#241 THE BEATLES MEET THE BEATLES

#241

THE BEATLES

MEET THE BEATLES

I have let too much time go by since my last Beatles posting.

This will be a lengthy post. I realize that only Beatles aficionados or those who want to recapture a part of their youth—or both—will be interested in my lengthy Beatles’ album summaries. To everyone else, though, there still may be something of interest here. There are many—myself included—who feel that the 1960’s were a true pivot, a hinge in the arc of history, and that the Beatles played no small part in that. These commentaries will be primarily about the music, but they cannot help but also touch the societal influence the Beatles had.

A little recap is probably needed. As usual, all previous posts are at music-i-love.com.

Previous Beatles posts have been:

#113 11-11-17 general Beatles information
#151 12-28-17 Preface #1
#152 12-28-17 Preface #2
#153 12-28-17 Preface #3
#160 1-5-18 Nine U.S. singles #1-3
#164 1-9-18 Nine U.S. singles #4-6
#183 1-28-18 Nine U.S. singles #7-9
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Overall, the Beatles released 18 albums in the U.S., followed by a 19th—PAST MASTERS, which included material they had not released on other albums up to that point. Additionally, a compilation of their number one hits was released in 2000 as BEATLES ONE. Just as a review, here are those albums with their respective dates of release:

1 MEET THE BEATLES January 20, 1964
2 BEATLES SECOND ALBUM April 10, 1964
3 HARD DAY’S NIGHT June 26, 1964
4 SOMETHING NEW July 20, 1964
5 BEATLES 65 December 15, 1964
6 EARLY BEATLES March 22, 1965
7 BEATLES VI June 14, 1965
8 HELP August 6, 1965
9 RUBBER SOUL December 3, 1965
10 YESTERDAY AND TODAY June 20, 1966
11 REVOLVER August 5, 1966
12 SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND May 26, 1967
13 MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR November 27, 1967
14 WHITE ALBUM November 22, 1968
15 YELLOW SUBMARINE January 13, 1969
16 ABBEY ROAD September 26, 1969
17 HEY JUDE (singles) February 26, 1970
18 LET IT BE May 8, 1970
19 PAST MASTERS I/II 1988/2009
20 BEATLES ONE November 13, 2000

Things to remember:

• The era of multi-track recording was just beginning around 1963, and the Beatles were quick to utilize it. The Beatles seemed to use this in the early albums in order to add a unison vocal line—say, John recording the exact same vocal line over something he had already recorded—and also for the addition of hand-clapping to a song. If you listen carefully, you will be surprised at the amount of hand-clapping in Beatles songs.

• Studio time was expensive, in all studios, everywhere. If the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, had reserved a recording studio for, say, three hours at night—8 to 11 PM (20 to 23 for my non-American friends)—they had to be perfectly ready to play at 8:00 and they could not go one minute past 11:00. Most Beatles songs—I guess “all” would be more appropriate to say—are the result of multiple takes. Consequently, many recording sessions, because of these time limitations, left them feeling uneasy about certain songs. The last song in a session would often feel hurried, and would require additional takes in a later recording session. This would not have been a problem were it not for their demanding performance schedule. The Beatles were ALWAYS performing.

• John Lennon and Paul McCartney had met in their teens, and were a song-writing TEAM from the very beginning. They made a pact of sorts with each other that even if one or the other of them was 100% responsible for writing a song that they would both claim equal credit.

• Perhaps for marketing reasons, or simply as a public display of equality, the Beatles tried to include a solo vocal track for both George and Ringo in each album.

• One thing to keep in mind when thinking about the Beatles’ first eight albums—up to HELP—is that “album rock,” “album radio,” and FM radio in general were all in their infancy in the late sixties. The real money made by the record producers, up until that point in time, was through the sales of singles, which were then played on AM radio stations in the U.S. (or in Europe, on the shortwave station, Radio Luxumbourg). Although the Beatles did not single-handedly change this, they were certainly in the mix when it came to society switching over from purchasing and playing singles to purchasing and playing albums.
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So—while still in the era of singles as the most important “thing”—in order to capitalize on their anticipated U.S. success, the Beatles released nine singles before, or simultaneously with, the release of their first album, which was MEET THE BEATLES. Those nine singles—which I am chronologically listing here according to their U.S. release, and with my ratings (5 stars being the highest that I rate an album or an individual song)—were:

• LOVE ME DO ****
• P.S. I LOVE YOU ****
• SHE LOVES YOU ****
• I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND ****
• I SAW HER STANDING THERE ****
• PLEASE PLEASE ME ****
• TWIST AND SHOUT ****
• CAN’T BUY ME LOVE ****
• DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? ****

We’ve talked about these single releases in previous posts. Our plan now is to take a look at each one of the albums, rate each track, and in general assess whether the Beatles deserve the stellar reputation they acquired (they do  ). We’ll look at MEET THE BEATLES today and the BEATLES SECOND ALBUM next post.

