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The Significance of 1
A look at the bestselling new Beatles compilation.

by S.E. Shepherd
January 8, 2001

The Significance of <i>1</i>_S.E. Shepherd-A look at the bestselling new Beatles compilation. The Beatles are simply the most amazing pop/rock band ever. How else can you explain their ability to have the number one album, 30 years after they stopped recording as a band, with material that has never been out of print? Unlike the Anthology series of five years ago, there is absolutely no new material on 1, so why is it selling so well? What is its appeal?

A proper critique of 1 is nearly impossible. It gives us exactly what it promises, every Beatles song that was a number one hit for the Beatles, either in the U.S., Great Britain, or both. What is amazing, however, is that these are not necessarily the songs we immediately associate with the Beatles. Absent from 1 are songs from Sgt. Pepper, the classic cover tunes such as “Twist and Shout,” and the rock-anthem “Revolution.” Present are the lesser known “From Me to You,” “Paperback Writer,” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” While there is no such thing as an obscure Beatles song, these come as close as possible.

Because of this, 1 makes a good introductory album. Everyone is familiar with the Beatles to some degree, but for those who don’t know much about their history and don’t own a lot of their music, 1 is an excellent starting place. It spotlights some of the “forgotten” gems, and sprinkles in some of the songs we all know and love. “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Yesterday,” and “Hey Jude” are all here, as well as “I Feel Fine” and “Lady Madonna.” 1 also gives us a perspective how the Beatles were viewed by their original audience. While “Strawberry Fields Forever” may have been the more innovative song, “Penny Lane” was more popular. And 1 reminds us that the Beatles were an international band by providing a booklet with picture sleeves from around the world.

The most amazing thing about any Beatles collection is how fresh the music sounds, even thirty years later. The Beatles had such an infectious joy creating their music, and this shows especially on the early tracks. Try, just try to listen to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” without moving any part of your body. In the later tracks, as the Beatles matured and the music grew more serious, some of the joy dissipates slightly, but the craftsmanship never fades. Each song is the band at its best.

For those that own or plan to own every one of the Beatles original CDs, 1 has little to offer. It does, however, create a nice cross-section of their career, highlighting important developments in their music. More clearly than any other album, we can hear the growth and changes the Beatles went through in a very short period. They and their peers are responsible for turning Rock ‘n’ Roll into Rock. Ultimately, 1 is not really for the first few generations of Beatles fans, but for the next generations. Already the best-known band of the 20th century, the Beatles and their record company hope 1 will propel them into the 21st century and beyond. With number one sales yet again, the Beatles legend can only grow.

About the Author:
S.E. Shepherd is a new contributor to the Partial Observer, and is therefore shy about using his full name. He also wants it known that he is the Walrus (Coo-coo-ka-joog!)

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