Monday, November 3, 2014

I Wanna Be Your Man

Richard Furnstein: "I Wanna Be Your Man" is a sub-ape of a song with few redeeming qualities. It's a simple Ringo shouter in the vein of "Boys" and "Matchbox." The primal bashing and overworked cymbals can't make up for it's lack of depth and sonic shortcomings. The Lennon/McCartney composition was originally released by The Rolling Stones as their second single. It sure was nice of John and Paul to offer those illiterate hairdos some scraps as they were finishing another songwriting genius buffet. "Oh, you lippy chaps are hungry for some material? Why, have this throwaway tune that we were going to give to our tone deaf, childlike drummer." I guess Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were scared of being left behind in the new age of original rock compositions because they gratefully scarfed up that lean meal.

John and Paul later disagreed on the origins of the tune. Paul claimed that they worked it up from a Paul snippet with the purpose of providing a song for Ringo to sing on the second Beatles album. The song was the provided to The Rolling Stones when they requested a Lennon/McCartney composition to release as a single. John claims that "I Wanna Be Your Man" was written in front of the Stones. Imagine the look of humiliation on Mick's face when John and Paul were squeezing out this one in five minutes. "Wanna learn how to write songs? GRUNT, SPLASH, FLUSH." This is a better story and it seems like a classic Lennon ego trip. As a result, I'm more inclined to believe Paul's tale.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, Lennon was often inclined to embellish his memories so as to cast himself and The Beatles in a more flattering light. Furthermore, he seems to have had a real chip on his shoulder about the way The Rolling Stones were cleverly marketed by funnily-named Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham as the raw, bad-boy alternative to the squeaky-clean Beatles. The public image of the Beatles was drinking tea in genteel train cars with grandfathers and warbling “Til There Was You,” while the ‘Stones were getting arrested for urinating on gas station pumps when the attendant wouldn’t let them use the facilities. John resented manager Brian Epstein’s attempt to clean up The Beatles’ raucous leather jacket and hair grease image with collarless suits and bouncy smiles, and there were multiple times through the years where John took the opportunity to damn the Stones with faint praise, or even slag them off outright, as in the infamous 1971 Jann Wenner confessional. I’m not going to repeat what he said about Jagger’s dancing here because it was so mean. Paul was not above the same shenanigans. I seem to recall reading about a special listening party organized by The Rolling Stones to debut their latest release before an intimate crowd of beautiful rich hippie socialites and music industry cognoscenti. Of course, Paul comes walking in with an acetate of The Beatles’ latest single and he just happens to slip it to the paisley-eyed dandy who was operating the DJ station. “Oh, here’s our latest, maybe give it a spin and see what you think, wot?” and it was all seven minutes and eleven seconds of “Hey Jude.” We can only imagine how sour Mick’s roast mutton platter tasted after THAT humiliation. He sulked and pouted but no one could tell because who can tell if Mick Jagger is pouting? Meanwhile, Brian Jones went right home and almost drowned in his swimming pool. I’m sorry but these are the specific true facts.

Richard Furnstein: The Stones really did an excellent job on "I Wanna Be Your Man." It's got a great runaway motor take on the familiar Chuck Berry putt-putt. Brian Jones sounds very much alive on this track, harnessing some harrowing voodoo visions from his slide guitar. Mick Jagger's got a great rough presence on this. He may be pretty, but he's all man. Charlie Watts is reliable and steady in the back as usual. I imagine he smiled once during the recording and the rest of the Stones were relieved to see their elderly friend have some loose boogie fun. "Lookie Watts, e's 'alving a lark!" Bill Wyman sits back in the mix and just paddles swamp water everywhere. Sure, the guy was a Grade A dirtbag IRL, but he sure knew how to have fun on stage. Five stars. They totally make up for the crash and clamor of The Beatles' version.

Robert Bunter: Yeah, when you think about it, it’s funny that the Beatles had this muscular helping of Bo Diddley garage punk earmarked for droopy, short Ringo. He was the Beatles’ obligatory man-child, the template for every subsequent boy-band aimed at the screaming pre-teen demographic. These eleven-year-olds need a Davy Jones or a Joey McIntyre on which to focus the nascent storm of primal energy aroused by the driving rhythms and sweet sugar melodies without the threatening manic patter of a Mickey Dolenz or the broody, simian sulk of a Danny Wood. The more obvious physical appeal of dominant John, matinee idol Paul and sullen George were too frightening; Ringo presented the safe alternative of the runt. He was a full two feet shorter than the other Beatles and his droopy facial features and enormous nose suggested nothing so much as a damp, castrated Saint Bernard. The surging confidence of “I Wanna Be Your Man” would have worn poorly on any of the other three. Ringo was able to deliver the lyric like a cute kid reciting the lurid lyrics to  his favorite song on YouTube. How funny that in real life, he was guzzling Scotch and shaving four times daily just to beat back the beard.
Brian Jones went right home and almost drowned in his swimming pool. I’m sorry but these are the specific true facts.

Richard Furnstein: You can definitely see why The Beatles were determined to showcase their precious little sideshow attraction. You have to give the people a show: a little song, a little dance, and a little humor. Ringo was a flawed goofball there to lighten the mood. Even the name Ringo appeals to children while giving something for the older generation to lampoon. Listen to the broadcasters on The Beatles Live At The BBC collections treat him like a child. It's like Bring Your Ringo To Work Day. Sit in the corner and don't make too much noise, Young Richard.

Robert Bunter: He was game. Ringo went along with the program and played the fool. The Ringo showcase slot would remain a charming feature on almost every subsequent Beatle record. The high point was “With A Little Help From My Friends” on Sgt. Pepper, a fine song in its own right and a perfect complement for the hapless drummer’s irresistible charm. The nadir, of course, was “Yellow Submarine,” which stinks up the otherwise sublime Revolver LP with his tuneless ode to an improbable contraption and the worst sound effects since Mel Blanc tripped on a duck and fell into a pile of bicycle horns. Honk honk! “I Wanna Be Your Man” is a bad deal and just barely warrants its inclusion in the Beatles’ catalog. No doubt it will be included in some future irreverent “Worst Of The Beatles” bootleg, along with “All Together Now,” “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Meat City (original 1966 demo).”

Richard Furnstein: Lo! I would still cherish that turd vessel and file it gently next to my copies of Press, Ringo's Rotogravure, and the John Lennon acoustic collection that has him playing a stupid Ovation Guitar on the cover.