Beatles essays, featuring separate in-depth reviews of every single Beatles song and album. Input your own ratings and comments on the Beatles music and albums.
A most curious release, "Yesterday"... And Today is notable in the Beatles story for several reasons: it is the last important US-only compilation that sliced up the band's intended releases to create more product for the American market; it features a weird, wide-ranging mixture of 1965-6 Beatles music; and of course its original cover was the mystifyingly poor-taste "butcher" cover, which featured the band members having just savagely chopped up several newborns, with the musicians in butchers' smocks covered in arrestingly graphic, gory baby meat — with genuine, unconscionably oblivious, jollity on their Fab faces. "Yesterday"... And Today, as its name implies, is centered around the song "Yesterday", which had been left off the US version of Help! (though had been released as a hit single in the US); other tracks from Help!, the UK versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver, and single-only releases make up the album. Temporally, YaT may span only about 12 months, but musically it stretches from the silly, Ringo-by-numbers "Act Naturally" to the expansive and groundbreaking "Day Tripper" and "I'm Only Sleeping". This compact musical journey in album form may be impressive from an artistic point of view, but ultimately it's an indictment of Capitol's haphazard album-building philosophy. The Beatles' US releases had been getting more and more similar to their 'proper' UK counterparts with each passing album; since Help! they'd had the same name and since Rubber Soul, the same artwork. Revolver, which would be released after "Yesterday"... And Today, had three tracks kept off of the American version (all included here) but after that, from Sgt Pepper forward, all would be balanced on both sides of the Atlantic, song-listing-wise. YaT thus marks the end of an era; whatever one thinks of Capitol's mercenary song-carving approach, it worked commercially and allowed The Beatles to continue their dominance in the studio and on the charts. And then there is that cover
The Yellow Submarine Songtrack was issued to coincide with the 1999 re-launch of the film on the silver screen, video and DVD; heralded by a wave of publicity stunts, including the painting of the Eurostar Sub-Channel train fleet Yellow, and a life-sized reconstruction of the venerable vessel embarking on a world tour. As the title suggests, the album featured songs which had been included in the movie: fifteen of 'em in all. Alongside the band's material from the original Yellow Submarine LP, Lady Eleanor and Baby Nowhere Man, Sgt Pepper and Lucy — for example — are all along for the ride (though not in the same order as they appeared in the story). The Meanie-melting "All You Need" — the final Fabtrack on YS — was naturally reincorporated, although "A Day In The Life", whose rush had provided the sub's power-up, was excluded on the grounds of overloading the cargo hold with Pepper. George Harrison smuggled two extra tunes aboard, giving him a respectable tally of four. As for George Martin, whose orchestral score had made up the whole second side of the '68 edition, his creations were consigned to the Davey Jones' Locker of a DVD extra. Much was made of the fact that, in contrast to all previously digitalized Beatlemusic, the Songtrack was remixed from the original tape sources, with one or two historical hiccups cleared up in the process. That said, for the average listener — as opposed to those accustomed to alternately scrutinizing versions through the highest-fi headphones on the market — the differences are not all that evident. At the end of the day, it's the songs themselves that really matter: and, as a collection, this is an interesting, though not indispensable one
Beatles VI was the sixth album of Beatles music released in America in less than two years during the awesome height of Beatlemania; the album collects some songs from the non-US Beatles For Sale not found on the US Beatles '65 LP, some tracks recorded specially for America (take that Blighty!), songs from the Help! project that would follow Beatles VI, and the single-only song "Yes It Is". The album is similar to Beatles '65 and can be considered a companion piece to that album: both were made from a hotchpotch of non-US releases, leaning heavily toward Beatles For Sale, and carried America's mania through early and mid-1965. Beatles VI contains a mere 11 tracks (fewer than non-US Beatles albums of this era) and features several cover versions (including John Lennon's scintillating performance on Larry Williams' "Bad Boy"). Most interestingly, historically, Beatles VI contains tracks that would later be released in the UK on the Help! soundtrack album (including "You Like Me Too Much" and "Tell Me What You See" — both good, if not quite that album's best), and for that reason has a 'progressive' aspect missing on '65. The Beatles' sound was always changing, and it is quite a testament to the band's growth that even a cobbled-together release such as this one, done by record label committee rather than Beatle artistic intention, can't obscure the relentless parade of novel sounds and textures that would continue to grab the world's attention throughout the Beatles' career. Beatles VI is available on CD for fans who want to hear the music the same way the all-important American audience did back in 1965. And if it was good enough for them then
