Beatles 60s album openers compared with Dylan’s… a subjective list!

Just for fun, I thought I’d consider the UK Beatles LPs from the 1960s in terms of their opening tracks and see which ones I thought worked best as ‘openers’, in other words, not necessarily thinking about which are the best songs, by some subjective set of criteria, but rather which ones grab attention the most and set the tone for the album (granted, also in a subjective way).

All these songs are great, otherwise I wouldn’t be bothered to write about them.

It’s also important to remember that, when The Beatles put out their first LP, the ‘album’ format as we know it was a different prospect.

It literally was just a collection of songs, rather than an artistic statement.

That would happen later and largely as a result of the work The Beatles themselves would produce, with a number of other factors at play.

The impracticality of touring, the advancement of studio technology and production, the sheer inventiveness and sophistication of the music and the ever-present competition from other artists gradually led to the LP becoming the dominant statement.

With an act as prolific as The Beatles, the single still retained significance and looking at their output throughout the 60s, it’s really impossible to argue that there is any evidence of a decline in quality in either format.

In fact, you could argue that the opposite is true.

I started thinking about ‘openers’ from Beatles albums, then just for amusement, I thought I’d do the same for UK Bob Dylan LPs from the same decade.

The reason I chose Dylan is that, in terms of continuous high-value LP output throughout the 60s, he’s really the only artist to match, or in some cases outmatch The Beatles in terms of quality song-writing, on average, year on year.

The results are fascinating.

An album opener then – as I say, not necessarily the greatest songs on the record, but the one that captures your attention and makes you think – “I want to hear the rest of this right away”.

The eagle-eyed will notice that I have included Magical Mystery Tour from 1967 and yes, I know it was a US release and an EP in the UK – but it’s a great track so I had to include it.

BEATLES

  1. Back In The USSR from The Beatles (1968)
  2. Taxman from Revolver (1966)
  3. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  4. Drive My Car from Rubber Soul (1965)
  5. Magical Mystery Tour from Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
  6. Help! From Help! (1965)
  7. A Hard Day’s Night from A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  8. Come Together from Abbey Road (1969)
  9. I Saw Her Standing There from Please Please Me (1963)
  10. Yellow Submarine from Yellow Submarine (1969)
  11. No Reply from Beatles For Sale (1964)
  12. It Won’t Be Long from With The Beatles (1963)
  13. Two Of Us from Let It Be (1970)

There you go. Now here’s what I came up with for Dylan:

BOB DYLAN

  1. Like A Rolling Stone from Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  2. Subterranean Homesick Blues from Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
  3. Blowin’ In The Wind from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
  4. The Times They Are A-Changin’ from The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
  5. John Wesley Harding from John Wesley Harding (1967)
  6. Girl From The North Country from Nashville Skyline (1969)
  7. If Not For You from New Morning (1970)
  8. All I Really Want To Do from Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)
  9. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 from Blonde On Blonde (1966)
  10. You’re/She’s No Good from Bob Dylan (1962)
  11. All The Tired Horses from Self Portrait (1970)

And now for the really fun and ridiculously subjective part… mixing up the list to include Dylan and The Beatles…

  1. Like A Rolling Stone from Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  2. Back In The USSR from The Beatles (1968)
  3. Taxman from Revolver (1966)
  4. Subterranean Homesick Blues from Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
  5. Blowin’ In The Wind from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)              
  6. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
  7. Drive My Car from Rubber Soul (1965)
  8. Magical Mystery Tour from Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
  9. The Times They Are A-Changin’ from The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
  10. Help! From Help! (1965)
  11. A Hard Day’s Night from A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  12. John Wesley Harding from John Wesley Harding (1967)
  13. Come Together from Abbey Road (1969)
  14. Girl From The North Country from Nashville Skyline (1969)
  15. I Saw Her Standing There from Please Please Me (1963)
  16. Yellow Submarine from Yellow Submarine (1969)
  17. No Reply from Beatles For Sale (1964)
  18. It Won’t Be Long from With The Beatles (1963)
  19. Two Of Us from Let It Be (1970)
  20. If Not For You from New Morning (1970)
  21. All I Really Want To Do from Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)
  22. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 from Blonde On Blonde (1966)
  23. You’re/She’s No Good from Bob Dylan (1962)
  24. All The Tired Horses from Self Portrait (1970)

Remember that this is about opening an album and that’s why I have Taxman above Blowin’ In The Wind, for example – not because I think Taxman, great as it is, is a better song than Blowin’ In The Wind, but rather that it opens Revolver so perfectly.

It’s also interesting to note that No Reply – a Beatles song with an obvious Dylan influence, gets a higher position on the list than some of the actual Dylan recordings.

And Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, although it starts one of the best albums ever, has never struck me as a particularly strong album opener.

In fact, I got into the habit of starting Blonde On Blonde at track three… sacrilege for some.

But, most noteworthy of all I think is that Dylan himself tops the list with Like A Rolling Stone.

The reason for this is simple.

It’s a great, great album opener.

Possibly the greatest ever (that’s for another post).

Snare… and bang, we’re into it…

Just over six minutes of pure attitude.

The one, the only…

Anyway, that’s for another post as well.

I wanted this one to be fairly brief, so maybe I’ll return to it again…

What do you think?

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