Monday, February 28, 2011

I'll Follow The Sun

Robert Bunter: Although Paul wrote this sad folk-y song back in the fifties, it didn't see the light of day until Beatles For Sale in late '64. I would say it was heavily influenced by Dylan's "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)," but it preceded it. Young Paul is reluctantly preparing to say goodbye to a young lady who just didn't appreciate him enough. She's still asleep, lightly snoring in her soiled briefs and looking shoddy in the pale grey morning light oozing into the window of the grim English "flat." Young, strong Paul is seated at the foot of the bed in his clean undershorts, gently smoking a French Gauloises as he ponders his future maneuvers. Sorry, bird. It's not in my nature to commit myself to you. Tomorrow may rain, so I'm going to just gather up my trousers and try to sneak out the door before you wake up and notice I've gone. I'm off to meet my mates, three fellows who you might know them as the Beatles, or the greatest men who ever lived, as I call them. Please lose my phone number. By the way, I'm sorry that I got you pregnant, Dot Rhone.

Richard Furnstein:
Absolutely beautiful Chad and Jeremy-esque song. Paul tells us that (and more) under a cool two minutes. In that scant amount of time, we learn about a dying love, tough relationship decisions (they are still in love or at least "friends"), anticipation of regrets and sadness ("someday you'll know I was the one"), and a guitar solo that evokes an autumnal sun along calm waters. All in the span of four television commercials. I just watched four commercials and they provide nearly as much character development or emotional drama. I only saw that disturbing gout commercial, a preview of tonight's episode of TMZ, an ad for frozen pizza bagels, and that insurance commercial with the doll faced redhead that raises my premiums. Titillating stuff, but I'll take the Beatles any day of the week, thank you.

Robert Bunter: Paul comes up with a clever chord progression here. When you hear the first chord of the verse ("One day"), you assume you're hearing the tonic. Then the next chord comes, and you're like, huh? What relationship could this possibly have to the one that came before? It's a whole step down, plus it's a seventh. What is this, jazz? Then you get to the next chord and realize, Hey! That first chord wasn't the tonic at all, it was the dominant, and we're in a different key than I thought. That's kind of like what it was like for Dot Rhone when she finally woke up on that lonely, lightly soiled morning.

Richard Furnstein: What a beautiful story and song. I'm going to play "I'll Follow The Sun" on repeat with the television on mute. I'm hoping to catch that Progressive commercial again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Richard Furnstein: "Hey, Ringo. Pete Best kinda stinks and is a drag. Wanna join the band? You are a great drummer and have a cool look and an even cooler name." "Sure, gents, where do I sign?" "Wait, one condition. We want to all sing because we are a rock and roll oligarchy of insane greatness. Nobody cares about the drummer in Buddy Holly's band, they just focus on the singer. So we gotta all sing. Whaddya say? Could you handle it?" "Hmmmm. I've never really sang before, but YES."

The rest, as the man says, is history. It just so happened that Ringo had a lovely singing voice. His croak and enthusiast blurts were there to remind us that these handsome superheroes were indeed human beings. "Boys" was his vocal debut, and it follows the early Beatles album template. Give Ringo an upbeat rocker, let him shake his mop and bang the toms and count the money. It's especially sweet that they handed him a girl group jam. The Shirelles sang about the power of boys' lips, but it was a warning. A view to the dangers and freedom of the teenage years. The Beatles use this song as a way to declare that they are BOYS, and they'll seduce the hell out of your ladybrain and they can't help it and neither can you.

Robert Bunter: Here, Ringo displays a vocal persona that he wouldn't really return tovery often - unapologetic rock and roll screaming. It's like, at this point, nobody had told him yet that he was the homely, droopy eyed, big nosed goof who gets trotted out once an LP to poke fun at his own haplessness on apologetic confections like "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Act Naturally." He's really going for it. The others must have been snickering in the control booth while he laid down this track. "Look at him! He thinks he's got what it takes!"

But they weren't laughing when they got back the sales figures. Ringo's blustery take on "Boys" became the Beatles first number one single in the UK! That's completely false. But it illustrates a larger point: like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, slow-witted Ringo eventually won the Beatle race with his chart-topping LP "Ringo," released in 1973. Who's laughing now?

Richard Furnstein: Ringo?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tell Me What You See

Richard Furnstein: "Tell Me What You See" is like running across some photos of somebody that you know when they were 14. The adult features are starting to fight against the baby fat. It's more awkward than beautiful. The concessions to cool ultimately seem forced and conventional rather than striking. It's kind of a mess, but you know it had to happen to get into future awkward stages and better looks.

All of this is at play here. This is the Beatles in full on pimple and accidental boner mode. It's a vague sketch of what would become Rubber Soul in a few months. Many of the key Rubber Soul elements are on display: overactive percussion, gentle strumming, an emphasis on vocals in the mix, a lyrical sweetness. It's just not fully formed. And that's fine, you'll get there, the Beatles.

Extra points for John's stilted delivery on the verses. He was probably just trying to spice up the simplicity of the track, but it ended up with a nice English as second language flavor. Power pop!

Robert Bunter: That's a really astute analysis, Richard. As I read it, I couldn't help but recall a certain gawky young man I met one afternoon long ago. His eyes betrayed a spark of raw, unformed intelligence which was at odds with his overall slouching teenage demeanor. I knew that it might take a little bit of effort, but this struggling manchild would be someone well worth knowing. It's the same way with "Tell Me What You See" - sure, it's not going to win any praise for inciting social revolution in its lyrics or melodic references to Aeolian cadences. You could accurately call it the worst song on "Help!" The lyrics are juvenile. And yet ... it is a Beatles song from 1965, which is about the greatest thing a song could possibly be.

Oh, and by the way, Richard? That young man I mentioned? I think maybe you know him. These days, he's got a moustache, a VG+ "Yesterday" picture sleeve and owes me $14. 

Richard Furnstein: All those years ago. Eh, Bunter?

Robert Bunter: Four more years!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lady Madonna

Richard Furnstein: This is a charming shuffle that has Paul squeezing as much soul as possible out of his frail vegetarian body. "Lady Madonna" was an important sign post for the Fabs. The psychedelic trail slowly vanished, leaving our heroes in a rustic farmyard. "Back to basics," their psyches exclaimed. They stay close to the spirit of the unwashed hipness from America here, all piano and two tracks of critical Ringo drumming. The only remaining vestige of their journey into the lysergic abyss is the muffled mouth horn instrumental break. Outside of this cutesy studio trickery, it's all about (T)he Band playing together.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, the Beatles were really something! I mean, dig: they've scaled the absolute peaks of heavy artistic achievement, completely re-defining the way the rest of us mortals think about songs, albums, bands, music, art, human endeavors in general, the universe, and God. What's next? How about this: a percolating, sassy boogie, served up steaming hot on a plate of tight, greasy funk with a side of arch social commentary on single motherhood and contemporary sexual mores. Then, they throw in a touch of the gorgeous George/John/Paul vocal harmony magic (processed through some nice plate reverb by studio ace George Martin) on "See how they run" -- just to make sure none of us forget that we were dealing with the best four men who ever lived. They were four men who I like to call: The Beatles.

Richard Furnstein: Simple and clean, a fresh start. "We'll pass on the windowpane segments, love, just pass the merry spliff." No wonder noted pothead Brett Butler insisted on using "Madonna" as the theme to her show about starting her life over after divorce. Brett, much like the Beatles, had separated from a destructive path and faced renewal and domestic bliss. It wouldn't last for either (Beatles started to hate each other and Brett was fired from her own show due in part to her weed addiction*), but I'll be damned if it wasn't gritty and glorious there for a bit.

