Greetings, Glancers! This is the big one, right? This is the one John Lennon album I’ve known (about) most of my life, possibly due to the impact and fame of the title track. That song is one of the most acclaimed and famous of all time – I can’t say I’m its biggest fan – but I do enjoy it. One other song on the album that I know fairly well, is one I’ve never been a huge fan of. Of the remaining eight tracks, I don’t believe I’ve heard any of them, but we’ll soon find out. I know the album frequently makes Best Of lists, so I have high (ish) hopes.
‘Imagine’ is peerless in terms of fame and impact. It is very pretty while avoiding being twee. The lyrics I go back and forth on – simplistic and idyllic – yes, wouldn’t a world like that be wonderful, but it glosses over too many complications and emotions. The fact that it was written by a millionaire never mattered to me, but I can understand that argument. Anyway, it’s lovely, you already know.
‘Crippled Inside‘ opens in similarly lovely fashion, almost like Across The Universe. Then it transforms into some honkey tonk Ringo-esque slice of whimsy. This one, I enjoy the lyrics that I’m picking up. Is he aping Dylan in the vocals, or just generic Country stylings? The music is of course a piss-take, but it’s amusing and catchy enough.
‘Jealous Guy‘ is the other song I knew – more from the cover than Lennon’s original. This is much better than Roxy Music’s take. I like that it’s honest, I like the strings. I appreciate the simplicity. Still, it has that dreary feel that many of the piano led Beatles songs have – a little touch of guitar or, anything really, to take away from the piano could make it better in my eyes, but most would disagree.
‘It’s So Hard‘ sounds like a heavier take – it takes old fashioned Blues rhythms and adds a sprinkle of sass. The lyrics, again, are amusing but I can’t take the music all that seriously. You can dress up this sort of Blues anyway you like, but it remains musically unimpressive. I could accept an argument for the banal struggles and the saucy lyrics being deliberately placed alongside cliched Blues riffs to draw conclusions between both.
‘I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier’ opens with another dirty rock sound. Lennon always seems to employ this reverb on his vocals… I never like that effect on vocals. This does feel more modern, probably thanks to the production having more colour and depth. Parts of this I think I have heard – the ‘I don’t want to be a soldier mamma’ is very familiar. Sadly it’s quite tuneless. There’s no need for it to pass the three minute mark – six minutes is inexcusable.
‘Gimme Some Truth’ opens the second side with a mouthful of fury. It’s angry and sweet and the same time and sees John falling back on his talent for spurting words in a sharp, poetic, staccato fashion. This is more to my tastes, not quite punk because it sounds quite pretty in places, but there’s enough harsh quality to the vocals and lyrics and guitars to align it with the heavier music of the time.
‘Oh My Love’ is… ooh, much more to my tastes. Slow, sad, lovely melding of guitar and piano. There’s the vocal reverb again. Luckily the melodies are wonderful too – with the lyrics combined it does veer awfully close to being saccharine, but I’ve never had a problem with that as long as its honest. This flip flops between major and minor freely which also stops it becoming too sugary. I’ve heard parts of this somewhere in time.
‘How Do You Sleep‘ is a pretty infamous song, but I don’t think I’ve actually heard it before. Noted as being an attack on Paul, in response to an attack by Paul, the lyrics are amusing but still feel petty. We know John was a defensive little prick at times, with a massive yet fragile ego. He would make all these attacks and mistakes and dismiss them as jokes subsequently, rather than admit to them. Of course this totalled up to him coming across as not the most trustworthy or genuine, even though I’m sure he was. Back to the song. After that loose opening the slow beat takes control and accomplishes quite a funky rhythm. Solid Cowboy strings when they come, solid solo work from Harrison I presume. Strong organ work to finish.
‘How?’ opens with a question. And continues with more questions. The verses are broken up like neat little pauses which seems to accentuate the confusion in Lennon’s mind – every thought is followed by a moment of contemplation. It’s close to being quite repetitive, but the pauses and melodies keep the sum fresh and engaging. Tasty strings in what I’m taking to be the chorus.
‘Oh Yoko‘ closes the album, kicking off with a pleasing relaxed jukebox pop rock song. It’s very sweet, easy melodies and an atmosphere which makes me think of pleasing memories of love and friendship and sunny days and long warm nights. It would again be twee if it wasn’t for how unabashed and heartfelt and adorable it all is. See, it is possible to come across as honest. Hell, even the harmonica doesn’t ruin things.
