EVERY LITTLE THING

Welcome to "Every Little Thing", a blog discussing all 214 songs released by the Beatles from 1962 to 1970....by Daniel Seth Levine.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

#56: I'm A Loser

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
December 4, 1964
Appears on: Beatles For Sale

Lead vocal: John

It's kind of difficult to think that one of the most successful (and rich) men in the world at the time would call himself a loser, but that's exactly what John does with "I'm A Loser".
The song is the first instance of John's "Dylania", as Tony Barrow called it on the sleeve note for the Beatles For Sale EP. As we all know, Dylan was a huge influence on the Beatles, particularly John and George. However, at this point if you were told that one of the Beatles would be in a group with Dylan, you probably would guess John would be the one.
The two wrote remarkably similar love songs, even before the two finally met during the Beatles' first US tour. Both wrote songs about rejection and it's easy to see the parallels between "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)" and "You Can't Do That", where both singers deal with wild girls who can't seem to control themselves within set boundaries.
With "I'm A Loser", though, John touches on the psyche, looking inwards to find reasons why a girl would be so mean to him. It's kind of like "It Ain't Me Babe", except in John's song, he admits to trying to be able to impress, but fails. In Dylan's song, the singer doesn't even make an attempt. He just brushes the girl away..."...But it ain't me babe. No, no, no, it ain't me you're lookin' for babe!" John's "I'm A Loser" features a guy who wants the girl, even though he knows that she'll just put him down. He knows that it ain't me, but he still goes after her, almost getting a high out of being turned down (OK, maybe that's going a little far, but you can see where I get that...I hope).
I always find part twos of any good trilogy to be the best parts and "I'm A Loser" is certainly the best of the opening trilogy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

#55: No Reply

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
December 4, 1964
Appears on: Beatles For Sale

Lead vocal: John

"This happened once before
When I came to your door...
No reply..."

And thus begins the most powerful trilogy of songs to open an album. The needle drops on the first band and there is no introduction, nothing. Just John..."This happened once before..."
"No Reply" is not just another John song where he seeks our pity because he knows he has lost his girl. He goes even further - revealing that he has been stalking this girl and has found out that she is seeing another man. In fact, this is a complete story. The singer realizes that the relationship is over by the end of the song. The last verse is most telling to this idea. He is in so much pain that he sings "I nearly died! I nearly died/'Cause you walked hand in hand/With another man/In my place!"
The song not only reveals that the Beatles are looking far more inward than any other pop/rock group did in 1964, but also that their recording techniques had taken leaps and bounds in the just-over-a-year time period between "Love Me Do" and Beatles For Sale. John's vocal is double-tracked throughout the entire song. John and George play acoustic guitars. George Martin adds piano. Paul adds the higher harmony parts. Ringo's drumming is getting more unconventional ("No reply!" CRASH! "No reply!" BANG!).
The Beatles are getting better and "No Reply", the opening song on Beatles For Sale, is one hell of a way to show it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

#54: She's A Woman

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
November 27, 1964
Appears on: Past Masters, Vol. 1

Lead vocal: Paul

Remember back when I said Little Richard was a huge influence on the Beatles? That might have been an understatement.
"She's A Woman", which was the B-Side to "I Feel Fine", was Paul's first 'Little Richard' song. It's definitely a fun song, with a pretty basic tune and lyrics. It is the first appearance of "turn me on" in a song, but Paul uses the phrase so innocently, that the drug reference might have slipped. You know, somehow "Turn me on when I get lonely" is OK, but "I'd love turn you on" is a no-no, but that's neither here nor there.
This is also a song that proves that Paul could do a knock-out rock vocal just as well as John on his own song. John wasn't the only one who wrote rockers, and "She's A Woman" certainly proves it.
"She's A Woman" was performed during the '65 tour. It appeared on Beatles '65 in the US, but didn't appear on a UK album until 1978's Rarities.