*First, "weed addiction." Second, what was the deal with ABC building sitcoms (GUF, Roseanne, Home Improvement) around addict comics in the early 1990s? This may warrant its own blog one day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

One After 909

Richard Furnstein: Sorry, pal. You can't be the fifth Beatle. Why? Well, first of all you were born years after the band broke up. Second, you can barely sing or play amazing guitars. Third, they already have a fifth man, and it's Billy Preston. While the "Get Back" co-write for Preston was a little much, he completely defines "One After 909." His electric piano on this ultimate Beatles album filler transforms an ancient Lennon/McCartney rocker into one of the highlights of Let It Be. Preston is all muscle on this track; meat and tendons that were sorely needed during this bleak phase for the Beatles.

Robert Bunter: A bleak phase is right. None of them knew what they wanted to do. Break up? Get back to roots? Keep moving forward? Be sidemen for Delaney and Bonnie (George)? Fix up a barn in the Scottish countryside while growing a beard (Paul)? Act in movies like Candy and The Magic Christian that I haven't had the chance to watch yet (Ringo)? Attach urine-filled condoms to a nude photo of yourself hanging on the wall of a squalid flat in Montague Square while sniffing opiates and nodding off with your weird wife (John, allegedly, if you believe Albert Goldman, which you probably shouldn't)?

"One After 909" offers another possible solution: incorporate a good-natured, funky keyboard player into the band and boogie down on local rooftops. It's not an ideal outcome, but I'll tell you one thing: I like it better than what they ultimately decided to do, which was to break up. Think of the great five-man lineup Beatles albums of which we've been deprived! 1971's Soulful Mood Blend (Apple 2034), the 1972 double-lp extravaganza Songs In The Key Of Soul! (Apple 2088), the "My Sweet Lord / My Sweet Lord (version)" 12-inch extended mix single and 1976's Heard You Missed Us? Well, We're Back! (Apple, 3010).

Richard Furnstein: Take a listen to the Anthology take of "909." The Beatles play this version tight. The strummed acoustic in the introduction tries to manage expectations. Lennon and McCartney were likely already embarrassed by the "don't be cold as ice" lyric. It's a fun curiosity, but ultimately a trainwreck. Give it up to Preston for elevating a strung out batch of millionaires to rock heights that they couldn't even reach in their methamphetamine bopper days. Yay, Bill!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Penny Lane

Robert Bunter: After fifty (mostly) tedious write-ups, it's a real pleasure to arrive at the best Beatles song. Any words of praise for "Penny Lane" would be inadequate. How could the clumsy English language ever manage the task? If God wrote songs, He would feel sad because deep in His heart, He would know that He could never write one as good as "Penny Lane." What do you think about that, Furnstein?

Richard Furnstein: It may not be the Beatles' best song, or even Paul's finest (I'd currently reserve that honor for "Take It Away" or "Arrow Through Me" or "Mrs. Vandebilt"). But it may just be Paul's most important song. You have to consider that at this point in the Beatles, Paul was still the under card in the band. Sure, he got a lot of singles and a song like "Yesterday" was a huge advancement, but John was really driving a lot of the development of the band and was the focal point of the first handful of albums. John delivered "Strawberry Fields" as a single and you think it would be "Game over, greatest song possible. Paul, come up with some dross for the flip." But, NO. Paul stood firm and responded with a beautiful companion song. An ode to English whimsy and everyday beauty. A song about giggling at your surroundings and finding love in the air around you. The instrumental break after the fireman verse is pure beauty; a moment when all of the characters are in flight, bumping into one another, dishes tumbling, children laughing, a dog hiding under a desk. Sure, Paul wrote dozens of knockouts before this, but he never quite managed to best John. With "Penny Lane" he firmly asserted himself as a creative equal.

Robert Bunter: Hmmmmmm...I guess you're right! I never thought of it like that. I'll tell you one thing: this is a song that can give strength to all of us. Like Paul's omniscient narrator, we can all regard the scurrying mundane people who populate our all-too-brief lives with affection, humor and, yes, love. Sure, there's a dark side to the barber, banker, fireman, the pretty nurse, the little children. We'll learn about it soon enough when we flip over our original first-pressing mono 45's and listen to "Strawberry Fields Forever" (by the way, if you're listening to this cut on Magical Mystery Tour, 1966-1970, 20 Greatest Hits or One, you probably don't deserve to read this blog). We all have problems, each and every one of us. But on a day like today (the skies are blue, yet it's raining), why not smile? Cherish every moment, cut the normals some slack, live in the now.

Paul manages to wrap up every positive message the Beatles tried to embody in three minutes of pure bliss. Seen in the blinding light of Penny Lane, similar attempts by John ("All You Need Is Love") and George ("Within You, Without You") ring somewhat hollow. Show, don't tell. That's the secret to writing songs that evoke an intoxicating sense of "freedom, energy and sheer happiness." (Hertsgaard, 1995).

Richard Furnstein: This song is one in a series of mid to late period Beatles songs where you have to wonder what John Lennon provided to the final recording. Did he do the tremelo swells? Play a tinny acoustic that was cut from the mix? Did he just pop into the studio to lend his voice to the childish "four of fish and finger pie" joke and then duck into the B studio to take acid and stare at the walls or cut up and reverse recordings of the London Philharmonic Orchestra? It's a great accomplishment that Paul created thegreatestsongeverwrittenbyhumanman without much assistance at all from all time genius John.

Robert Bunter: You're definitely correct about that, man. I love you, Richard. You've been a great buddy for many years.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ticket To Ride

Richard Furnstein: Fat Elvis period John starts to shake his blues on this track. While he is certainly plenty bummed out, confusion is his primary emotion here. The girl in his life may be leaving him but he's not completely sure. Hell, she's not even sure. He thinks he's gonna be sad; that old feeling creeps in again. Despite the impending sense of doom, John's voice has a different tone from his previous lady anguish numbers. He's noticeably more laid back now; his baby doesn't care, so why should he. The bales of weed probably helped him reach this plateau, and the impact of (non-upper) drugs is rarely more evident in John's vocals. He's not going to cry over this one, he's not even sure if he likes her. Pass the gravity bong and what's on the telly, love?

Robert Bunter: It's great to have the chance to listen to these wonderful tracks with you. This song is so heavy, Richard! Listen: the lurching, stop-start beat sounds like a bulldozer with triangular wheels climbing up the stairs of a Roman amphitheatre. A hard-hat bedecked Lennon is seated in the operator's deck of this rugged contraption, looking young and strong as he pulls the drive levers back and forth with an impassive air. The rest of the crew (Paul, George, Ringo and the studio engineers) look on with grim approval as he rumbles ahead, leaving the twisted wreckage of crumbled ampitheatre steps behind him.

Richard Furnstein: Musically, the song is notable for it's gorgeous chime, hanging like lovely byrds over pristine fields of snow. Ringo opens up his drumming on this one, pointing to future triumphs in "Rain" and the deconstructed percussion of the Sgt Pepper's era. If you ever have the distinct pleasure of listening to this song with me, get ready for me to point out the perfection of John's "awww" before he dips into the chorus. His vulnerability that he shows in that one syllable makes up for his audible indifference on the rest of the track.
Robert Bunter: The monolithic tension is only broken in two places. The beat starts to normalize a bit on the bridge ("I don't know why she's riding so high"), only to lurch back into first gear at 1:26. Then, the ridiculous double-time "My baby don't care" coda. It sounds like John just leaped off the bulldozer and started wildly dancing up the remaining steps in a merry, spastic gospel frenzy while the other Beatles shake tambourines and clap and hoot.

