The Beatles – Rubber Soul

This is what happens when the Beatles are finally given creative control and the time to record properly. One of the best albums ever made.

This album is flawless. Rather than jumping into the studio for a few days randomly between appearances, they were given real time off to record Rubber Soul, and this was the result. One of the best albums ever made, there isn’t a bad track on it. Rolling Stone ranked it #5 in their Top 500 albums of all time and there’s a long list of critics who agree.

Why is it so great? Well, the Beatles were finally given the keys to the castle and had the freedom and time to do what they wanted in the studio. They had creative control. Paired up with George Martin, they made a complex album with rich harmonies and tastefully layered sounds without losing that fun poppy sound that made them famous. For the first time since A Hard Day’s Night, all of these songs are originals.

The Beatles were growing up. This album marked the transition from Beatlemania into a more adult sounding genre. It had a variety of musical styles, which keeps it interesting. Folk, blues, rock, pop, and even a honky tonk song (thanks Ringo!). The stories the songs told weren’t just puppy love and infatuation anymore. Sometimes they struck out and slept in the bathtub (Norwegian Wood) and other times they have conflicting emotions (I’m Looking Through You and Girl). There’s a wonderful song about childhood and nostalgia (In My Life). They were starting to view the LP as one musical project, rather than a collection of individual songs. It was a good 3 years ahead of its time and made everything else sound outdated. To give you some perspective, when it hit #1 it knocked The Sound of Music movie soundtrack out of the top spot. It was a radical shift.

When I first heard the transition from their previous albums to this I was angry at the record company and manager. Could this have happened sooner if they’d been given the freedom to record this way from the start? Could A Hard Day’s Night or Help! been even better? Or were they not mature enough to make an album this good until now? The chicken or the egg, which came first? Obviously, we will never know, but what we can do is appreciate the incredible songs on this record.

One note about the title of the album. It was based off a saying the guys had heard making fun of Mick Jagger, a white brit singing black American soul music. He had a plastic soul, not genuine. I don’t necessarily believe that, as I feel that certain types of music resonate with people on an individual level, no matter what color they are or where they’re raised, but they used that as a basis for this album title.

Drive My Car

I love this song. It’s fun, up beat, and a bit goofy. Seriously,  who hasn’t sung “Beep Beep, Beep Beep, YEAH!” along with the music when nobody was around to hear. As a kid, this was one of the songs that turned me on to the Beatles. Great way to start an album. This was the best version out there I could find. It’s not as good as the studio version, but it’s not bad.

 

Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)

I mentioned this song in the intro. Great folksy guitar riff, sounds great on an acoustic. Even when they struck out with the ladies they could write a good song about it. I couldn’t fine a decent Beatles version, but apparently everyone and their grandma has covered it because there’s a million of these videos out there. I guess they should be flattered. Here’s one that wasn’t appalling:

 

Nowhere Man

So far I’ve played three of the first four tracks off the album. Can you imagine an album starting off like this today? I LOVE the harmony on this song. They were so strong vocally as a group and it shows out all over this album.

 

Michelle

The French style guitars make you feel like you’re in a cafe in Paris enjoying a latte and ham sandwich with way too much butter on it. It’s so smooth and mellow.

 

 In My Life

There’s so many amazing songs on this album, it’s almost like a greatest hits collection by itself. This is a moving song. I get emotional when I hear it thinking about all the people and places in my life I’ve known that mean so much to me. It’s wonderful.

 

Girl

There’s so many more songs I’d like to share, but I’m picking this as the last. The melody of this song is very haunting, as shown by Jim Sturgess in the Across the Universe movie below.

 

Here’s another excellent cover. I’m happy that there are so many Beatles cover bands out there. They’re keeping the music alive and relevant.

 

That’s all I got. Hope you all have a fantastic week.

D

 

The Beatles – Help!

If you’re really into music you’ve got at least one friend who is into it as much as you. You spend hours talking about different bands and albums.

 

 

If you’re really into music you’ve got at least one friend who is into it as much as you. You spend hours talking about different bands and albums. Multiply that by 10 if you’re both musicians as well. I’ve been blessed to have met many musicians and audiophiles over the years and cherish their friendship.