Next up: Beatles For Sale!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#53: I Feel Fine

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: November 27, 1964
Appears on: Past Masters, Vol. 1
Lead vocal: John


Vvvvveeeerrrrroooowwwwwmmmm......
"I Feel Fine" has another one of those out-of-left-field openings. This is three years before Jimi Hendrix would explode onto the stage, toying with guitar feedback as if it was just another noise a guitar was supposed to make.
Of course, nobody had put that sound on record, that is, until "I Feel Fine". The feedback intro isn't the only great thing about the song, though. It really is a wonderful track, filled with a lot of energy that makes it the perfect single. Sure, it's driven by a single guitar riff by John (meaning that he's actually the dominant guitar on this song), but there's something good about hearing a happy, straight-up love song from John.
Another thing about "I Feel Fine" is that it truly needed to be released as a single only. It really wouldn't fit on Beatles For Sale, whose originals are much more personal than this joyous track. "Eight Days A Week" was going to be the Christmas single, but "I Feel Fine" came out of nowhere. How do make the decision of "Eight Days A Week" or "I Feel Fine"? Personally, I like the decision. The song is a totally different beat than anything on Beatles For Sale and would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

#52: I'll Be Back

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John

A Hard Day's Night ends with the most obvious promise the Beatles could give: that they'll be back.
"I'll Be Back", which on the surface is just a song about a guy who assures his love that he'll be back even if she breaks his heart, seems to be a lot more than that. I think it's an important part of Beatles history because it really proves that these guys were thinking in terms of albums already, at a time when everything was just singles. Albums were supposed to be just a random collection of songs, with hardly any structure. Here, though, on their first 100% original record*, they care about the sequence. You can't tell me with a straight face that the group for once thought that "I'll Be Back" would not be the end of the album.
"I'll Be Back" is the Beatles being prophetic in that they will be back and they'll be sticking around. Of course, the immediate truth is that they'd be back in three months time with another fantastic single and in four months with an LP more introspective than a pop group in 1964 had any right to be.

*I haven't mentioned this before, but A Hard Day's Night really is the first album by a pop group to be fully written by members of the band. It was virtually inconceivable in 1964 for an album to actually read "WORDS & MUSIC BY JOHN LENNON & PAUL McCARTNEY".

Next is, of course, "I Feel Fine" b/w "She's A Woman" and Beatles For Sale and, in case you're wondering, here is "You Can't Do That".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

#51: When I Get Home

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John

I guess when I said that with the beatles was the last appearance of that 'girl-group' infatuation...I lied.
"When I Get Home" is essentially a girl-group song, written by John. Personally, this is the one song on the album I really don't like. Sure, it's not on the level of "Hold Me Tight", but it's certainly not one of the group's finer moments.
I've always thought the lyrics were kind of interesting. For example, John uses the word "trivialities" in the second verse, which goes:
Come on, if you please,
I got no time for trivialities;
I've got a girl who's waiting home for me tonight!
I'm sorry, but who uses that word in a pop song?
Anyway, the song does feature some fantastic group harmonies, but as I noted before, it's not that great. "When I Get Home" is definitely the most forgettable moment on A Hard Day's Night.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

#50: Things We Said Today

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: Paul

Believe it or not, "Things We Said Today", another one of Paul's more interesting early songs, is Paul's only appearance on A Hard Day's Night's second side. This is one of those songs that you also just have to find it hard to believe was never a single. It was the B-Side to "A Hard Day's Night" in the UK, which was released the same day as the LP, but still...this is a song any band would kill to have. Yet, for the Beatles, it's just another B-Side/album track.
I think "Things We Said Today" also proves that John wasn't the only one that could write about tough relationships. All of Paul's songs up to this point were all happy-go-lucky love songs, but here, Paul surprises us. He turns out this fantastic song with an even more fantastic guitar riff. Man, I love that riff. If I played guitar, I'd play that sucker all day.
It also has an interestingly weird structure. There's two verses, both sung before the first chorus. Then, what could be the bridge, comes...but it also comes back before the end of the song. Maybe it's just me, but I love the complete obliteration of any standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus format.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#49: I'll Cry Instead

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John

This is one of my favorite early Beatles songs. I just think it creates such a great link between John's more introspective songs of the Beatles' middle period and into his solo career.
The song was originally supposed to be where we hear "Can't Buy Me Love", a much more upbeat (subject-wise) song, in the movie. While it is a good decision (especially since I can't see the boys wanting to dance around in a scene set to a song about a man who just lost his girl) I still would have liked to have seen it in the movie. Instead of "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You", this would definitely be better.
As I mentioned before, the song is about a guy who just lost his girl. He's heartbroken and when he recovers, "...you better hide all the girls/'Cause I'll be breakin' hearts all around the world". The song also has a country/western feel and its supreme brevity just adds to its greatness. At just a minute and forty-six seconds long, it sure packs a wallop.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#48: Any Time At All