Richard Furnstein: I have to once again mention the lovely Karen Carpenter, who turns this weed rocker into a funereal weeper. Sorry for all the sadness and suffering, Karen, but take it elsewhere. We're having a Beatles gospel party in here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Anytime At All

Robert Bunter: On the surface, this sounds like the kind of lightweight, by-the-numbers moptop pop that John would dismiss so blithely in years to come. Granted, there's no sitar break, mellotron loops, primal screaming or string section. Still, this song plays to all the strengths of the early Beatles. Out-of-the-ordinary chord progressions, pounding Mersey beat, throat ripping vocals, an unorthodox piano/12-string solo near the end, and lyrics addressed directly to the listener.

Richard Furnstein: Lennon's back at the work site. Sure, there's a sense that this song was more obligation than inspiration, but there are still some neat parts to geek out over. The verse is particularly pretty; Lennon overlays the verse lines as close as he can without having to overdub the end of the previous bar. This prefaces a somewhat similar crammed approach on "All You Need Is Love." Single piano bass notes fill out the verses, providing a nice contrast to George's Rickenbacker twinkles. Ringo keeps the jumbled nature of this song on track, and it all starts with his commanding snare hit at the top of the song.

Robert Bunter: John was turning his heart into a mass-produced product, available for purchase by teenage girls across the globe. In the process, he became emotionally unavailable to his wife and son. After giving himself so completely to the world, there was nothing left for the people around him. The needle on the John tank was on "E." Julian asks Cynthia, "Where's daddy?" And the answer was, "Nowhere, man."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Please Mister Postman

Richard Furnstein: John Lennon pleads with a common civil servant for a letter from his distant girlfriend. He's sure that something should be arriving; hell, he's been waiting for such a long time. The song was originally written for a woman to sing, and the long distance love angle at that time makes the most sense as a soldier writing home to his sweetheart. However, John's appeal to the postman just makes it seem like his high school girlfriend went off to college while he stayed in their hometown to work in a drug store. Settle down, John. She's probably grinding to some Shabba Ranks at a freshman mixer at Delta Omega. See, you should have tried harder in high school. You just played your guitar, listened to girl group singles, and acted bummed out about your dead mom. Now you are stuck at home with no real future, counting the days until winter break so you can officially get your dumb heart broken. Stupid.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, what a sad state of affairs for our downtrodden Liverpudlian hero. I guess all he can do now is leave the goddamn mailbox behind and mope over to Pete Best's house (his mom lets the boys use the front room for rock and roll practice) to meet his friends. Before you know it, they're smoking fags (effeminate British cigarettes), trading smutty jokes and laughing uproariously. Now it's time to plug in the cheap guitars and have band practice. While Ms. Best smiles indulgently over the whistling teapot in the nearby kitchen, four young lads are crafting the big beat sound that will soon seduce the entire planet. Pretty soon they'll be rich and famous with more girls than they know what to do with. Some other sad adolescent will be left to mope in his stinky bedroom while his beloved is off getting shagged by Mal Evans in the hospitality suite at the Beatles' plush hotel in the city. What can he do? Nothing but pick up a guitar and wail away the pain, in the process creating a new rock and roll sound that will soon set the world on its ear. That young man's name? Declan Patrick MacManus ... perhaps you know him as ELVIS COSTELLO. The cycle of life continues.

Richard Furnstein: Get ready for this, readers. This is the best John Lennon vocal track in his entire recorded output. Good lord, it rips me open. "Please Mister Postman" also has one of my favorite Beatles moments: Listen for John's vocal on "Deliver the letta, the sooner the bet...You gotta wait a minute, wait a minute..." He's so full of pure passion and anxiety that he can't even finish his simple rhyme, "better" is clipped to become "bet" and he is left screaming at the hapless postman.

Robert Bunter: I can't argue with you, man.

Richard Furnstein: Extra credit goes to the Carpenters for their completely neutered version. Where John seems like he'll kill himself if another afternoon goes by without this crucial letter, Karen gently reminds the postman that she should probably receive some kind of correspondence. "Oh, nothing? Sorry, sir. I'll continue to wait patiently. Have a great day!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Reply

Robert Bunter: The soft musical texture that opens this vintage Lennon psychodrama is a total fake-out ... soon enough, the inevitable edgy passion will assert itself with a screamed "I saw the light" (is this the light in the lady's window, or does he mean the futility of the entire relationship has been illuminated?), and before you know it, here's the heavy "If I were you" bridge, with four-to-the-bar handclaps, assertive strumming and a subtle, insistent piano.

Richard Furnstein: I feel awful for the guy, I really do. It's a tragic tale, and Lennon sells it. The part that kills me about "No Reply" is that you hear his anguished lyrics, but it doesn't immediately register that he prefaces the song with "this happened once before." It's bad enough that John is being played as a fool, but it isn't the first time. I guess he willingly forgives the lies, but it's tough to feel too much sympathy for this repeat offender.

The very picture that you paint of the Lennon solo effort is so undeniably exhilirating that I may need a (Derek) tailor to let out my pants.

Robert Bunter: John's mopey first three songs on Beatles For Sale ("No Reply," "I'm A Loser," "Baby's In Black") set a very high bar that the album never really approaches again until "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" on side two. Time for a fantasy: 1965 Lennon solo album. Paul, George and Ringo play backup (not unlike Grateful Dead sex symbol Bob Weir's travesty of a "solo" album Ace), just three buddies helping their old friend John in the studio, but chubby late-64, early-65 Lennon is calling the shots.  Record sleeve photo is a closeup Robert Freeman portrait of our hero in that great floppy black hat he used to wear back then, with vintage Spaniard In The Works outtake line drawings in the borders like Sergio Aragones' Mad Magazine marginalia. First three songs mimic Beatles For Sale, then we're in for some parallel universe gems.
Richard Furnstein: Wait, so you are saying that Paul would provide nothing to this solo album, and it will be completely driven by John's mopey madness? Ha, that's pretty much already the case with Beatles For Sale. Paul screamed his way through a handful of rock 'n roll b-sides and called it a day while John was trudging through the aforementioned emotional battlefields. Still, the very picture that you paint of the Lennon solo effort is so undeniably exhilirating that I may need a (Derek) tailor to let out my pants. Can we call it "Do It Yourself," after the short story in Lennon's A Spaniard In The Works? Please say yes.

Robert Bunter: Yes, of course. Yes.

Richard Furnstein: Perfect, I already made a fantasy 1965 solo Lennon album with that title. See, I even made a pretty cool cover for it! It looks like Law And Order by Lindsey Buckingham!

Robert Bunter:
Eh, I guess. I liked my idea better.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Richard Furnstein: Imagine the balls: "The world needs a birthday song, gents." Are you kidding me, Paul? They already have an international birthday song called "Happy Birthday" and it is a massive hit and people sing it all the time. The cool thing about Paul is that he didn't care about these formalities, he just wanted to show off for his new girlfriend Linda Eastman and honor her special day. They even let Yoko get in on backing vocals, because it's a "party party" kind of party and of course you are invited. The special guest is Ringo's drums which kick the shit out of everything. A perfect recording and song and if you dislike it then I don't know what to tell you but we can't be friends.

