Drop by Miller Park on Saturday, April 22 and you’ll see more than the Milwaukee Brewers host the St. Louis Cardinals—you’ll also see (and hear) a bunch of Beatles stuff for some reason. Yes, Saturday is Beatles Night at the park, a one-night-only extravaganza that will feature special in-game features, Beatles music from Beatles albums, a Beatles-themed postgame laser show, and a Beatles T-shirt giveaway (with the purchase of a special Beatles Night Ticket Package). It’ll be exactly like the time the Fab Four played Shea Stadium in 1965, except not.
So, what the hell, let’s rank the 13 Beatles albums from worst to best, and pair them with 13 notable (not necessarily best) Milwaukee Brewers. Note: We’re not including the dicey American repackages (The Beatles’ Second Album, Yesterday And Today, etc.), and we’re dropping the compilation Beatles albums, too (Past Masters, the “Red” and “Blue” albums, etc.). All together now…
13. Yellow Submarine / Jim Gantner
It’s fitting that the Beatles’ “worst” album is barely a Beatles album at all—side one of the contractually obligated Yellow Submarine is mostly tossed-off odds and ends and previously released tracks, while side two is the George Martin film score. Still, “All You Need Is Love” is an enduring classic, and “Hey Bulldog” kicks all sorts of ass (even if John Lennon considered it “lightweight” and “poppy”).
In the same way the band gave Ringo Starr Yellow Submarine‘s title track (the song first appeared on Revolver), Gantner eeks his way onto this list due to his longevity and harmless likability. He showed up year after year and didn’t fuck anything up too badly, so hey, let’s throw the guy a bone. Even if you’ve never met anyone who feels that way personally, Ringo is probably somebody’s favorite Beatles member. The same can be said for Gumby’s status as some weirdo’s favorite Brewer of all time.
12. Let It Be / Ryan Braun
The Beatles were pretty much done with each other at this point, and it shows. Culled from untold hours of Paul McCartney-organized rehearsals in the cavernous and cold Twickenham Studios, Let It Be is a messy hodgepodge of great songs (“Across The Universe,” “Get Back,”) insufferable songs (the title track, “The Long And Winding Road,”) and some good old fashioned dicking around (“Dig It,” “Maggie Mae”). Still, that rooftop concert, though, and George Harrison getting snippy with Paul.
While Braun is still relatively young and very productive, his days with the Brewers—not unlike the Beatles circa Let It Be—are probably close to numbered. His greatest hits are behind him, though he’ll manage a few more in his remaining one-to-three seasons in Milwaukee, just as those lovable lads from Liverpool did on their penultimate record.
11. With The Beatles / J.J. Hardy
The Robert Freeman-photographed cover of the Beatles’ second album is iconic: four black-and-white half-faces, ready to conquer the world. With The Beatles has the distinction of being the first Beatles album to be released in North America, and although it’s stocked with plenty of covers, it also boasts solid early Lennon/McCartney efforts like “It Won’t Be Long” and “All My Loving.” Oh, and Harrison’s first solo composition, “Don’t Bother Me”.
For what can generously be called a dynasty (winning the N.L. Wild Card on the final day in 2008) for a franchise lacking many notable accomplishments, J.J. Hardy was the first highly regarded prospect called up to the big leagues. He tested the waters before Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Corey Hart were brought into the fold, and before Braun was even drafted. Like the early Beatles, he got people excited again, and he surely made more than a few women faint.
10. Please Please Me / Tommy Harper
Hey! It’s the Beatles’ debut album! And what a debut it is: Kicking off with “I Saw Her Standing There” and ending with “Twist And Shout,” Please Please Me more or less represents the band’s live, Cavern Club show at that point (it was recorded in less than 13 hours) and makes a thrilling, still-fresh-today case for the superstar status that was soon to come.
