A few minor thoughts on what is justifiably a minor Beatles album. Beatles ’65 was culled together from the downbeat Beatles for Sale (which didn’t see U.S. release until 1987), a few singles, and a smattering of covers. It was released in December 1964 and rode the top of the charts for nine weeks, beginning in early January. From a purely literary standpoint, that title had to seem prescient, and intimidating, heralding the six-day-old year as belonging to the Fab Four.
That said, Beatles ’65 makes for an uneven listen. Naturally, the Beatles for Sale material holds together wonderfully. “No Reply,” which kicks off side one, and “I’m a Loser,” which follows, are both chestnuts of the hardboiled somber period, particularly “No Reply,” with Lennon yalping “I nearly died!” upon seeing his lady walking out with another man. “I’ll Follow the Sun” does the rainy-day folk thing with more taste and complexity than some of the later material. But side two suffers from its Carl Perkins covers, which, while thrilling in themselves, undercut the emotional mood established by the Beatles for Sale material and inadvertently make themselves vulgar; not even Ringo’s begging George for a guitar solo in “Honey Don’t” can quite cover the jarring transition.
It’s a strange experience to drop the needle on a Beatles record and not know half of the songs. After yesterday’s post, a friend sent over his favorite Beatles song, Yellow Submarine‘s “It’s All Too Much.” “The greatest Beatles song, and also the least listened to or referenced,” he noted, and he was right, at least about the song’s obscurity. The Beatles canon was settled so long ago, and settled so definitively, that it seems impossible that there could be more to discover here–after all, it’s not as though we’re dealing with an unwieldy, unknowable behemoth. Yellow Submarine, Beatles ’65, and others have all been cut out in favor of the album-oriented “major” work. Part of this is surely owing to those records’ having been cobbled together piecemeal from other releases, but the songs included here shouldn’t have to suffer for their compilers’ sins.