A few days back, I was listening to the remastered edition of Revolver, and a question occurred to me after "I'm Only Sleeping" ended and "Love You To" began: On all of The Beatles' canon albums, what is the best three-song stretch? The thought came to mind as I was marveling at how strongly Revolver opens. A trio of classics - George's "Taxman," Paul's "Eleanor Rigby," and John's "I'm Only Sleeping" - starts the album and puts it firmly on course to being one of The Beatles' finest LPs. Now my instinct was to deem this the best three-song stretch. Again, those are three bona fide classics. But, to be systematic, I decided to go through all of The Beatles' albums - from Please Please Me to Let It Be, including the American Magical Mystery Tour release -, find out what each one offered on this front, and then compare. Below is the first entry.
Album: Please Please Me
Three songs: "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do"
Comments: If any PPM track besides "A Taste of Honey" had preceded "There's a Place" (which itself precedes "Twist and Shout"), then I would've given the honors to the closing three tracks of the album; by my lights, "There's a Place" and "Twist and Shout" represent the two high points of Please Please Me. But the fluff of "Honey" was just too great to ignore, leaving me to look elsewhere. I then isolated what I saw as the two legitimate options remaining: the album's opening trio of songs - "I Saw Her Standing There," "Misery," and "Anna (Go to Him)"- and "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do." Comparing these song-by-song, I think it's a wash between "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Please Please Me." Both exemplify The Beatles' talent for swaggering, sexually-charged pop, and both are terrific. They are the two best out of the six. Next: "Anna (Go to Him)" vs. "Love Me Do." "Anna" is achingly soulful and features a superb vocal from John, possibly his most memorable on PPM outside of "Twist and Shout." But the inventive and economical "Love Me Do" is more than solid in its own right, and it bears the advantage of being an original composition. Finally, even though I lean toward a more positive take on both, I'm still fairly ambivalent about "Misery" and "Ask Me Why." It's just the case that, when I'm not in the mood for either song, "Misery" - with its glibly overstated emotions - annoys me in a way that "Ask Me Why" doesn't. Thus "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do" it is. But not by much.
Analysis of With The Beatles will be up tomorrow (Update: make that Saturday).