days a Week," "Every Little Thing"

My Secret Favorite Song: "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"

The Song I'm Not Supposed to Love So Much But Totally Do Anyway: "Baby's in Black"

Track Listing:

"Rock and Roll Music"



  1. I've said plenty on this site about my feelings for this album. I think it has the best harmonies of the early period, and that means a lot. Also the album I'm most excited about hearing remastered, ever since listening to an alternate version that was mixed differently. In Baby's in Black, there's a point -- I think on the "Oh, how long will it take" bridge -- where John and Paul each doubled his vocal. On the official release, you don't notice it, because it's mono, but on the alternate stereo version, you do, and that means it does have an effect on the official release, no matter how subtle. I think both the remaster sets will shed a lot of light like that. Did I mention I'm excited?

  2. The song I like best on this album is "What You're Doing." Just gets stuck in my head.

  3. Frank: It is still possible to order the mono set from the Beatles directly:

    Now that I have the option, I am again balking at the price. God I'm an idiot.