Robert Bunter: In sixth or seventh grade, me and some buddies tried out for the talent show with this song and failed the audition. One problem was, we had no drum or bass ("the rhythm's in the guitars!"). Another was, we couldn't sing or play very well. The tambourine player was particularly inept.

Richard Furnstein: Paul and John sound great on this one. Paul is in frantic Billy Joel mode, while John lays back. I'm not sure who is playing the tambo, but they should win a Congressional Medal of Honor. It's a bummer when baseball games play Cracker's awful "Happy Birthday To Me" instead of this all time song hit.

Robert Bunter: You know, you're right about that. Hell, it would be great if "Dig A Pony" was the national anthem and Tell Me Why was played over the credits to every movie. This is the real world we're trying to live in, not Beatles Fantasyland. It's important to accept that.

Richard Furnstein: Don't patronize me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love You To

Robert Bunter: George takes another (his first) trip to the land of carpeted elephants and loosely-draped saris. The sitar on "Norwegian Wood" was just a toe-dip into the surging Ganges - now we're fully immersed.  Fuzz bass meshes nicely with the sarods and spirit harps, and a double-tracked vocal (with McCartney chiming in on harmony) takes it to the next level. This one must have really blown every pimply kid's mind in 1966 when they got this back from the Woolworths and gave it a spin on their little plastic hi-fi. They called their friends immediately: "Hey, Chad! Did you get to the fourth song on side one yet? I think something's wrong with my hi-fi! I already frightened enough by Ringo's glasses on the back cover. I'm not ready for this!"

Richard Furnstein: Indian-fetishist George Harrison urges us to "make love all day long" in this track, and that little dose of the freaky deaky is just the tip of the iceberg. He also convinces us that electric guitars are for dorky old squares. Have fun singing about surfing and Henry the VIII, goofs, I'm off in Southern Vindaloo with this instrument with 84 strings and my fingers are stained with curry. You say you want a revolution? Here's a raga song that manages to fit in the pop format. Nice and tidy, but still freaky enough to scare your little sister. Just another day at the office for the bobble brained lead guitarist of a band that I like to call the Beatles.

George also declares "love me while you can, before I'm a dead old man." It's a goofy lyric, but it makes you wish that the Concert For George happened a few years earlier so that George could have felt the love. It sure was a touching tribute to the man. I guess people did give him a lot of love when he was stabbed in the chest by Michael Abram in his beautiful home on December 31, 1999. Goodnight, 20th Century, I hope you don't mind if we almost senselessly murder one of your most beautiful individuals. What did he do to deserve it? Oh, I don't know, garden? Play the ukulele? Create world music? Gosh damn.

Robert Bunter: George really nails it here. It's like he's saying to everybody, "Hey, you want fresh new sounds? How would you like THIS?" And the answer is: plenty! I really like it a lot!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Revolution 9

Richard Furnstein: It's a lovely night for a  gentle stroll through the London streets completely wacked out on a few segments of purple flash. This is "the situation," as George Harrison warns us in his stern tone. The situation, to be frank, is completely bonkers. The madding crowd, orchestral bombast, a goose swallowing geese (backwards), and car crash hysterics greet us on our walk. We're terrified to look down the alleyways. It sounds like money burning down there, or maybe a baby is blubbering. Is that Star Wars happening, like 8 years before Star Wars happened?

Robert Bunter: I love this controversial and disturbing track. What's the matter, can't you handle it? Here's why I think it's important: it's the ultimate logical extension of Lennon's gradual evolution towards unmediated expression of the terrifying, nightmarish hideousness that boiled constantly in the depths of his tortured psyche. It started out with the throat-tearing anger he brought to the rockers on the early albums. Then we got In His Own Write... hmmm, kind of dark. Wait, what's this? "Tomorrow Never Knows"! Take it easy, John! Little kids are hearing this stuff, they're going to be really frightened. "Strawberry Fields Forever": the melody is beautiful, but the cellos and mellotrons are giving me nightmares. Plus, did you see that video where they throw paint all over the weird piano under a tree and it's nighttime and the film is all solarized and we're looking at a closeup of his creepy dead carp eye under the granny glasses? Then there's the orchestra frenzy on "A Day In The Life," and I'm not even gonna talk about "I Am The Walrus," and now we arrive at "Revolution 9."

Richard Furnstein: It's the most controversial Beatles track because "it doesn't really do anything." On the contrary, it does EVERYTHING. It makes every other Beatles track seem slight in comparison. You try sitting in a dark room with "Lady Madonna" on headphones: you'll just groove and feel great about the world. Take on "Revolution 9" in those conditions and you are sure to be terrified, excited, and left feeling empty. John repeatedly warbles "right" (as in "alright"), but it is hardly reassuring. This is the closest that John could come to packaging LSD in with the White Album's lyric poster and individual photographs: instant audio drugs.

Robert Bunter: The English language, melody, harmony, rhythm and even sane human logic have all been maniacally tossed out the window like the schoolmaster's blackboard that a young Lennon tossed out the window at Quarry Hill Grammar School in Woolton on October 3, 1956. We are left to confront the pure, unalloyed terror that was half of this man's soul (the other half is a peaceful, gently smiling baby boy letting his dreams fly lazily across the universe on puffy clouds of contentment).

Richard Furnstein: Dance steps are recited to the listener, almost mocking you to try to respond to this as pop music. "Do 'The Twist,' fools. Good luck, we've rearranged your minds while you weren't looking. Block that kick, shithead. Just try to block it.

Too late, it just flattened your pitiful skull.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'll Be Back

Richard Furnstein: C'mon, John. Learn your lesson already. There's a difference between wanting someone in your life and needing them in your life. Just let it go this time, this girl's already broken your heart. Then you peeped at her through her bedroom window, cried and moaned, and wrote this song thirty other times. However, I do appreciate that you broke out your old Everly Brothers records for this one. Oh, and you brought along a beautiful bridge as well? Come right in, Mr. Lennon, all is forgiven. Tell me about this indecisive woman who broke your heart that is also your soulmate that you need to be whole. I'm all ears.

Robert Bunter: When I hear this song, I start to think about how cleverly it wavers between major and minor tonalities, heightening the emotional drama of the lyric. Then I think about the beautiful arrangement: gentle guitars, soft drums and the sweet vocal harmonies of two guys I like to call John Winston Lennon and James Paul McCartney. Next, I start to perspire and my left side starts to feel numb. After that, I think back to my childhood. Finally, I am spent. I slump backward into my chair and try to recover my composure before someone comes into the room and finds me gazing blankly at the fine print on the back of the Hard Day's Night sleeve with twitchy eyelids and a heart full of longing.

Richard Furnstein: More on that bridge: it rules and you need to listen to the waltz version on the Anthology. John and Paul quickly realize that the 3/4 version doesn't jive with the bridge. John abandons ship with some grumbly English gibberish. Then BAM POW the perfect editing leads you straight to a killer four on the floor early version with prominent George 12-string flourishes. Hooray, the Beatles! You did it again!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ob La Di, Ob La Da

Richard Furnstein: Gather 'round, everyone. Paul's going to tell us another one of his stories. Don't get too excited, it's another story based on a few non distinct common people (they have names, though!) going through their typical lives. Paul takes this one past the yawning slice of life "Another Day," mainly by involving cross dressers that perform in their small, island-rhythm-tinged village.