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John

I don't have a vinyl copy of A Hard Day's Night (yet), so I just have to imagine the feeling of dropping the needle on the second side.
Sure, the crack-intro for "Any Time At All" isn't as ridiculously amazing as George's guitar note, but it still calls your attention to it. It is more or less a typical John song of the time, especially when compared to his material on with the beatles. The subject features a guy who is ready to do anything for his girl and be there whenever she calls, again, like many of the other songs by John. At this time he seems to be fixated with proving his worth to the girl he is singing to and I wouldn't doubt it if that has to do with his rocky relationship with his wife, Cynthia.

This song never got a single release, but was included on Capitol's Something New, along with the other non-film songs. It is on 1975's Rock 'n' Roll Music, which is kind of like listening to the Beatles on speed.

Now, what's the deal with this non-film track talk? As you all know, British albums had 14 songs. Of course, in a 90-minute film, you can't have 14 songs (unless it's a musical, which A Hard Day's Night was never intended to be). Richard Lester was presented with the songs that the Beatles were working on at the time and he chose seven songs he wanted in the film. So, the Beatles and George Martin came up with the brilliant idea of using Side Two to present the six remaining songs from the sessions.
Of course, in the US, United Artists could only release songs used in the film, as those were the only ones that they could get publishing rights to. (This is why all the songs are co-published by MacLen and UnArt on the US soundtrack.) So, UA filled the rest of the LP's running time with four George Martin scores (none of them actually from the film), plus "I'll Cry Instead", which was originally in the film (and always mislabeled "I Cry Instead").
Capitol, however, could release the songs on 45s, which is why all, but "Tell Me Why", were issued on 45s. Capitol had to capitalize on it, even if it meant releasing a new Beatle single a week! All of the non-film songs landed on Something New and none of them (except "I'll Cry Instead") were released as singles.


Monday, October 26, 2009

#47: Tell Me Why

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John

"Tell Me Why" is another one of those songs that just does not stop. It starts and it just snowballs into something so fun and incredible.
The song is also a "call-and-response" type song that begs for interaction between the listener and the musician. Still, "Tell Me Why" is an interesting "call-and-response", especially since the lead vocalist doesn't despond to the calls sent out by the back-up chorus. For example, take the first verse:
John: Well, I gave you ev'rything I had,
Group: But you left me sitting on my own.
John: Did you have to treat me oh so bad?
Group: All I do is hang my head and moan.
So, as you can see, the group isn't helping the situation! "Devil In Her Heart" is a standard "call-and-response" girl-group song and the complete opposite:
Group: She's got the devil in her heart
George: No, no, this I can't believe
Group: She's gonna tear your heart apart
George: No, no nay will she deceive

That's the way these "call-and-response" type songs usually go, but "Tell Me Why" flips that on its head. The group and John are the same person in this sob story of a man whose girl is bad to him for no reason. Now, you could say that "Tell Me Why" is more akin to the party "call-and-response" songs like "Twist And Shout", but those are more like "call-and-repeat". I really think "Tell Me Why" is another step forward for the Beatles as they try to move beyond their influences and, in-turn, evolve the genres that turned them into who they are.
As I mentioned before, despite being one of the strongest songs from the film, "Tell Me Why" was the only movie song not released on a single side in the US. However, it was released on Something New, which has all the non-film songs on it.
Next up: Side Two! Here's "Can't Buy Me Love", in case you're wondering....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

