This blog is dedicated to the memory of David Weintraub, who took on insidious astroturfers and won.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Beat the Meatles! Part 1
Beatles for Sale
Beatles albums can be categorised into two distinct periods:
1. John, the-scotch-and-coke-swilling-meat-eater
2. John, the pussy-whipped-by-a-Japanese-whackjob-chick-vegan-acid-head
The first period extends from the initial Parlophone release Please Please Me through Revolver, while the second runs from Sergeant Pepper through Abbey Road. (Let it Be, although released later to coincide with the documentary was actually recorded earlier than Abbey Road.
I'm a self confessed John fanboi. The Beatles best songs, IMHO, as well as most of their songs in th eearly period, feature Lennon singing lead with Paul and sometimes George on backing vocals. This is not to dismiss Paul's important greatness one iota, for musically speaking he was both the brilliance and the glue that made the Beatles. His harmonies and melodicity largely were the essence of what turned John's songs into the classics they became.
I'm an unabashed early period Beatles fan. I find the early stuff, especially the non-hit single album filler more interesting musically for the lack of pretension and most definitely better sung, for the strength of the Beatles of course resided in their vocal abilities and song crafting rather than their mediocre (except for an occasional George guitar solo and the always exceptional basslines laid down by McCartney).
For me, the two best all-time Beatles LPs occurred during their BC period, Beatles for Sale and Revolver, in that order. Today, I will offer a critical analysis of the former and come back at a later date to take on the latter.
While Revolver is frequently recognised by music critics as one of, if not the best, Beatles LPs, Beatles for Sale is generally considered one of their less fabulous, a hastily thrown together commercial project in 1965, at the height of Beatlemania, mainly to take advantage of the willingly wide open pocketbooks of hysterical Beatlemaniacs. In the US, the album was released as two LPs, with even more filler added, Beatles 65 and Beatles VI, so the boys could double the take in their largest market. Is this a great country or what?
Beatles for Sale opens with the very underrated classic John tune No Reply, one of the earliest of his dark misogynistic story song motifs. He's a stalker calling from outside his cheating girlfriend's house, waiting as she comes home with the Other Guy and watching for the reaction from inside when he makes the call. Musically, the song has a very simple but unusual structure for a blues-based rock tune, featuring no chorus, a fantastically emotive bridge in the middle of the song that builds into a rushing, pounding crescendo before abruptly returning to repeat the quieter second verse "I tried to telephone they said you were not home. That's a lie...". This discordant sequence filled first with intense the passion of the John/Paul harmony before switching back an to calmly accusatory second verse perfectly reflects the stalker's unbalanced, agitated state of mind. The songs coda repeats the title over and over to underscore the psychic pain of the stalker's inability to make the connection with his unfaithful lover.
Beatles for Sale features six cover versions Rock n Roll Music (Chuck Berry), one of Lennon's best recorded vocals ever, confirms that both the Beatles and the Stones sang Berry better than Berry, Mr. Moonlight (Otis Johnson), another Lennon effort, the rather tame McCartney medley of Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey (Leiber/Stoller and Little Richard tunes) and two Carl Perkins' send ups Honey Don't with Ringo vocals and the excellent Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby with George singing lead through an echo box.
Besides Rock n Roll Music, the real revelation among the covers is the Beatles' treatment of the Buddy Holly B-side Words of Love. Where Holly sang harmony to his own lead vocal, the Beatles swap leads between John, Paul and George and add gorgeous three part harmony that remake what was a Holly throwaway into a timelessly classic love song.
I've always been more interested in hearing a band's cover versions rather than their original compositions, simply because this gives you a way of determining where they are at musically in comparison to the original versions. You gain a sense of their stylistic tendencies, influences and their overall musicianship better than with their own penned numbers because the originals must be considered solely in their own right without a comparative frame of reference.
So without further ado, for your listening pleasure and critical consideration, ladeez and gennelmens, donkeytale's selection for all-time best Beatle LP.