Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Know the Name--The Music of the Beatles, Pt. 3: Give the Drummer Some


The Beatles! On the big screen! Hear the sirens and screeches, delight in the custard-like caterwauling of carnally confused cornfeds! The clarion call of strings that sends the world atwirl and the steady pulse that holds it in place is all around! It's Beatle-goddamn-mania, and your parents are real peeved! Women and girls are going fruitbat psycho over the juju carefully concocted by these huggable rebels and their gruff handlers! But don't be sad, Michael; it doesn't mean girls will never like you--they just won't ever like you the way you are right now. Follow the devil-might-deign example of these laugh-a-minute moptops and you'll be beating back the finger pie with two whole hands!

I'm so glad I'm not reviewing the movie. What kind of witch with words, what sort of sorceress of sentences would I have to be to construct paragraph after paragraph expressing one sentiment and keep it interesting? The movie is just hysterically great. How do I get that across without causing a readers eyeballs to force themselves free of their sockets so's they can roll onward to freedom in a blessed land where they shall never be subjected to my writing ever again?
Lucky for you and your balls, I can do the album a bit more justice.

"A Hard Day's Night"--Sure-fire cure for the sequencing headache blues. Put all the songs actually in the film on side one, and all the ones written for the movie yet absent from it on side two.

A Hard Day's Night was the first Beatles LP filled with naught but their own compositions and not shockingly, it is my favorite of their pre-Revolver material. 9 of the 13 tracks were 100% Lennon creations (his songs outnumber Paul's in the catalogue on the strength of this album) and despite my avowed Macca fangirl status, he would have been hard-pressed to match his mate track for track.

I said 100%. Oh, okay. Ringo helped a bit too, with a delightful malapropism that gave title to song, album and film. Quirky bastard done blessed a trilogy of greatness.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the perfect song to kick off an album, a film, a day, a night, an affair, a mission, a quest, a new beginning, the's so unimpeachably good. Yes it's basic boy-loves-needs-wants-girl and that's hackneyed, but only in the same way that breathing can be considered "hackneyed." It's love, pretty much, and it hasn't been improved upon.

"When I'm hooooome"--see, that's cool like a good friend. But the subtle baby cowbell just under it? Love, straight up, I tell you.

The opening chord that sparks from George's Rickenbacker twelver has been dissected. Also bisected. And is responsible for the creation of numerous sects worldwide. Less effort and relative brain power has gone into the amelioration of several national economies than the anatomization of this single strum. (Fadd9, by the by. Name a dog after it, why not.)

The stereo version is a few seconds longer, which to some folk is like discovering extra pages in the Koran. Ya know. Incidentally, this was the first Beatles album recorded on four-track tape, ostensibly allowing for "good" stereo mixes. Interesting idea. I do have a soft spot in my head for the minimal stereo sound here, though, it's like shimmying while sitting 'cause you're trying to hold back the urge to pee.

"I Should Have Known Better"--"Just a song," the author was heard to remark. "It doesn't mean a damn thing."

1964 was the year the boys met the Bob, as in Dylan, who turned these quite alive men on to weed and better lyrics, both independently and dependently of each other, I would imagine. John says this is their first song to reek of Zim's influence, but shit if I can hear it.

"If I Fell"--It's a love-a-line with Lennon over here. Probably the most Macca-esque tune he ever wrote. You know how those go: first it creepy-crawls into your ears, tickles the hairs, slithers bewitchingly to the brain, then it's game over. The dual lead vox is not at all fair and is actually killing me, Smalls.

Oddly--and unnecessarily, she was seen to underline--the stereo version double tracks John's opening vocals.

"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"--George got ornery, so John threw him this bone of a bone. Proof that despite the evident giant strides, it was tough to abandon the simple formula that scored 'em more pussy than a Chinese stereotype.

"And I Love Her"--Song five! Oh hi, Paul! My Wiseauian surprise and delight over meeting you here cannot be contained. While "And if you saw my love/You'd love her too" is not precisely "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds," it's that sort of plainspokenness that helped make a phenomenon.

"Tell Me Why"--So much iiiiiiiiiii. Ay yi yi. Also, that double-tracked vocal crap again in stereo.

"Can't Buy Me Love"--Unusual for the Beatles to paint so blue, but it works. Tight like frog ass, with Ringo's beat the ready steady rocketship to rocket hips. It was George Martin's stroke of genius to start off with the chorus. Totally blowing that guy a kiss right now.

(If you are reading this right now, I'm going to assume that you are familiar with the "Paul is Dead" controversy. Maybe you're not a student of the shit like some people, but you have a comfortable familiarity with the basic story. It's just that popular. What many missed was the message sent by the Beatles on the cover to the "Can't Buy Me Love" single. Of the band members, Ringo is the only one looking at the camera. What does this tell us? That Richard Starkey, ladies and gentlemen, is going to live forever. Gear!)

"Any Time At All"--John Lennon always hated his singing voice. That's crazy; that's not too far from the mental process of an anorexic. Think about it; firm belief despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But yeah, he would beg George Martin to smother his voice in effects much like one applies gravy to biscuits.

"I'll Cry Instead"--John giving us glimpses of the inner turmoil that would never truly leave him. "A chip on my shoulder that's bigger than my feet."

"Things We Said Today"--Macca, you magnanimous bus stop.

Your sort may or may not enjoy this sort of thing. My sort does, most certainly.

Written whilst on a vacation in the Bahamas with then-girlfriend Jane Asher, this ode to "future nostalgia" is no less affecting in retrospect because the relationship didn't last. Love doesn't work that way. You can isolate those fantastic moments from the unfortunate ones and neither becomes less than what they ultimately are. Rose-colored nothin'.

This is perfect, head to soles, the greatest song the Beatles ever recorded. The verses, the chorus.  (Essentially a master course in how to double-track vocals.)

The Beatles did middle eights like a motherfucker. The one here is so out of place it's right where it needs to be.

The stereo isolation is unbearable. It's like keeping a parent from their child, and vice versa.

"When I Get Home"--Great intro, great chorus. "My baby," hey don't sneeze, one of the greatest songs ever is just imploring someone to "be my little baby." And don't cock your head at "Gonna love her till the cows come home," 'cause this is the Beatles, so you know it's only the bestest cows. Like Irish Dexters or something.

"You Can't Do That"--What, satisfactorily follow up "Things We Said Today"? True, true. But hey hey, the Monkees made a whole albums worth of material off the first few seconds along, so. Peppy but not peppery.

"I'll Be Back"--Gee, that's kinda anticlimactic. Oh well. I'll be back too. See you then.

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