#46: And I Love Her

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: Paul

Of the seven songs in A Hard Day's Night, Paul gets just two songs...and they are among his best. "Can't Buy Me Love" was also released prior to the LP, so "And I Love Her" was the only new film song buyers got from Paul. On the non-film side, Paul only has one song, meaning on the whole album, he has just three tracks!
"And I Love Her" is Paul's first masterpiece and obviously it gave him the confidence to air "Yesterday" out in the following year. It's also one of his most beautiful love songs, featuring a fantastic vocal. On the Anthology is the second of two takes where they tried a full electric approach and they quickly realized that it didn't fit the song.
The really nifty thing about the song is the title. It's the second half of a thought and only appears after the first verse. A lot of the early Beatle songs used the title as a launching point (the title track of this album being the best example, of course), but here it almost seems like Paul wrote the song first and then said "let's name it after half of one of the lines." Thus, we have "And I Love Her."
As I mentioned before, it was released on 45 in the US, with "If I Fell" on the flip-side. It reached #12 on Billboard.
The song is also on 1962-1966 (the 'Red' Album) and that was definitely my first exposure to it as a kid. I loved the song. I kind of thought it was a companion to "All My Loving". It's like a slower and more mature version of the song. "And I Love Her" is easily my favorite early Beatles song, tied with another track on this album...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

#45: I'm Happy Just To Dance With You

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: George

After George wrote "Don't Bother Me", he hit a serious dry spell. In
fact, he wouldn't get another writing credit until his two songs on HELP!. I really think George was at a point where he thought 'Why should I even try?' and his self-confidence was at an all-time low.
"I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" is the only George song on the album and only one of two Lennon/McCartney compositions given to George (the other is, of course, "Do You Want To Know A Secret?"). It was (rather reluctantly - I really think John & Paul were under the assumption that George would be able to write another song) written specifically for George and you can tell. The song is entirely formulaic and honestly kind of feels like a re-write of "I Saw Her Standing There" with all the energy sucked out. Now, you can't knock George's vocal performance, because he gives the best performance he could with the song he was given. Plus, Ringo does a pretty good job at the drums.
I've always been disappointed to see that this song was in the movie when the masterful "I'll Cry Instead" was cut. That's a much better song, but I guess they felt that George needed a spotlight.
Like all the other movie songs (except "Tell Me Why"), "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You" was released on a single during the summer of 1964 by Capitol. It landed on the B-Side of "I'll Cry Instead", which both Capitol and United Artists still assumed would be in the movie.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#44: If I Fell

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John (& Paul)
I have quickly realized that writing about the first great Beatle album, A Hard Day's Night, is really tricky. Every song - one right after the other - is a masterpiece. It makes writing about them boring...not that there's anything wrong with that.
"If I Fell" is the sensitive side of John poking his head in again. This is simply one of the best songs that show, again (and again, saying this makes me sound like a broken record), just how versatile the Beatles are. They could switch from the ballads to the rockers without taking a breather.
The song is about a guy who wants to fall in love with a girl, but worries that she may hurt him in the end. He asks for her permission, since he's got to be sure that she's true to him. Of course, the other problem is that he's already got another girl, so there's a double-standard in this relationship, I guess. In the movie, the song plays the absolutely hilarious part as Ringo's pick-me-up song after a stage hand fiddles with his drums. ("Aren't you being rather arbitrary?" "That's right retreat behind a smoke screen of bourgeois clich├ęs. I don't go round messing about with your ear-phones, do I?")
Capitol used the song as the B-Side to its "And I Love Her" 45, which reached #12 on Billboard. Meanwhile in Britain, EMI pressed a limited number of copies of an "If I Fell" b/w "Tell Me Why" 45 that was popular on the continent, although it did not chart.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#43: I Should Have Known Better

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released:
July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night

Lead vocal: John


"I Should Have Known Better" is, in a way, a swan song. It is the last Beatles song to feature a harmonica intro.
Other than that, there probably isn't much to say about the song. The song is about a guy who really should have known better than to leave this fantastic girl. He never realized that "he would love everything that you do." (And I do, hey-hey-hey...and I doooo!)
In A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles sing the song (lip-syncing of course) while they play cards in this cage that they locked Paul's (very clean) grandfather into. The girls on the train find them and they watch the boys through the grate.
Of the seven songs that were used in the film, "I Should Have Known Better" is probably my favorite track, just because it's a lot of fun and has a great John vocal, especially during that bridge. When the harmonies come in to sing "And when I ask you to be mi-a-hineeee/You're gonna say you love me too", you just know that that's a special moment.
In the US, Capitol issued the song as the B-Side to "A Hard Day's Night", since Capitol could only release songs from the film on 45. (Although "Tell Me Why", the only song not released on a single, made it onto Something New.) So, it didn't make an LP appearance in the US until 1970's Hey Jude (The Beatles Again), which was the first attempt to gather all the songs not released on Capitol LPs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

