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 It was a good 3 years ahead of its time and made everything else sound outdated.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 – A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles’ first movie soundtrack. They’re really hitting their stride now.

I was talking with my friend Silvia the other day and she mentioned this album as it was up next on the blog. She said that she must have watched this movie at least 100 times and could quote it all start to finish. I asked her how that was possible and her response was that it was one of the only movies that her local library had when she was growing up in South America. In fact, it was how she learned to speak English, just listening to it over and over.

This made me think about how big an impact The Beatles have had all over the world. It wasn’t just a UK or US thing, it was a GLOBAL thing. All continents, all peoples. Truly amazing.

I admit, I haven’t actually watched any of The Beatles’ movies except for Yellow Submarine. I’ve read the stories about making them, but not seen the actual films. I’m going to try and do this soon. But, since this blog is about the music, I’m going to plow ahead.

A Hard Day’s Night

That opening chord. Need I say more? It’s a fantastic, ear catching way to kick off an album. Amazing song, written in such an off the cuff style that is all Beatles.

According to my Beatles songbook, the chord is a Gsus4. Tab is below:

–3–

–1–

–0–

–0–

–x–

–x–

By itself this is really nothing special. But, the studio magic of this is that at the same time John is playing this chord, George is simultaneously playing the barre chord version on a 12-string guitar, which gives it that ringing harmony. Paul also plays the root note to give added depth. Looking at the music, this is a very simple song, anybody could play it. But, that’s the trick, isn’t it? It’s very hard to sound like The Beatles doing it.

 

If I Fell

This is an amazing song. So sweet and heartfelt. Probably one of my top ten Beatles songs. The harmonies between John and Paul are so tight and well done. Perfect for an acoustic guitar and two singers. I had a very hard time finding the Beatles version, but here is one they did live on BBC.

 

I would like to also play the Across the Universe version of this song. It’s a unique take on the song, so is worth hearing. This scene is were Lucy begins to fall for Jude. Such an amazing voice.

Can’t Buy Me Love

The live recordings are getting much better by this point in their career. They’re great performers, so this version is almost identical to the album version. Can we just assume we’re past the whole Money (That’s What I Want) controversy already? Great upbeat song. More pop sounding, like most of the ones on this album.

 

Final thoughts. Wikipedia tells us that this was the first album that the four lads wrote every single song. This explains the stylistic change from Rock to a more Pop sound. They had found their own voice and were taking off.

And, of course there’s the story about the title of the album, which is based on a “Ringo-ism”. Ringo had a unique way of speaking where he’d sometimes just make up words or phrases to say exactly what he was trying to express. If the normal lexicon just wasn’t enough. Very unique individuals.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

D