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• MEET THE BEATLES was released January 20, 1964. It topped the charts just three weeks later and stayed there for almost three months. Simultaneously released in Britain was WITH THE BEATLES. The two albums have slightly different songlists. It would not be until RUBBER SOUL that the U.K. and U.S. albums would replicate each other.

• Robert Freeman was the Beatles’ favorite photographer, and he took the photo on the cover of MEET THE BEATLES, and imbued it with a blue tint. It is one of the most famous photographs of the group.

• MEET THE BEATLES occupies the 59th position on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

• When thinking about the song choices in the Beatles’ first two albums, it is important to keep in mind that the Beatles were—and started out as—a great cover band. As I’ve said before, they may have been the greatest cover band in history. They seemed to know every song from the 1950’s on, and they would rehearse all the songs by other artists until they “owned” them. They performed on stage many hundreds of times playing, almost exclusively, cover songs. The lengthy time they spent on stage in Hamburg, in particular, made them extremely confident about playing just about anybody else’s music. The Beatles’ initial albums consisted of both original and cover songs. But it would not be too long after MEET THE BEATLES and the BEATLES SECOND ALBUM that they would only play original music.

As a reminder: because of copyright and legal ownership battles, one cannot easily find Beatles’ tracks on YouTube. So, I’ll continue to give Spotify links.  Here is the link to my MEET THE BEATLES playlist:

My ratings:

MEET THE BEATLES
Album Rating: ****

Tracks:
***** (2)
THIS BOY
ALL MY LOVING

**** (4)
I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND
I SAW HER STANDING THERE
IT WON’T BE LONG
TILL THERE WAS YOU

*** (5)
ALL I’VE GOT TO DO
DON’T BOTHER ME
HOLD ME TIGHT
I WANNA BE YOUR MAN
NOT A SECOND TIME

** (1)
LITTLE CHILD
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1 I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND 2:27 **** also discussed in MIL #164

• Written by Lennon and McCartney.

• Inexplicably, in October of 1963, Capital Records was still refusing to allow Beatles songs to be released in the U.S. Brian Epstein, their manager, and the Beatles themselves were getting very frustrated by this obstruction, which was clearly an impediment to their career. They felt they needed to come up with a song that would unquestionably sell in the U.S., and perhaps attract another company to sell their “product.” I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND was the result, written by Lennon and McCartney “one on one, eyeball to eyeball” as Lennon recalled. The song, of course, ended up being a smash hit in the U.S.

• Sustained melody was of no concern for the Beatles here, everything about IWTHYH was based on its shock value and its appeal as a rock song.

• Capital Records finally did give in and agreed to release IWTHYH just after Christmas 1963. America was still grieving over the loss of President Kennedy, and the Beatles, in no small part, helped lift their spirits over the months of January and February, culminating in their appearances on the Ed Sullivan show.

• A musical convention that the Beatles disdained was the “fade-out”—where, at the conclusion of a song, the music gets softer and softer until it can no longer be heard. They felt this should only be done for artistic reasons. Consequently, they composed very intricate endings for most of their songs, including IWTHYH—in this case, a definitive penultimate measure of triplets.

2 I SAW HER STANDING THERE 2:56 **** also discussed in MIL #164

• I SAW HER STANDING THERE started out as a lyric only, written by McCartney. The start of it was supposed to be “She was just seventeen/Never been a beauty queen.” Lennon persuaded him to change it to the more risqué, “She was just seventeen/If you know what I mean.”

• The Beatles sang it in their act for a full two years before recording it. It was originally titled “Seventeen.” Only at the last minute before releasing it was the title changed.

• In their live performances, McCartney has always counted off—one, two, three, FOUR—and that was retained in the recording. In those live performances, the song often went on for ten minutes or more, allowing for extended guitar riffs by George. Because of the necessity to keep all recorded songs less than three minutes in length for radio play, his role in ISHST was reduced to a sixteen-measure solo—his first on a Beatle release—in the middle of the song.

