Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Beatles - With The Beatles (1963)

How do you rate a pop record, especially when it's an early 1960's pop record by a band that would shortly tilt Earth's axis, to put it in as non-hyperbolic of a manner as possible? You've all seen I don't use the same measuring stick with The Mothers that I used with, say, The Monkees. But the latter didn't go on to do great things, nor did it elevate to sheer sonic bliss - though the soundtrack for their film Head (1968) is quite out there, in spite of its 25 minute running time. Hell, the last two albums he did with the band, Mike Nesmith was keeping his best songs for his first solo record. We call that the George Harrison syndrome (although the two were in slightly different positions.)

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I love With The Beatles. On paper, it may seem like I shouldn't, and that's fine. But it isn't changing my opinion of the record. The first thing to acknowledge is that a comparison between this, their second album, and something like Revolver or Abbey Road is nonsense. Same guys, sure, but in the six years (only six years, might I add) between this album and their last recording sessions they, with some help from Mr. Dylan, changed the paradigm of what pop music could, should, and would be.

My affection for the album is the quality of the music, not some Beatles apologist who stands behind every single thing they did. (This coming from someone who defends Let It Be as their most honest record since the early days, but that's a different debate for another entry.) Some people do that, though, and with few exceptions I find it downright annoying. People defend some of the rubbish that made it onto The Beatles Anthology discs with one of my all-time favorite cop-out lines, "Maybe, but it's THE BEATLES!"

I must have missed the part where they all ascended to Heaven one dreary afternoon in 1970.

I love With The Beatles because as my dad put it, this was a pretty good rundown of what the boys had been doing on stage. Maybe not the Lennon/McCartney originals, but they're raucous and rowdy enough to fit right in alongside some Motown covers and some Chuck Berry. It is a lively album, full of the charm and energy that made The Beatles so damn appealing to their fellow countrymen, the US, then the rest of the world. That's what marred Please Please Me, the fact that the originals were by and large weak, while the songs they did cover (making an obvious exception for "Twist And Shout" and "Baby It's You") were throwaways. At least I think so. I can even say I strongly dislike their first album.

No fear of the so-called sophomore slump here; re-listening to it this afternoon it at times felt like I was listening to a mix of "favorite early Beatles tunes."

It's hard thinking about this album in the same pantheon as the titans of their post-Dylan phase, so I don't. This is how a lot of music lovers get hung up - not just Beatle fans - is that the same criteria they have for a certain artist becomes the bar for everyone else. I used to do this with The Beatles, later The Kinks, and later Zappa. (Yeah, Zappa!) Only in fairly obvious or noteworthy instances would I dare to liken an album by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, or The Who to a contemporaneous Beatles release. To call The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society "their Sgt. Pepper" is the friendliest insult one could make about the album. Making a direct comparison will set up expectations, and when someone reads this and buys Village Green and hears a bunch of songs about England with some Mellotron, harpsichord, and baroque-sounding orchestral arrangements on one (and only one) song, they're bound to be disappointed.

Further explanation is required: "Like The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper, The Kinks put out what is arguably their artistic zenith with Village Green." The comparison is about the weight of the album artistically, making no comparison regarding the music. Use rhetoric carefully in criticism and appreciation of music.

Lesson in expository writing over.

None of their peers had great debut albums. The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and The Kinks would be making their first LP's in 1964. The Who wouldn't be too far behind in 1965. They all have one thing in common: their first albums are all pretty lousy. That's without comparing The Kinks (1964) to Lola Versus Powerman & The Moneygoround (1970). These albums aren't good, period, with their singles and the stray excellent album track interrupted by filler. The Beatles weren't that different, they just had the luxury of being first in their league. (At least chronologically. I'm more of a Kinks fan myself.)