I was hanging out with Dave, one of these friends who lives locally in NC a few weeks ago. He’s been reading my blog, so we had a lot to get caught up on. Like two people who just crossed the desert, we were gulping down the refreshing conversation. In fact, I was a little embarrassed because we were supposed to be at a small group picnic, but hadn’t talked in so long we pretty much ignored everyone else for the first 45 minutes getting caught up.

I mentioned that Help was coming up next and it was one of my favorite Beatles albums. He countered with “Hard Days Night is way better” and off we went. It took a second time hanging out later that week to finish the debate, but suffice it to say we both now have a greater appreciation for the two albums.

Interesting album facts:

The picture on the cover is the Beatles doing semaphore, signals that ships use to communicate without radio. But it doesn’t actually spell out Help!

Wikipedia tells us “On the UK Parlophone release, the letters formed by the Beatles appear to be “NUJV”, whilst the slightly re-arranged US release on Capitol Records appeared to feature the letters “NVUJ”, with McCartney’s left hand pointing to the Capitol logo.”

The Beatles appear much more rested on this album, completing it in February before leaving the UK for the Bahamas to film the movie. It was 8 months after Beatles for Sale and you could tell they were energetic and excited to go film. Like A Hard Day’s Night, the tracks that made the movie were on Side A and the rest of the songs from the session were on Side B.

HELP!

The title track kicks off the album. It has an energy that was sorely lacking from Beatles for Sale. Wonderful melody and musicianship on this song. One of their most recognizable songs. Probably written after their burn out of recording Beatles for Sale, it is a clear cry for help, definitely showing how emotionally drained they all were from the schedule.

 

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away

This song has special significance to me because it was the first song that I ever performed in front of an audience. My friend Abe Savas was a vet of many rock performances in high school, and when we met at Alma College he took me under his wing and showed me how to play in front of an audience. We played this song as part of our set at Max and Emily’s during an open mic night. And there was an actual crowd! Abe gave me this song as kind of a George Harrison/Ringo Starr one off to give his voice a break. It is something I will always appreciate. It’s a melancholy song, but sometimes that’s the mood you’re in.

Unfortunately, there is no version of the Beatles playing this that’s available, so I’m giving you Oasis’ version. They actually do pretty good and they’re British, so close enough. At least it’s not the Eddie Vedder version.

 

Ticket to Ride

This album is heavy on John Lennon songs, which is possibly why I like it so much. Iconic song, the harmonies on this song are solid, as usual.

 

It’s Only Love

Another John Lennon classic. This video has the added bonus of showing you how to play the song on guitar. It’s actually John singing in the background, which is good because I couldn’t find any suitable replacement on youtube. Sorry.

 

Yesterday

They could’ve just ended the album here and nobody would have been the wiser. My friend Dave pointed this out and I think I agree with him. It’s a sad and beautiful song, but sometimes you’re just in the mood for that. One of my favorite Paul McCartney songs. I love how this video just shows him on stage with a single spotlight on him. Perfect.

 

That’s all for now. Hope you all enjoyed reading. Thank you for your support!

D

 

 

 

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

In the past, I viewed this album as a let down after 3 great LPs. But, is it really?

In the past, I always viewed this album as a let down after such a great first three albums. When I was in the mood for some Beatles, I never once said “Hey, I’m in the mood for some Beatles for Sale!” But, is this album really a let down? It took me so long to finally write this post, I had the chance to listen to it about a dozen times. Each time my CD changer made a new circuit I heard it again. I think I’m finally ready to write about it and have some theories as well.

Beatles for Sale kick off with the following songs: No Reply, I’m a Loser, and Baby’s in Black. Those are good songs, but they aren’t Hard Day’s Night or Help. So right off the bat, there’s a bit of a let down because the album doesn’t have a fast, up beat tune to start it. That comes all the way down at Track 4, Rock and Roll Music, which is a cover, and brings me to my next point.

The Beatles were tired. The constant grind of touring, movie making, show appearances, and studio work for the past two years has completely wiped them out. Who can be creative when all you really want is some peace, quiet, and a good night’s sleep? To wit, half of the songs are covers, which is a bummer after Hard Day’s Night was their first album to be 100% original. This also shows in the fact that Beatles for Sale didn’t produce an A-side single, not one. They were running out of steam trying to make incredible albums as well as put out incredible singles to keep them on top of both the song and album charts.

