With all of the Beatles catalog becoming available to streaming sites for the first time earlier this year, and all three of the Beatles Anthologies coming to streaming just this past month, we here at Deadshirt decided to rank all of the core Beatles albums. Really, the only way we here at the Deadshirt music staff know how to rank things is to pit them against each other one-by-one, March Madness bracket-style, so that’s what we’re gonna do. Resident Beatle-heads Dylan Roth, Sam Paxton, and David Lebovitz will be deliberating the merits of each album and comparing them with each other album over and over again until finally one is declared the winner. It’s a grueling process for them, but greatly entertaining for us. Print out your own brackets, start an office pool, and enjoy the show.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band vs. Abbey Road
Julian: After several weeks of deliberation, we’ve almost completed the gargantuan task of finding the best album in The Beatles’ stellar catalogue. Just two albums remain in The Liverpool Finals: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road. These albums are the second and third most selling albums in the band’s catalog, behind The Beatles (“The White Album”), which Sgt. Pepper’s beat in an earlier round. Our panelists could never 100% agree on Sgt. Pepper’s, there was always one hold out in it’s three matchups, but it still made it to the finals. Abbey Road unanimously won both of its previous matches to make it here. Does Abbey Road continue its dominance, or can the scrappy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band pull this one out? We’ll start with Dylan:
Dylan: We’ve spent the last three weeks writing pretty exhaustively about both of these albums. They’re both undisputed classics that have stood the test of time and shaped the landscape of pop music. I couldn’t guess for certain how the two of you plan to align yourselves, but you can guess based on my voting record that I’m leaning strongly in favor of Abbey Road. The strongest case in favor of Sgt. Pepper’s is its cohesion as a complete album, but Abbey Road would be the only other Beatles album that can challenge it in that regard. In some respects, Abbey Road splits the difference between their single-oriented records (with its hit-after-hit-after-hit Side One) and ambitious concept albums (with the nearly non-stop Side Two).
That being said, Abbey Road isn’t my all-time favorite Beatles album (that’d be Revolver), so I’m not exactly adamantine in my position here. If either of you is planning to vote Pepper’s, I challenge you to swing my vote. I’m all ears, fellas.
David: It was always going to come down to these two. I’m not just saying that because I voted on them – I’m convinced you could pick any three Beatles fans at random with the bracket we started with and we’d end either in this situation or a damn close one. There’s not really a wrong answer, but someone’s gotta lose, and as close as this is, I come in leaning strongly towards Abbey Road. I know we’ve spent the past few weeks letting Dylan know, in various ways, he is Wrong about Sgt. Pepper’s and that he should be grateful we haven’t staged some kind of hostile takeover of Deadshirt because of his Wrongness because we are Good Boys, but today is not the day I tell you Sgt. Pepper’s is the better choice.
Sgt. Pepper’s has a few edges here and there over Abbey Road. Sgt. Pepper’s is the only Beatles album that commits to psychedelia without overkilling it. It balances the Indian influence George loved so much without it being overbearing. It was sampled by the Beastie Boys on “The Sound Of Science.” But none of that – not even being associated with Paul’s Boutique – stacks up to what Abbey Road accomplished. You hit the nail on the head by saying that Abbey Road splits the difference between their best habits. Every single song on Side One is perfect and fitting in its own way, and Side Two is just a fully realized concept that blends better than almost every other full album ever made. I can talk up “Here Comes The Sun” or “Something” – two of George’s best. I could bring up “Octopus’s Garden” – don’t you dare tell me hearing Ringo Starr sing about the Fishy Playground doesn’t make you smile every time. Or I could just instruct you to listen to the second side and try to convince me that that alone isn’t enough to push this beyond Sgt. Pepper’s. You have any plans to dissuade either of us, Sam?
Sam: This is really, really tough for me – these are the two Beatles albums I love the most, have spent the most time with, have the most nostalgia attached to. Sgt. Pepper’s is so wildly inventive; even hot on the heels of Revolver, it’s a quantum leap forward for the Fab Four. Many of the songs here are absolutely essential Beatles cuts, and even though I used to find myself skipping some of the weirder tracks (“Within You Without You,” “Good Morning Good Morning”), they’ve recently opened themselves up to me in surprising ways. We’ve talked at length about how it basically set the standard for the Album As Art, and how it largely introduced the idea of using the studio as an instrument. There’s no doubt in my mind that the innovation it symbolizes is a large part of the reason it’s so revered.
As much as I was hoping to at least have a spirited debate about this, however, I really can’t disagree with either of you. Lord knows I love being a contrarian, but Abbey Road represents the Beatles at the absolute peak of their powers. Every single track is a stone-cold classic, and yes, that includes the lovably goofy “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Octopus’s Garden.” Even forty-some years on, most bands could only dream of crafting something as sublime as the B-side medley. I’m sorry to go out with a whimper instead of a bang, boys, but it looks like we’re unanimous on this one. Just remember (to paraphrase Sir Paul): “In the end, the votes you take are equal to the votes you make, or whatever.”
The Most Fab: Abbey Road
Thanks for reading The Liverpool! Stay tuned for our next bracket!