Not only the earliest Beatles album I have but the earliest pop album. There's still plenty of floppy-haired fun here, starting with the "beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!" of "Drive My Car". The close-harmony vocals and ooh-la-la backing choruses place songs like this firmly in the early 60's. It's well-written and infectious pop all the same. But there's hints here and there of a more interesting and inventive style - the most obvious being "Norwegian Wood" with its quirky lyrics and jaunty sitar-backed tune. "Nowhere Man" is also a fine song, whose lyrics are good to pay attention to for anybody who wants to give themselves a kick up the backside. "The Word" is a reminder of the times when hippyism wasn't a cliche. Paul's "Michelle" must be one of the most simply effective girl's-name songs of all time. The darker side of this is John's embittered "Girl", coloured with some creepy breathy noises. John also rounds the album off in distinctive jealous style with "Run for your Life", and its curt no-nonsense decree "catch yer with another man, that's the end".
It's unsettling listening to this on headphones, because of the unsubtle use of stereo. OK this was only 1965, but having the lead vocals panned at almost 100% left and the bass and drums at 100% right makes the ears feel funny.
January 26, 2004