• The harmony here often relies on “open” fourths or fifths. “Open” intervals are those that have no other notes occurring in between the outer notes—say, C and G, not C, E, and G.

• As Ian McDonald says in his excellent book on the Beatles, Revolution in the Head: “its hero’s heart (in ISHST) didn’t ‘sing’ or ‘take wing’ when he beheld his lady love; this guy’s heart ‘went boom’ when he ‘crossed that room’—a directness of metaphor and movement which socked avid young radio-listeners deliciously in the solar plexus.”

3 THIS BOY 2:16 *****

• Written by Lennon and McCartney.

• 3-part harmony throughout; audiences loved it when Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison would scrunch up together mid-stage and all sing on one mic.

• I happen to really like this harmony, which is why I rate it 5 stars.

4 IT WON’T BE LONG 2:14 ****

• Written by Lennon and McCartney.

• Capitalizing on the Yeah Yeah Yeah of SHE LOVES YOU, IT WON’T BE LONG has a lot of “yeahs” in a call-and-response pattern.

• George Martin, their producer, wanted the Beatles to start this song with the chorus, which of course was not the way things were usually done. He advocated for this in a number of Beatles songs—like SHE LOVES YOU.

• Although it is a song utilizing only three chords, it nevertheless took the Beatles 23 takes to perfect.

5 ALL I’VE GOTTA DO 2:05 ***

• Written by Lennon and McCartney.

• This was not a song that the Beatles included in their live performances. It was under-rehearsed even for this recording: 8 of the 14 takes of it were complete failures. The lyrics show Lennon’s “well-guarded serious side.”

6 ALL MY LOVING 2:10 *****

• Primarily written by McCartney, the song started out as lyric only, with no music.

• By everyone’s agreement, it is one of the best recorded songs on this album, with McCartney’s happy singing and Harrison’s impressive guitar playing. As Ian McDonald says: “The innocence of early sixties British pop is perfectly distilled in the eloquent simplicity of this number.”

• McCartney’s voice was double-tracked here, making his solo singing sound that much stronger.

7 DON’T BOTHER ME 2:29 ***

• This was written and performed by George. The lyrics of the song are pretty dark; overall, it was unlike anything the Beatles had yet recorded.

8 LITTLE CHILD 1:48 **

• Written by Lennon and McCartney.

• The original plan for LITTLE CHILD is that it would be the song on their first album that Ringo would sing. It was ultimately decided that John would sing it. His harmonic playing would be overdubbed on top of his vocal track.

9 TILL THERE WAS YOU 2:17 ****

• In 1963, when this was recorded, The Music Man—Meredith Wilson’s super-successful Broadway show—was only 6 years old—still fresh in everyone’s aural memory.

• This is a showcase for Paul’s solo singing, which he does with ease and flair.

• Not knowing the original song (in 1964, when I first heard this), it took me a few hearings to understand that “sahr” was the way Liverpudlians say “saw.”

• The Beatles included this, no doubt at Martin’s suggestion, in their Ed Sullivan Show appearance, to soften their rock and rollers image, and widen their audience.

10 HOLD ME TIGHT 2:33 ***

• Written mostly by McCartney, with little input from Lennon.

• Neither McCartney or Lennon had much regard for this song or for their recording of it. The critics of the time also did not care for it. Only a few seconds of listening to it reveals a lower recording standard—in my opinion.

• The group opted in a microphone format that became standard for them: John on one microphone, and Paul and George on another.

11 I WANNA BE YOUR MAN 1:59 ***

• Written mostly by McCartney.

• This ended up being the “Ringo” song for their first album.

• It seems that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who were at the time friendly with the Beatles, sat in on the recording session and observed McCartney and Lennon making up lyrics and chords on the spot. They were so astonished that “a song could slung together in a few minutes that they resolved from then on to write their own material.” They, of course, became the main competition for the Beatles for the rest of the 1960’s.

12 NOT A SECOND TIME 2:08 ***

• Written exclusively by Lennon. His singing is overdubbed.

• It is doubtful that McCartney was even at the recording session.

• The bitter lyrics and unorthodox composition (unusual phrase lengths) prompted a humnorous anecdote: the critic from the London Times drew attention to Lennon’s use of Aeolian cadences. Lennon admitted in a later interview that he had no idea what Aeolian cadences were, that he was just writing the sounds of “an exotic bird.”

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I AM SORRY FOR THE LENGTH OF THIS POST! I know you have to really love the Beatles to get into all of this detail….

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