If you look at the album release dates, they had put out FOUR albums in the past two years. That is a ridiculous amount and it reminds me of stories I’ve heard about child actors back in the 50’s and 60’s, who got hooked on drugs that they used to give them “pep” so they could perform well during their grueling film schedule. Judy Garland is a prime example. I’m sure this is no different, except (as far as I know) they didn’t use these drugs to keep them going. George Martin also had commented that they were weary during recording and it led to the melancholy tone of the sessions.

But is this really a bad album? I don’t think so. After hearing these songs several times, it just has a different feel than previous albums. John and Paul were trying to write more autobiographical songs (see wiki link above), so naturally it wouldn’t be only the sugary pop of previous releases. And musically, these are good songs. There is a great deal of unique Beatles sound in them and often the chord progressions and songs themselves don’t go where you would expect, which is nice.

Since they had to include some covers, in order to make the December 1964 deadline for the album, I’m really glad they chose the American rock and roll numbers they did. So many Americans were looking across the pond at that time to what was happening in the UK with the Beatles and other bands, but they were looking right back at us seeing the unique sound of the American south. Rock and Roll was a very unique thing and I love that they pay tribute to some of their contemporaries that maybe weren’t getting quite as much recognition or credit. Chuck Berry had a large part in inventing Rock and Roll, yet when the Beatles covered his song, it was a huge boost to his popularity as well. And rightly deserved.

As you’ll see in later posts, I have an extensive Blues collection from several different American artists. I feel like this is the true roots to all of the great rock music you heard back then and to hear the Beatles paying it tribute is right on the money in my mind.

 

I’ll Follow the Sun

You have to get deep into the album before you hit this song, but I think it’s incredible. It’s sad and beautiful, with a very positive message. I know this might be a little morbid, but someday we all will pass on. There isn’t a song I’d like played at my funeral more than this one. It points to the impact people have on your life and the fact that time and circumstances separate us all eventually, with the promise of a reunion someday. It’s wonderful and I like this more than the sugary pop songs. It has much more depth and feeling.

Eight Days a Week

Finally! Here’s what we’ve been missing, an honestly to goodness upbeat Beatles song! You have to wait until Track 8 to hear it, but it’s worth the wait. This was released in the US as a single, but not the UK. Weird. Anyways, it’s a great tune.

I LOVE the animation on this video. The 60’s just looked like a fun time to be alive. Reminds me of the Frosty the Snowman Christmas special.

 

Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby

This is one of the notorious cover songs. A fun tune by Carl Perkins, it’s totally George all the way. I’m sure the Beatles could sing this and know from experience how it goes. I like the tongue in cheek way they present it. Great way to close out the album.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post and have a great weekend full of music!

D

 

The Beatles – With the Beatles

Typically bands have trouble following up their debut album. So, if you’re the best band in history, how do you respond?

Typically bands have trouble following up their debut album. The reason for this is simple, they spent years working on the songs for their first album, perfecting them. Once they hit it big, they’re required to put out another album ASAP to follow it. If they don’t have other songs waiting to go, it can be a rough ride.

So, if you’re the best band in history, how do you respond? You open up a musical can of whoop ass, that’s how. FOUR MONTHS after releasing Please Please Me, they go back in the studio and record this amazing album. I don’t think there is a bad track on it, start to finish. Lots of quality deep cuts here. The fact that they wrote these songs while on their insane touring schedule makes it even more impressive. As you can see from Wikipedia, whenever they had a break in touring, radio, and TV spots, they’d go right into the studio and lay down what they could.

Now for the songs…

It Won’t Be Long

Because it’s so hard finding studio versions on YouTube, I’m going to take the opportunity to talk about Across the Universe. From 2008, it’s one of my favorite movies. It is the story of Jude and Lucy as they go through the 60’s, meet each other, fall in love, and then hit a rough patch when the Vietnam war breaks out. The movie is FULL of Beatles references, with the story moving along through musical numbers like the one below. You could watch it dozens of times and see something new. Evan Rachael Wood (Lucy) and Jim Sturgess (Jude) do an amazing job on the songs. There’s even a cameo by Bono.

