Before we get to this week’s album, here are a few quick things I imagine would’ve been different about the Beatles in the post-1970 world:
– They would’ve dispensed with the whole “Lennon/McCartney” pretense. By The White Album it was quite obvious who was writing which song, so I think they would’ve finally come clean and not pretended John had any part in “Uncle Albert” or Paul in “Gimme Some Truth.” It was the ‘me’ decade, after all.
– They would’ve started touring again. The psychedelic studio experiments had worn off even by Let It Be, and to stay relevant they really had to have a stage show that could compete with Zeppelin, Floyd, ELO, etc… One of the main reasons they stopped touring in the mid-‘60s was that their music outgrew the available technology to make it sound decent live. But by the ‘70s that no longer would’ve been an issue. On a related note…
– For at least a while, they would have refused to perform anything from Sgt. Pepper live. Maybe by 1990 or so after years of pleading, they’d back down and bring the opening “Sgt. Pepper/Friends/Lucy” sequence into the repertoire. But with a twist of some sort – maybe they’d have the audience sing the whole thing. Or they’d do it all accompanied only by George on the sitar.
– Solo material would still exist, mostly in the form of singles. “Give Peace a Chance/Cold Turkey,” “My Sweet Lord,” and many others that are either too rooted in one particular Beatle’s style or are, say, duets with non-Beatles (I won’t ruin the surprise about what’s on later albums and what isn’t) could all still have existed.
Finally, let’s pretend the Beatles would start a tradition of non-album B-sides; that way, we can include songs that didn’t quite make the albums. This occurred to me during the comments on part two, where it was pointed out to me that I really should have considered “Back Seat of My Car” for inclusion on Imagine. After giving it a listen I agreed, and decided it would replace “Monkberry Moon Delight,” which would in turn make a great B-side for the “Imagine” single. So I’m going to start a new Fixing a Hole tradition and theorize what the singles would’ve been from each album, and what their B-sides may have been. I’ll catch up at the end of this installment.
So, onto this week’s faux-album: 1972-3 is not my favorite era for post-Beatles solo material, to say the least. So likewise, I expected this to be one of the not-so-great hypothetical albums — but I was pleasantly surprised about how well this one holds together. Part of it is due to some good Paul singles from this period, but it’s mostly because of the reason for this series in the first place: even the worst Beatle solo LPs always (well, usually) have at least one redeemable track.
I would expect this album to end up kind of like Magical Mystery Tour, an album known more for a few individual songs than as a cohesive unit, one that many people own but often forget about when they’re in the mood for spinning a Beatles disc.
“Big Barn Bed” – Ah, Red Rose Speedway, one of the weirdest releases ever by any uber-famous rock star. I just don’t ever hear of anyone ever having a inkling to listen to it as a whole. Mostly it’s more just forgettable than flat-out bad, I’ll give it that, but there are some low low LOW lows like that god-awful medley… I do like this sing-along opener, although I haven’t the foggiest clue if it’s supposed to be about anything.
“Mind Games” – I often forget what a good song this is. John Lennon created some great music even during his troubled “lost weekend” phase. One of the many reasons John was a genius was his ability to write incredible songs spanning every possible human emotion, as opposed to some songwriters who specialize in one particular one. Crank it up.
“C’Moon” – I like the segue here if I do say so myself. A surprisingly addictive reggae-rock single from Paul that will stick in your head ad nauseam if you’re not careful. I don’t often get the urge to listen to this on its own, but it fits into this album quite well, and I think would’ve made the cut due to its being kind of ahead of its time (reggae was a pretty new thing in 1973 to most people, let’s not forget).
“I Know (I Know)” – One of John’s more memorable guitar riffs but still an oft-forgotten track from the real Mind Games which I’ve always liked.
“Living in the Material World” – The title track from George’s follow-up to All Things Must Pass. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t get into most of that album, it’s just not as engaging as most of his ‘70s output. Way better than Extra Texture, though, don’t get me wrong. I like the little sitar-laced interlude here.
“Hi Hi Hi” – A simple rocker to end side one. Kind of strange, but if Paul had replaced the tedious half of Red Rose Speedway with all of his songs from singles in 1972-1973 it would be a very different animal, and who knows how much different the tone would’ve been set for his critical acclaim or lack thereof. This is assuming one has the patience to listen to it all to pick out which half is more tedious.
