The Beatles - With The Beatles (Parlophone, 1963)
“I was just looking for adventure, me. Anything that didn’t involve working in a factory. Then The Beatles happened. All of a sudden, these four moptop Scousers were all over the radio and the telly…I bought their second LP, With The Beatles. The moment I got it home, everything changed. A light went on in my head when I heard that record…It might sound over-the-top to say it now, but for the first time I felt as though my life had meaning.” - Ozzy Osbourne
If you’ve picked up the latest edition of Classic Rock magazine, you’ll have also read the likes of Alice Cooper, Joe Elliot, Nikki Sixx and Dave Grohl discussing the importance of The Beatles and the profound impact they had on the development of their own careers. The conclusion: all roads lead back to the Fab Four. As Joe Elliot points out, The Beatles “showed everybody the way.” Nikki Sixx refers to Helter Skelter as “a key track in the birth of hard rock.” And according to Alice Cooper, “nobody was better. McCartney and Lennon just did great songs.”
A significant moment in a back catalogue not short on seminal releases was Revolver (1966). Along with the help of fifth member George Martin, The Beatles transformed the recording studio into an instrument of unlimited capabilities. The use of multi-tracking and experimental tape loops on Revolver - and closing track Tomorrow Never Knows in particular – catapulted recorded music into the modern age. The Beatles next record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) took the modern rock album to its aphex, and from there the band went in any and every direction they damn well pleased. The White Album (1968) showcased a radically different group to the band of brothers the world had taken to their hearts five years prior. Yet as is often the case, tension and discontent fuelled the art and The Beatles released the most visceral, varied and vital album of their career.
In the space of a mere two years, they achieved more than most bands do in a lifetime. But in line with this series, and in the interest of tracing the lineage of rock music, we need go back to when the band first cemented their place at the zenith of the zeitgeist, and the album that inspired Ozzy Osbourne and countless others to sell their soul to rock and roll in the first place: With The Beatles. Although almost half of the songs on the album were covers, With The Beatles was the first British release ever to sell over a million copies. It rocketed the band to the top of the charts, where they would stay for the rest of the decade, and remains a fresh and fun listening experience fifty years later.
The covers are all decent, but the real stand out tracks are the originals. All My Loving was Paul McCartney’s first classic composition, and a song that would’ve undoubtedly been a huge hit had there been any singles released from this record - which itself was a bold and unheard of move at the time, such was EMI’s faith in their hit-makers. All I’ve Got To Do, whilst indebted to the Motown sound of Smokey Robinson, is John Lennon at his absolute barest and best. And George Harrison’s first contribution to the cannon – the desolate Don’t Bother Me - is a haunting exercise in minor key melody. Even less impressive tracks like Little Child do the job, and the fact that the token Ringo number was a song they’d donated to The Rolling Stones to provide them with a hit says a lot about how far ahead of their contemporaries The Beatles really were. They were innovators from day one. According to Gene Simmons “The rest of us have just been playing catch up ever since.” For once, he’s actually talking sense.