A much stronger second half drastically raises my opinion of the whole album – the first half features the hits, but as mentioned those hits aren’t necessarily personal favourites of mine. The more rock infused songs on the first half feel tame given the output of other bands of the time, and the melodic hooks aren’t quite sharp enough. The second half though finds almost everything hitting the mark successfully and there are plenty of songs I look forward to listening to again. Not as consistent then as the recent albums by Paul and George, but I’m happy to have found some great new music.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Imagine. Gimme Some Truth. Oh My Love. How Do You Sleep. How? Oh Yoko.
Greetings, Glancers! Last time around we had the excellent All Things Must Pass by senor Harrison. Now it’s finally over to Monsieur Lennon, and his first (non experimental guff) Post-Beatles outing. The year was 1970 – so there wasn’t really any delay in output between the time The Beatles split and when this was released. Just like each of the other lads. Now, I’ve probably heard a few of these before but there’s only one I know for sure. As it seems like a fairly short album, I’m going to also listen to the two bonus tracks which were added as part of the 2000 Reissue. Will Yoko be screeching in the background? Will the songs be typical latter day Lennon rage-fests? I’ve no idea.
‘Mother’ I have heard, now that I’ve heard the opening shriek. Where have I heard it – The Simpsons? That sounds right. It has a sparse arrangement – just the odd piano clang and a repeating simple beat. A touch of bass. I’ve always said that a good song lives or dies on the strength of its melody – and that all the other musical accompaniment can be added or stripped away without truly hurting the song as long as the melody doesn’t changing. This takes the stripped down approach, and even though I can imagine swelling of strings here the core melody and the emotion behind it is what carries the song.
‘Hold On‘ feels vaguely familiar – but I’ll hold off until I hear the vocals. No, I don’t think I’ve heard it. He’s singing to himself and Yoko, not surprising. Parts of this are familiar. Again, it’s sparse and somewhat laid-back. Cookie? It’s nice, positive, and at under two minutes there’s not much to it. I’d say it could go on the playlist for now, but I don’t think it’s going to grow on me any further and is more likely to slip off.
‘I Found Out’ begins like a demented Blues demo, just dual vocals and distorted guitars. The beat comes in later, with a loose beat and more distortion. It picks up pace with a more driving bass. I’m not a fan of the effects on the vocals. It feels a lot like Come Together. Nice instrumental in the middle. It grows on me as it progresses.
‘Working Class Hero‘ is the one I knew already, both in its original form and in its many copies. It’s not a song I’ve ever had any great love for, but neither is it one I dislike. It’s just an average song for me.
‘Isolation’ is one I’m listening to in Quarantine. I assume when I post this, all the Cov-ID 19 guff will be done with? The slow piano led Beatles stuff is hardly ever a favourite for me. This goes the same way – I like the come out of each verse rather than the lead in. Not that it has a very generic structure. The ‘chorus’ picks up the volume then goes off for a dander into Strangeways and the song becomes more interesting. Then it circles around to another verse. It’s fine, but that single piano note approach isn’t for me.
‘Remember’ seems to be one of the longest songs on the album at four and a half minutes. It’s another piano led one, with the same static single note approach. It’s faster this time, and the drums and bass aren’t quite aligned with the piano which makes it a little more interesting. Just as I was wondering if it was going to stay like this throughout, John pre-empts my frustration and changes it up, albeit briefly. I like the gentle boundary pushing, the experimenting without just fucking about. I don’t see it ever making my playlist because the melodies aren’t so strong and because of those single notes. And of course a joke to close it.
‘Love’ fades in with a distant, more interesting piano. This feels quite lovely, don’t mess it up now. It’s very reminiscent of Radiohead’s How I Made My Millions. I think the verse changes chords too many times and would have had greater impact on me if it had sustained some of the early minor key chords longer. Still, it’s lovely, but frustratingly not as lovely as it could have been for me. I assume others love it just the way it is.
‘Well Well Well‘ opens with a dirty Blues riff and drums like a zombie whacking on a boarded up window, with a shoe. The vocals have an annoying set of effects in place which doesn’t make for the most pleasant listening. I’m not sure what he was going for here, clearly going for a more gritty, underground sound. Or maybe it’s because he knew the song wasn’t that interesting and it needed something shouty to spice it up. His actual shouts are very good, sounding very Cobain at times. It does go on way too long.
