February is music month for The Spac Hole, for no reason other than I’ve written a crapload of posts about music and what to clean out my drafts section. As it’s music month, I’m going to post a few of these. Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).
This time I’m doing the first album by those purveyors of peace, The B Sharps, and their first album Please Please Me. If you want to check out my actual review of their album – check this link. We start with The Beatles because – everyone knows them, and they are kind of the benchmark for all modern music and for the album as a format. Every band is measured against The Beatles in terms of success and acclaim, so if I can score all of their albums we can see how everyone else competes. As for my score, based on the system, read on my friend.
Sales: 5 (Like most Beatles albums this sold roughly a bazillion copies, and while it may not have sold as well as their others, I don’t think you can score this less than a 5).
Chart: 5 (Like most Beatles albums, this went to Number 1 in roughly a bazillion countries, at least where the concept of charts existed. Again, no way you can score this less than a 5).
Critical: 5 (Although later releases garnered much greater critical success, this was lauded at the time, and is still praised now, 50 years later, so it can’t really be any less than a 5. If you’re being very strict and comparing it to their other work in terms of critical consensus, then maybe you can go with a 4).
Originality: 3 (The band, even on their debut, were experimenting with what it meant to record, release, and BE an album, but still the old tropes of including covers to bump up the number of tracks were used. The idea of a band writing all their own tracks and playing own instruments was not quite there yet, but we can see the beginnings here. As for the songs, there isn’t a huge much of originality. I can see people going higher than a 3, but in truth this echoed much of fifties rock, albeit with a new sensibility).
Influence: 4 (The first Beatles albums were released in such quick succession, so it’s difficult to determine which album truly was the most influential. Nevertheless, the whole idea of the band, the recording, the playing style etc etc is on display here and primarily went on to influence a whole host of local and international imitators. People who think their stronger influences came later may go lower).
Musical Ability: 4 (While there isn’t anything terribly difficult or complex here, the playing is almost brutal in its energy, showing an extreme ease and comfort to the playing – signs that they could do a lot more if called for, even if it was not called for here. I can see hardcore musicians going lower on this, and general fans who may not have a technical background going higher).
Lyrics: 3 (The original songs are mostly a collection of love songs, either highlighting the joys, pitfalls, or depressions of the feeling. The lyrical genius was still brewing, but there are moments which show what was around the corner. Not to sound condescending, but those with less of a literary background or who don’t usually pay attention to lyrics may go higher, likewise snobs may go lower).
Melody: 4 (With neat twists on the covers, and a solid run of infectious originals, the melodies are strong, but not yet reaching the peaks which would come later. I imagine most will go four or five here, I don’t think you could go lower than three).
Emotion: 3 (There isn’t a great amount of emotional content here, most of the focus being on raw energy and the sheer joy of playing, but again there are moments of cynicism and tenderness. The soppy and the big fans or those with nostalgia will go higher, but 3-4 seems the most accurate).
Resilience: 5 (I’ve changed the name of this category – basically means how long does the music last over time – do we still care one or five years later? Fifty years on we are still listening to it, and although it doesn’t hold up as well as some other Beatles albums, how many other fifty year old albums do so many people still listen to? If you’re being harsh and saying most people only listen to a handful of songs rather than the whole album, you could go with four but I can’t see anyone going lower).
Vocals: 4 (There are a few tame, lame moments here, but on the whole this is powerful stuff, from McCartney’s stonking opener, to Lennon’s growling closer. The harmonies work well, still a work in progress, but all the hallmarks of their best moments are on display. Hardcore fans will likely go five regardless, and I doubt anyone would go less than four).
Coherence: 4 (Whilst not yet an album as an art form, this is definitely more than just a collection of hits and covers largely held together by the group’s energy and synergy – having played and toured together for some time, these songs roll out of the studio easily and almost feel like a set list. While some of the covers can sound out of place, it is the original hits which pull the album together, highlighting a growing writing partnership. This category will be difficult for some to understand and could garner some anomalies, but three to five should be the norm).
Mood: 3 (I don’t think the band set out to create one mood or style with their debut, again that would come later, but most of the tracks succeed in what they want to achieve – the rockers make us want to rock, the pop ones make us sing along, while the more downbeat tracks are the weaker link, leaving us uncertain).
Production: 4 (Again this feels loose, almost like a live record, and the little touches and ‘mistakes’ left in lend a charming quality where they would normally grate. The frenetic pace of the album soaks through, partly down to the lightning fast recording of the album. Nothing is drowned out, and this feels like one of the first true, raw, rock albums, leaving behind the crooners of the past. Like some of the categories, Production can be reliant on personal taste so the scores here could vary).
Effort: 4 (Most of the effort which went into the making of this album came in the preceding months and years of touring and perfecting their craft, meaning that the recording, while fast and frantic, was largely problem free. Then again, the schedule was frantic, and the band were able to decide upon the likes of Twist And Shout as new entries for the album. This one is a difficult one to gauge without a lot of investigation so people will most likely go with gut feeling and what info they have).
Relationship: 4 (This is the atypical early Beatles album, and the surrounding releases are in the same vein. Being born two decades after it was released means it’s not the easiest thing to relate to, but for those around at the time, this was symbolic of the spirit of swinging 60s Liverpool and of the many bands who were plying their trade in the clubs and pubs around the Mersey. Four or five seem the most obvious votes).
Genre Relation: 4 (Many merseybeat bands were trying to make it big around the time this was released, and while many had regular gigs, fans, and the occasional hit single, Please Please Me took the genre to the next level. It is a merge of pop, rock, and blues, combining a variety of styles to create what would become one of the first true rock albums. The Beatles would continue to improve upon this with each release, and many people took this as their inspiration to start a ‘rock band’).
Authenticity: 5 (Possibly the most authentic album in the Beatles catalogue, this is the true sound of a band eager to make an impact, to make it big, and to play for the love of playing. They take no prisoners with their style, the ‘mistakes’ mentioned earlier are left in to give a more true account of what it is to be an artist. It would look unreasonable to give this less than a 5).
Personal: 4 (This is unlikely to be picked by many as the best Beatles album, but as a debut there are few better, or with such an impact. If only some of the lesser covers had been replaced by some of the stronger original material which was left off, this would have been a 5 in my eyes. I do skip quite a few songs when I listen, so it can’t be a five for me).
Misc: 4 (Memorable album cover, interesting liner notes, a lot of history and background, make me give a 4 in the vague, miscellaneous category. I imagine this category will be used by most as an additional personal category/cheat and an excuse to bump up an album they love or hold back one they don’t.)
There we have it – our first baseline – the first album by the band most consider as the best ever, gets an 81. I think I’ve been fair and logical in my assessments and while 81 sounds low, I think it is valid. If we break down our score into standard even A-E grades, 81-100 would be classed as an A, or an overall 5/5. I personally think it’s only a B grade Album, both in terms of their own work and music in general, and that most scores are inflated by the band’s significance, an 81 or A grade is fine. They just scraped in. Of course with this hitting the highest grade, I imagine my scores for most of the subsequent albums will also fall within this tier, with probably two or three falling slightly lower.
What do you think of the album? What do you think of the system? How do you grade, and how many minutes will it take you to realise the error of your ways and adopt my system instead? Let us know in the comments!
I never played this one when I had a copy of it in the house. I’d always go post Revolver for an album experience but there’s some great singles here and the scoring system is the real work of art.
Revolver and Help are probably my favourites. I’m waiting for a richer academic to steal the system and claim it as their own…