As 2016 got underway, two of the music industry’s biggest-selling artists are in opposing corners regarding the online streaming of their songs. What’s a little surprising, perhaps, is which artist is in which corner.
In what appears to be a show of power / business acumen, Adele’s latest album 25 – twelve million copies sold and counting – cannot be streamed anywhere. But the back catalogue of The Beatles, a peerless body of work long coveted by rival streaming services, has finally arrived on various platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Prime.
“Happy Crimble, with love from us to you” chirped The Beatles’ official website, announcing that the Fab Four’s music could be streamed “here, there, and everywhere” from 12.01am on Christmas Eve. But behind the chatty effervescence and references to their own songs lay years of fraught and steely negotiation which the band’s business conglomerate Apple Corps will doubtless have resolved to its satisfaction.
At the time of writing, Come Together is the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify, with some five million listens. Classics such as Hey Jude, Yesterday and Here Comes The Sun are also riding high.
According to Spotify’s founder / CEO Daniel Ek, The Beatles first three days on Spotify generated some 70 million plays, while 65 per cent of those streaming the group’s songs were under the age of 34. “We’re helping to introduce a new generation of fans to the most important band in history”, Ek recently blogged.
With AC/DC capitulating to Spotify and other platforms last June and The Beatles now following suit, streaming’s predominance as a listening format seems even more secure.
Celebrating this new way to hear the wealth of great recordings The Beatles made in just seven years, The National recommends five key Fabs albums, and offers a Spotify playlist of some of their (slightly) lesser-known gems.
Five Key Beatles Albums
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone, 1967)
“Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish…”, Keith Richards told Esquire last year, but for most music commentators, Sgt. Peppers… still stands as one of pop music’s true milestones, the most forward-looking record of the sixties. Flying from Kenya to London, Paul McCartney had an idea about an Edwardian military band, and soon came Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a fictional entity for the Beatles to hide behind while experimenting and innovating for five months at London’s Abbey Road studios. The transporting, Mellotron-backed imaginings of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; the sublime orchestration on She’s Leaving Home; Ringo’s finest vocal moment With A Little Help From My Friends– they were all recorded on a primitive 4-track tape machine no bigger than your fridge.
Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965)
From Rubber Soul onwards, The Beatles became much, much more than a Mersey-beat pop act. George’s sitar on Norwegian Wood reflected his growing interest in Indian music, Paul sang parts of Michelle in French, and John’s brooding ballad Girl had elements of Greek folk music. Elsewhere, too, the sweet nostalgia of In My Life and sweeping a cappella opening of Nowhere Man were representative of an album that was truly breathtaking in its quality control. It soon topped the charts on both sides of The Atlantic, and in 2012 Rolling Stone ranked it Number 5 in its list of the “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.” Remarkably, The Beatles also recorded double A-side single Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out during the Rubber Soul sessions (neither track appears on the album).
A Hard Day’s Night (Parlophone, 1964)
Doubling as the soundtrack to their first feature film, the Beatles’ third album was the last and most accomplished chapter of their loveable Moptops phase; the end of their (supposed) innocence. It was also the first Beatles album solely composed of original material, and with none of its 13 songs lasting longer than two-and-three-quarter minutes, it whizzes by in a blur of chiming Rickenbacker guitars, lusty harmonica, and gung-ho harmony vocals. If the title track and Can’t Buy Me Love displayed remarkable self-confidence, it was hardly surprising: thanks to a clutch of pre AHDN singles including I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You, The Beatles held all top five places of the Billboard Charts as they upped-tools again.
The Beatles AKA The White Album (Apple, 1968)
Many of the songs on this classic double album were written in March / April 1968, while The Beatles were attending a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India.
Back at Abbey Road, the mellow mood dissipated, creative differences and the ubiquitous in-the-studio presence of John’s new girlfriend Yoko Ono creating tension. The music, though, retained much of the old joy, the brilliant Beach Boys pastiche Back In The U.S.S.R. and the buoyant skiffle of Paul’s Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da being particularly irresistible. Elsewhere, George had pal Eric Clapton drop by to play lead guitar on the spellbinding While My Guitar Gently Weeps, while the Karlheinz Stockhausen-influenced sound-collage Revolution 9 saw The Beatles explore musique concrète.
Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)
“I think before the Abbey Road sessions it was like we should put down the boxing gloves and make a very special album”, Paul McCartney has said, and so it proved. With its much re-enacted cover shot, Abbey Road was the band’s last truly great LP. With George penning the ballads Something and Here Comes The Sun, it was the youngest Beatles’ finest hour, while moody, soulful opener Come Together, written by John, grooved mightily. The eight-song medley which largely comprises the second half of Abbey Road has come to viewed as one of the shining examples of The Beatles creativity, and its penultimate segment The End packs one of Paul’s most perceptive couplets: “And in the end / the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Helter Skelter (from The Beatles, AKA The White Album, 1968)
They say the Stones were raunchier, more raucous. This song begs to differ.
Tomorrow Never Knows (from Revolver, 1966)
Their first psychedelic masterpiece. Features tape-loops, sitar, and Indian-inspired modal backing.
Baby You’re A Rich Man (from Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
“…The point was: stop moaning. You’re a rich man and we’re all rich men…” John Lennon, 1968.
Taxman (from Revolver, 1966)
George Harrison’s gritty gripe about fiscal monies owed was later the model for “Start!” by The Jam.
I’m Only Sleeping (from Revolver, 1966)
Lennon’s heartfelt plea for a lie-in, complete with dreamy, backwards guitar solo.
Things We Said Today (from A Hard Day’s Night, 1964)
An ingenious slice of McCartney melodicism written aboard a yacht in the Caribbean for his then girlfriend, Jane Asher.
Revolution (from compilation album The Beatles 1967-1970)
This faster, heavier version of the song that also appeared on The White Album was the definitive one – and the B-side of “Hey Jude.”
All Together Now (from Yellow Submarine, 1969)
Nursery-rhyme lyrics and in-the-studio enthusiasm result in a super-catchy tune for all the family.
Julia (from The Beatles, AKA The White Album, 1968)
Lennon’s touching tribute to his mother, who was killed in a car accident in 1958.
Because (from Abbey Road, 1969)
Their vocal harmonies never sounded better. The Beatles’ producer George Martin plays electric harpsichord.
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (from Help!, 1965)
That song “is just basically John doing [Bob] Dylan”, said Paul McCartney.
It’s All Too Much (from Yellow Submarine, 1969)
George Harrison’s epic celebration of enlightenment.
Source: art & life