‘Look At Me‘ starts quietly. The guitar is almost identical to, what, Julia? It’s about as interesting musically as that song – it’s one of those songs which should be sweet and mellow but feels dreary to me. Vocal melodies are drifting without striking any great affection in me. It’s fine, but forgettable.
‘God‘ closes the album. It feels more melodic than the last couple from its opening moments – the piano isn’t so single-note based. It’s actually playing a tune. It’s a song about the self, it seems, not following some religion or God or celebrity or politician or monarch or power or cult. It is very repetitive, but the whole ‘I don’t believe in’ section has that solid melodic foundation so it works. It’s a much stronger song than the few before it.
‘My Mummy’s Dead‘ is the actual album closer,but it feels like a very short bonus track. It sounds like a solo 4 track recording, off the cuff. It’s nice enough, just John and a guitar, simple. Can’t see how it could have been expanded, without adding some lush chorus.
‘Power To The People’ opens in that lush fashion – big gospel vocals before John joins in with a manic beat and sax. There’s Beatles callbacks, shouted vocals, a catchy refrain, but like a lot of the Beatles extras it’s basically a couple of melodies and lyrics repeated in a loop. Here we get extra brass, but there isn’t a lot to it. Still, it feels celebratory if a little lazy.
‘Do The Oz‘ which, as Buffy fans will know, is the act of sitting stoically before delivering a well-timed and insightful quip. As a song, it’s nothing like Oz – zany sounds whizz like ghosts around a central riff while Lennon sings the title. The verses present things as if ‘the oz’ is a type of dance, with Lennon giving the instructions. Of course the instructions don’t really make sense. It’s an interesting enough bonus, but not one I’ll remember tomorrow.
Well well well, the album started out impressively but eventually began to suffer a little from the adjoining trio of experimentation which doesn’t quite work, as well as some meandering and repetition. There’s too much drifting and daydreaming for my tastes and without the melodies to back things up, and there’s too much of a focus on keeping things distorted and distant. It’s like he’s saying ‘I did all this big and popular and hug production stuff with the fellas, so now I’m going in the complete opposite direction so that people recognise this John Lennon as different from that one’. Which is fair enough, but with a few simple tweaks these songs could have been stronger. That said, there is still some great stuff – not quite on par with the best of The Beatles, but right up there with their second tier tunes.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Mother. Hold On. Love. God.
Greetings, Glancers! I know they don’t get nearly as many views as my movie or TV posts, but I’m trying to keep up to date with my musical posts too, bringing you the worst the net has to offer in terms of my opinions on Bowie, Madonna, Jovi, The Stones, The Top 1000 Albums ever, yearly chart music et cetera etc. Many years ago I posted my Amazon Beatles album reviews and recently I’ve been posting updated versions of those along with my Nightman Scoring System (c) comments. In doing all of that I realized that I was missing out on the vast array of non-Beatles work that each of the four members created. Therefore, I’m going to start listening and reacting to all of those too. It’s a massive undertaking but I always planned on listening to them at some point so I may as well write about my experiences too.
It’s obvious that Paul McCartney has done the most out of each member – he has been extremely prolific since 1970, releasing with Wings, other bands, and on his own. Lennon died in 1980 and only managed a handful of albums, while Harrison released here and there up until his death. Ringo, I’ve honestly no idea. What I can say is that I haven’t listened to any of their non-Beatles albums all the way through. Actually, I have listened to Lennon’s experimental records with Yoko, and will not be doing so again for the purposes of this blog or otherwise, thank you very much. I know I’ve heard many of the individual songs by each artist post-The Beatles, but no albums. So I’m going to go through them in some sort of chronological order, I hope I get to listen to some great music for the first time, and I hope you’ll join me on the journey. Coming soon (probably not)!
Feel free to let me know in advance which solo/non-Beatles albums by John, Paul, Ringo, and George I should look forward to in the comments.
The White Album sees the Fab Four at their most experimental, their angriest, and some would say their best. A true epic, the band enters further into uncharted territory with sounds unheard, ideas expounded never before, lyrical flourishes and weirdness all put to glorious sound and noise. Unfortunately for an album with so many songs and with so many ideas (not to mention the band chasing the dragon around on some plain just above the rest of our heads) it has many flaws. Some things don’t come off well, there is a lot of nonsense, some duff songs, and plenty of filler. Most fans who don’t see this as their best album agree that if this had been cut down it could have been much better. The good stuff that we do have ranges from classic Harrison ballads to McCartney blues romps and Lennon’s drug fuelled madness. There are plenty of fun moments, plenty of offbeat treats, but the days of the happy mop haired lads is long gone. From here on we are left with more coarse and hard edged guitar tracks as the group began to implode.
