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.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Anna (Go To Him)

Please Please Me, Track 3, 1963

Written by Arthur Alexander and performed originally by him in 1962, "Anna (Go to Him)" was one of John's favorite songs of the time, and he insisted that the Beatles record it. Various critics applauded and dismissed the track, with both sides arguing that it's 'youthful' quality made it stand out. This is the first track on Please Please Me where Lennon's head cold becomes noticeable in his vocal quality, and by the time the album reaches the Beatles' famous cover of "Twist and Shout" he is barely recognizable. (more)

I Love:
  • The "uuuuh-anna" of George's backup vocals
  • John's deteriorating vocal quality
  • The change in lyrics to "go with him;" "go to him" is never uttered
  • "So" rhyming with "more," a mark of liverpudlian accents, and present in other recordings as well
  • My ex-something-or-another Isaac's favorite song (with Things We Said Today). Suits him so well, the pathetic bastard.
  • John's plaintive cry of resignation at the end of the song with the sad little crash of the high hat (is that even right, I know nothing about what those bits are called)
I've determined not to include parts of the song or arrangement that were not the direct result of the Beatles' singing or songwriting skills on tracks that were not orginally written by John, Paul, George or Ringo. Let me just say, though, that the "give back your ring to me" lyric is absolutely heartbreaking, and John performs it so well. I think that the teenage quality of this version really adds poignancy to the song, but keeps it in line with the upbeat message of most of the other tracks of this era by reminding the listener that the singer is quite young and will get over Anna by the time track 6 rolls around.

As for Isaac, well, it is one of his favorite Beatles songs, and he could not be convinced that Lennon/McCartney did not write it. I guess that says something about the ability of the group to take ownership of their recordings, even from this early stage. The Beatles never were afraid to rearrange other peoples' songs or change the gender pronoun to better suit their needs (see the bizarre upcoming "Boys"). Isaac can have this song, but I can't decide whether I want Anna to give back her ring to him or not.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Please Please Me, Track 2, 1963

"Misery" was never a single for The Beatles. It was written for singer Helen Shapiro as a country/western recording, but the song was deemed unsuitable and never released by Shapiro. The piano on the track is played by Producer George Martin, who performed on a large number of earlier Beatles recordings, while John Lennon taught himself to play in the studio. (more)

I Love:
  • The piano throughout, especially the intro and its pairing with the rhythm guitar
  • The whiny sound of the backing vocals
  • "It's gonna be a drag"
  • Lennon's lisp on "send her back to me" (ssshend)
  • The outro, including the whine, the line "my misery" and the fade-out on "lalalalala"
The lyrics to this song are another example of the teenage mentality of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting in the early 60s. Just saying that losing your girl is a 'drag' is really enough to indicate the age bracket of the singer/intended audience. However, despite being rather pathetic, the enthusiastic rhythm guitar and brilliant piano by George Martin really pick the song up and make it singable.

The fact that John is not taking himself too seriously, even here in their first real studio recording is really cute, and appealing. The lisp on "send," taken after the opening of the album on "I Saw Her Standing There" really sets the listener up for a raw rock-and-roll record that could almost be live. It's also a tongue-in-cheek jab at the song itself, sort of a way to say "yes, I know this song is really just fluff. But it's fun! And less than two minutes long."

I Saw Her Standing There

Please Please Me, Track 1, 1963

Please Please Me
was The Beatles first full-length record, and was released in the UK in March of 1963. The album was recorded largely in order, over the course of a single day. "I Saw Her Standing There" was released as the b-side to "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the US and the single topped the US charts for seven weeks (more history).

I Love:
  • Of course, the 1-2-3-FAWR intro
  • The hand claps
  • The way the guitar solo sounds like it was recorded in a tunnel
  • Paul's scream at the beginning of said solo
  • The ringing-chord ending that would become so characteristic of The Beatles' sound
From the beginning (though of course they had singles before this), The Beatles' sound is very distinct. In my opinion, it's a very endearing sort of jangle that makes you want to keep listening. And my opinion is really what matters here. The hand claps are undeniably dorky, the sort of thing that B-list girl groups were doing at the time, not rugged young Brits. But The Beatles have admitted that, being Brits, they didn't realize how uncool they might have seemed in the states.

I mean, if you think about it, the lyric "my heart went 'boom'" is pretty juvenile. From the perspective of all these years, I can brush it off as just being the teenage years of rock-and-roll, but hopefully the teens of 1963 were intelligent enough to realize that the lyric was not Shakespeare by any means. It's those hand claps and the ringing and echoing guitar that appeals. And any singer willing enough to yelp like that on the first track is worth the money, in my book.