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Critical rankings are a strange thing. Case in point: Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour were both released in the same year. Both have six “acclaimed” songs. Sgt. Peppers is the 5th ranked album of all time, while Magical Mystery Tour is way down in 990th place. But on a song-by-song basis, MMT ranks consistently higher than SP. For some reason, the critics think that there are 985 albums that are better than MMT but not as good as SP.
Here are the ranked songs from SP and MMT:
Strawberry Fields Forever (MMT) - 16
A Day In the Life (SP) - 18
Penny Lane (MMT) - 160
I Am the Walrus (MMT) - 368
All You Need is Love (MMT) – 1099
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (SP) - 1345
With a Little Help from My Friends (SP) - 1434
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (SP) - 2658
Hello Goodbye (MMT) - 2708
The Fool on the Hill (MMT) – bubbling under
Getting Better (SP) – bubbling under
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (SP) – bubbling under
Is SP really 985 spots better than MMT? If so, why?
I agree that "Magic mystery tour" is probably track-by-track better than "Sgt Pepper", but it feels more like a compilation than a real album.
Agreed. There's a definite cohesiveness to Sgt. Peppers that Magical Mystery Tour lacks. Keep in mind too, MMT was released nearly six months after Sgt. Peppers. In terms of the Beatles output rate, that's quite a significant period of time.
I think both of those factors contribute to the discrepancy in the acclaim given to both albums.
I think the main reason in discrepancies of critical acclaim lays in the fact that originally Magical Mystery Tour was released as a double EP in the UK. As a double EP with 6 songs with two of them that can be considered as filler (“Your Mother Should Know” and “Flying”), two not so brilliant in Beatles terms (“Magical Mystery Tour” and “Blue Jay Way”) and “only” two masterpieces (“I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill”), it’s understandable that many critics considered it as a failure. But the release in the US as an album with such gems as “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “All You Need Is Love” produced a rise in its stature to a level similar to “Sgt. Pepper’s”. Maybe I’m wrong but probably the UK and European critics are the ones to blame for the under appreciation of “MMT”.
I can see why SP is higher, but I guess I'm just surprised that MMT is SO low. Is there any other album with six acclaimed tracks ranked nearly as low as MMT?
Continuing on Honorio's explanation, probably most critics (even in the US) judge MMT only by the first EP/first half of the LP (the film soundtrack), since that was the only new material. The other half was just a collection of the three singles released earlier during 1967. Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever was released even before Sgt. Pepper.
I think Sgt. Peppers may be the only album in the top 50 or so that I really can't figure out(why it's that high)
No maybe The Doors as well...
But with Sgt. Peppers I think most critics wouldn't say it's better than MMT song-for-song
It's just an album that is more important than good
I agree with you Midaso
I'm currently rating albums in order to make a top 100, and I was disappointed by SGT Pepper (even though it got a rating of 71 %, which is good, but Revolver and the White album got more than 80). there are great songs (She's leaving home is my favorite) but the impression is that the sound innovations are now dated, like a old science fiction movie.
Magical Mystery Tour was not a "real" album, but the soundtrack for a film. It was not made purposedly like an album, but was rather assembled for commercial purposes, while SGT Pepper is known to be a concept album, but the problem is that I never got the concept.
As wikipedia explains:
"...the Beatles essentially abandoned the concept after recording the first two songs and the reprise. Lennon was unequivocal in stating that the songs he wrote for the album had nothing to do with the Sgt. Pepper concept. Since the other songs on the album are actually unrelated, one might be tempted to conclude that the album does not express an overarching theme. However, the cohesive structure and careful sequencing of and transitioning between songs on the album, as well as the use of the Sgt. Pepper framing device, have led the album to be widely acknowledged as an early and ground-breaking example of the concept album."
I personally think the album is deserving of all the acclaim it's received.
I agree with Loophole. The placement for MMT is utterly ridiculous. It's ranked lower than the ridiculous Beatles for Sale!
Also odd, but not as much so, is Let It Be's placement 350 places after With The Beatles. I mean, With The Beatles is an ok album, much better than Beatles for sale. But, it is full of mediocre covers, and it doesn't have a single song on the top3000. Let It Be has 3 songs on top3000 and overall less filler. One after 909 isn't that strong, but ironically, it would fit very well on With The Beatles, even as one in the top half. Silly.
Some great points being made here, but there's another element to these albums' rankings, and it has to do with how the Beatles were perceived in 1967--how important they were.
Magical Mystery Tour certainly loses some points because of the failure of the film it (sort of) soundtracks. The free-form, Ken-Kesey-lite MMT film was the first undeniable artistic failure for the Beatles, and it doesn't help the album that it's associated with that (let's call it the Rattle and Hum syndrome).
Sgt. Pepper...well, I would prefer Revolver, Abbey Road, the white album, Rubber Soul--hell, maybe Hard Day's Night if I was feeling saucy that day. But there was a sense in 1967 (so my elders tell me) that the Beatles were coming up with something BIG--that they were going to use their position as the most popular and influential band in the world to make an unprecedented artistic statement. And in June 1967, Sgt. Pepper fit that bill reasonably well.
(In a sense, the Beatles were rewarded because people wanted them to "define a generation," or something, and they seemed to step up...it would be interesting to compare them to Bob Dylan at about the same time, who refused to come lead the revolution despite a lot of people wanting him to.)
My own opinion is that Sgt. Pepper is too high and Magical Mystery Tour too low. But their rankings have everything to do with their places in the saga of the Beatles in 1967 (in popular imagination, at least)--the pinnacle and the fall from grace.
To be honest I couldn't give a damn how 'cohesive' an album is - I just want good songs and Sgt. Peppers doesn't have many...
Magical Mystery Tour, as we know and love it, wasn't released in the UK until the '80s.
That it's managed to receive enough fanfare, in spite of this 20-year handicap, to make it into the all-time top 1,000, is nothing short of astounding - and testament to how amazing it is.
That it was released in the US in '67, is largely irrelevant - not least because (a) The Beatles are British, and (b) the US versions of most Beatles albums to that point had been altered and bastardised from the official UK albums that reaped so much acclaim.