`Back In the USSR’ opens the album in a fairly rocking fashion with some ye olde fast piano playing slpiced with the modern sounds of a jet plane. McCartney sings in a clearly more gruff way hinting at the maturity, experimentation, and arguments within the band at the
time. Ringo was absent so the rest of the band took up his duties, not that this is noticeable. The lyrics speak of the excitement and relief of flying back home to be with all the ladies and is a clear homage to The Beach Boys. The Californian interlude is quite authentic.
`Dear Prudence’ fades in gently offering an opposite to what the first song displayed. Lennon’s tribute to Mia Farrow’s sister who joined them India only to stay in her room and meditate most of the time. It builds to a jamming climax accompanied by some nice guitar
before coming down to an acoustic fade out.
`Glass Onion’ returns to the heavier feel while referencing many old Beatles hits. The lyrics are deliberately messy and confusing, full of potential mystery and ideas. Mostly it is Lennon having a laugh at obsessive fans and critics obsessing over every lyric, and a challenge for them to decipher.
`Ob La Di Ob La Da’ is a McCartney ditty, a nonsense but nonetheless catchy pop song. It sounds like the band are having fun, contrary to what was actually happening, but also highlights the experimenting mode they were in when they first came up with it.
`Wild Honey Pie’ is an experimental piece with strange guitars, voices and other noises. Basically it is the group stoned, banging together whatever was close to hand and still managing to make a song out of it.
`The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ features a line from Yoko but is more notable for Lennon’s excellent sarcastic lyrics. He sings of a rich American who they knew for a while who happened to go hunting and kill a tiger. Lennon saw him as an upper class mummy’s boy taking an all expenses paid trip to India for some enlightenment that he could then relate to his equally rich friends. The chorus is catchy enough, the song ends in ironic applause and whistling. With a more interesting verse melody it could have been great.
`While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is Harrison’s famous downbeat sounding song about Eastern philosophy, yin yang, everything relating to everything and everyone. It features Clapton on guitar and is usually included in most lists of greatest guitar songs ever. The organs, effects, and Harrison’s vocals combine to create a trippy mood although it was probably intended to sound other worldy.
`Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ is a constantly evolving song with time and tone shifts as well as each part sounding musically distinct. Each part is linked by the gun imagery, and it inspired countless imitators from Halo Of Flies to Bohemian Rhapsody to Paranoid Android. Many of the ideas on the album don’t come off as well as they should have but on this song everything fits.
`Martha My Dear’ is McCartney’s music hall tribute, evoking images of old couple swirling about to gentle piano led songs. The lyrics oppose the feel of the song with thinly veiled insults to past lovers. Many dispute the song’s reference point- McCartney’s dog, his muse, his ex. As with most things it is a mixture of each influence.
`I’m So Tired’ was recorded at 3am, written about Lennon’s insomnia, and has a clear drowsy feel. There is emotional fatigue, the lyrics are angry, and the chorus livens things up.
`Blackbird’ is one of the better songs on the album, harkening back to simpler, more pop times. It is a typical McCartney song, singing of yearning, freedom, with some racial issues thrown in to satisfy the revolutionaries.
`Piggies’ is an interesting Harrison song featuring harpsichord and strings to give a baroque feel- a time noted for wealth and extravagance. This mirrors the lyrics as Harrison sings Orwell style of the rich people as piggies, rolling around in their opulence. Ironic yes given their own wealth, but at this time the group were rejecting all ideas of materialism. Charles Manson felt this was a large influence on his Helter Skelter plan, leading to the deaths of those he felt needed `a damn good
`Rocky Raccoon’ is a folk style McCartney song with Dylan leanings. There is a Cowboy movie style piano and acoustic guitar played over some storybook lyrics. It rounds off the `animal trilogy’.
`Don’t Pass Me By’ is Ringo’s first solo composition. He does his best with the vocals, though the lyrics are as bad as expected and the song has the same rolling down a hill in a shopping trolley rhythm. The strings offer a different feel from the other album tracks but it’s mostly forgettable.
`Why Don’t We Do It in the Road’ sees McCartney at his most metal, shrieking the lyrics in an attempt to match the sounds of Daltrey and Townsend. The lyrics simply speak of him seeing two monkeys at it, inspiring the primal, animal instincts in all of us.