The Beatles cut their teeth on the largely sub-par Please Please Me when at the same time The Rolling Stones were the house band at the Crawdaddy Club (it was in fact on George Harrison's suggestion that Dick Rowe from Decca checked them out), The Kinks were called The Ravens, and The Who were The Detours. Actually, let me rephrase that. The Beatles cut their teeth from 1960 to 1961, playing for hours on end held up by beer and amphetamines keeping the crowd happy at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. (Not so cute and cuddly now, are they?) From there, they became the talk of Liverpool. Then the talk of Scotland. Then the talk of all Northern England. They'd been together in some form since 1957, making their prehistory much more mythic and legendary than the year or two it took from the formation of what would become The Rolling Stones to their first big hit.

Having flushed a bad first album out of their system, recording it in one marathon 12-hour session, The Beatles opted for covers that weren't top of the pops hits released just weeks before they went into the studio. The songs they cover here were road-tested favorites of theirs and their dedicated followers. (Dedicated what? Sorry, wrong band...) With this, we see sides of the band grossly underrepresented (if memory serves, almost completely overlooked?) on the first album: their love for 1950's rock and roll and of Motown. They pay homage to their idols, and deftly so.

This isn't to disparage the originals. John and Paul kicked into high gear on this one, marked by the increased sense of songwriting on the inter-album singles "From Me To You" and "She Loves You." In short, they got better. Of the fourteen tracks, seven are Lennon/McCartney originals, one is George Harrison's premiere as a songwriter, and six are covers.

From a recording standpoint, having more time in the studio certainly helped. With Please Please Me the only chance they had for an overdub was laying down those all-important hand claps on "I Saw Her Standing There" and others. With The Beatles marked the introduction of what I consider to be one of the greatest sonic effects that can be added to a record: double-tracked vocals.

For those of you unfamiliar with recording processes, here goes: the tapes used on the professional level have tracks, as few as two and by the time The Beatles recorded their final album 16, though the numbers have skyrocketed since then. Suppose the band was using four-track tape. One track would be reserved for the drums and bass. One track would be for vocals. One track would be for the guitars. These three tracks would be recorded simultaneously as the band played in real time. Then they would go back into the studio, and listening to the existing three tracks as a guide, record extra parts, be it percussion, keyboards, or another vocal line.

The double-tracked vocals on this album aren't harmony. They are singing the exact same notes. Layered together this creates a distinct, fuller sound. It's a bit time-consuming to nail a near-replica of the original performance (hence Automatic Double-Tracking, but I'll save that for Revolver. Yes, The Beatles pioneered that, too, on top of transforming the Western World as we know it.), and I always like hearing the slight lack of sync. You can't do the same performance twice, but it sounds really cool. Like repeat echo or something.

Enough claptrap. On with the show.

01. It Won't Be Long [10]
If I can convert anyone to being a Beatles fan, great. But if you still hate The Beatles, you have to admit, they always knew how to open an album. On the first record it was the iconic, "One, two, three, FAH!" of "I Saw Her Standing There." With this one, it's John's opening cry of "IT WON'T BE LONG, YEAH!" before the call and response with the group. Ear-catching. The melodic structure of the verses tends to go downward, suggesting a bit of melancholy.

No guitar solo on this one, but a great bridge, repeated once more for good measure. If you're ever in a Beatles cover band, this would be one Hell of a set-opener. Did I mention these cats could also harmonize really well together, too? Because they do.

02. All I've Got To Do [9.5]
I should also mention that The Beatles also knew how to sequence an album. After a certain point, they for sure had a say in the track order of their albums; I'm not sure about this one. I know they didn't on the first album. But whether it was the boys' call or that of producer George Martin, following the token raucous opener with this one was a great move. It gives the audience a chance to sit back and just breathe.

John Lennon later admitted this was his attempt at a Smokey Robinson-esque number. That staggered drum pattern sounds straight out of Benny Benjamin's kit over at Motown. The song ends with the melody of the verse being hummed rather than sung, breaking the potential predictability of a song of this caliber. Hence the high rating. It's a terrific song, with the rules bent just enough for it to be unique for its time.

