I’ve been waiting to write this one for a long time. In the late ‘80s, as most of us probably remember, the ‘60s became cool again. Tie dye shirts, stonewashed jeans, covers of ‘60s songs becoming huge hits, Dirty Dancing, the list goes on and on. So what better time than this for the Beatles to finally embrace their past? I think as time went on, Tug of Peace and Beatles in Space would be recognized as having some flashes of artistic merit after all, but in 1989 upon release of Fab, I would imagine that this would’ve been hailed as “way better than Beatles in Space,” “their best record in 15 years,” a “return to form,” etc… in the same way that Paul’s Flowers in the Dirt and George’s Cloud Nine were recognized as great later-career statements (though I think Paul was actually disappointed that Flowers wasn’t a bigger success in the US).
Fab is not entirely a throwback album – the production is still very much late ‘80s vintage, and Julian’s material in particular was more forward-looking. His Mr. Jordan album from 1989 is closer in feel to 1986’s Secret Value of Daydreaming than to his more Beatlesque material that came both earlier and later. But Mr. Jordan had a higher share of memorable melodies and songs that would fit in with the Beatles than the ’86 album did.
Fab is sequenced to lead off with the four songs that hearken back to the ‘60s the most, one by each Beatle. This was a marketing ploy, but a clever one. And the album as a whole works as a tasteful combination of looking back and still having something new to say.
Oh, and since we haven’t done this for a while, let’s look at a playlist from the Fab World Tour that just fell through a wormhole in the space-time continuum! As I mentioned earlier, I think 1989 is about when they’d finally back down and play something from Sergeant Pepper live, since by this point it was more than 20 years ago today…
When We Was Fab (with a few instrumental bars of “Within You Without You” played in the sitar outtro, suddenly cut off by…)
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / With a Little Help From My Friends / Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
My Brave Face
Take It Away
You’re The One
Maybe I’m Amazed
Band On the Run
This Is Love
I Don’t Believe You
Ebony and Ivory
Helter Skelter (blowing away the cheese)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
A Hard Day’s Night
All You Need Is Love / She Loves You
Man, if only I could’ve brought the girl I had a crush on junior year of high school to THAT show at Great Woods instead of the B-52’s…
Now onto the long-awaited Fab, the great late ‘80s ‘comeback’ which is probably the Beatles’ best post-1980 album. It’s also the last one with “sides.” God I feel old.
“When We Was Fab” – clearly this was going to be different. Sitars! Strings! References to the ‘60s! The fans ate this up in our alternate reality, and I was always surprised it wasn’t quite so eaten up as a Harrison solo tune in our reality. Sure, people know it, but it was far from his biggest hit. P.S. – Guess who’s on drums in the video? Anyway, the nostalgia-fest leads into Paul’s invoking of Rubber Soul with…
“My Brave Face” – another one I’m surprised wasn’t more successful at the time. It just oozes Beatles all over. It’s not quite as happy a song as the music would have one believe. Was this autobiographical at all? I’ve always wondered a little about that.
“I Don’t Believe You” – Another blatant invocation of early Beatle-dom, but I love it anyway. Ringo didn’t release an album between 1983 and 1992, so I had to borrow from the 1992 album, Time Takes Time, which is surprisingly solid. We’ll hear more from that album in the future.
“This Is Love” – I didn’t originally intend to include this one, but thanks to Dave Steed and his Bottom Feeders series, I gave it another listen, and thought it would fit well here amidst the let’s-revisit-the-‘60s theme. “Devil’s Radio” was in this spot originally, and will make an appearance next time in a spot I think it fits better as well, so it works all around.
“This One” – A track from Flowers in the Dirt that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Is it just me or would Billy Joel kill to have written this?
“Second Time” – About half of Mr. Jordan consists of truly majestic songs that pull you in and don’t really sound like much else ever recorded. That’s the half I included here.
“Figure Of Eight” – Great tune. I remember CRANKING this song as a 17-year-old so excited about this great new McCartney album, my mom asking me to turn it down and my subsequent “but this is Paul McCartney! You’ve heard of him!”
“You’re The One” – If, if, if… If this had been the first single from Mr. Jordan and not the mostly-devoid-of-melody “Now You’re In Heaven,” the album may have fared much better. This is a great example of Julian establishing his own style without completely breaking from his roots. I would say that there’s more than a little Bowie influence on this one too. Can’t go wrong with that.
“Distractions” – An excellent, excellent track from Flowers that I never really noticed much at the time, but recently has become one of my favorites. I love how the strings and clarinets mix with the light, brushy drums, and the jazzy vocal stylings.
“That’s What It Takes” – An excellent, excellent track from Cloud Nine that I never really noticed much at the time, but recently has become one of my favorites. I’m a sucker for unorthodox chord changes. Warning: we’re going to be hearing stuff from Cloud Nine for a while, due to lack of George-age for more than a decade afterwards. Good thing there’s lots to choose from there. Count your blessings that there wasn’t a long layover after Extra Texture.
“Mother Mary” – Love the intro and the dramatic buildups, and that Julian was finally willing to be spiritual (but rock out simultaneously). Not to mention the not-so-subtle reference to a Beatle song. A McCartney one, no less.
“Put It There” – Most Beatles albums don’t end on a quiet note, but I didn’t think anything else really worked as a finale. Hey, it just occurred to me that this is kind of an ‘80s “Teddy Boy!”
My Brave Face b/w Open Your Eyes, #2, 1989 (kept out of the #1 spot by Milli Vanilli’s “Baby Don’t Forget My Number”, much to the disgust of Beatle fans across America)
When We Was Fab b/w You Want Her Too, #1, 1989
Figure Of Eight b/w Golden Blunders, #8, 1989
You’re The One b/w Back On My Feet, #17, 1990
WELL-KNOWN SONGS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT
“Got My Mind Set On You” – sorry folks, couldn’t do it. Why? Let the definitive take on this song, heard by clicking on this link, provide the reason.
“Now You’re In Heaven” – edgy and ground-breaking, perhaps, but even “Revolution #9” has more of a melody. I don’t see the Beatles letting this on.
Next time… the ‘60s get turned upside down into the ‘90s, and a certain classic album title gets turned upside down, as the Beatles implore us to Help Yourself!