Top 5 Beatles Albums: Sgt Pepper's 50!
It’s the 50th anniversary re-issue of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band this week, so we’re asking the killer question: Is Sgt. Pepper’s the best Beatles album of all time? Nathan Brooks put forward his review of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and disagreed. Why then is it called the best Beatles album of all time by thousands of fans and why, as Nathan rightly asks in his review, wasn’t Revolver given a similar celebration last year? There are lots of other key Beatles albums, which is why we decided to form our list of the Top 5 Beatles albums here.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finally made psychedelic rock music acceptable for a popular, mass audience. It’s essentially a very strong pop rock album, with lots of experimental sounds and ‘long play’ tracks, which were groundbreaking at the time. In terms of production techniques, Sgt Pepper’s pushed these forward dramatically, single-handedly revolutionising the album recording process for decades to come. All of these things, plus the idea of The Beatles as a military band, heralded the dawn of the Progressive Rock era with its concept albums being a staple of the genre. Without this album we may never have seen the birth of British Prog Rock, Pink Floyd or gigantic flying pigs. Oh, the shame.
But Nathan’s review led us to ask an interesting question: What are the other standout Beatles albums and why? Here’s our definitive list of the Top 5 Beatles albums, ranked according to their importance:
1. Abbey Road, 1969
Kicking off with the era-defining and somewhat lo-fi Blues hit Come Together, Abbey Road marks the death of The Beatles. Despite being the last album they ever recorded together, the group were still using new and varied sounds and recording techniques right up until their demise. Take the use of Moog synthesizers, for example. Pair that with a selection of simply stellar tracks – the Harrison songs Something, Here Comes The Sun and Lennon’s Because, inspired by him listening to Ono playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano – and you have the most human Beatles album ever.
2. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
In our eyes, this album is the blueprint for most modern rock and pop music. Nathan Brooks’ review of Sgt Pepper’s inspired this post, so we advise you check that out, pronto. The Beatles’ rampant experimentation on this album paved the way for a whole new genre of British music called Progressive Rock, and a raft of amazing bands to follow. The idea of a band playing ‘acting parts’ was revolutionary in British pop at the time, something you can still see being used by artists including Damon Albarn’s cartoon-pop troupe Gorillaz.
3. Revolver, 1966
Yet another Beatles album that comes backed by a Rockhaq Community member’s review, Revolver marks a definite shift away from the Sixties jangly pop that The Beatles were known for, and a progression towards developing an entirely ‘new sound’ with the use of backwards recordings, tape loops and classical strings. The use of ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) in recording was a first that soon set the standard in the music industry. Revolver sees another first for British music – a fusion of East-meets-West with Harrison’s celebration of the Sitar. All of this and a willingness to explore rather uncommercial ideas like death puts Revolver above Sgt Pepper’s in many ways.
4. Rubber Soul, 1965
Although nowhere near as ground breaking as the two albums that followed it, Rubber Soul is the first of three Beatles albums that sees a burning desire to develop their sound and recording techniques. It is also the first Beatles album that marks the idea of an album as art, breaking away from the popularly held music industry belief that an album was no more than a collection of singles. This encouraged all artists to make high quality songs for a whole album, and not just a few hit singles among filler tracks. Again this idea is rife throughout the music industry today. Bands like Radiohead in particular have made a career from making albums that are seen as commercially risky, yet critically acclaimed. And yes, Rubber Soul is the album that ‘Michelle’ is from – bleurgh!
5. The Beatles/The White Album, 1968
In all honesty we can take or leave The White Album. It’s just not anywhere near as distinct or progressive as the others in this top five. Why is it here, then? The fact that it is so fractured has led to some critics seeing this as one of the best Beatles albums of all time. Some love its eccentricity while others see a lot of the tracks as pretentious and self-indulgent. However, for us, the defining moment on The White Album is George Harrison’s magnificent While My Guitar Gently Weeps. One of the best Rock songs of all time comes with Eric Clapton on lead guitar, a host of recording trials and unusual techniques, remarkably moving lyrics and a raw honesty that is heartbreaking. The track serves as a beautiful commentary on The Beatles falling apart, and for that alone, it propels the album firmly into our Top 5.
So what do you think of our Top 5 Beatles Albums for Sgt Pepper’s 50th Anniversary? Do you agree or would you have selected others to feature and why? Let us know in our comments section below!