Monday, May 4, 2009

Love Me Do

Please Please Me, Track 8, 1963

Ah, Universe. It's been over two months. I'm so sorry about that. At my place of work (Porto Rico Importing Company), we have Beatles Fridays, where I am in charge of the playlist, and am challenged every week to come up with a new way of sorting the Beatles songs that take up nearly 3/4 of my iPod.

So, it's really embarrassing that I haven't been keeping up with this blog.

But anyways, "Love Me Do." The Beatles' first single. Ever. Yeeeeeah!

This song topped in its original release, at #17 in the UK, and at #1 in the US, putting it (but not frikkin' "Please Please Me)" on the "1" album. Several versions were recorded with George Martin (the great) after initially signing the Beatles. There was some concern about how John would play the harmonica and sign the hook/title line "love me do," since these were the days in which those things could barely be recorded on separate tracks. In fact, this whole album was done on two-track, vocals on one, and all the instruments on the other. That's how Paul got to sing the title of the song, just so John could start playing the harmonica as the vocals finished up.


I Love:
  • That harmonica part: not terribly sophisticated, but effective nonetheless
  • The lyrics are So. Simple.
"Love, love me do. You know I love you. I'll always be true. So please love me do. Someone to love. Somebody new, Someone to love, Someone like you."
  • That's it. That's the entire song.
  • The thump-thump after the "someone like you" for emphasis.

Actually, I love the drums on the album version of this song, which are different than the single version, because of the last minute switch between Pete Best, Ringo Starr and the studio drummer that briefly came between them. The Beatles didn't want Pete, and George Martin was initially wary of Ringo, but the band put their foot down, and rest is history. On the album track, Andy White plays the drums, and Ringo plays the tambourine. And I must say, it's a damn fine tambourine part.

Here are links to several different versions of the song, so you can try to concentrate and compare and then consider yourself a connoisseur of Beatles drumming. (Like the alliteration? Thanks.)

Just Ringo This appears to be live-ish, and the quality is much lower than these other two.
Pete Best
Andy White/Ringo Starr

Okay, there you go. Let me know when you realize that some of this doesn't make any sense.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Top Five Most Violently Misogynistic Beatles Songs

This is a little different than previous posts, and I promise to pick up with Side two of Please Please Me on Wednesday. However, as writer, director and producer of this blog, I reserve the right to change things up a little bit. And today, I present to you "The Top Five Most Violently Misogynistic Beatles Songs."

I don't mean for this list to reflect negatively on the Beatles as people or a musical group, but they came from different times, and were known to have personal issues that came through into their songwriting. John especially, had Mommy issues, and some really unnerving control issues when it came to his lady-friends. Nonetheless, I love all these songs, and consider several of them among my all-time favorites.

Without further ado,

5. "Getting Better" Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967

Worst Lyric:
“I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved.”

Well, we start out with an admission by Paul McCartney of physical violence towards women. However, "Getting Better" doesn't rank higher because the singer admits that he was wrong to hit his girlfriend and is 'getting better' at not doing it. Progress!

4. "Maxwell’s Silver Hammer" Abbey Road, 1969

Worst Lyric:
“Bang clang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head/Bang clang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead.”

In this case, only two out of the three known victims of Maxwell's hammer are female, but the man himself is known to have a fan club ("Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery, 'Maxwell must go free!'"), like many real-life sexual predators.

The chorus of the song, quoted above, is the actual act of murder, and even first-time listeners find themselves singing happily along by the last refrain. Which is, of course, terrifying, if you think about it.

3. "You Can’t Do That" A Hard Day's Night, 1964

Worst Lyrics:
“Please listen to me if you wanna stay mine/I can’t help my feelings, I go outta my mind/I’m gonna let you down, and leave you flat/cause I told you before/you can’t do that."

It was hard to pick a worst lyric for this one, since the whole thing is just one big threat. A close second was the opening line, "I've got something to say that might cause you pain, if I catch you talking to that boy again." John is railing against his hypothetical girlfriend (he was married at the time), saying that it will ruin his reputation if she so much as speaks to another guy, and that he will be forced to "let her down" and "leave her flat."

This song was originally going to be in A Hard Day's Night, the film, and footage was shot of the band performing it, but due to run time issues, it had to be cut. Producers also suggested that perhaps it was a little too "menacing" for the Beatles target audience: teenage girls.

2. "I’ll Get You" She Loves You (B-side), 1963

Worst Lyric:
“You might as well resign yourself to me.”

"I'll Get You" starts out innocently enough, asking the listener to "imagine I'm in love with you," which is what just about every teenage girl in the world was doing already anyway. It goes on from there, however, to say that there's really no point in resisting, because YOU WILL BE MINE, in the end. The "resign yourself" lyric is pretty depressing, although probably an accurate representation of how many relationships worked back in the day.

I've mentioned in this blog already that "I'll Get You" is one of my favorite Beatles songs, and I enjoy the veiled threats just as much as any other part of the composition.

1. "Run For Your Life" Rubber Soul, 1965

Worst Lyric:
“I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.”

That's the first line of the song. The rest of in continues in this vein. John Lennon, "a wicked guy, born with a jealous mind," will track you down and kill you if you're not willing to spend the rest of your life with him. This is the last track on Rubber Soul, and what a way to go out. This, also, is one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs. Great for Karaoke.