03. All My Loving [10]
Iconic Paul McCartney, iconic Beatles. This was the song they played first on their Ed Sullivan appearance, making this America's first introduction to The Beatles. As of this writing, the song is 46 years old, but it hasn't lost a day. A long time ago, Dad sat me down and played this song as an example of what a rhythm guitarist does. During the verses, the straight triplets you hear are John. Must have killed the guy's wrists! (Though not as much as Dave Davies' primordial licks on those early Kinks records, but still.) During the "All my loving / I will send to you..." the accented notes, played on the off-beat, that too is John.

Great Chet Atkins-inspired solo from George, on what could only have been a hollow-bodied guitar. Striking melody, great drumming from that human metronome, Mr. Ringo Starr.

04. Don't Bother Me [11]
You know how earlier I said this felt like a "best of Beatles" mix? It was these two songs back-to-back that led me to this notion. Great Middle Eastern percussion on this song, and while no one would have thought in 1963 the composer of this song would play the sitar on a pop record and become a devout Hindu, it certainly showed George's interest in the exotic was there from the get-go.

George is my favorite Beatle. It shouldn't be much of a shock that it isn't Paul. He's a terrific singer, but too often he comes across as lightweight. To his great credit, Paul is always the one who seems to have an ace up his sleeve - "Helter Skelter" seems to come out of nowhere on The Beatles (The White Album) after his last song on the record, the ultra-wimpy "Mother Nature's Son" - and ready to unleash the showstopper on a Beatles album. I do hold him in high regard.

I've had several people assume John was my favorite Beatle. He was, of course, the de facto leader of the band in their formative years and this was propagated in their public image as well. To me, though, it seems John was always holding back on these early albums. He wasn't nuts about writing pop songs all the time, yet he still did them. They were good, but it took the influence of Dylan to free him up artistically. Even then, his first attempts to be himself as a songwriter ("I'm A Loser," "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away,") come off as being maybe a little too derivative. From there, John, God bless him, was always in a phase. His pot 'n Dylan phase. His LSD phase. His heroin phase. Primal scream. The utopian. The politico. The man separated from his wife. Househusband. And now martyr, an image he would have scoffed at on a good day and torn apart in an obscenity-laden rant on a bad one.

With George, it's deceivingly simple: there's early, moody "quiet Beatle" George, as evidenced here; the dark-humored one on "Taxman"; eventually become the mystical one. Let's see...moody, dark-humored, mystical...I wonder just what the inherent appeal is to me with all this!

This song is terrific. He forced himself to write it. I've noticed in a lot of Beatle literature that critics and authors are quite keen on towing this party line of "George didn't do any songs of merit until Revolver." I've seen it stretched to as late as The White Album and even Abbey Road, their final recorded work. To begin, prior to Revolver George had all of five songs on Beatle albums - "Don't Bother Me," "I Need You," "You Like Me Too Much," "Think For Yourself," and "If I Needed Someone" - barely enough for an EP.

Further, one must consider that he was in a rather unenviable spot. He was second fiddle to two of the most talented - but also egotistical - songwriters in England. In any other band, and this is my own supposition, George's songs could very well have been held in high esteem. This role of being the "dark horse" of the band stuck with him. He even titled his 1974 album Dark Horse. Moreover, many bands had "dark horses" of their own, often overshadowed by the main songwriters - John Entwistle of The Who, Dave Davies of The Kinks, Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones, even when Neil Young was in Buffalo Springfield.

Strictly as a matter of taste - this is, after all, a site dedicated to a very subjective treatment of art, and my opinion is the underlying force behind all this anyway, isn't it? - I like this song best on this album. I like the song's feel, the lyrical matter, and it's got a great but short guitar solo.

This song serves as proof that the critics who are quick to lambast George's early efforts as a songwriter are, for lack of a better term, full of shit.

05. Little Child [8]
Riding the crest of these first four songs, we step into a tightly-coiled pile of filler. But in the case of this band/album, even the filler is pretty damn good! This song wouldn't be too out of place on an early Stones record - we'll actually talk a bit more about them later - and was influenced by what the boys heard in the blues clubs of London, where they had set up residency. Is it a terrific song? Hardly. Is it a danceable slice of Swinging London after a dip in the Mersey River? Oh, Hell yeah.

