If The Beatles had put out an exclusively hard rock album in the late sixties?

How would it most likely have been received by critics and fans?

I’m imagining a ten to twelve track album of which something like Helter Skelter is the lightest track.


So let’s say by all appearances they’ve put out an non-ironic, straightforward hard rock album that embraces and pushes the limits of that sound to the best of their abilities. How is it received? Would history side more with Erlewine or MacDonald?

Well I would say that the ‘fast’ version of the song Revolution is both one of the very first and, even now, still one of the best hard rock songs ever!

As a matter of personal taste when it comes to the heavier songs on The White Album, I much prefer Lennon’s “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide” to “Helter Skelter”. If the Beatles made an album with songs like that, and “She Said She Said” from Revolver, I would have been first in line to buy it.

It would have had to been written mostly by John, with a small dash of George, and no Paul or Ringo compositions. John could write hard rock, George could write dark. Paul could only write great pop tunes not suitable for heavy metal albums. Ringo was a great drummer.

Paul penned what was arguably the hardest rocking song of the entire Beatles catalogue, “Helter Skelter”. John was know to write some pretty schmaltzy stuff, y’know. . . “Goodnight”

I remeber having the Beatles Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Vol.2 cassette and thought it rocked pretty hard.
I’m Down, Revolution, Back in the U.S.S.R., Helter Skelter, Taxman, Birthday, Get Back.

I argue that Helter Skelter is not anywhere *near *the hardest rocking song of the entire Beatles catalogue. Just because we’ve got Paul telling us that he sat down to write the hardest rocking song the Beatles ever produced, and this came out, doesn’t mean it’s the hardest rocking song the Beatles ever produced. It’s heavy bubblegum. I like the song, don’t get me wrong, but for Pete’s sake, it’s a song about a roller coaster!

And John’s schmaltzy ‘Good Night’ has nothing to do with the fact that John could write hard rock.

Back in the USSR and I Saw Her Standing There are two of The Beatles most hard rocking songs, both by Paul. John’s songs tend to be a bit ‘edgier’ than Paul’s, but that is not the same thing as harder rocking.

Neither is as heavy as “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, though, which was one of John’s.

It simply wouldn’t have happened. Their variety - oompah beats, English show tunes, etc define the Beatles.

What would a band that was heavy, but had a lot of variety, sound like? Led Zeppelin. The Who. That’s why they were so popular.

When you write this, in response to this

it makes it sound like you don’t know that Paul wrote “Helter Skelter” and, thus, that your opinion is not to be trusted. At the very least, it’s demonstrably true that Paul could write “something like Helter Skelter.”

And I don’t believe the subject matter of a song can disqualify it from being hard rock.
So now I’m trying to think how hard each of the four managed to rock post-Beatles, but I’m not coming up with any obvious examples of extreme heaviness.

Cold Turkey could qualify as “heavy” I think.

A decent mix CD/tape/playlist (not sure what to call it) could be made of “Hard Rockin’ Beatles”

“Hey Bulldog”, “Birthday,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” “Helter Skelter,” and “It’s All Too Much”

“I’ve Got a Feeling,” “Old Brown Shoe,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”) and “Get Back” (Rooftop version)

It is heavier, I suppose (and even has the word in the title) but I would not actually say it rocks harder than the examples I gave. Rocking hard and being heavy are not the same thing as I understand it, though they are often linked. Anyway, my point was not that Paul rocked harder than John, but they both knew how to rock.

Anyway, WordMan is undoubtedly correct that The Beatles greatness lay not in their hard rocking (even in their early days, when they certainly rocked harder than most, they could scarcely match Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard, for instance), but in the huge range and variety of different musical styles that they were able to do very well (and sometimes pioneered). If you really want the best hard rock from that era you shouldn’t be looking to The Beatles at all, you want The Who, or Cream, or Hendrix, or the Stones, or even the early Kinks. If you really want heavy you are better looking a little later, at Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. None of those bands could do remotely as many styles as well as The Beatles could, but they were better at the relatively limited range of things that they did do well. I am sure you can find better balladeers, better comic song writers, better show-tune or folksy style songwriters, and so forth - perhaps even some better writers of light, commercial pop - from the era too, but no-one who did all of it at the level The Beatles managed to.

To make an album exclusively of The Beatles as rockers is really to miss the whole point of The Beatles.

Yes, of course all of that is correct, but it’s fighting the hypothetical.

Yep - unfortunately, that’s kind of the point. In effect, the OP is asking “what if the Beatles put all of their weight behind a genre that challenged the mainstream music mindset of the day?”

The trick with introducing influences is doing it in a non-threatening way. When the Police introduced world beat influences to the pop-punk, we were ready. When Clapton came out with his awful, pseudo-reggae version of I Shot the Sheriff, it was the right person at the right time (unfortunately). Same with the Stones and their work with Peter Tosh - which fortunately sounded much better vs. EC. And with Paul Simon and Graceland, and Peter Gabriel and his solo work/work with folks like Youssou N’dour - talk about kicking the door down…

So, the Beatles would’ve gotten a lot of attention and it might’ve pushed heavier music more into the mainstream - but that genre was already headed in that direction via bands like Zep and the Who…

Beatles 65 wasn’t exactly “Hard Rock”. But it had many excellent rock songs from John. Things like:
No Reply
Rock n Roll Music
I’m a Loser
I’ll Be Back

Unfortunately, it also had a lot of pretty poor songs like:
Honey Don’t had a nice solo by George but it wasn’t really a great song
Baby’s in Black
I’ll Follow the Sun
Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby
She’s a Woman

A hard rock Beatles late-60s album would consist of songs like
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Helter Skelter
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
Hey Bulldog
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Yer Blues
Cold Turkey
Helen Wheels
Apple Jam

It would have been received favorably as the trend at the time was directed that way (Deep Purple, the Who, Iron Butterfly).

Lennon/McCartney were such great songwriters that if they put out a heavy album, it would have been fantastic and people would have loved it. They transcended genres.

It strikes me as odd that we would assign greatness to things the Beatles didn’t even do just because they were the Beatles. They were undoubtedly the best song crafts of their (possibly anyone’s) day. But MC5, they were not (much to John Lennon’s chagrin), and could never have done very well. It just wasn’t WHO they were.