Robert Bunter: I think the main thing about this song is the infectious mood of uninhibited happiness. Leave it to Paul to brighten up the darker hues of the white (?) album with an upbeat celebration of life, love and song. "Life goes on" is a message we can all get behind, and tropical syncopation is a rhythm we can all dance to. Yet, Paul leaves so much unsaid here. Did you know that Desmond and Molly Jones live in a third-world shantytown? When they're not "La la la"-ing at the local seedy nightclub with red tassled curtains (a notorious clip joint with underage table dancers), he's pushing his dilapidated barrow through the filthy marketplace, selling past-their-prime root vegetables and salt cod to the reeking masses.

Richard Furnstein: I could care less about this story, but I love this track. There's a beautiful simplicity and clarity to the parts. Paul lays it all down with a choppy piano and groovy little bass line (neat trick, they doubled up the bass part with a peaking acoustic guitar). John is screaming on the chorus (he probably wants this twee mess over as soon as possible). Ringo is the most perfect bastard ever, just here to do his job. Boom Thwak Boom Pssh Thwak Doo Doo Da Doo Doo Doo Thunk. Keep it on the single version of the White Album; hell, it may make the EP version.

Robert Bunter: Listen to that creepy fake laughter at the end! The Beatles loved adding creepy fake laughter at the end (see Within You Without You), but this time we're segueing into the nightmarish, malevolent dirge of "Wild Honey Pie" instead of the sprightly clarinets of "When I'm 64."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nothin' Shakin'

Richard Furnstein: Imagine a world where George Harrison wasn't a Beatle. He'd probably muck about as a guitarist in some dumb beat bands and then maybe get his head together to record some decent folk records in the late 1960s and then die of a smack overdose in the early 1970s. Best case scenario would be that 4 Men With Beards or some other vinyl collector's label would reissue his stuff.

But wait, fantasy scenario! You are forgetting about "Nothin' Shakin'" from the incredible Beatles At The BBC compilation. This recording suggests that George could hang with the best and would have been a monster solo artist in the early 1960s. He owns this song. The fact that the Beatles didn't cut this for one of their albums is nothing more than pure, disgusting jealousy for the youngest Beatle. Get over it, John, Paul, and Ringo. Let George have his fun!

Robert Bunter: George had such a unique voice. What kind of accent is that? He doesn't sound like the rest of the Beatles, really. It's subtle. Kind of thick and phlegmy. Here's a question for you, Furnstein: what are you doing listening to this on Beatles At The BBC? Did you lose the copy of Rockin' At The Star Club 1962 that I burned for you? That version is so patently superior that to argue about it would be the height of folly on your part.

Richard Furnstein: I've been pwned! The lead guitar on the Star Club version is a loving testament to the power of cheap amphetamines and crooked nosed German prostitutes. The lead surf guitar absolutely dominates that recording.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Polythene Pam

Richard Furnstein: Consider this: the Beatles were so supremely great that this medley filler (along with perhaps "Across The Universe") served as the template for most of David Bowie's career. And Cripes Almighty, Bowie is one of the best ever! This song delivers the goods in a lean 73 seconds. The "yeah yeah yeahs" return, John ensures that "killer diller" will be the coolest phrase in history, and George oozes out a sweet little solo. London was a sleazy place in the late sixties, and it's nice that John doesn't pull any punches here. Then, the editing gods cut it short and we're on to a song about a bathroom window. What more do you want? I don't want anything else.

Robert Bunter:
Yeah, brevity is really the soul of wisdom here. This song demonstrates a point I was making to you in the car last Saturday night, about how late in the Beatles’ career John started to whip out an astonishing variety of musical styles that he never really explored more fully in his solo work: the languid tropicalia of "Sun King," the stoner sludge of "I Want You (She’s So Heavy)," the moody funk of "Come Together," the golden classic gorgeousness of "Dig A Pony" … and, yes, the sexy glam of "Polythene Pam." Each of these templates would be enough for a lesser artist to base an entire career on. Personally, I wish he’d done more great Beatles music instead of his solo career.  I’d trade ten LP’s worth of I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mamas and Meat Citys and Beautiful Boys for just a few more Becauses or Baby You’re A Rich Mans.

"Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" and "Mind Games" can stay, though.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Eight Days A Week

Richard Furnstein: This song kicks off side two of the awkward pre-pubescent Beatles For Sale. The song fades in, which is not a huge technical innovation, but it may be the best part of the song. John and Paul are clearly a little embarrassed by this one (they never quite get around to rocking). The underwhelming instrumental track is somewhat covered up by the cranked vocals. This song is essentially "A Hard Day's Night" ugly younger brother. A song asking for a shitty movie to be written around its title. Luckily, the Beatles had better things to do than to follow up on that idea, like piss off the queen from the Philippines or smoke weed with Elvis. Priorities!

Robert Bunter: Yeah. Not much to get excited about on this track. Unless you happen to like a band I like to call The Beatles. All the usual tricks are in evidence - stops and starts, studio trickery, handclaps, I'm going to go ahead and say the best thing about this song is the chord sequence on the fade in and fade out. I wish they'd taken that bit and written a different song around it. This song takes up space on compilations like "1962-1966" and "20 Greatest Hits" which would be better occupied by a nice gem like "I'll Follow The Sun" or "Tell Me Why," but what the hey.

Richard Furnstein: Can you picture the dolt that would have "Eight Days A Week" as their favorite Beatles song? Man, that imaginary scenario is making me so angry. I want to throw something. Are you kidding me? "Eight Days A Week"?

Also, "One thing I can say girl, 'Love you all the time.'" is one of the worst lyrics in their catalog.

Mr. Moonlight

Richard Furnstein: Here's my impersonation of an idiot Beatles fan: "Eh, the early stuff is so dumb. They would just go yeah yeah and then pad the records with total crap covers like Mr Moonlight." Hold on a second there, buster. Where's your head at? I'm here to tell you: "Mr Moonlight" is the total tits and possibly the highlight of Beatles For Sale.

The early covers were basically an excuse for John to rip the hell out of his throat. He clearly takes a certain delight in claiming his favorite rock sides for his own. The sweet organ comes in like cold moonlight rising on your bedroom wall. George is the invisible solid here, all muted tube sickness. Plus, "from your beam you made my dream" is a damned perfect lyric. Take back anything you've ever said about this song: have a heart and feel the cha cha cha.

Robert Bunter: Cha Cha Cha? More of a mambo, I’d say. But forget about that: something absolutely wonderful happens on this song. Put it on now and listen to the very beginning. The voice that belts out “MISTAAAAAAAAAAAAH” in the opening seconds sounds unmistakably like wonderful Paul McCartney. But, huh? What’s this? When it gets to “Mooooooonlight,” you realize that it was actually the amazing John Lennon. We are thus able to imagine the superhuman combo Beatle Paul Lennon. Contemplate this beast: all the beguiling romanticism of loveable Paul without the facile sentimentality and shallow showbiz phoniness … all the restless intelligence and soulful honesty of Saint John without the demented hallucinations, painful screaming and sardonic self-regard that makes me have nightmares sometimes. Alas, we can only ponder how differently the pages of history would have been written had such a divine avatar been born unto human woman. And yet: every time the needle drops on the beginning of Mr. Moonlight, the haunting voice of this best-of-all-worlds uber-Beatle calls to us from beyond the curtain of possibility.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Richard Furnstein: Hey man, get in the car and let's do drugs. Oh wild, look at that bird flying backwards. Do they usually do that? These organ hits are perfectly in time with the streetlights racing by. Whoops, we just drove off a bridge, luckily gravity is really slow in this world. The ocean is miles away from us. I'm being engulfed by clouds!

