As anyone reading this can well attest, as much as I love writing about music, I don’t really know how to write about music. Like I can’t explain why certain key changes and melodies work. I just know that they do. Hey, none of the Beatles could read music, so I figure I’m in pretty good company.
So with that in mind, I need to highlight one of my favorite hooks in the Beatles’ catalog. “I’ll Get You” could never be anything other than a B-side, but when it comes to the Beatles, that’s not a mark against it. Because Lennon and McCartney delivered some second-tier classics in the early days, and despite their lower rankings, I still find “Ask Me Why” and “PS I Love You” quite charming indeed.
“I’ll Get You” tops them both on account of a specific melodic shift in the line, “When I think aboooouuuuut you, I can say…” It’s a little treat in a song that didn’t need it, but John and Paul still pulled it off immaculately.
Krispy Kreme donuts. The “Mr. Plow” episode of The Simpsons. The Beatles’ harmonies.
“What are three things that are pretty great, Alex?”
For all the division in our society in modern times, I think we as a collective can agree that all of those things are all quite exceptional. (Four if you count Alex Trebek.) I don’t know if it’s possible to gush too much about how amazing the Beatles’ harmonies were, but over the course of their seven-year recording career, John, Paul, and George united in three-part harmony just three times. “This Boy” was the earliest and best–I’ve never liked the maudlin “Yes It Is,” and “Because” is gorgeous, but the longing, impassioned “This Boy” is the greatest Smokey Robinson song he never wrote.
Let’s get one thing out of the way regarding “Twist and Shout”: if those opening moments don’t instantly instill a desire within you to hijack a German parade, I don’t think I want to know you.
And if hearing “Stuck in the Middle With You” doesn’t immediately compel you to cut off someone’s ear, we need to talk.
If memory serves me, my initial interest in seeing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was because of the Beatles connection, and it became my second favorite movie of all time and I recreated Ferris’s day off shortly after moving to Chicago, so I owe a lot to “Twist and Shout.” And to think, Continue reading “#81: Twist and Shout”→
In the decade after the Beatles broke up, John Lennon gave two extended interviews, one in 1972 and the other shortly before his death in 1980, in which he provided background info and offered commentary on nearly every Lennon/McCartney composition ever released. A recurring theme during these conversations was his desire to distance himself from his former songwriting partner’s contributions, with his hatred for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (Paul “did everything to make it into a single, and it never was and it never could have been”) and writing off “When I’m Sixty-Four” with a curt “I would never even dream of writing a song like that” as two of the more egregious examples. Even when he liked a song of Paul’s, he seemed content in complimenting it and moving on.
When I think of bands that entered the world of rock music with a fully-formed statement of sorts, an immediate and evident identity, there are quite a few that come to mind. Guns N’ Roses. Led Zeppelin. R.E.M. Rage Against the Machine. The Jimi Hendrix Experience. That’s not to say that these artists necessarily peaked with their debut albums, but in the less than three minutes it takes to listen to the first track on the first Led Zeppelin album, “Good Times Bad Times,” someone can understand the essence of Zep. Ditto for “Welcome to the Jungle” for Guns N’ Roses, etc.
The Archies, though, continue to mystify us all.
The Beatles wouldn’t make that list. Their first album is great, and features
Some people will forever be defined by a single mistake or a case of bad timing. Michael Cimino won a Best Director Oscar for his acclaimed second film, The Deer Hunter in 1978. His next movie, Heaven’s Gate, went down as a creative disaster and one of the biggest box office flops of all time, and studios decided to no longer risk playing Russian roulette with him. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign has been reduced in our collective mind to “the Dean scream,” in which the flu-stricken candidate briefly channeled Axl Rose while rallying supporters after the Iowa caucus.
With two rather selfish and demanding singles under their belt (“Love ME Do”! “Please Please ME“!), the Beatles finally found themselves in a giving mood for their third A-side. I always felt like “From Me to You” sort of flies under the radar, at least from the perspective of a 21st century American Beatles fan. You never hear it on the radio and it doesn’t attract the same appreciation as their other early singles, even though it’s just as catchy and enjoyable, and I never understood why until I started doing research for this write-up. Yes, I do research for these. I fact-check everything. Why is that so hard to believe?
My mother and sister exposed me to a lot of Broadway musical soundtracks growing up, mostly against my will. Few of them stood out to me, and really, I resented the fact that they took up valuable stereo time that rightfully belonged to “Weird Al” Yankovic.
If these weren’t in the CD player, why was it even plugged in?
How is it that a song titled “Misery” is one of the most musically joyful songs in the Beatles’ catalog? Clocking in at under two minutes, this delightful little ditty features John and Paul singing in unison the entire time, and was recorded during the marathon Please Please Me session in which John audibly really needs to blow his nose.