06. Till There Was You [6.5]
If "Don't Bother Me" serves as a trace indicator of what George was capable of, with his love of Eastern flavors and dark keys/tones, then this song sets a similar precedent for Paul and his occasional delving into pure, unadulterated schmaltz. A showtune from The Music Man, their performance of this song could be seen as a way of presenting themselves to those 25 and older in England (and the US) as harmless and able to acknowledge and respect their elders in the same way the idolized Little Richard, Elvis, and Chuck Berry.

I don't hate this tune, and I understand why it was on the record. I even understand why they chose this song to play at the Royal Command Performance in front of the Queen and later on Ed Sullivan. Paul sings it well, and George's fingerpicked solo on a nylon-string acoustic is done tenderly. The song is a good performance, you don't hear it and picture the other three glancing at the clock on the wall midway through...but it certainly isn't my thing.

Of course, having hindsight on our side, knowing what was to come with "Honey Pie," "When I'm 64," and "Good Day Sunshine," for better or for worse (I happen to love all three of those songs) this ditty stands as a sign of things to come.

07. Please Mr. Postman [9]
A great Motown cover, delivered with a good deal of energy, moreso than on the original by The Marvelettes, where they almost sound like they're being propped up to sing it through. As a drummer, I'm also a sucker for songs or even moments within songs where everything but the drums drop out. With Ringo's surf-style beat of "one-TWO-TWO, three-FOUR" (if my awful description is of no help, chew on the first few bars of "That Thing You Do" for an example), it's even better.

It may be a song originally done by a girl group, but at least here (unlike "Boys" on the last record) they made sure to change the gender of the song's subject. They do it earnestly, not at all tongue-in-cheek like "Oh, we're doing this song!". The Beatles loved Motown, and it shows here, bested only by one other Motown cover. Funny enough, it closes the other side of this album...

08. Roll Over Beethoven [10]
Did I mention The Beatles were also really good at opening an album's b-side? Although John was the biggest Chuck Berry fan in the group, George enjoys the lead vocals on this one. I would never say this to Mr. Berry's face - he'd probably throw a punch at me (I'm not kidding, either. After a show once Keith Richards went backstage to meet Chuck, and as he was approaching him, Berry threw a punch at Keith because he didn't recognize him!) - but I happen to like The Beatles' versions of his songs better. They do them faster, and recording technology was able to capture every nuance of the performance.

John would eventually have his moment in the sun leading The Beatles at breakneck speed through another Berry cover, "Rock & Roll Music," on 1964's Beatles For Sale. If you're really interested in hearing more Beatles doing Berry, it's been fairly well-documented on the 1994 release The Beatles BBC Sessions, with John doing "Too Much Monkey Business," "Memphis, Tennessee," and "Johnny B. Goode."

09. Hold Me Tight [8.5]
A bitchin' little riff drives this song, that and the hand claps on each beat, giving this song a sense of insistence. It might be eliminated in the first rounds of "best of Beatles" mixtapes or CD's, as it is repetitive and a bit slight, but they sound like they're having a blast. Same category as "Little Child." It's there to dance to, so you really shouldn't take it to heart. (Yet another Kinks quote? Damn, guess I know who I'm doing next on this site!)

10. You Really Got A Hold On Me [9]
Ah, the other side of Motown. Well, counting the final track, the other other side. "Please Mr. Postman" was catchy girl pop, but this is a deliciously tender ballad done by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. I almost feel this should be on side A in place of "All I've Got To Do," which would go here. It makes sense - hear their treatment of Smokey, then hear John's attempt to recreate that type of songwriting.

Of note is that during the verses, John does something unique on this record - he uses the chance to double track his vocals to harmonize with himself, singing both the high and low part. That says something. Paul could have done the high part with John on low, or John could have sung high and had George sing low (the other two do harmonize with him on the song's hook and choruses), but John wanted to do it all himself, showing how much love and affection he had for the song.