Did I miss anything? Let me know.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Please Please Me

Please Please Me, Track 7, 1963

Ah yes, the title track. The Beatles’ second single, and first Number One Hit. Well, that’s debatable, with different UK Charts listing the song as peaking at either #1, or #2 (to “How Do You Do It?,” a song offered to the Beatles by EMI that they declined). For this reason, “Please Please Me” did not appear on the “1” compilation album released in 2000. (link)

I Love:
  • The back-and-forth on the "c'mons" contrasting John's strung out vocals with the polished backing harmonies
  • I know the bass line is nothing special, but I think it really holds the song together, and gives it tension.
  • Also, I haven't mentioned nearly enough how much I love John's harmonica playing.
  • And the little guitar riffs preceding the aforementioned "c'mons."
  • Okay, basically all the instruments. Even the drums, right before the bridge. Excellent.
This is the last track on side one of the vinyl, and is of course, strategically placed to make the listener go through the entire record before reaching it, since, as the hit single, it was the most recognizable song. George Martin and the Beatles were both very meticulous about the track order on their records, even before the "concept album" and connected tracks of the later years.

There was some controversy over Please Please Me, with critics claiming it was about oral sex. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure you’re incapable of thinking it’s about anything else. Paul McCartney denied it, but, well, the title is “Please Please Me.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ask Me Why

Please Please Me, Track 6, 1963

Released as the B-side for the title track, "Ask Me Why" was John’s attempt to emulate Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. (In a side note, I really, really thought that Smokey was dead, and was quite startled to see him at the Grammys). They performed the song live frequently, and the single featuring it was released in America TODAY! That is, February 25, 1963, so 46 years ago today. Doesn’t seem so long ago, does it? (link)

I love:
  • The “woo woo woo”s, “aye aye aye"s and all the vocal duplications in general, even in the lyrics “Never never never be blue”
  • John’s voice is beginning to crack, and in this case, it really adds to the heartfelt emotion of the song.
  • The guitar bum bum bum leading up to Miz-Er-Ree!
  • Also, the reference to “Misery,” the second song on the album.

On first glance, “Ask Me Why” seems so earnest, but the reference to “misery” is so well framed, with the guitar build up/intro (I always want to do a little cha-cha-cha there), the song becomes tongue-in-cheek instantly, and the excessive woo-woo-woos can be really appreciated for their silliness. The lyrics to this song don’t really make that much sense to me, anyways. The lady in question tells him things he wants to know? Is she a librarian or a teacher or something? He’s crying tears of joy because of this? Also, no one loves him!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Please Please Me, Track 5, 1963

Written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell and first recorded by the Shirelles as the b-side to their single "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which happens to be my favorite Shirelles song. Another song only recorded because The Beatles loved the original, and the first sung by Ringo. Obligatory Wiki Link

I mean, this is just so bizarre, because the gender-roles have been reversed in the lyrics, but the title and tag line "Well, I talk about boys/what a bottle of joys" have not. The line wouldn't rhyme if the lyric was changed, but the meaning and sexuality of the song is disconcerting coming out of Ringo's mouth.

Nonetheless, I love:
  • The unbelievably shrill first "bob-shoo-wop"
  • Build-up in the drums before Ringo begins singing, and drop of while he is, indicating that he was drumming and singing simultaneuously. (I have no evidence to back up this statement)
  • "Alright, George!" Something Ringo does for most of his early recordings, a reminent of his time in the Hurricanes, and not a characteristics I ever considered very "Beatle-y"
  • There's just a slight indication of a woman's voice saying "John!" at the end of the song.
I find it hard to get over the weirdness of Ringo singing about the thrills of boys, but bop-shoo-wops are always good. Just the fact that The Beatles (and their producers) were willing to record this is very endearing and again points to the naivete of the band, when it comes to "marketable" music.

As far as the woman's voice goes, I hear it in the background while Ringo is "oooh-ing" after the last verse and just before the outro. I like to think she's saying "John!" (as I mentioned above), but it's just a sound that's a little bit out of place and it could just be anything.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Drunk Additions

As of right this second, "I'll Get You" is my favorite Beatles song.

See What I Mean?


Please Please Me, Track 4, 1963

Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Originally recorded by The Cookies (backing band to Little Eva). Not Much More.

Oh George!
The first formal EMI recording of George Harrison singing lead vocals for the Beatles. They gave him this, and "Do You Want to Know a Secret", on the b-side of the record. He had been doing some writing on his own at the time, as well as an instrumental collaboration with Paul, but the band still thought the 20 year old wasn't capable of composing songs on his own.

I Love
  • The accent. Even in his later recording, Harrison never really lost the Liverpool lilt.
  • Harmonica to open. Classic Beatles, and you know what they say about guys who play the harmonica... (it's dirty, what they say).
  • That frequently it sounds like they're saying "chain" instead of "chains." The linguist in me (something I am indeed formally trained in) find the lack of subject-verb agreement endearing.
  • Actually, I quite hated this song for a while, but that was during my purist phase of only liking songs that the Beatles themselves had written.

"Chains" is obviously another song that the Beatles had listened to and admired, and then made their own with their rolikking guitar, steady beat and sexy sexy harmonica. I felt for a long time that John and Paul had not given George a fair chance on the vocals by backing him so heavily throughout. I am staunchly pro-George, and in the distant mists of my youth, I thought that meant being anti-Lennon/McCartney and accused the Big Boys of coddling Harrison. Although that might be somewhat the case, I think we can all agree now that the strong harmonies on "Chains" are largely a positive quality.