In this scene, Lucy is excited to hear that her boyfriend, who is in the Army, is getting a weekend pass to come home and see her. Great song, kicks off the album perfectly.

 

Till There Was You

This wasn’t written by the Beatles, but Paul does an amazing job on this song. I think it is a great love song. Paul is giving us a look into what some of his classic love songs will be like on future albums. And the guitar playing on this song is excellent. Way to go George!

 

Money (That’s What I Want)

They got so much crap for this song and they didn’t even write it. Are they so different now than when they wrote Can’t Buy Me Love and All You Need is Love to redeem themselves several years later? Only they could say. It’s still a fun tune. Just enjoy it and quit being so serious!

 

All I’ve Got to Do

This is the second track on the album, but because I couldn’t find it done by the Beatles anywhere on YouTube due to US blocking, I moved it to the bottom. Another quality song. This video is just a guy in his practice room/kids playroom/office with an acoustic guitar, but I think it sounds great. He deserves some props, the dude has real talent. So, Brian Jepson, today is your day in the spotlight!

 

Hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through With the Beatles. I’m going chronologically through, so Hard Day’s Night is up next. Until next time….

Never stop the music.

D

 

 

 

 

The Beatles – Please Please Me

When you really dig deep into their music and story, you find a group of four extremely hard working and talented young guys who loved music.

I would say The Beatles are my all time favorite band. Not that I’m going out on a limb by saying it, because they’re one of the most popular of all time. But, when you really dig deep into their music and story, you find a group of four extremely hard working and talented young guys who loved music. They worked hard at their craft and their sound evolved and changed as they matured and experimented with different instruments and song writing ideas.

When you follow their discography, they put out an amazing amount of material in a very short amount of time, much to the world’s benefit. Their creativity was running at a mile a minute. You’ll find several stories like this, about how they wrote the song Hard Day’s Night. George Martin told John and Paul that they needed a title track for their movie album and the next morning they walk in with that classic. Probably took them 15 minutes to get it all down.

Because of this rich history and my love of every one of their albums, I’m going to slow down and dedicate one post to each of their albums. That way I can take my time with each and give them the attention I believe they deserve individually.

Please Please Me

PleasePleaseMe

The Beatles had been a very successful live club playing in Germany and then returning to London for their epic tenure at the Cavern Club, where they started to gain a following. According to Wikipedia, Please Please Me was basically a live recording of one of their Cavern Club sets. It only took 3 recording sessions, a total of 9 hours and 45 minutes to record this classic. In studio time, that’s a ridiculously short for an album of this quality. There were very few overdubs, just the performances recorded onto a two track tape recorder.

Some interesting facts about this album:

  • It wasn’t released in the US until 1987, when the Beatles catalog was converted to CD. Some of the songs were released on other LPs, but the full album was not
  • The classic John Lennon vocals for Twist and Shout were done on the very first take, at the end of the day. He had a cold and they worried recording this song would shred his vocal chords, which it did
  • The photo on the album cover was taken in the stairwell of EMI Records. If you’ve seen the retrospective albums 1962–1966 and 1967–1970, you’ll recognize this photo was repeated several years later and the two were used on the album covers. Very cool touch.

On a personal note, I didn’t actually hear this album until 1995, when I slowly collected The Beatles’ full discography, one used CD at a time. I recognized all of the hit songs, as my dad listened to the retrospective albums all the time as I was growing up. The big realization to me, was that the entire album was very good. Even the tracks that never made airplay were excellent.

Here’s some of my favorites, all of which have become iconic songs from this time period.

I Saw Her Standing There

Wow, what a way to kick off an album.

 

Please Please Me

This is a very upbeat and fun song. I couldn’t find an album version anywhere out there, so here’s a restored version of the song live in Washington DC. Like most Beatles concerts it’s nearly impossible to hear the band over the screaming of the girls in the audience.

 

Twist and Shout

Here’s that classic vocal performance from John Lennon with perfect harmonies by Paul and George. Just makes you want to shout along with them at the ending part. They didn’t write this song, but it is an amazing performance. Like the other, I couldn’t find the album version out there, but this is a famous performance, done in front of the Queen. That joke about the cheap seats is a famous one.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the songs. With the Beatles is up next.

D