After the expansion Seattle Pilots were lured to Milwaukee after the team’s one and only season out west in 1969, the new look/name/location team became the Milwaukee Brewers. The young franchise had little-to-no identity and its best years were still a dozen years ahead. The brightest spot on this forgettable first Brewers squad is journeyman infielder Tommy Harper, who clubbed 31 homers, amassed 82 RBI (both career highs), and stole 38 bags, and was the first All-Star for a team on the way to better days (and players).
9. Beatles For Sale / Cecil Cooper
If any of the official Beatles albums could be considered “lost,” it would probably be Beatles For Sale. Which is a shame, because the record contains a slew of early-to-mid-period classics: “No Reply,” “I’m A Loser,” “Baby’s In Black,” “Eight Days A Week,” and “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.” Lennon and McCartney show off some of their best harmonies on this record (“Baby’s In Black”), and the band is showing signs of maturity. Underrated all the way.
Cecil Cooper was a catalyst in some unforgettable Brewers teams, but usually gets lost in the annals of the team’s history behind more recognizable members of the early-’80s teams. He won’t always be the first name you reference or the best player you recall, but when you happen upon a certain highlight (or song, in the case of Beatles For Sale) you’ll remember how great he was.
8. Magical Mystery Tour / Jeff Suppan
The ill-conceived Magical Mystery Tour film was the Beatles’ first official “miss,” and found the band floundering after the death of manager Brian Epstein. The album (originally released in the UK as a double EP) isn’t nearly as disastrous—it has “I Am The Walrus,” Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Penny Lane,” after all—but it remains a less-successful follow-up to Pepper, and contains “The Fool On The Hill.”
Jeff Suppan or Jeffrey Hammonds are probably regarded as Milwaukee’s two greatest misses in free agency. Hammonds was downright awful, but Suppan was paid more and, given his relative durability, didn’t really miss much time, which actually proved to be worse for the Brewers in the process. Anyway, Soup sucked and got paid a handsome sum (at least at the time, and by Brewers standards) to produce little.
7. A Hard Day’s Night / Matt Garza
Here are the Beatles with their first album of all originals, written and recorded for the glorious Richard Lester film of the same name. (“He’s very…clean.”) Is there anything better than the opening chord of the title track? The chipper sunniness of “I Should Have Known Better”? The feeling of freedom and youth and hope and love running through “Can’t Buy Me Love”? Nope.
Who better to pair with a record that boasts those hits than one of the most regrettable Brewers free agent signings of all time? Since the ink dried on Garza’s four-year, $50M contract, the hot-tempered journeyman hurler has reverted from an above-average pitcher to an expensive front office blunder. Doug Melvin should have known better. Money can’t buy Milwaukee love (or wins). Now Garza is collecting dust…and $12.5M on the shelf.
6. Help! / Rollie Fingers
Help! the film isn’t quite up to snuff to A Hard Day’s Night the film, but the soundtrack is a winner. This is the Beatles just before their Rubber Soul/Revolver reinvention, embracing a newfound maturity and a whole lot of pot. The title track is Lennon legitimately calling for help in his self-described “Fat Elvis” period, while “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” are some of the songwriter’s finest mid-period tunes. McCartney scores some deep-cut classics here, too, including “The Night Before” and “Another Girl.”
When the Brewers needed help closing out games, they called upon the best reliever in franchise history, Rollie Fingers. Though better things were on the way (when he played with Oakland), his Brewers career, much like Help!, is remembered fondly as a meaningful period in a team’s (or band’s) history.
5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / Gorman Thomas
Is it safe to say that despite its game-changing “rock album as art” legacy, Pepper is a wee bit overrated? Yes, it’s easily the Beatles’ most influential album (itself influenced by the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds), and yes, it forever changed how albums are conceived, recorded, and packaged. But its much-lauded “concept” is a little wishy-washy, and some of the songs take a backseat to endless studio trickery. (Lennon later said it “doesn’t go anywhere,” while Starr remembers it as the album where he learned to play chess.) Still, it’s fucking Sgt. Pepper, and it’s the fucking Beatles.
Likewise, Gorman Thomas is overrated, but well-liked nonetheless. Kind of cocky, but managed some big hits along the way.