`I Will’ is a rather simple, soft love song from McCartney to Linda. The lyrics call back to the early days when music was more important than the words. The song is catchy enough but lacks anything truly memorable.
`Julia’ closes the first side, Lennon’s only solo Beatles song. Unfortunately it is mostly tuneless as the lyrics are good and he sings and plays well. With a stronger melody this could have been a much better song.
`Birthday’ opens the second side in heavy style, blasting out with one of the most famous guitar riffs. It builds and changes with chugging chords, distorted notes, and swirling effects laden piano. It was a clear attempt to return to a more simple rock’n’roll and blues style and leads nicely into the next song.
`Yer Blues’ continues the heavier, dirtier feel with an almost Zeppelin-esque song. It showcases Lennon’s personal demons, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It’s a song which it is hard not to jump around to, filled with good drum parts and intertwining guitar solos. Performing this song for the Stones Rock n Roll Circus renewed Lennon’s love for playing live after years in the wilderness.
`Mother Nature’s Son’ is a better McCartney ballad inspired as with most of the other songs here by his time with the Maharishi,
except here it pays off well musically. The lyrics are suitably ideal, the melodies gentle and hard to shake.
`Everybody’s Got Something To hide…’ is Lennon’s view of his relationship with Yoko and all the negative feelings towards it. They felt they were in love while everyone else was paranoid and edgy. The song is quite heavy with a loud riff at the end of the chorus. Some have also claimed that it is more about Lennon’s heroin addiction.
`Sexy Sadie’ has the famous piano part which sounds like Karma Police but it’s almost insignificant. It is an average Lennon song with some nice, angry lyrics, some strange effects on the vocals and an up and down rhythm.
`Helter Skelter’ was McCartney’s main attempt to make the heaviest, dirtiest, most rock song out there in a time when The Who and other English R’nB bands were taking noise levels moonwards. To an extent it works, the drums are great, the guitar is pretty loud and riff laden, and McCartney sings at his loudest. The Helter Skelter motion of the song is notable, everything swirls and comes around upon itself. This song was one of the major influences on Manson’s already destructive mind as he believed the lyrics contained veiled messages and calls to war. The song fades in and out a few times at the end to good effect, and proves that McCartney was more than a ballad writer.
`Long Long Long’ is a soft Harrison ballad with good drum and piano parts. The deliberately bad production is annoying though and makes it too difficult to listen to.
`Revolution 1′ may be the most famous, most popular song on the album. It is a traditional Beatles song, filled with melody and ideology, with a few guitar effects and plenty of instruments clanging together brilliantly. The version here differs quite a bit from the single most people know, but all the hallmarks of a great song lie in both.
`Honey Pie’ is another unusual song from McCartney showing his seeming obsession with older styles of music around this time. There is a clear WWII vibe and I can’t help hear it now without thinking of Allo Allo or Wish Me Luck. The lyrics speak of a young English woman who makes it big in Hollywood only for her old lover back home to call her to return.
`Savoy Truffle’ is a good song to listen to while raiding the fridge. It is quite jazzy, with lots of brass and guitars, lots of timing shifts and is one of the more upbeat songs on the album.
`Cry Baby Cry’ is based on a nursery rhyme from Lennon’s youth, features the Harmonium again but isn’t a very exciting or interesting song. The lyrics are fine but the music isn’t particularly inspired. It segues into an unreleased song at the end which really should have been included instead, but can be found on bootlegs.
`Revolution 9′ is probably the most experimental piece the band ever produced, a collage of sounds, words, clips, effects all smashed together to create something monstrous. It still sounds awesome today, but is pretty difficult to listen to more than once. It is like falling into a sewer and being swept naked at a million miles an hour through various viaducts of time, surrounded by sights you don’t want to see, like Terry Wogan playing golf with Jimmy Tarbuck’s leg instead of a nine. Understandably it still splits fans; it’s great.
`Good Night’ is a rather sumptuous ending, almost like a Disney composition. Ringo does very well here, the strings are beautiful and the backing singers give it all a good night lullaby feel. It is deliberately lovely, cheesy, but looking past all that it is a pretty good song, and a great ending.
