Friday, February 8, 2013

Matchbox

Richard Furnstein: "Matchbox" is a lonesome hitchhiker's lament. Ringo stands by the side of the road, thinking about what brought him to this place. He's closer than home than his destination, and he's not even sure if she's waiting for him when he finally gets there. All he has is a name and address on a scrap of paper in his wallet. Why would she give him her address if she didn't want him to visit. He sang to himself while shuffling down the tall grass: "If you don't want Ringo's peaches, honey, please don't mess around my tree." It sounded good and all was right. The sun felt like noon. It's a million miles to dinner, friend. A beat up truck speeds by our weary traveler. The driver never even looked at poor Ringo. 

Robert Bunter: The lyrics are a collection of blues clich├ęs that date back to the turn of the last century, maybe earlier – “poor boy / long way from home,” “wondering if a matchbox would hold my clothes,” “if you don’t like my peaches” and “let me be your little dog ‘till your big dog comes” are all part of the standard repertoire. So there’s Ringo, sitting by the side of the road and lamenting his lot in life. Woman troubles. Oldest story in the book. Mistakes have been made; of course they have. Hers or his? Maybe the fault lies with Fate, written into the great big book in the sky where some damn fool dreamed up the plot of this crazy one-way street called life. Ol’ Ringo’s scraping the bottom of his personal barrel and there’s not much left in the tank. Someone once said “The blues ain’t nothing but a good man feeling bad,” but where does that leave Ringo? He wasn’t that good.  

Richard Furnstein: Quotable Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez (great baseball name, but non-Latino) once famously said, "I'd rather be lucky than good." Hell, I'd rather be Ringo than lucky, because Ringo is both lucky and good. Is there any other word to describe his life than lucky? From the Rory Storm days to an aging Ringo goofing off with Todd Rundgren at the Iowa State Fair, he remains a solid basher, a competent howler, and a moody charmer. Ringo is just a lucky man in a cruel world. Yet, he gave "Matchbox" his all, but it's still just a D-side on a relatively forgotten Beatles release.

Someone once said “The blues ain’t nothing but a good man feeling bad,” but where does that leave Ringo? He wasn’t that good.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, but it’s fun. The lyrics are downcast but Ringo’s irrepressible double-tracked vocal is the sound of energy and joie de vive. Usually the Beatles’ Ringo showcases involved the three superior talents of the band propping up their hapless, affable drummer, but on “Matchbox” we must award the MVP honor to Ringo. His drumwork and vocals are the only things to really recommend this one; the others are just phoning it in with some blues-by-numbers guitar lines and piano pounding. Even George Martin’s production is lackluster … the stereo mix of “Matchbox” belongs in the Worst Beatles Mixes Ever Hall of Shame along with the queasy mono “Your Mother Should Know.”  

Richard Furnstein: The stereo is an absolute mess. It's probably one of the most disorienting mixes of the early years. The inoffensive backing track is split across the stereo image to heighten the abrasive tone of the cymbals and George's 12 string electric. Listen to those cymbals collapse into the left channel during John's putrid guitar solo. Absolutely terrible job, EMI braintrust. The mono version is a huge improvement.

You are right, Ringo's voice is the only real highlight of this one. He's using his man's voice on "Matchbox," providing an interesting contrast to the puppy dog/poor boy lyrics. He never dips below a holler, so it's a relief that the song flashes off at the two minute mark. The mono version has a softer treatment of Ringo's locomotive vocal.

Robert Bunter: I’m pulling for a revival of this on the next All-Starr Band tour, maybe we can get Kenny Wayne Sheppard to play some blues.

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