Robert Bunter: You've got a really good point there. We're tripping gently through Pepperland on this track, with psychedelic tape loops and mellotrons and boring music. If memory serves, this is the only Beatles song credited to all four members. I'd like to quote the late Nicholas Schaffner on this one: "Although few would file it under the Beatles' Great Works, 'Flying' has received more radio exposure than all but a handful of their songs. For countless disc jockeys soon discovered in this ethereal, infectious theme an ideal way to fill up those awkward odd moments before the hourly news: because there were no words, it didn't seem rude to chatter at the same time, or to phase it out mid-song."

I have to call bullshit on that one - probably Nicholas heard it once on the air and decided it was a permanent trend. But, I wish that it were true. I would love to listen to a radio station that plays trippy Beatles music before the hourly news.

Richard Furnstein: This song proves that Ringo is the LOUDEST Beatle. George Martin should have told Normal Smith to get Ringo to step away from the mic a bit. Maybe that would be the job of the Abbey Road tea boy. Either way, how is gentle George Harrison supposed to compete with that bellowing monster?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Anna (Go To Him)

Richard Furnstein: All languid drag, this is the kind of punisher that they probably couldn't pull off in Hamburg. The spook is all in the room and John's vocal is pushed way high in the mix. The instruments pulse without real flourish. It's clear this is a job site, John's got a story to tell about a lady that broke his heart and is about to leave him. Show your respect and listen to the man.

I want this song tattooed on my face.

Robert Bunter: This early soul cover (Arthur Alexander waxed the original for Pat Boone's DOT label in 1962) offers yet more evidence for the "John Lennon is the greatest male vocalist in the history of rock and roll" case that many of us have been trying to make for years to an increasingly annoyed and rapidly shrinking group of disinterested friends and business associates. I want you to pull this up on your iTunes or CD player right now and cue up the word "DOOOOOOOOOOO" at 1:27. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Richard Furnstein: (singing along) "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!"

Robert Bunter: How about that, eh? I haven't heard that much raw, unbridled animal passion since the last time I listened from outside the bedroom window ("No Reply"-style) as my wife made physical love to another man. To my wife, whose name is Anna, I say: go with him. Just leave me alone with
my Beatles bubblegum cards and my NM+ first-state sealed butcher cover which I purchased from Mark Lapidos at BeatleFest in 1974 for $301 and is now worth enough money to purchase the lawyer that you'll need after the judge hears the evidence which I recorded on my Brunell three-speed reel-to-reel.

I'm sorry, this has been a very personal post for me.

Richard Furnstein: I love the zombie backing vox on this one. George and Paul are drunk or sleepy (or BOTH!) and they clearly want to steer clear of John's romantic turmoil. The song doesn't fade because it shouldn't fade because the ending is damn perfect. I want this song tattooed on my face.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

She's Leaving Home

Richard Furnstein: The lights go down on the rock and roll stage to reveal Paul and John, dramatically delivering another McCartney melodrama. The story in brief: chick who has taken her A-levels and advanced classical piano lessons leaves her boring English parents to meet some sleazy pot dealer at a Knight's Inn. They run off and he gives her the clap or babies with stupid names. That part isn't clear. The parents have to reflect on this coming of age story with passive aggression ("How could she do this to me?" You just answered your own question, mother).

Robert Bunter: The generation gap was never so poignantly evoked as it is here by young Paul. Only four years after basically doing everything they could to encourage the world's youth to assert their freedom and independence, the doe-eyed Pied Piper of Liverpool has second thoughts, or at least a vague pang of sympathy for the nightgowned matron weeping at the top of the stairs. This is the same McCartney who elbowed "'Til There Was You" onto With The Beatles so that the moms still had something nice to listen to while John was inciting a "You Really Got A Hold On Me"-fueled revolution.

The group offered something for everyone, and the proof is in this token gesture of understanding. Too little, too late, perhaps, but who among us cannot be moved to tears by LenMac's aching falsettos and clever "buy/bye-bye" wordplay? Human people are damned lucky to exist in a universe with something this beautiful.

Richard Furnstein:
Paul is primarily the narrator in this play, while John is in the role of the parents. A stab in his black heart, as he pretends to know what it is like to have parents that give a shit about you. It's the ultimate orphan fantasy: to leave your parents and have them deal with the fallout.

Robert Bunter: Paul's impetuous decision to use Mike Leander for the string arrangement (I just pulled that out of my mind without looking it up) might have angered staid, conservatory-trained producer George Martin, but it was the right move. These harps and fiddles bring the right touch of pathos to Paul's heartrending melody.

Why did the girl leave home? For "fun," which is "the one thing that money can't buy." What? That doesn't make any sense. What a selfish thing to do to her poor parents.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Robert Bunter: Little children love to listen to this delightful tale, inspired by a drawing by John's son Julian of his classmate Lucy O'Donnell, who diedva few years ago. Who among us hasn't fantasized about lazily drifting downstream in a boat while marvels unfold from the shore?

Richard Furnstein: This is the great song that helped usher in a million terrible songs. John pulls some jabberwocky out of his melting brain (tangerine skies! newspaper taxis!). It looks good on him, but doesn't quite sparkle with hack psychedelic songwriters. The chorus arrives just in time to beat the fog out of your brain.

Robert Bunter: When people (incorrectly) talk about Sgt. Pepper's as the peak Beatles masterpiece, it is songs like this they're thinking of. The melody is beautiful, and the lyrics whisk us off to a magical fairyland that somehow doesn't seem that far away. Paul did a nice job on the electric bass. If you don't take drugs, you can get the same effect by spinning around as fast as you can for a few minutes until you're dizzy and then sitting down.

Richard Furnstein: The acronym of the song's title is famously L.S.D. (less famously L.I.T.S.W.D., which isn't nearly as cool). John claimed it was an innocent mistake and that he was scanning other Beatles titles for clues, but didn't find any. You didn't look hard enough, John! What about "Not A Second Time" (N.A.S.T.) or "Roll Over Beethoven" (R.O.B.)? That's just on one album, imagine if I looked at the other albums! Lazy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's All Too Much

Richard Furnstein: George strikes a crucial C, John yells "DOO YOUNG MUN!" into the unfriendly confines of De Lane Lea Studios, and a lonely organ (!) announces the Beatles' finest psychedelic moment to the world.

Unfortunately, it happened about two years too late. The Beatles cut this in the middle of their tablet thwonk phase (right after Sgt Pepper's) but didn't see fit to release the song until 1969's baloney Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Another damn shame is that the Beatles didn't release the extended mega jam versions that have been widely bootlegged. An eight minute version from The Lost Pepperland Reel boot is particularly scorching. Another song that really thrives in mono.

Robert Bunter: What do you get when you cross the Velvet Underground with Daevid Allen's pre-Gong solo efforts? The best Harrisong ever? Obviously, if you ignore the anomalous career peaks of Revolver and Abbey Road and the post-Fabs masterpiece "I Remember Jeep." Creepy George has taken the idea of tedious, overlong one chord drones (Within You Without You, Blue Jay Way) and finally hit paydirt. You can just see the LSD trails that were swimming around in this gawky poser's overamped brain when he wrote and recorded this Yellow Submarine filler track. For once, John and Paul make some valuable contributions to the 7-minute-long fadeout, such as going "CHUH .... CHUH ... CHUH ... too much ... too much ... too much."

