Listening to all of The Beatles

samfloy~23 May 2020 /Personal

Despite last week’s assertion to get more influence from more diverse sources (i.e. non-white males) I have spent the last week listening to mainly just that.

With a free Saturday, and an apartment to clean, I decided to get started on listening to the back catalogue of The Beatles.

Growing up my parents would occasionally have it on and speak about listening to it when they were younger (my Mum was horrified to learn it was a topic came up in one of my history classes).

Until last week I had a sort of patchwork understanding of their music:

  1. Beatlemania: quite quirky “oooh” pop songs
  2. ?: slightly trippy songs about Walruses

Occasionally people would talk about “The White Album” but whenever I put it on shuffle I’d end up with really drawn out weird stuff and get put off.

Anyway, it felt like an appropriate time to go back and listen to it all from the beginning, and also get a bit more clued up on what was going on with the story.

How I listened

The rough procedure I followed was:

  1. Listen to the (remastered) album on Spotify
  2. Read the Wikipedia entry about the album
  3. Move on to the next

This ended up working well to serve as a narrative for the journey of the band. 

There were certain songs that one would never listen to as a standalone single, but as part of the broader arc of an album fitted really nicely.

The reading up brought interesting context to the band’s tour fatigue and the decision to become an exclusively “studio band”.

Much of the praise from music aficionados comes not from throngs of teenage girls fainting at the band’s floppy hair, but because they pushed the limits of what was possible in a recording studio.

There was also the whole sub-plot of the band’s experimentation with drugs (and how that reflected in the music), the tension between the band members and how the styles they developed were taken over by other bands.

How long did it take?

Roughly 10 hours in total.

Almost all of the 13 albums are under 40 minutes and so by the end of Saturday I was already at the first real shift to “oooh” to experimental with the album Revolver.

Where possible, I tried to concentrate on just listening to the album, and borrowed my girlfriend’s good headphone which enhanced the appreciation.

If you’re stuck for a little side project then let me know if you also end up doing something similar with other bands – it’d be nice to exchange notes..!

In other news…

I did, nevertheless, listen to a very interesting podcast from outside the normal white male sect.

It was episode 3 from a show called Tales from the Tannoy. The concept is to explore the people behind the voices that are a part of everyday – e.g. doing train announcements or giving the voice for SatNav systems.

The interview was tangentially about the guest’s work doing voice over for the evening news, but was much more about mental health and how childhood trauma carries through into adulthood. The two have a lovely rapport and I found it equal parts tragic and uplifting.

This post originally featured in the newsletter I write. If you’d like to sign up to receive it at the start of each month, you can do so below: