Imaginary Beatles albums

In Stephen Baxter’s 1998 alternate history short story “The Twelfth Album”, there’s an imaginary Beatles album called God. There are twelve tracks:

  1. Give Me Some Truth
  2. It Don’t Come Easy
  3. Every Night
  4. All Things Must Pass
  5. Child of Nature (Jealous Guy)
  6. Back Seat of My Car
  7. Instant Karma!
  8. Isn’t It a Pity
  9. Junk
  10. Wah-Wah
  11. God
  12. Maybe I’m Amazed

There are other aspects to Baxter’s story that lend it a elegiac but creepy atmosphere. The Earth from which God comes has been destroyed by cometary impact, but somehow a copy has crossed through a portal into our world. On this record, it’s John who sings the lead vocal on “Maybe I’m Amazed”. It’s the twelfth album because Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine don’t count.

This guy’s imaginary album has the title they briefly considered for Abbey Road (Everest). But he’s also made it a double, and I don’t think that’s right.

I’ve tried a couple of times to make a satisfactory compilation, but I always end up disappointed. You really need to use your imagination and hold onto your faith that the Beatles together were greater than the sum of their parts. Because, really? The Beatles solo has always left me a little flat.

My own Imaginary (which doesn’t even have “Imagine” on it):

  1. Instant Karma!
  2. What is Life
  3. Another Day
  4. I Found Out
  5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
  6. Isn’t It a Pity
  7. It Don’t Come Easy
  8. Remember
  9. My Sweet Lord
  10. Every Night
  11. Wah-Wah
  12. God
  13. Maybe I’m Amazed

At 56 minutes, it’s way too long. Make “My Sweet Lord” a single and take off the lengthy “Isn’t it a Pity” and you’ve got a more manageable 44 minutes and George is down to two songs, instead of the four they kind of agreed in that 1969 board meeting..

But it’s a problem, isn’t it, because even when you put it together and squeeze really hard on your imagination muscles, none of it sounds very Beatleish. Paul’s drumming is wet and sloppy, his bass mixed too high.. George’s voice is buried deep in the mix. Lennon’s turned up the vocal echo to the max.

A 1971 album might have been a bit better, with some of George’s All Things Must Pass and Lennon and Ringo both producing strong songs. But Paul is still noodling around and producing stuff which, with the best will in the world, will take about 40 years to grow on people.

What would have happened? I don’t think Let it Be would have seen the light of day (apart from the single, and “Get Back”, also on a single). So the Beatles would have abandoned it and moved on. Maybe, if not for Klein, they’d have reconvened without suing each other, so another thing I’ve imagined is that 1973/4 era album, the one that has “Band on the Run” on it:

  1. Mind Games
  2. Country Dreamer
  3. Back off Boogaloo
  4. Old Dirt Road
  5. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
  6. Jet
  7. Photograph
  8. Band on the Run
  9. Hi, Hi, Hi
  10. Ding Dong, Ding Dong
  11. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)
  12. #9 Dream

Again, slightly too long. So maybe lose “Boogaloo” (which, from 1972, is too early, a standalone single), and potentially “Hi Hi Hi” (too glam) and “Nobody Loves You”, just for balance and democracy (and it’s a bit of a downer). Or just leave it at 49 minutes.

I like this album much better. “Band on the Run” is an authentic classic, and I really like “Mind Games”, and Lennon under the influence of Nilsson is interesting. “Country Dreamer” is something like the Beatles for Sale era and “Photograph” is Ringo’s best solo number. I originally included George’s “Dark Horse”, but whereas he was the strongest back in 1970, he was not in a good way by ’74, and his voice sounds broken, whereas Paul’s is reaching its peak. So back to just two George songs. Funny how that always happens.

I don’t think I’ve put enough thought into sequencing. I love “Band on the Run” but it has a bit of a weak ending, so I put “#9 Dream” at the end, but now Lennon both opens and closes the record, so who knows?

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