One of the many great what-ifs to ponder upon, besides the obvious "what if so-and-so hadn't died when they did" or "so and so hadn't broken up", comes out of this song. What if The Beatles had taken more of a hold on soul music, to the point that it inspired their songwriting? It happened with The Rolling Stones, but their roots were distinctly in black music - they loved blues, so they would naturally be at least interested in soul.

Ray Davies of The Kinks loved the rock 'n roll of the 1950's, but also enjoyed trad jazz (a British version of Dixieland). The bluesiest performer he like was Big Bill Broonzy, who was just as much jazz as he was blues. (At least I think.) The Who's first album is dominated with James Brown covers...and it's pretty bad, to the point that my dad considers it hilarious.

The allure of this song to The Beatles didn't solely rest in it being a touch of soul music. At the end of the day, they did the song because they loved it, nothing more, nothing less. Their influences weren't unlike Ray's, where it was fifties rock, but instead of jazz it was skiffle music that turned them on to music in the first place, which itself is rooted in country and folk. In his course on The Beatles, Glenn Gass remarked several times that there were two things The Beatles weren't great at. The first is jamming. I've heard enough outtakes (*cough* did he actually say that? He's acquired outtakes illegally? *cough*) to attest to this fact. The second - again, I agree - is being a blues band.

Perhaps it's best that they didn't veer off into becoming a soul-oriented R&B act. The Rolling Stones did a damn good job on their own. On a tangentially related note, Apple recording act Badfinger were heavily influenced by Motown and Stax songs, as much as they were influenced by The Beatles and The Kinks. This really shows through on their first album, recorded as The Iveys, Maybe Tomorrow.

11. I Wanna Be Your Man [8.5]
The greatest filler track of all time. It really is fun to rag on Ringo, though of course with notes of admiration and respect. He isn't a great singer - though I'm quick to defend his drumming capability. John and Paul knew this, and would cater to/around that fact. This song was in fact written for The Rolling Stones. It's got that sense to put this lightly...Neanderthalic love songness that it would be perfect for the early Stones. It was also simple and repetitive enough to work for Ringo.

The Rolling Stones can be seen here doing their version. You think I like ripping on Davy Jones or Ringo? With the Stones, take that and multiply it by ten - in the clip, Brian Jones tries to sing like a black bluesman but sounds like he's got a throat infection while serving up an out-of-place-but-good slide solo, while Keith looks as Beatlesque as humanly possible. Never again would he appear so charming, so happy, so...sentient.

12. Devil In Her Heart [9.5]
Another unique influence on the boys is Latin-infused music, heard here and "Mr. Moonlight" on Beatles For Sale. George sets his own personal record for "most vocal appearances" on this album. Another cover, this was part of their stage set for some time. It can be heard on the legendary Live At The Starclub, Hamburg 1962 album if you're interested in hearing what bootlegs sounded like in the 1960's. Another song with a great feel, sort of a moody island vibe.

13. Not A Second Time [10]
A great number of critics I've read seem quick, besides to trash anything George did before Abbey Road and after All Things Must Pass, to poo-poo a lot of the material on the flipsides of their pre-Rubber Soul albums. It doesn't help that with A Hard Day's Night and Help! the A-sides of the albums are songs from the respective movies. The Beatles are so well-known and well-respected (enough with the damn Kinks references, author!) that it's hard to imagine them having "underrated" or "oft-overlooked" songs...but they do, and they can be found on the B-sides of their early albums.

"Not A Second Time" is a mini-masterpiece, lost among the covers and second-tier Lennon/McCartney compositions as well as the anticipation for the album's closing number. There's something perfect, yet disconcerting, about the low grumbles of piano throughout the song (played by George Martin), then comes the solo - after only the first verse/chorus pairing - and instead of it being George laying down a nice melodic line on guitar, it's the low, grim piano notes duplicating the melody. This shift in the traditional songwriting formula of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/solo/bridge/chorus/chorus was pretty radical for its time.

Listen closely to the fadeout, around the 1:59 mark, and you'll hear the separate vocal tracks singing different things. It's an aesthetic error, yes, but in this post-everything era it somehow fits with the rest of the song.

