Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Beatles vs Radiohead

So let us review...this week the Beatles' remastered albums were reissued and reviewed by Pitchfork, who rated them as follows:

1963 Please Please Me 9.5
1963 With the Beatles 8.8
1964 A Hard Day’s Night 9.7
1964 Beatles for Sale 9.3
1965 Help! 9.2
1965 Rubber Soul 10.0
1966 Revolver 10.0
1967 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 10.0
1967 Magical Mystery Tour 10.0
1968 The Beatles (the white album) 10.0
1969 Yellow Submarine 6.2
1969 Abbey Road 10.0
1970 Let It Be 9.1

Compare these numbers to the numbers for Radiohead, the most critically acclaimed band of the last 15 years:

1993 Pablo Honey 5.4
1995 The Bends 10.0
1997 OK Computer 10.0
2000 Kid A 10.0
2001 Amnesiac 9.5
2003 Hail to the Thief 8.6
2007 In Rainbows 9.7

In their 8 years of recording together, the Beatles put out 12 studio albums (not including the soundtrack to Yellow Submarine, which Pitchfork rightfully calls the "only minor album" of their career), including the double white album. They released at least one album every one of those years, and most years they released TWO. In contrast, in 18 years of recording, Radiohead have put out just seven studio albums, and no doubles.

Now I love me some Radiohead, but there is no overestimating the significance of the Beatles' catalog on popular music.

Of course there is a major difference between the bands. After 1965, the Beatles were strictly a studio outfit. They did not tour or perform live at all (except for that rooftop last-gasp thing), which gave them lots of time to write and record. Bands can no longer pull this off and are now forced to tour relentlessly, as recorded music is something most people don't pay for anymore.