The White Album was the final great departure for the band. Break ups and bust ups followed and everyone agreed they should go back to their roots to try to hold on to their success. At times it is boring, at times it is brilliant but on previous albums the brilliance overshadowed everything else. Here there are simply too many songs and many tracks either don’t work at all or don’t live up to the expectation. This is still the favourite of many fans, largely because it tries so much, covers so much, is brave and unlike anything else. Full marks for trying, full marks for breaking new ground, but mostly (for The Beatles) average songs.
This is either the last or penultimate Beatles album depending on how you look at it, but either way it has a sense of loss and ending throughout. The album is almost more famous for the arguments between members which took place on a daily basis culminating in Harrison leaving and coming back. After not touring for years and pursuing various solo projects, as well as the band’s previous album seeming more like a collection of songs from each member, tensions were high. McCartney felt the group should write, record, and tour together to repair affairs and they should make a no frills, no experimentation simple album as they had before. The other 3 like the bare bones approach, but didn’t like the idea of touring and the film crew following them around every second. In the end the movie is more interesting than the album, while the album is a mix of good songs, throwaway bites, and a couple of classics.
`Two of Us’ is a McCartney song which can either be seen as a tribute to himself and Linda, or himself and John. Beginning with the famous Lennon quote it breaks down into a catchy acoustic ditty. The harmonies hark back to the good old days, the guitar is a gentle folk style, the lyrics speak of happier times, freedom, and nostalgia and features a nice bridge section without a chorus. The easy tone and whistling end suggest that everything in the group was fine, contrary to what we know. It is a good first song let down by a few fillers later.
`Dig a Pony’ is Lennon’s nonsense tribute to Yoko full of pointless lyrics culminating in the chorus where he pours his heart out to his soon to be wife. The false start is famous, the verse and chorus melodies are catchy enough, the guitars are good and Lennon sings in a rough fashion. Again it is not the sound the band falling apart, but definitely shows signs of weariness.
`Across The Universe’ may be the best song the Beatles ever recorded, and it is probably my favourite. Beautiful poetic lyrics which fit the sound perfectly, other-wordly guitars, wonderful simple melodies, an effortless meter for the words to float along, and sumptious production. The Eastern influence is stronger here in theme than in music, yet it is full of strange and foreign instruments. This is the song to play to people who do not yet consider themselves fans of The Beatles.
`I Me Mine’ is Harrisons take on both the egotistical problems of the band and his more personal feelings on wealth, personal gains and rejecting all notions of self for the greater good. The song has a bluesy waltz feel with it’s trumpets and guitars, but bursts into a heavy, rocking chorus.
`Dig It’ is a jam of ideas, words thrown in on the spur of the moment, instruments all jangling together- the sort of thing a band does when warming up or severely intoxicated. The version included here isn’t the best, and again it is throwaway filler.
`Let It Be’ is the most famous song on the album, McCartney’s follow up to Yesterday and superior in my opinion. It isn’t as dreary as it’s predecessor and has more emotion. Again the melodies stand out, full of cadences, the piano suits the sound perfectly and the guitar solo stands out; while it is a rather heavy effect for the song it doesn’t grate or sound out of place.
`Maggie Mae’ is a filler piece, a childhood Liverpudlian rhyme based on a modern folk tale about a prostitute. The tune is ok but it’s entirely pointless and should really have been replaced with something better.
`I’ve got a Feeling’ is another McCartney tribute to Linda, a sign that for him at least things were getting better. Of course there were darker truths as John had divorced Cynthia and Yoko had suffered a miscarriage and no-one was really happy within the band. It continues the blues rock feeling and is more hard edged than most of the back catalogue despite aiming to sound light and optimistic.
`One after 909′ is an early Blues attempt by McCartney brought back to fit in with the overall feel of this album. Written around 10 years prior to this release it shows the American influences on the young songwriters, but also exposes the adolescent songwriting. With all their experience since writing it they managed to turn it into a decent tune, adding plenty of extra riffs and instruments to make it a dance favourite.
`The Long and Winding Road’ is the last classic on the album, a wonderful epic from McCartney which is better due to the production. McCartney’s earlier, simpler version is strong but sounds a bit empty after hearing this. Some say it is over produced, but it is nice for the group to have a song such as this which sounds as if it is backed by an entire orchestra. The lyrics were based on the tensions between the band and a hope that they would all get through it.
`For You Blue’ continues the blues influence with the reference to Elmore James and slide guitar. Harrison’s vocals are perhaps too high for him, and I can’t stand the spoken parts. If it had had a few extra guitar parts or an underlying piano part I think I would like this more but for me it is too light.
