Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not A Second Time

Robert Bunter: The black-and-white Beatles. Four young men re-writing the rules and laughing every step of the way. Dark overcoats, gloomy London fog and minor-key tonalities somehow seemed bright and joyous when the moptops did it. “Not A Second Time,” like all of the other songs on With The Beatles, finds our heroes on the glorious cusp of much greater things – so much so that it’s difficult not to see these early triumphs as little more than appetizers for impending glorious entrees (like the bathtub scene in Hard Day’s Night, “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party,” the Sgt. Pepper's insert badges, Rubber Soul, the picture on the back of the Revolver sleeve,  the Penny Lane promo film, the Maureen Cleave interviews, “Hey Bulldog,” the White Album, the Apple boutique, Paul-Is-Dead rumors and, lord help us, “Old Brown Shoe”). But the wonderful “Not A Second Time” deserves to be appreciated on its own terms.

Richard Furnstein: I'll tell you what, I would run a "Great Lost Beatles Songs!" feature if I was a British music magazine editor. And you know what would be at the top of the list? Well, probably "Woman," a McCartney composition for Peter and Gordon (under the pseudonym Bernard Webb). Number two would definitely be "Not A Second Time." It takes a little digging to get to this one. It's buried deep in the With The Beatles tracklist and initially appears like a minor composition next to George's hair shaking reading of "Devil In Her Heart" and John ripping the house apart with "Money." "Not A Second Time" is John in a familiar early setting: perfect girl group melodies devoted to how women are the source of all of his pain. It's a reliable formula, and I think "Not A Second Time" is the best of the John songs about weeping. "My cry is through/Oh whoa oh!" might be my favorite couplet in all of Lennonland.

I’ll tell you what: I’d be bobbing my head up and down really hard and asking George for a cigarette. I don’t even smoke!

Robert Bunter: Yeah, all the usual ingredients are here – the lurching beat, piano embellishments, clever chord movement, tearful lyrics, double-tracked Lennon-moans. The thing is, those “usual ingredients” are “delicious” and I would love to “eat” them at every single “meal.” You can really hear the studio ambience on this recording, which makes it easy to picture yourself there with them, in the room. I’ll tell you what: I’d be bobbing my head up and down really hard and asking George for a cigarette. I don’t even smoke! Here’s something that’s great about this song: the fade-out. John has already served us a fully satisfying dish, and we’re ready to call for the check and gather our cloak from the lobby hangers. But what’s this? Dessert! An extra little section that evokes the rest of the song without repeating it. Thank you so much, Mr. Lennon. I plan to tip handsomely.

Richard Furnstein: It's all in the spirit of the season, my old friend. Lennon is breaking bread with us. He was a fool. Hell, he is the first to admit it! But let's realize that he's learned his lesson. Oh wait, now he's crying again in the outro. Listen, John. We're here if you need us. Forget about your girl troubles and pass the gravy.

Robert Bunter: Sorry guys. I've already eaten all the gravy.

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