14. Money [10]
Did I mention The Beatles also knew how to close an album? First "Twist And Shout," now this? It's hard to fathom first of all that the people out there who declare a hatred for The Beatles, but more importantly that these people have done enough research to fully back their claim. Sure, I hate a lot of the songs on 1, I'll be the first to admit that a band's "greatest hits" hardly, if ever, constitutes their "best of." Example: "I Am The Walrus" didn't get to number one on the charts, so it's not on 1. But dammit if "Hello, Goodbye" isn't on there.

Ergo, if you hate The Beatles:
1.) You're an idiot.
2.) You haven't listened closely enough, if at all.
3.) In saying you hate The Beatles, you are in a sense denying their influence. So with that being the case, any album you have by a band with self-penned numbers you should probably go ahead and throw away. Anything you've heard with automatic double tracking you shouldn't listen to. Oh, and don't even think of picking up a guitar.
4.) You're still an idiot.

This song...don't quite know how to put it into words. The other other side of Motown beyond the ballads and the pop is stuff like this. The Beatles gussied it up and gave it a true balls to the wall treatment. John's at his rawest vocally and the rest of the band keeps up perfectly. A great contender for the 11 status.

What a way to end a record. Classic Beatles.

Subtotal: 92.5% A-

Replayability Factor: 3
My criteria for a 3 being an album that can be played "anytime, anyplace, anywhere?" Look no further. Having a bad day? Make it good. Having a good day? Make it great! This album always gets me tapping my foot, singing along, usually repeating "Don't Bother Me" and "Money" an extra time or six for good measure. This is what a replayable album sounds like.

Consistency Factor: 3
Consistency and The Beatles is hard to define, as they did nothing but get better and better until they ceased to be. How many other bands can you say that about? So, yes, this is (MUCH) better than the album that preceded it, if that serves as your definition for consistency within The Beatles oeuvre. Compared to Abbey Road it's a toss-off of a garage rock album, so using that as the measure doesn't quite work.

Anyway, Please Please Me was an introduction, a warm-up act. On this, as I've mentioned before, they did nothing more than commit their typical setlist to record, so there's far more of the band being comfortable with themselves on this album. For all practical purposes, this should have been their first album. This is the album that put them on the map and ensured the public they wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon.

External Factors: 2
The usage of double-tracking on so many of the vocals is a really cool sound. George Martin, who had previously produced classical records and comedy albums, is really beginning to flex his muscles as the so-called "fifth Beatle," appearing on a number of the songs and it seems helping to make the songs even better, using the piano on "Not A Second Time" as an example.

Total: 100.5% A+

I've promised to address singles, and while I didn't quite do that with The Monkees, dammit I'm doing it with The Beatles!

01. From Me To You [10]
Since it isn't an album but a single release, a rating of 11, let alone bothering to find a "final rating" is a bit silly. Anyway, if this had been on Please Please Me (I volunteer the sacrifice of "Ask Me Why" for it to have a spot on the album!) it would have been the 11 track. It's deliciously catchy, but the key change in that bridge showed a sophistication - whether John and Paul knew it or not - that had been absent from their previous songs. The harmonica isn't overbearing here as it is on "Love Me Do." And sure, it's repetitive, but it's a pop single. What are you expecting, "Subterranean Homesick Blues?"

02. Thank You Girl [2.5]
Perhaps the disdain for album B-sides come from the pitiful b-sides they had on their early singles. This is pretty damn bad, with a fairly inane melody, poor rhymes, and stupid lyrics. There's good pop tunes (see "From Me To You"), and then there's bad pop tunes. Thankfully, The Beatles decided to give an example of each on the same piece of vinyl. Nice echo on the vocals...but that's all the good I can say here. That and it ends, but even the ending kind of sucks. You're expecting one final stinger note, but it never comes.

Hearing this song again for the first time in a while, it seems that in The Kinks' attempts to emulate The Beatles on their first album and pre-"You Really Got Me" singles, it's not the rip-n-roll of "I Saw Her Standing There" or "Twist And Shout" they went after, but shit-showers like this one.