4. The Beatles (The White Album) / Robin Yount
Another question: Could the double-length “White Album” be whittled down to just one killer LP? Sure, but that misses the point of double-length albums. A hugely ambitious monster of a record (30 tracks!), The Beatles finds the Fab Four working mostly alone and showing the cracks in their partnership, but still cranking out big hits (“Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Revolution 1”) and indelible album cuts (“Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Long, Long, Long,” many more). Any record that follows up the tape-loop carnage of “Revolution 9” with the Disney-esque lullaby “Good Night” is clearly a classic.
Like the “White Album,” Robin Yount is timeless, classic, and influential. He’s also a safe name to reference when you’re talking about “the greats” to someone much more knowledgeable than you.
3. Abbey Road / Jonathan Lucroy
And in the end the Beatles offered up a final masterpiece. Though Let It Be was released after Abbey Road, this is the final Beatles album, with that final cosmic send-off from McCartney. George Martin is back in the producer’s chair, the band feels like a band again, and the songs are incredible (especially for Harrison): “Come Together,” “Something,” “Here Comes The Sun.” And even though Lennon wasn’t a fan of the “rock opera” that dominates side two, it’s fucking awesome.
It’s sad to watch unfold in real time, but trading Lucroy last season and getting “back to basics” was a necessary measure for a team whose brief window for success with its crop of young stars had unofficially closed. Though Milwaukee’s most beloved player being dealt only adds to the heartache of saying goodbye to Prince Fielder, coming to terms with Rickie Weeks never meeting his full potential, and seeing Yovani Gallardo quietly near the end of his career with another team, the new batch of touted prospects (some of which came via the Lucroy trade) brings a “Here Comes The Sun”-like aura of hope for a fan base still mourning Luuuuuuuc’s departure.
2. Rubber Soul / Richie Sexson
The untouchable Rubber Soul represents the biggest “jump” in the Beatles’ career—the lovable “yeah yeah yeah” moptops of 1964 have suddenly become forward-thinking (and pot-smoking) capital-“A” artists. It was the first Beatles album recorded as a distinct piece of art (as opposed to simply a collection of songs), and finds Lennon channeling his newfound Dylan with “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” and “Nowhere Man,” and McCartney mining weighty pop-music gold with “Drive My Car” and “Michelle.” The lovely “In My Life,” meanwhile, is one of the few songs where Lennon and McCartney later disputed main songwriting credit; no wonder, because it’s a stunner.
In the same way Rubber Soul is a significant jump in the Beatles’ catalog, a true turning point in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history came in December of 2003 when fairly new general manager Doug Melvin traded mashing Brewers superstar Richie Sexson (who hit 133 homers in four years with the team) to the Diamondbacks for a haul or youngsters and role players. Like Rubber Soul, Sexson was great. And by making this colossal trade (that was misunderstood at the time), Milwaukee got players who helped pave the way—or who were later traded for players who would help pave the way—for two postseason appearances and who renewed faith in a rudderless organization. In the same way Soul is a turning point for the Beatles, the Sexson trade will be something Brewers fans will always remember as an important moment.
1. Revolver / Paul Molitor
Modern thought typically ranks 1966’s Revolver as the very best Beatles album of all time. Modern thought is correct. Often seen as a companion piece to Rubber Soul (Harrison later said the records blurred together, in a good way) Revolver finds the Beatles at the top of their creative powers, experimenting with songwriting, instrumentation, recording, and drugs. Every song is amazing, from the bitter clang of “Taxman” to the whirling psychedelia of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” The latter is probably the most LSD-inspired song in the band’s catalog (Lennon forever insisted that “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” had nothing to do with the drug), and the former marks a clean break from the “Love Me Do” platitudes of yesterday. The best of the best.
Similar to Revolver, Paul Molitor is an obvious fan favorite. He had a ton of hits, earned international appeal (he’s beloved in Toronto, too). Not overtly flashy, but probably the most “druggy” Brewers star.
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