#42: A Hard Day's Night

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: July 10, 1964
Appears on: A Hard Day's Night
Lead vocal: John (verses) & Paul (bridge)

One of my dreams is to see A Hard Day's Night in a movie theater. I'd love to go back in time to 1964 to do it, too. You figure, you'd be in a theater with about 100 to 200 screaming girls who have yet to figure out that The Beatles are not actually going to be there and then that....BANG!
That chord, plucked by George Harrison on his Rickenbacker 12-string, would just come over the speakers and immediately bring your attention to the screen. The first thing you see, of course, is three boys running through London from a mad pack of screaming teenagers....all in glorious black and white.
The title is the first one to come from a Ringo-ism. The story is that after a long day of shooting, Ringo said "It's been a hard day..." and then realized that it was night, adding, "....'s night!" Everyone agreed that that had to be the title...and that John and Paul needed to write a song.
...And, oh, what a song! To me, this is the epitome of the John/Paul writing team. The song is like a barrel that just keeps rolling and never stops, even when John leaves the vocal spotlight for Paul to sing the bridge. "A Hard Day's Night" is easily one of those songs that really proves that the Beatles were something special. I'm not getting cutesy, nor am I intentionally being repetitive - it's a simple fact. "A Hard Day's Night" is the first great Beatles song that no one could ever do and A Hard Day's Night is the first great Beatles LP.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

#41: Matchbox

Written by: Carl Perkins
Released: June 19, 1964
Appears on: Long Tall Sally (EP) & Past Masters, Vol. 1
Lead vocal: Ringo


The last song on the Long Tall Sally EP is the sole Ringo song that didn't appear on an album - a cover of Carl Perkins's "Matchbox".
"Matchbox" is one of only two songs that the Beatles covered where the singer on the recorded version was not the one that always sang it. John was the Beatle assigned to "Matchbox" all through the Cavern and Hamburg years. However, by 1964, it had become a Ringo song, who loved Carl Perkins almost as much as John loved Larry Williams, Paul loved Little Richard and George loved Chuck Berry.
Probably one of the reasons why Ringo got to do this song was because they knew they couldn't give him a shot on A Hard Day's Night, so they gave him a consolation prize.
Ringo has the perfect voice for this song and it proves that his real talent lied in singing rockabilly numbers (in fact, probably one of the best Beatle solo records is his country album, Beaucoups of Blues). It's like he was born in England, but should have come from some backwater Texas town.

As we all know, Capitol did some bizarre things to make as much money as they could off the Beatles name during 1964 and, probably the most bizarre thing they did was release the "Slow Down" b/w "Matchbox" 45. It made a lot of money for Capitol, reaching #17 on Billboard, but it was still a silly release. It was the only time where Capitol got its wish to make money off the Beatles' covers and it made Capitol even happier, since neither had appeared on an LP (yet...they appeared on Something New shortly after the 45). They also got a chance to cash in on America's bizarre love for anything Ringo. It also didn't hurt that the single would be popular in the Southeast, where Country is (still) king.

Next up: we get to the meat of A Hard Day's Night!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

#40: Slow Down

Written by: Larry Williams Released: June 19, 1964 Appears on: Long Tall Sally (EP) & Past Masters, Vol. 1
Lead vocal: John


Larry Williams was another one of John's favorite artists. The Beatles recorded three of his songs; "Slow Down", "Bad Boy" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy". Plus John included "Bony Maronie" on Rock 'N' Roll in 1975 and Paul also did "She Said Yeah" on Run Devil Run in 1999.
The Beatles' version is very faithful to Williams' original, although I think they drew out the intro a little longer than necessary. John pulls out that rockin' and screamin' vocal, although, I think by this time he's getting pretty tired of it (even though he would do it a few more times).
For technical geeks, there is a big goof on this, where John's second vocal flops the words during a verse. Although his vocal is double-tracked, they are two separately recorded vocals. It just goes to show that not everything George Martin produced and Norman Smith engineered could be perfect and that the Beatles were obviously in a rush to get this out (it was literally recorded two weeks before it was released).