01. She Loves You [11]
Oh, sod it, this one deserves an eleven - I write the rules here, therefore I can break them. If you don't like it, I'm sure Nathan Rabin over at The A.V. Club has some self-righteous, self-important horseshit for your type of sheep to read. Are you sure there isn't a book by Chuck Klosterman you've not picked up yet, the one where he celebrates crap culture?

Now you've done it, I'm hyperventilating. Not really. Anyway, back to what matters.

Can the phrase "Classic Beatles" become overused? This is the very definition of it, an orgasm of a pop song. I'm a fan of the song being in second person - "You think you lost your love / Well I saw her yesterday-ee-yay / It's you she's thinking of / And she told me what to say-ee-yay" - unconventional, but it works. And that chorus is hammered out each time like it's the most important thing in the world. If I may step out of character into sappy, airheaded romantic mode, being in love is one of the most important things in the world, so it only makes sense. I swear with each time they return to the "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!" it gets louder and harder.

Classic Beatles? Um, duh. But that's letting this song off easy. How about instead a glimmering example of how they were able to set the world on fire? That sounds about right.

02. I'll Get You [5]
Man, this song is hard to like. But it's also hard to hate. The problem with this song is that it's half great. With some treatment this could have been an a-side or an outstanding album track. But the reasons it isn't great are heavy stones around its neck. The verses are strong, lyrically and melodically. It's a good message - I don't have you now, I can imagine it and it's great, but I'll get you in the end. But John's harmonies on the "Oh yeah!"s that punctuate the song are just...ugly. I don't know how else to define it, other than froggish. And during the bridge he sounds pretty bad, too. The song's intro sounds phoned in, slothlike, like they were on take number 276 (HA! A Who reference!) and the harmonica just doesn't stop at all. It's annoyingly intrusive and intrusively annoying.

A perfect example of a 5 on my rating scale. This could have been something - fine, I'll say it - it coulda been a contender! But it just...isn't.

01. I Wanna Hold Your Hand [9]
This captures everything that made The Beatles great, and as the title suggests, without any misgivings of their sexual modesty. Like "From Me To You," it's got the notable key change into the bridge, but it falls a little short of the energy of "She Loves You." It's also repetitive as Hell. Still, that intro still gives me chills. To me, it says, "Help is on the way! Our heroes will liberate you from Dion and Fabian and all of the garbage that made rock and roll boring since the end of the 1950's!" This was the song that went to number one in America, laying down a red carpet for The Beatles.

And, to use a real cliche, the rest is history.

02. This Boy [10]
Bingo! Nailed it! A b side that doesn't suck! Not only does it not suck, for my money it's better than the a side. However you feel in the comparison, this song stands out as being a terrific song. Paul, George, and John do a great three-part harmony on the verses before Paul and George step back for John to take the song into the stratosphere in one of his greatest early vocal performances. They wrote it with a girl group in mind, but it's so much better than they'd planned. A gorgeous, tender verse with an impassioned bridge for the pop music record books.

It's with this that I'd like to end my entry by bestowing the honor of inducting With The Beatles, with its cumulative score of 100.5%, as the inaugural (official) member of The 100 Plus Club, with One Size Fits All by Frank Zappa & The Mothers being the first recipient, with a cumulative score of 100.8%.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Okay. First of all, I love the Beatles.

I agree with your #4 reason to those people who hate the Beatles (as well as #1,#2,#3)

One of the main reasons why I love the Beatles so much IS their replayability factor. There aren't many albums out there where I can replay them over and over. And I feel this way with all of their albums (and I can relisten to Please Please Me, but maybe not as often as their others).

I like the song Thank You Girl. Its just a plain ol' pop song to me. It doesn't bother me (beatles reference!).

And at first I LOVED I'll Get You. But now you've ruined it. Kidding, but as I relistened to it, you are right the singing seems....mediocre. I think I aksi know why we don't like that much - it starts off so great, but then it just stops being as awesome.

Do more Beatles!!!!!