The Big Beatles Sort Out (podcast)

I need another Beatles podcast in my life like I need a hole in my head, but yet here we are. I always go back to the fact that The Beatles were the main reason I started listening to podcasts in the first place. On some metrics, I consider myself quite restrained, because there are definitely more Beatles podcasts than there are hours in the day week year.

My main two three are as follows:

  • Nothing is Real – Jason Carty and Steven Cockcroft’s discussions are free wheeling and engaging, without following any particular formula, which I appreciate. They haven’t forced themselves into any boxes, which means they’re capable of surprising the listener. In their most recent season, for example, they did three episodes on All Things Must Pass and two on The Beatles at Christmas in the 70s. Season 4 is upcoming.
  • I am the EggPod – Chris Shaw interviews a series of guests about a favourite Beatles group or solo record. There are a number of repeat guests, which gives this show a family feel, but there are also enough new voices that it remains interesting.
  • Another Kind of Mind – the podcast that challenges the very biased Beatles narrative is still irregularly producing new episodes, but the back catalogue is definitely worth exploring. (I first wrote about it here.) For example, one of the greatest dissonances of Beatle fandom is that so many people who love the group and their music will quote John Lennon’s excoriating dismissal of everything they did, bar one or two bits he decided were ‘real’. And you can’t have it both ways, can you? Can’t believe they are the Greatest Story Ever Told and at the same time cleave to Lennon’s dismissal of Sgt. Pepper?

There’s another one, which is in short supply (but perhaps with more coming soon), and that’s Jason Kruppa’s Producing the Beatles, which is a nicely nerdy dive into the studio techniques they used in producing their work, the very trickery indeed that Lennon was so dismissive of. So this is very George Martin focused, and that’s not a bad thing. Only 11½ episodes, but I keep it in my feed in hopes of a new season soon.

And now this: The Big Beatles Sort Out, in which Garry Abbott (and his brother Paul) rate and rank every Beatles song, five at a time, selected at random in each episode. It’s silly, and I hardly believe in the premise, let alone with his rankings: but that is of course the point. It’s just nice to listen to a couple of people talking through their feelings about the songs, particularly two people with such different tastes to mine. For example, I could not believe the high score they gave to “Good Night” from the White Album, which has been near the top of my skip list for 40 years. Abbott rates the songs three ways: music, production, and lyrics. This is definitely not what I would have done. He then averages the score and puts them in an ever-evolving chart, reserving the right to tweak scores later on. It’s all good fun, although it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

It did make me think, though, about how I might go about such a ranking. I have two main criteria: would I let it play, or would I skip it? And if I let it play, how does it make me feel? Aside from that, I suppose a fourth category is my overall sense of its quality as a record. So assuming a random playback from my device, my scoring went as follows (all marks out of 10, with no zero scores):

(Likelihood of letting it play MINUS Likelihood that I’d skip it on any given day) MULTIPLIED BY (its emotional impact on me MULTIPLIED BY my sense of how good it is, as a song or recording)

An example: Get Back. Well, I think there’s a 7/10 chance that if this came on, I’d let it play. And only a 2/10 chance I’d be in such a mood as to skip it. So that’s 7-2 = 5, which I then multiply by its scoring. 7/10 for impact and 8/10 for overall quality (7×8 = 56). So the overall score is 5 x 56 = 280.

That leaves it at #13 in my own personal chart. If nothing else, I’ve now created a playlist of my absolute favourite top 20. It’s all very subjective, of course, and always subject to change over time. I cheated, by the way, and counted the Abbey Road medley as one track. Because you just don’t play, say, “Polythene Pam” without also playing everything else around it.

Here’s my top 10:

  1. Hey Jude
  2. A Day in the Life
  3. Abbey Road Medley to “The End”
  4. Let it Be
  5. Here Comes the Sun
  6. Lady Madonna
  7. Penny Lane
  8. All My Loving
  9. I’ve Just Seen a Face
  10. Real Love

What you’ll see there is that I’m very much Team Paul, if we’re choosing sides. But also: talk about change over time! Something like “Real Love” can hardly be separated from the occasion of its release and associated feelings.

My bottom 10:

  1. I Will
  2. Piggies
  3. Honey Pie
  4. Till There Was You
  5. Flying
  6. Fool on the Hill
  7. Blue Jay Way
  8. Revolution 9
  9. Long, Long, Long
  10. Tomorrow Never Knows

This end of the scale will require more tweaking. Because for the score to be accurate, “Emotional Impact” has to work both ways. So something I really hate (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) has as high an emotional impact as something I really love. It’s no use giving minus numbers because multiplying two minus scores will lead to a high positive score.

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