“One Day at a Time” – John did a version of this with Elton John too, in their legendary 1974 performance that got John over some temporary stagefright.
“Live and Let Die” – Would the Beatles have succumbed to writing movie themes at this point to keep themselves popular amidst a changing rock and roll landscape? I’m not sure, but this is just too damn good to leave off. Pretend it wasn’t a movie theme for this purpose if you’re a Fab puritan.
“Photograph” – Some people have called Ringo’s self-titled LP (which actually has all four Beatles on it, though not simultaneously) a masterpiece; I think that’s a little overstated, but it certainly is his best of the ‘70s and perhaps his best ever as a whole (though I personally like Time Takes Time a tad better). I chose the Harrison-penned “Photograph” because it really is the most Beatle-ish track on the album.
“Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long” – One of the few gems on Material World, this foreshadows some of George’s later work in lots of ways, I think, minus the Jeff Lynne overproduction.
“Little Lamb Dragonfly” – The Beatles go prog! Seriously, though, one of Paul’s most-often-made mistakes in his solo career I think was that he caught what I call “Heyjude-itis” and tried to turn many songs into epics that, well… just weren’t epics. This is a complex, intriguing ballad that just goes on a little bit too long, but is still without a doubt the highlight of Red Rose Speedway in the same way that Kurt Suzuki is the highlight of the current Oakland A’s lineup. Or that “Born Bad” is the highlight of Elton John’s Victim of Love LP (Never thought I could sneak that reference in to anything other people were reading).
“You Are Here” – John lays down one of his most soulful grooves, and sums up the randomness of the most enigmatic Beatles album of the ‘70s.
WELL-KNOWN SONGS THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT:
“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” – The nice thing about making mixtapes or playlists is that you can play God, and thus I can exercise my personal opinion, which is that this is the single most overrated George Harrison song of all time (Not the worst, mind you, just the most overrated). The words and music just repeat themselves, over and over and over… and George sounds like he’s struggling to keep up with the metronome. And what the &@%# does “keep me free from birth” mean, anyway? I apologize to anyone who finds deep meaning here. Sub it in for either Harrison tune above on your personal playlist if you must.
“Oh My My” and many other songs on Ringo – Not a bad song, but Ringo can only get one tune per album (until the ‘90s and ‘00s, when I feel like he deserved two). I won’t ruin the suspense, but let’s just say we will hear from the Ringo album once more.
“My Love” – Yeesh. A McCartney single, all the way, even if the group hadn’t broken up.
I forgot to mention “Oh Yoko” last week. See above.
And yes, I know that Wings’ Wild Life is not represented at all. I just don’t really like anything on it enough or think any of it would’ve been welcomed much by the rest of the Beatles. “Tomorrow” came close; even “Bip Bop” I considered as a silly little interlude, but not quite.
The songs I’m choosing as B-sides are sometimes my favorites of the ones that didn’t quite make it, and sometimes just the wackier ones, as many bands often put their more esoteric material on B-sides for anyone who dared to listen (and the real Beatles did that themselves in a few instances in the ’60s).
From Join the Human Race
Instant Karma b/w Man We Was Lonely, #4, 1970
What Is Life b/w Hold On, #2, 1970 (kept out of the #1 slot by The Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There, much to the disgust of Beatle fans across America)
Maybe I’m Amazed b/w Wah-Wah, #8, 1971
Imagine b/w Monkberry Moon Delight, #1, 1971
Another Day b/w Crippled Inside, #9, 1972
Jealous Guy b/w Run Of the Mill, #1, 1972
Back Off Boogaloo b/w Bip Bop, #12, 1972 (the dreaded fourth single)
And finally, from this album, Mind Games
Live And Let Die b/w Bring On the Lucie (Freda People), #5, 1973
Mind Games b/w I Lie Around, #9, 1973
Photograph b/w Aisumasen, #2, 1973 (kept out of the #1 slot by Cher’s Half Breed, much to the disgust of Beatle fans across America)
Next time: 1974, where Paul finally gets an album named after one of his songs for the first time since Let It Be, and the Beatles plant themselves firmly in the ‘70s with their most fun and commercially successful album of the decade! (and also their most ‘70s-sounding).