You say it's your Birthday? It's my Birthday, too, yeah! Yeah, today — we're gonna have a good time with this one! As fate/destiny/Beatlenicity finds me in the thick of The White this year round, the cha-cha-cha-chance has to be seized... McCartney's 'party-piece' kicks off the exceptional Side Three in fine and rousing fashion, storming in on the back of the tumbling drum break with a combined bass/guitar riff that sounds like it's been souped up direct from some 50s' rock 'n roll classic — only you can never decide quite which one. Written and recorded in a single day, the spontaneity still shines through. Though Lennon dismissed it as 'a piece of garbage', his own contributions can hardly be described as reticent — and hell, man, it even got Yoko singing for the chorus! It's him on guitar here, for starters, with George givin' the six-string bass some serious stick. And no worries about our Ringo — always up for a good time! What "Birthday" lacks in craft, it more than compensates for with enthusiasm — The Beatles demonstrating, beyond the shadow of a doubt that, when it came down to basic twelve-bar balls, they still had plenty more than it took. Soundie Chris Thomas, standing in for GM, must've had his work cut out trying to keep the levels together as they rip it up to the bridge, with Paul screaming the cue count: a baptism of fire which must've stood him in good stead for his encounter with the Sex Pistols the following decade, producing "Anarchy In The U.K." Yes, we're going to a party, party! And — in a classic case of 'don't look now lads, but Uncle George isn't lookin' — that's precisely what they did... I strongly suspect that the little party who accompanied Paul round to his place to watch Little Richard 'n' Big Jane Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It on the telly mid-session may also have been party to the hoovering of copious quantities of some rather fine Columbian Marching Powder before returning to
"Please Please Me" was the single with which The Beatles hoped to consolidate the modest success of "Love Me Do". George Martin was still pushing for "How Do You Do It?", but the boys — just back from their final residency on the Reeperbahn — were still having none of it. "Please Please Me" was, at that time, a slow-paced number: "rather dreary" according to Mr M. Persuading them to try speeding it up a little (as they didn't yet know what 'change the tempo' meant), he eventually gave it the thumbs up and it was duly recorded in November '62. What's more, he finally condescended to let Ringo have the drumsticks, much to everyone's relief! Martin instantly predicted that it would make the number one spot, which it did — according to which listing you choose to believe. Record Retailer peaked it at number two, hence its non-inclusion on the 1 compilation. This is why I personally prefer the NME chart, which had it on the topspot the day I was born... Whichever; it was — and still is — a real belter! Charged with all the raunchy energy required to back up the heavy innuendo of the lyric ("C'mon, c'mon", stop teasing and just get on with it...), "Please Please Me" can be considered as the beginning of the 'Beatle Sound'; that is, sounding unlike anyone or anything else at the time, as well as unleashing their ubiquitous "oh yeah" catchphrase into a still relatively innocent world! The influences are there, of course — Everly harmonies and Elvis cool — but combined in a totally original way. Just three months had elapsed since "Love Me Do", and the difference in quality is simply stunning. The contrasting verse and bridge sections are effortlessly executed, clearly indicating the rapid learning curve which the band was on musically, and which Lennon and McCartney were on as composers. Big, ballsy bassline from Paul, and George's thrusting guitar breaks accentuate the excitement five-fold. Lennon's harmonica is downright dirty
Beyond a moonbeam of a doubt, "Mr Moonlight" is the weirdest cover on the Beatles For Sale album. Indeed, it may even qualify as the most bizarre song in the entire Beatles canon — "Mary Jane" and "You Know My Name" included. You either love it or you hate it, or you can never quite decide — but what you absolutely can't do is ignore it! Originally recorded in 1962 by Willie Perryman, aka Piano Red, aka Dr Feelgood, it had been part of The Beatles' live act ever since, as demonstrated by its inclusion on the Live! At The Star Club set from the same year. The treacherous vocal is lifted pretty much directly from it, in contrast to The Hollies' bouncy bubblegum rendition, released almost simultaneously with For Sale. Lennon's voice is quite extraordinary in his tackling of it: he don't sound like this on anything else he ever sung, I don't think. Touching the boundaries of his range, the first, aborted Anthology take bears witness to the scale of the challenge. How the hell do you describe that yodelling intro? Kinda Otis goes Flamenco at the top of a minaret, perhaps... Then in cuts the shuffling, laid-back rhythm — looking towards "The Dock Of The Bay" — but he simply can't back down from full-throttle for the vocal, not even for the smoother sections. Had to've been a full moon! Not only John seemed touched by the lunar forces, either. Paul's slightly (deliberately?) schmaltzy Wurlitzer-style Hammond solo, for example, is such a crazy contrast to everything else that's going on that it works absolutely perfectly. I know it was recorded a couple of months after the original take, but I wouldn't mind betting that it was during the same phase of the moon... George patters away merrily on an 'African Drum' to get in on the lunacy alongside Ringo's percussion. Big full moon and a few fat spliffs while viewing it from the studio roof — no other explanation, man! Because we love you: Mr Moonlight