`Get Back’ closes the album in rocking style, a good song but another one where McCartney’s vocals annoy me. He creates a story about a couple of lovers, the lyrics are fine, the music is suitably bluesy but it just isn’t a personal favourite.
And so the story came to an end, for a while at least; each member’s solo work features many great songs proving that even if the band was no more the spirit would live on. Record companies would continue to churn out re-issues and greatest hits, but it isn’t until the Anthologies, Blue, Red, and Love that fans had anything new to be excited about. Let It Be ends almost as an opposite to Please Please Me, with four older, more tired, more cynical worn out men belting out some great songs with a more weighed down enthusiasm. If you’re only getting into the band now, start at the beginning and work your way through. You’ll be smiling by the end.
If you liked/hated this, feel free to check out my other Beatles reviews in the music section.
With The Beatles is the inferior follow up to Please Please Me bogged down by average covers similar to the ones that stopped the predecessor from being a classic. That said, there are some terrific originals and plenty of signs that the songwriting partnerships are getting stronger. Harrison writes his first song also which is a good if not outstanding contribution, and Ringo even sings well on I Wanna Be Your Man. The album gets off to an excellent start, but has an average middle section before saving itself with a few good tracks towards the end.
`It Won’t Be Long’ kicks off the album in stonking style, full of call and response vocals, and plenty of `yeah yeahs’. It is a high tempo rocker from Lennon which has both an interesting middle section and ending typical of the Beatles songs of this time. These sorts of flourishes prevented what were essentially simple pop songs from becoming monotonous verse chorus verse types. It shows that the group were trying new things and pulling influences from all types of music into their own.
`All I’ve Gotta Do’ has a distinct Motown feel given a moody tone by Lennon’s vocal and features yet another middle section. The lyrics speak of a powerful, lustful relationship where either party simply needs to call the other, and they will come over.
`All My Loving’ rounds off the opening trilogy of great songs in a fast paced style and is notable for the interesting guitar strumming style. The lyrics are similar to PS I Love You in that they are in the format of a letter being sent to a loved one. A simple tale of faithfulness and love to a partner when being away.
`Don’t Bother Me’ is Harrison’s first song for the group and is a departure from the love songs the others had been writing. It speaks of a need to be alone, and the depression, confusion, desire of reconciliation etc which we feel after a split. It features a jazzy, Latin feel and a strong staccato guitar solo.
`Little Child’ in some ways continues the sullen feel with the `I’m so sad and lonely’ lyrics.
`Till There Was You’ is the first cover on the album and is based on a Broadway song. It is a gentle ballad which fits McCartney’s voice but it is made annoying by him singing ‘Saur’instead of ‘Saw’. Picky maybe, but it gets me every time. George’s plying is pretty good here lifting the song a great deal.
`Please Mr. Postman’ is one of the better covers the band ever recorded and could be seen as the definitive version. Lennon adds to the natural pleading tone of the song with his yearning, desperate vocals.
`Roll Over Beethoven’ however is one of the lesser covers and is less interesting than the original. The whole song sounds like a bit of a joke when they play it and you can almost hear the gang laughing as they sing.
`Hold Me Tight’ is a fine song, but is pretty forgettable. It struts along at a fair pace but lacks any interesting guitar playing and while repetitive is still an ok album track. Any song which features clapping though instantly annoys me.
`You Really Got a Hold on Me’ is another poor cover which doesn’t seem to suit Lennon or Harrison’s vocals. The Michael Jackson version is probably the best as it properly conveys the emotion of the song, while Lennon simply sounds drunk.
`I Wanna Be Your Man’ gets things back on track and is probably Ringo’s best song. It is fast, heavy, with some impressive guitars and shrieks that would blow off a mini skirt at a hundred paces. Simple lyrics and a pretty simple tune with no frills, but done with such energy that it can’t fail but be enjoyed.
`Devil in Her Heart’ is a strong cover and repeats the jazzy, Latin feel of previous tracks. Harrison sings it well and the more cynical lyrics also mirror a few other tracks. The guitar playing is nice throughout and the melodies make it fairly memorable. One of the good early ballads.
`Not a Second Time’ is an ok album track, marked by matching guitar and piano playing and again features cynical lyrics, this time sung by Lennon. The melody throughout is catchy and the ending fades out nicely.
`Money’ closes the album with dual piano and bass/guitar and is probably the best version of the song. It features a few screams and fits perfectly with today’s fame hungry world. Not their best cover but an ok end to an ok album.
