Thursday, February 6, 2014

59. Meet the Beatles (1964) The Beatles

Meet the Beatles was America's 1964 attempt to catch up with the Fab Four. By the start of 1964 The Beatles had released two huge selling full length albums and some hit singles in the UK and finally the Americans were starting to realise that the guys over the pond had something that might be worth hearing.

Consequently Capitol Records, who had the US rights to The Beatles catalogue, sat down with the master tapes of everything the Beatles released in 1963 which they were then able to cherry pick for a US album release. Rather than just submit Please Please Me and With the Beatles for their nation's approval, they decided to create their own compilation tape which is basically most of With The Beatles with singles tacked on the front.

Here's my review Track by Track (with some comments shamelessly cut and pasted from my earlier review of With the Beatles, my views haven't changed)

1. I Want to Hold Your Hand

Isn't that sweet? The Beatles want to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones want to do all sorts of nasty things to you involving Mars Bars but the Beatles want to tentatively reach out to your hand and clasp it tightly but nervously in theirs. It's nonsense of course. The Beatles were much more interested in other body parts and were just as horny as the Stones but had better suits and a manager who kept saying "Don't look sexual" before every interview.

Still it might be an untrue sentiment but damn it's a good song. I want to Hold your Hand was the first song that made America sit up and realise what they were missing. It's a slice of perfect pop and incredibly infectious. It's no surprise that US audiences heard it and thought: "We want more!"

2. I Saw Her Standing There

And there was more. All they had to do was flip over the single and find the other A-side. I saw her Standing there was the flipside of I Want to Hold your Hand which proved they weren't just a one hit wonder. UK audiences had already enjoyed Standing as the opening track on their first album. Standing is just perfect. From it's raucous opening to "Well my heart went boom" and everything else in between. It's just joyous and it sounds great on a crap old radio or a shiny new system or headphones or even in your own voice in the shower.

3. This Boy

America's first chance to really appreciate the famous Beatles harmonies. John, Paul and George lift what might have been a fairly average tune into something much greater through the use of their vocal harmonising. Full credit to George Martin here for teaching the boys how harmony worked. They picked up their live performing skills in Hamburg but the clubs they played in weren't really the best venue to learn close harmony in.

4. It Won't Be Long

A With the Beatles song that John wrote to try and replicate the success of She Loves you. This song is so damn… Beatley. A catchy chorus, harmonies, yeah yeahs. It even finished with a big “oooo” sound the likes of which drove kids wild. You might not know it but if I played it in your house you could identify the authors within the first four bars and your toes would be tapping four bars later. The album version is Take 17 with some overdubs recorded in the same day.

5. All I've Got to Do

A song John wrote two years earlier and had lying around before digging out for With the Beatles. A slower number but still oozing fab-fourness. If beatleness was liquid this would flood your bedroom before the second verse started and you’d have a great time drowning. They laid down the entire track in under an hour. After a few false starts they played the track six times, chose the best version, recorded an overdubed backing vocal in one take and then moved onto something else.

6. All My Loving

This is 50 years old but it’s fresh and sparkly and new and fab every time you hear it. Try not to sing along. Go on try! Put your hand over your mouth and clench your teeth and try not to join in. Futile isn’t it? Paul wrote the lyrics while shaving and then later put it to music. They recorded it in the same session that produced It won't Be Long with only 13 takes required.

7. Don't Bother Me

A rare Harrison original. Early on in his career George couldn't write as well as the others but in only a few short years he was cranking out something like Something which is really something. It’s like great song-writing is contagious and over constant exposure to two carriers George caught it (but somehow Ringo was immune). Unlike most of the rest of the album, the Beatles took two days to record this track instead of one. They weren't happy with it after a run through on September 11th so they returned to it on the 12th. The final version on the album is Take 15 which they overdubbed with Claves, tambourine and bongos. Personally I prefer Take 10 without any overdubs at all.

8.  Little Child

For the Beatles this is just an album filler but for any other act in the sixties an original composition like this would have been an instant single. And it would have charted as well. I may be spoiling some illusions here when I tell you that this track is constructed rather than performed. The basic take was taken from the seventh take. They then included some harmonica from the 13th take, the harmonica solo from take 18 and some piano from take 15. They were talented guys but John had yet to master singing while playing the harmonica at the same time.

9. Till There Was You

The Beatles were so damn good they could even cover tunes from musicals and make them rock. That’s true talent. This song is a ditty. I don’t know what makes a ditty and what makes a song but this is definitely in the ditty camp. Paul’s voice suits it perfectly and George’s solo is so good there were many who assumed it was played by a session musician. Thankfully the band included it in their live repertoire which gave George a chance to prove who was really responsible. The take on the album is from the second session they attempted this track but I prefer live versions without overdubs. Surprisingly this is the only cover on Meet the Beatles. Considering how definitive their renditions of Twist and Shout and Money are you'd think they would have included them instead of some of the lesser tracks like Little Child but instead they were left off. Odd.

10. Hold Me Tight

The lowest point on the album. An unconvincing song that Paul sings without any sense of conviction. It’s like he knows this isn't going to make it on the album. Imagine his surprise when it did. The band actually tried to record this for their first album but decided it wasn't worth pursuing. I wonder what made them change their mind a few months later? I've got a version which has been remixed slightly Out Of Phase which highlights the bass but still does nothing to redeem it as a song.

11. I Wanna Be Your Man

A song that Lennon and McCartney knocked off quickly in the presence of the Rolling Stones who were trying to learn to be song writers. They gave it to Jagger and Richards as a gift and then to Ringo as his song to sing on the album. Letting Ringo out from behind the drums for one song on every album was a masterstroke- he always sang as if he was so happy just to be given a microphone.To be honest he was probably thrilled to be in the band at all. He strikes me as the sort of guy who would be delighted just to be let into a lift. The version included on the album was recorded within a week of it being finished. I prefer live versions recorded later when the band and Ringo were more confident and capable of making it rock.

12. Not A Second Time

More piano than in the other tracks and a nice showcase for George Martin, the fifth Beatle and justifiably the most famous record producer who ever lived (or at least the most famous record producer who didn't attract fame by killing people). This track is the source of the famous Aeolian Cadences quote that gets mentioned a lot. A music critic from The Times praised John's songwriting especially his use of Aeolian Cadences. John said years later that he still had no idea of what an Aeolian Cadence actually was, claiming they sounded to him like a kind of exotic bird. It's a great example of how the Beatles caused professional music critics to witter about their abilities even though they had no formal musical training.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "The Beatles are arguably the most over-rated band in the world."

-Whenever I read a review that starts like that I immediately stop reading.

So are you happy to meet the Beatles or not? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. 50 years old now. Name any band of the last few years that we will be listening to in 50 years time. Wow , I still remember the first time I heard Standing & All My Loving.
    That feeling of excitement is still real. Oddly enough it was at a CMS youth camp and I was 13. Oooo.