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The Beatles’ forgotten fab tracks?

March 25, 2010

Pull the other one: Macca isn’t convinced anyone could forget one of his songs

My adoration for The Beatles knows very few bounds, so it does sadden me, I must say, when I come across people who are far from like-minded – namely, those that don’t rate them that much. Quite frankly, I tend to find myself wondering what planet such people are from. Mind you, that may say more about me and my love of said band than the people I’m wondering about.

The fact of the matter though, it seems to me, is happily enough most people out there rate The Fabs and can appreciate the quality and entertainment value of their music – after all, most people would perhaps (after a bit of thought and/ or ‘educating’ about The Beatles’ musical qualities) tend to agree that to say they’re not very good is like claiming Mozart wasn’t a talented composer.

However, what is the great unwashed’s experience of the output of this most versatile and eclectic of bands? To be fair, probably the likes of Hey Jude and Penny Lane, Yesterday and Lady Madonna – that is, the unquestioned ‘classics’. And then there’s the musos, those who often see themselves as near experts on rock and pop (I can’t profess to being one; honestly, I don’t know enough and, frankly, haven’t the time to listen to and learn it all), but this group of people – and it is pretty large, don’t get me wrong – will know more ‘obscure’ Fabs tunes, those that are regularly celebrated by critics and the like. We’re talking the likes of Tomorrow Never Knows, Taxman, For No One and Happiness Is A Warm Gun here – quality stuff, don’t get me wrong.

But, as an unashamed Beatles fan, there are some tracks that I tend to think it’s a pity aren’t made more of a, er, song and dance about by the critics and the media, and aren’t particularly known at all by those who generally know The Fabs from the radio. So then, folks, as part of my musical service to all of you out there, I now present a handful of tunes I think tend to get overlooked from the oeuvre of John, Paul, George and Ringo…


Macca and Asher: ‘I write songs about you, you know…

Click on the song titles to give them a listen…

~~~

You Won’t See Me (McCartney) Album: Rubber Soul, 1965

At first, this tune sounds jaunty, but as you listen more it really begins to get under your skin. Inspired by Paul’s relationship with actress – and Michael Caine’s Alfie co-star – Jane Asher, as were a good deal of his love songs of this period (I’m Looking Through You and For No One included), You Won’t See Me owes its greatness to the fact the generally uplifting melody counterpoints terrifically with the downbeat lyrics; it was a trick also used to brilliant effect by John on the Help! album’s ebullient Ticket To Ride. Just listen to the soaring vocals towards the end of each verse as the melody sweeps upwards – it’s really great stuff. Oh, and listen out too for the cough that was allowed to get through at the start ; for some reason I’ve always loved that cough…

~~~

She Said She Said (Lennon) Album: Revolver, 1966

I’ve always felt that coming about halfway through the truly magnificent Revolver album, as it does, and straight after the breathless rush that is the hugely diverse first half, this track works like an opening to the second half. And that’s surely down to the wonderful, escalating riff that kicks it off – it just pulls me in every time. The rest of the song ain’t bad either – a fun melody accompanied by blurry guitars that tip the whole thing towards psychedelia. The story behind the song (like so many on Revolver) is worth noting too; in fact, I know of two diffrent versions. The first goes that, at a party, Lennon was talking to a girl about taking LSD and she commented that it made her ‘feel like she’s never been born’ – suggesting the similar line in the lyric and also the song’s title. The second version goes that, in the company of Easy Rider actor Peter Fonda, John, George and Ringo were dropping acid and Fonda said ‘I know what it’s like to be dead’, because as a boy he had nearly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Who knows which one’s true – or whether either of them are – and, frankly, who cares? They’re both good tales.

Rich man’s plaything: John inspects the ‘interesting’ paint job of his new Rolls-Royce

Baby, You’re A Rich Man (Lennon/ McCartney) Album: Magical Mystery Tour, 1967

I’m not sure why I love this tune so much. It’s probably down to chorus though, let’s be honest, and that’s basically just a chant, but a damn infectious one at that. Like A Day In The Life on the Sgt Pepper album, Baby, You’re A Rich Man is an amalgam of  two song fragments – one from John (the verses), the other from Paul (the chorus) – that, when blended together, make no lyrical sense, but ace musical sense. Lennon provided lead vocals – his voice perfectly suited to the raucous chorus – and is accompanied throughout by a driving bass line and a weird oboe-like sound. This is actually a clavioline, a forerunner of the synthesizer. The song was the b-side to All You Need Is Love and Mick Jagger was in the studio while it was recorded – perhaps he provided some of the backing vocals and handclaps? A nice thought that.

~~~

Mother Nature’s Son (McCartney) Album: ‘White’ Album, 1968

Flying in the face of the oft criticism that Macca wrote ballads and cutesy ditties, while it was Lennon who pushed the creative envelope, the ‘White’ Album showcased McCartney’s commitment to experimentation – with knobs on. The evidence? Blackbird is an acoustic, sarcastic paean about the civil rights movement, Martha My Dear a piano line-driven tune about his sheepdog and/ or Jane Asher again, Honey Pie a music hall-style pastiche and, this one, Mother Nature’s Son, is a pastoral elegy inspired by a lecture given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi while the band visited India. Amid all the undiluted rock and avant-garde contributions on the album, it’s a lovely, peaceful ditty – much more like the product of a genuine solo artist than someone who, at the time, was a leading writer in a band. It rises and falls thanks to a brass arrangement from producer George Martin, and features a prominent bass drum and timpani (both of which were played by Paul). It’s lovely, sweet stuff.

Mother Nature’s Sons: The Fabs foil the paps by hiding in some foliage

Don’t Let Me Down (Lennon) 1969

Released as the b-side to the outstanding Get Back, this is a brilliant bluesy plea from John to Yoko in which his loose, languid vocals work their way up into screams at times. All the same, it’s cool, laid-back and will be forever associated with the rooftop concert (you know, John in his fur coat, Ringo in his red mac and George in his green trousers) that the Fabs held on 30 January 1969 while the Let It Be sessions went on. However, it’s also a class song from a confident, mature band that sadly didn’t have long left, and it’s style and feel seem to capture that reality somehow. For that reason then, like the four others on this list, it surely deserves to be more recognised among the great goodies The Beatles bestowed on us, doesn’t it…?

George

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