Overall With the Beatles is a step down for the band if not a step backwards. There are plenty of great moments, but too many fillers prevent the album from being mentioned in the same breath as those which would follow.
As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The Beatles first album is an average affair given the heights they would later reach; a mix of covers and catchy pop tunes it was stronger than most records of the day. However now it sounds in parts dated and naïve but is full of the moments which would soon become hallmarks of the most successful band ever. The most important things to note are the energy with which the songs are played and the fact that the music is so good that it covers the simplistic boy loves girl lyrics. The covers on this and a few albums which follow are a weak point and for now the original song writing is fresh but lacks the quality of later Lennon and McCartney classics.
`I Saw Her Standing There’ is as strong an opener as any band could hope for. It is energetic, catchy, and quick and shows off McCartney’s screech which he would become renowned for. A simple, lustful, fun song it grabs the listener and pulls them back into (if listening now) or opens their eyes to (if listening then) the mood of the early 60s.
`Misery’ is another Lennon/McCartney offering the dark opposite to the first song about losing love and the depression which follows. Although this is staple pop theme stuff it still sounds upbeat due to the tempo and is lifted by the little piano inserts throughout. It also marks the first appearance of the scouse harmonies.
`Anna’ is one of the better covers marked by Harrison’s guitar playing and Lennon’s doleful, yearning vocals. Another song to display the darker side of the group which would crop up in later Lennon penned hits.
`Chains’ is one of the lesser songs on the album, lacking the spark of others. The melody is more irritating than catchy but it improves on the original which was never an interesting song.
`Boys’ is a cover of a Shirelles song but I can’t help thinking an upbeat version of Will You Love Me Tomorrow would have been more suited. It shows early signs of the band’s humour though as it is essentially a song for girl bands. Although the band do what they can with it the final result is still forgettable and made worse by Ringo performing it. Personal preference though as I know it was a firm fan favourite.
`Ask Me Why’ is another upbeat sounding number with some cynical lyrics thrown in. Typically catchy with a memorable refrain it nonetheless includes the annoying too high pitched `anything I can do’ moment.
`Please Please Me’ is the title track and highlight of the album. Everything about the song is perfect, from the harmonica intro, the lustful lyrics, the harmonies, the threefold melodies of verse, bridge, and chorus. It is the obvious partner to Love Me Do with the harmonica use and lyrical intent, and it is these two songs which raise the album into greater status.
`Love Me Do’ is perhaps the most famous song on the album and showcases the growing writing talents of Lennon/McCartney even though Paul wrote the majority as a schoolboy. It is a simpler structured song than Please Please Me but perhaps has the more memorable tune.
`PS I Love You’ is another pleasant McCartney number, slower, softer, and more to do with love than sex when compared to other tracks on the album. It is marked by some unusual strumming which just about covers the simplistic and what would be considered today unfortunately as cheesy lyrics. The lyrics are helped by the fact that they seem incredibly personal yet universal as it is the sort of thing all young lovers would write in a letter to their loved one. It is also notable for the lower repetition of certain words in the `treasure’ these three `words’ when we’re `together’ sequence and others.
`Baby It’s You’ is the strongest cover on the album with Lennon’s vocal adding a certain desperation to the feel, and the backing vocals fit in perfectly with the way they were writing their own songs at the time.
`Do You Wanna Know A Secret?’ is another strong song standing out due to its unusual intro before breaking into the main melody. It is well suited to Harrison’s voice and sounds more scouse than any other song. The `oohs’ of the chorus are particularly great and the bridge helps anything from becoming repetitive.
`A Taste of Honey’ is another poor cover and is mainly album filler. It doesn’t feel much like the rest of the album and could easily be chopped or skipped when playing.
`There’s A Place’ begins with the now familiar harmonica of John before kicking into the child like yearning lyrics which sound as beautiful and innocent now as they did then. The dual vocals stretch and sear and make the song an early classic.
`Twist and Shout’ closes the album and luckily it is one of the better covers. The original song is already strong so it was unlikely the Beatles would either ruin or improve upon it. It fits well with the rest of the album as it is upbeat and catchy and shows of the vocal and musical talents of each member. Probably the definitive version of the track
On the whole this is a good album let down by a few dodgy covers. There were other songs that the band had written at this time which never made it on to any studio albums which would have been more suited. A better album than the follow up and a sign of things to come.
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