Creepy George has taken the idea of tedious, overlong one chord drones and finally hit paydirt.

Richard Furnstein: The Beatles cut this one around the same time as "All You Need Is Love." "Love" is clearly the superior song, but I kind of wish this was the worldwide satellite release. George standing in a field of beautiful girls, pedaling a tambourine, while the rest of the Beatles were navigating through a swarm of acid ghosts. It would have blown minds. Another fun bit: George sends a little love note to the beautiful Patti: "with your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue." It's nice to see George was keeping his romantic interests vanilla in the middle of his Hare Hare heyday.

Robert Bunter: Every Beatles superfan has to wrestle with the question of whether they love or hate this song. For me, those deliberations are ongoing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Richard Furnstein: "Is there anybody going to listen to my story..." is the perfect lead-off hitter on this song. Lennon is drunk and ready to tell you all about a rumpled beauty who shook his world. She was cool enough to hang, maybe a bit too cool (she put down John Freckin' Lennon in front of his pals!). This concept of feminine charm has haunted me my whole life. Doomed.

Robert Bunter: Lennon uses the exotic scale intervals of Eastern European peasant music on this melancholy lament, then increases the effect on the bridge with the double-time fake mandolin. You can just see a dusky-complected, moustachioed gypsy wearily slumped at one of those miniature tables with the umbrella in a smoky cafe, singing this song while his organ grinder monkey takes a much-deserved break and a quartet of old men beat clumsily at those huge, poorly made mariachi basses that look like guitars and taterbug mandolins nearby.

Richard Furnstein: John gets back at Little Miss Can't Be Wrong by making his buddies George and Paul tease her about her lady parts (the famous "tit-tit-tit-tit" bit), but it's still not enough to lift his melancholy. He resorts to taking a hit from a nearby spliff during the "girl" chorus. Poor dude.

Robert Bunter: Lyrically, it's a perfect chance for Lennon to mix his down-in-the-dumps, crying-in-your-beer persona with his gradually-emerging archly superior psychedelic identity. It's like the guy who sang "The Word" and "And Your Bird Can Sing" crossed with the guy Paul was singing about in "For No One."

Richard Furnstein: I thought they were the same guy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

For You Blue

Richard Furnstein: The whistle blows down at the blues factory, and a leathery George Harrison clocks in and pushes out this product before lunchtime. John plays a fun lapsteel part in between nodding off and George tries to reinvigorate the gallop ("go Johnny go!").

 It's a fun little diversion on Let It Be, and a good chance for the Beatles to shuffle in their darkest hour. The only sadness here is that George had about thirty superior songs in his back pocket, but his insecurities kept him from delivering them to a band that was honestly considering releasing dross like "Maggie Mae" and "Teddy Boy" to the general public. "All Things Must Pass" and other gems were his golden parachute. The writing was on the wall, and he wasn't giving up the goods. A real tear.  

The writing was on the wall, and George wasn't giving up the goods. A real tear.

Robert Bunter: It would seem to be very easy to dismiss this track, but it’s difficult to imagine Let It Be without it (Glyn John’s Get Back, anyone?) Part of the brilliance of the Beatles lies in the way the context of their brilliant career is able to elevate otherwise disposable tracks by proximity alone. That said, this song really stinks. It’s kind of hard not to conclude that George was not just holding back his ace tracks for solo work, but actively inserting a total piece of garbage into the mix as an act of deliberate sabotage. It’s possible – remember, this is filthy George Harrison we’re talking about here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mean Mr. Mustard

Robert Bunter: Paul often spoke of how the collection of song fragments that comprised the Abbey Road side two medley (or "A Huge Melody" as I call it) was put together in a stroke of creative genius by himself and staid, conservatory-trained producer George Martin. He seems to be implying that the individual building blocks wouldn't have amounted to much on their own, that his compositional genius was able to turn crap into gold, "somewhat akin to turning an assortment of interesting leftovers into a holiday feast" (Hertsgaard, 1996).

Hmmmmmm ... let's just examine Paul's immodest assertion in light of "Mean Mr. Mustard," shall we? Possibly the finest (?) song of Lennon's late '60s output, this tantalizing fragment leaves us yearning for the legendary complete, full-band, six minute outtake which is rumored to exist in my personal collection, which it does. I can't let you hear it, but if I could, you would agree that it's great and the acoustic demo version which sleazed onto the official catalogue with the release of Anthology 3 is like reading the script to Citizen Kane in braille instead of watching the movie in full-color CinemaScope at the Regal Theater in heaven.

As it stands, McCartney pared this monumental achievement down to it's barest essentials in order to make room for such grievous atrocities as "Carry That Weight" (stay tuned for further entries, I have an awful lot to say about that song) and "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window." Mean Mr. Mustard, indeed! I think maybe Paul was just trying to "ketch up" to his hot-dog songwriting partner who was truly "on a roll."

Richard Furnstein: How do you sleep at night?

I Should Have Known Better

Robert Bunter: Here's a question - why did this track appear on the ridiculous Allen Klein brainstorm Hey Jude (aka The Beatles Again) LP? Was it left off the US pressings of "A Hard Day's Night?" Let me go check; I'm not sure because even in the '60s as a young American boy I only purchased the original UK Parlophone mono from hard-to-find import shops. Hold on a sec.

Richard Furnstein: Cool, while you are off searching your Beatles/Wings/All Starr Band shelf to find out what is what, I'll talk about the actual music. BANG CLANG goes Ringo on the cymbals, the Beatles are off to work on a groovy chain gang. George is all suspense on the sweet Rickenbacker and Paul sits back and rattles his hair and big old doe eyes.

John wants to tell us about his new and exciting love, a love that "can only happen to (him)." Good for you, John. However, I question your knowledge of this "love" thing. "If this is love you gotta give me more"? Dude, you don't even know? I guess you are going to ask the girl? You are definitely going to blow the moment, you weirdo.

Robert Bunter: I'm back ... it WAS on the red US pressings. Why did this wind up on that abominable odds and sods masterpiece? Oh, you want to hear about the music? Boilerplate Lennon mush with dumb chords, formulaic lyrics, a one-note melody and overbearing"mouth organ" (!) high in the mix. It's pretty good; one thing I'll say here is that it's amazing John was able to double-track his voice so accurately. It sounds like just one guy.

Richard Furnstein: The vocals on Wire's "I Should Have Know Better" are definitely one guy. And that guy is muscular agitated bass player Graham Lewis. I guess he was the George of Wire, he seemed to be the angriest guy in the band. Terrible drum sound on that song, by the way. Ringo should have tuned them up for those guys. It could have happened, they were both in England!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Richard Furnstein: "Wait" features one of the finer blended John and Paul vocals. George has a blast with the volume knob, serving the song perfectly. The real star of the show is Ringo, who delivers one of the most insistent beats on Rubber Soul, some fun bell hits on the verse breakdowns, and a pile of excitable maracas and tambourines. It's not the finest drumming moments on a Beatles song, but "Wait" has some of the most important drums on one of their records. It's a limp fish without this beautiful nosed man.

