Fictitious dressing-room dialogue, Helen Shapiro tour, Jan '63:Paul:
So what d'you think about this writing a song fer 'elen thing, then?John:
Why don't we try an' write summat a bit different? I know: 'ow 'bout a really, really miserable song? We ain't tried one o' them yet, y'know.Paul:
Yeah, alright. Cum'ead...
Shapiro never did record it (though tourmate Kenny Lynch took the honour of making it the world's first Beatles cover — and a resounding flop to boot.) The band's own version on the Please Please Me
LP couldn't be truer to the imaginary — but not unimaginable — objective above. Round the time of that tour, after all, during which they scored their first national Number One
, Lennon and McCartney were writing pretty much constantly 'into each other's noses', pushing themselves to try something new.
Lifting the word from the earlier-written — though later featured — "Ask Me Why"
, "Misery" is such a marvelous little piece of pathos parody that it makes being merely a "Teenager In Love" like Dion seem like a bowl of cherries. Even next tourmate Orbison's "Only The Lonely" sounds cheery compared to this. Proof absolute of the determination and diligence they always displayed: if yer gonna write a song called "Misery", then you have to do it properly, don't you?
From the moody opening strum-chord to those woefully wailing backing vox, it truly is a masterpiece of wallowing, self-pitying wound-licking. The world is treating me bad
— what an opening line! The piled-on "drag" of the whinging whine in the lyric is so perfectly ever-so-slightly overplayed, and John and Paul's 'fine matching of two voices' (as pointed out in the sleeve notes) is so perfectly ever-so-slightly over earnest, that it would've made a perfect addition to the Heavy Concept Album
by Neil, the Hippie from The Young Ones
. I sometimes wonder if that silly falsetto "la-la-la" at the close wasn't actually intended to lampoon it just a little bit more.
George Martin's piano here was his first outing accompanying the band, and his jangly descending scales and intermittent plink-plonks help to carry the joke beautifully. Nice one, Number Five!