Beatles songs in chronological order

From time to time, I find myself organizing Beatles songs chronologically. This is a bit tricky, since the songs were released in three different formats — singles, EPs, and LPs — and released on different dates in the U.S.A. and the U.K. The singles and EPs appear on the Past Master collection, and the chronology isn’t obvious.

If you want an example of how convoluted the release dates can get, consider Magical Mystery Tour. It was released in the U.K. as a double EP on Dec. 8, 1967; but in fact it came out first (Nov. 27) in the U.S.A., as an LP. But four of the songs included on the U.S. LP (“All You Need Is Love / Baby You’re A Rich Man” and “Hello Goodbye / I Am The Walrus”) were released earlier still as singles in the U.K.; and those songs were not included in the U.K. EP.

In the U.K., most of the singles were not included on the LPs. I find it interesting to know that, for example, “We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper” belongs with Rubber Soul; and “Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane” with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Here, mostly for my own future reference, is a chronological list based on release date (rather than the alternative option, recording date).
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What’s been done

“What’s been done in the name of Jesus?
What’s been done in the name of Buddha?
What’s been done in the name of Islam?
What’s been done in the name of man?
What’s been done in the name of liberation?
And in the name of civilization?
And in the name of race?
And in the name of peace?

Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else.”

Bruce Cockburn, “Justice”

Sticks and stones

“everything we’ve built
could be our demise
it’s the sticks and stones
that wear us down
that often save our lives”

Mute Math, Break The Same

Stick with me, baby

“Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interestin’ right about now.”

Bob Dylan, “Mississippi”

Busy being born

“… he not busy being born is busy dying …”

Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Beethoven updated

About a year ago, Paul Wells offered his recommendations on the best recordings of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. Here’s what he had to say about Paavo Järvi and the philharmonic orchestra in Bremen, Germany:

This [recording] is in second place mostly because it’s still in progress, with only Symphonies 3, 8, 4 and 7 released in North America; and partly because the interpretations are a little quirky. I think it might be best to listen to something a bit more canonical and then you can hear how outside-the-box these Järvi interpretations are.

Aha! Here is an updated rendition of Beethoven! If Järvi hasn’t brought Beethoven into the rock ‘n’ roll era, he has at least updated him to the jazz era.

Why do I say that? Because a good jazz performance swings:  i.e., there’s a propulsion to the performance, as if the next bar is always pulling you toward it. We might refer to it as a “leaning-forward performance”, to distinguish it from what I will call a “vertical performance”.

I’d like to compare two recordings of Beethoven’s 8th symphony. But first, let’s orient ourselves to the music — odds are, you can’t hum the 8th symphony from memory.

CBC Radio 2 has produced an excellent series of podcasts on Beethoven’s symphonies, which you can download for free from iTunes. (Search for “CBC Radio 2 Beethoven”.) Bramwell Tovey, the music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, walks listeners through each of the nine symphonies in turn. Here, he introduces the first movement of Symphony #8.

Now let’s listen to an excerpt from Claudio Abbado’s version:

There’s nothing wrong with that recording. On the contrary, Abbado’s version of the nine symphonies has earned rave reviews (e.g. here).

It is, however, an example of what Paul Wells describes as a “canonical” version of Beethoven; what I have described as a “vertical” Beethoven.
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Beethoven c. 1814

In the world of classical music, the ideal of Historically Informed Performances (HIP) is no longer in vogue.

HIPsters — I’m sure they don’t call themselves that — set out to reproduce the music of Bach, or whomever, just as it sounded during the composer’s lifetime. Such performances would, in theory, be more “authentic”.

A case in point is the complete cycle of [Beethoven’s] symphonies recorded by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe led by Nicholas Harnoncourt […].

What Harnoncourt did was to employ “modern” instruments (many of which are actually the same Stradivarius, Amati, etc. instruments used in Beethoven’s time and earlier but have since been modified to take higher tunings and produce more volume) with modern bows and strings. He also used period winds to a certain extent (ex., the valveless hunting horns used during Beethoven’s time). He employed a ensemble of approximately the same size as orchestras during Beethoven’s time (orchestral forces have gotten consistently larger until the early 20th century when we settled on Mahlerian/Wagnerian/Brucknerian-sized ensembles that have since played Beethoven and Mozart, often with part-doubling). He then went and studied the original scores carefully, coming to many of the same conclusions as his colleagues, Roger Norrington, et. al., have about tempos, phrasing and dynamics. Note that neither Harnoncourt or Norrington followed the metronome markings specified in the manuscripts slavishly, but did try to reflect their spirit throughout the score.

Here’s Mr. Harnoncourt conducting Beethoven’s Fidelio, composed in 1814. In this case, Harnoncourt uses modern instruments:

The HIP movement is a noteworthy example of the ubiquitous tension between tradition and transformation. HIPsters err on the side of tradition. Does authenticity require us to use inferior instruments:  e.g., pianos that are too quiet to be heard over the orchestra, or trumpets without valves? I seriously doubt it.

Surely classical composers were often frustrated by the limitations of the instruments of their day, which could not produce the music as they conceived of it. Consider this:  by the time Beethoven wrote the ninth symphony, he was stone deaf. He never had an opportunity to hear the symphony, except as he imagined it in his own head. One suspects that Beethoven imagined an idealized version of the symphony, which no instruments or musicians would ever be able to replicate.

The philosophy of this blog is that tradition should be retained but also adapted:  a concept that I call (dis)continuity.

It would be foolish to discard tradition; no one has ever surpassed the musical genius of Beethoven. On the other hand, it would be foolish to freeze a tradition at a certain point in history so as to limit its utility and appeal to contemporary individuals. We don’t want to succumb to a technological preoccupation with “fidelity” as the key to truth (in this case, musical truth).

As for Harnoncourt, he is no extremist:

“For me,” says Harnoncourt, “to play together and in equal pitch is not a goal. For me, the rehearsal starts with the content of a piece — what it means, how it can change the listener.

“I was an orchestral musician for 17 years and what I missed was the question ‘why?’. I wanted to know why [conductor] Bruno Walter asked me to play like this …. In those days, musicians were slaves, but my musicians are partners and they have to know about the conception. This is my way of working.” […]

“For me the question is always why a composer wrote in a certain way. And that’s what constantly interests me, the content not the form.”

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