Robert Bunter: I don't know what to say about this. Vintage perfect Lennon/McCartney from Rubber Soul. What do you want from me? I'm out of superlatives. They hadn't gone fully deep into the cosmic zones of Revolver yet, and could still offer unapologetic love lyrics like this one, adorning strong melodies and great performances. If the Beatles had stayed in this zone for the rest of their career, I wouldn't complain. Sure, we wouldn't get "Old Brown Shoe" (which is very, very nice), but think of
the benefits.

Richard Furnstein: Well, it's a tricky situation. The best case scenario is "Wait" and much of Rubber Soul. On the dark side, you get a bunch of songs like "Tell Me What You See." Sure, it's nice to build the catalog with songs like that, but nobody is getting a Hollywood loaf from TMWYS.

Yes It Is

Richard Furnstein: The song starts with "tone alone" George Harrison. The Beatles keep the tempo down so that George can keep up with fumbling with his instrument du jour (unlike his slightly out of time explorations on "I Need You" from the same sessions). Good one, George, but how about you try an instrument that you can actually play (a squelching Gretsch)?

The lyrical call to "please don't wear red tonight" suggests some heavy damage from a past relationship. John is trying to have fun but can't shake the psychological scars of past loves, a theme that drives most of his songs until he Yoko gave focus to ideas of love, self-worth and -pity, and abandonment. His brain was still an absolute mess on later songs, but he didn't play the "sad lonely guy at the party who wants to tell the beautiful chicks about his pain" card as often. And that's a step in the right direction.

Robert Bunter: John visits the lethargic, melancholy E chord musings he would later explore on "Don't Let Me Down," but here the drug making him sleepy is the relatively benign cannabis indica instead of foul brown heroin from John Hopkins and Magic Alex's seedy Greek criminal associates.

It's nice to imagine the scene: dawn creeps into the attic room at Weybridge, curlicues of smoke drifting lazily from the golden ashtray while tubby 1965 Lennon sits on an overstuffed sofa and strums his $800 blonde Guild Jumbo (a lot of money back then!) with the uncut string ends sticking out of the headstock. Take your time, John, you're not due at Abbey Road until 9:30 tonight; you can sleep all day. Just don't forget to turn on the Brunnell three-speed reel-to-reel and record a quick demo so you don't forget this beautiful piece of work. This one song will make you enough money over the years to completely support yourself and your family for the rest of your life. Smile, John. you have nothing to worry about, ever. Everything is fine. You can have a cup of tea now, if you want it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't Let Me Down

Richard Furnstein: The Beatles used b-sides in a different way than any other band. Most bands think "Great, we can dump this terrible boogie number written by the bass player on the flip of the latest single" or "Drummer got into dub? Put it on a b-side." Singles are for stupid kids who can't afford the long player, so who cares, right? I'll tell you who cared, man: THE BEATLES. They'd record a song like this, one of the best songs ever written, and then dump it on a b-side just to infuriate Jefferson Airplane and The Hollies and every other also-ran who couldn't even sniff their fumes. Then they'd laugh about it and write like thirty more killer songs. And THEN they'd have the nerve to put a bunch of subpar material on the actual album. Yer Expectations? The Beatles don't care about 'em.

Robert Bunter: It's hard not to like this funky, sultry love call. There's nothing like heroin to help you get in touch with the more pleasant aspects of dazed, heavy-eyelid semi-comatose lethargy, like Lennon does here. It's so nice to just slllllllllooooooooowly mellow out on the E chord with a bunch of tremolo on your amp and moan about your dysfunctionally co-dependent relationship with a manipulative, insane woman that you can use as a wedge to separate yourself from the Beatles and, by extension, the parts of your self that your are unable to openly confront - in the process destroying the most beautiful four-headed force for love, understanding and human communication this Earth has ever known. Self-indulgent Lennon breaks up the Beatles. You heard it here first, folks.

Richard Furnstein: I always loved the "I'm in love for the first time" bridge. It's a beautiful part/sentiment, and you know it just made Cynthia Lennon freak. "Oh, hey baby, our love wasn't actually love. Tuck in Julian for me!"

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

Richard Furnstein: Originally cut as a potential flipside to the Plastic Ono Band's "What's The New Mary Jane" single, this track was dumped as the b-side to "Let It Be" single. You'd be hard pressed to find a better five seconds than the intro to this little ball of insanity. Paul sets the template for future freak outs like "Check My Machine" and "Dark Room" while John gets to shake out the heroin dumps and try on a bunch of funny shouty British voices.

The title was based on a London post office slogan "You have their NAME? Look up their NUMBER." It's a quaint idea in the age of Facebook. The modern remix would be "I know your name, now I'm looking at photos of you in a bathing suit at your cousin's graduation party last summer."

Robert Bunter: James Paul McCartney (as I call him) has cited "You Know My Name" as his favorite Beatles track, and that just makes perfect sense. This was the song where they let it all hang out, allowing the listener to experience the Beatles as goofy human buddies, rather than the transcendent masters of the universe that they seemed to be on cuts like "A Day In The Life" and "Hey Jude." Those tracks force us to regard them with awe; "You Know My Name" invites us to regard them with affection.

Richard Furnstein: Denis O'Dell, a film producer on A Hard Day's Night, was apparently tortured by people calling his house. Just imagine the menace of angry drugged out hippies calling your home at three in the morning because of a pop record. That's what you get for having a cool name, Denny!

Robert Bunter: But let's not allow the funky horseplay to overshadow the fact this this song is supreme killer Beatle genius music from start to finish. The shouted chorus is vintage acidhead Lennon, taking a mundane phrase and imbuing it with pregnant shades of meaning. The chord progression strikes a brilliant balance between trad jazz conventions and the type of root-motion harmonic cleverness that made "Hey Bulldog" so nice to hear. Ringo's drums, Brian Jones' sax's all classic. One question: where's George?

Run For Your Life

Richard Furnstein: It's easy to point fingers at this one; bespectacled peacenik Lennon is threatening violence if his lady cheats. Sure, it's a little creepy, and you can't even pass this one off as romantic devotion because he delivers the lyric with a pronounced sneer. I still think it's notable because it is an about face from his wounded weeper lyrical approach that dominates the first couple years of the Beatles' recorded output (see "I'll Cry Instead," "I Call Your Name," "Ask Me Why," and countless others). John needed to get this one out of his system to go into the acid-filtered light. No "Run For Your Life"? Fine, but you don't get "All You Need Is Love," jack. This is the first primal scream.

Robert Bunter: Lennon was rightfully ashamed of this slight, misogynistic Elvis ripoff. There are many people who have had difficult childhoods which left them with trust issues manifesting themselves in hostility towards women, but that doesn't mean we all run around threatening to cut their heads off.

Richard Furnstein: The stereo version deserves some attention here. The entire band is chugging along in the left channel, while the bass and John's lead primarily sit in the right channel. There's a great moment where you hear the band track in the vocal channel at the start of the song, presumably when John approached the microphone. Points should go to this song for George's solo and John's delivery on "toe the line" and the word "dead (at 1:22). Great outro, too.

Robert Bunter: Additional points deducted for the stupid tambourine part. The Beatles revolutionary use of the tambourine is a frequently overlooked aspect of their brilliant arrangements, but here it seems that Ringo couldn't be bothered to do more than the old shake-and=slap. Likewise, Paul offers nothing worth mentioning with his elementary one-five bass part. Unquestionably the low-point of the otherwise-competent "Rubber Soul" LP.

Richard Furnstein: Oh weird, your copy doesn't come with "What Goes On"? You should contact EMI ASAP to get that taken care of.