September 9th, 2009 came and went with a flurry of writing and boasting of the new Beatles remasterings. I fancy myself a Beatles fan – I go through stages every few years when I listen to nothing but The Beatles. In fact, I’m in one of those stages right now, since Sierra won’t listen to anything but a combination of “Yellow Submarine,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “Help!”
Through it all, I’ve wholly ignored the early albums, and I’ve never really considered the entire catalog as a whole. These remasters have forced me do that, and for that reason I am in the middle of a grand experiment.
I’ve taken the 209 songs of the traditional Beatles canon, thrown them together in chronological order and am listening to them. Right now. All 9.5 hours. In a row.
(To do this, I took the two discs of Past Masters and reorganized them based on their British release. The same went for the five singles that finish off Magical Mystery Tour. I used this site as my guide.)
If you’re counting and you come up with more than 209, here’s why: I skipped doubles (no alternate version of “Get Back,” “Let it Be” or “Love Me Do”) and I skipped Yellow Submarine, because that album sucks.
Music is so often taken one piece at a time that we rarely see the full picture of a band’s career. Even greatest hits collections are jumbled affairs, mostly missing the mark on continuity and growth despite the appearance of major hits. To listen to everything in the order it was released is to create a sonic timeline, one that – when captured all at once – can show the immense amount of growth, stagnation and dynamic change every band goes through, whether it’s some random garage band or The Beatles.
I found a great benefit in reading John Updike’s Rabbit novels in order, back to back. Not only was I able to grab more of the continuity (thanks to the previous novel being so fresh in my mind) but I was also exposed to Rabbit’s entire life at once. Four books, one life.
The Beatles recorded everything in their collection in a short seven years. I’m running through it all in nine hours.
That’s what I’m doing today. Carry on.