Tag Archives: Beatles For Sale

Rocks In The Attic #355: The Beatles – ‘With The Beatles’ (1963)

RITA#355Of the three Beatles records with a 60/40 split between originals and covers, this one has to be my favourite. I’m not too fond of some of the covers on Please Please Me and Beatles For Sale. The latter album always feels rushed – which it was – although you can hear how strong their original material was becoming on that record. With The Beatles gets the balance just right.

At this point, they’re still very much a band with everything to prove. They’d soon be on the crest of a wave, but here they’re still paddling their hardest to get there. In an opener like It Won’t Be Long, you can see how the world fell in love with their optimism. Post-war austerity’s days were numbered. There’s a section in the Beatles Anthology TV series where It Won’t Be Long is used to soundtrack some footage of the band on a British seaside holiday. They’re all wearing old-style bathing suits, and having a blast of a time. It was probably one of the last holidays where they could live a relatively normal life without being mobbed.

One of my main gripes about their first record is that some of the covers seem to be a little on the soft side – worlds apart from the leather-clad rockers they started as. Still, one of my favourite songs on this second album is Till There Was You­ – not only a cover, but one of the soppiest love ballads you’re ever likely to hear. I think by this time though, they’re making everything they touch their own thing. It seems so perfect for McCartney, he might as well have written it. Six months later with the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night he had the mastered the process with And I Love Her. Silly Love Songs was only just around the corner.

Of course, the really amusing thing about this record is that they made Ringo out to look like a midget on the cover…

Hit: All My Loving

Hidden Gem: Till There Was You

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Rocks In The Attic #349 Bob Dylan – ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ (1964)

RITA#349I like this stage of Dylan’s back catalogue: completely solo, pre-electric, and just before his fame got in the way. But Another Side is probably my least favourite of his first four albums. To me, it’s his Beatles For Sale – he sounds stuck in a rut with nothing particularly innovative on offer. A change of direction is on the horizon, but not just yet. Well, at least he didn’t resort to rewriting children’s nursery rhymes like Lennon and McCartney did in their desperation to get an album together in time for Christmas 1964.

I’ve just watched the latest Coen brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis – about a struggling folk singer in New York’s Greenwich Village in the early ‘60s. As well as a perfect of the time novelty song – Please Mr. Kennedy – which I laughed at more than anything else I’ve seen in a long time, I really enjoyed the ending of the film where (SPOILER ALERT!) Dylan is glanced at, just as the film’s titular protagonist is about to give it all up and missing out while folk explodes into mainstream America.

There’s an element of openness to the ending that I liked. You don’t get to fully find out whether Davis calls it a day. In the final scene, he gets a beating for heckling a performer the night before, and that might be enough for some people to think twice about their options. But Davis’ character was loosely based on Dave Van Ronk, a contemporary of Dylan’s, who did go on to have a career in the folk boom of the mid- to late-‘60s, although nowhere nearly as successful.

I like to think that Davis didn’t quit – but maybe that’s the muso optimist in me. In the past I’ve had to quit a few things as a guitarist – some bands, some partnerships. Sometimes you just have to. The regretful thing is that I feel by moving to New Zealand, I’ve quit being a musician completely. I looked into joining / starting a band when I first moved here, but I could never find any other like-minded people. Everybody just wanted to play New Zealand music. Musicians here are blinded by a parochial mindset that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

There is good Kiwi music out there, but it’s few and far between. That’s why nobody outside of New Zealand has ever heard of Dave Dobbyn or Anika Moa. Even Shihad are at best a whisper of a memory in the minds of overseas rock fans. World famous in New Zealand is just that – it’s mean to be an amusing way of embracing the country’s size and limitations, but it ends up being Kiwi music’s epitaph. And why would that ever change? The most successful musical export of this country was Crowded House – a band so to blame for putting New Zealand into the artistic middle-of-the-road, that it’s not surprising that foreign drivers have so much difficulty remembering to drive on the left when they get here. Even tall poppies like Lorde are derided by Kiwi music critics, because her music is so typically un-Kiwi, and how dare she achieve worldwide fame without playing barbeque reggae or singing about Dominion Road.

Still…Slice Of Heaven, what a tune!

Hit: It Ain’t Me Babe

Hidden Gem: I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)

Rocks In The Attic #237: The Beatles – ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964)

RITA#237Arguably the first classic Beatles record, and definitely the first one where the band seems to be firing on all cylinders, this is a great thirty minutes of music.

I’ve heard it said before that this was the first pop record where all of the material was written by its performers, and I’m not so sure about such a claim. I’d even doubt it was the first record by a beat group to be fully self-composed. Surely not…

Another thing I’ve read in the odd book or magazine is that one way of quantifying The Beatles’ classic period is their output between the crashing G chord that opens this album, and the crashing E chord that closes Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That’s too overly simplistic for me – there’s a fair bit of fluff between those two moments, and far too much good stuff on either side, especially after 1967, for it to make any sense.

The strength of this album really shows how weak its follow-up, Beatles For Sale, is. That album really comes across as a shuffle sideways, and shows a band falling back on safe material – rock and roll covers – back from even their Hamburg days.  If they’d have had time to compose a second album as strong as this in 1964, we might have another five or six Beatlemania-era Lennon & McCartney songs in the Beatles songbook.

Lennon’s output on this album is very strong, and I think possibly his strongest album in terms of compositions versus McCartney. I remember at one dull point during university, I counted the number of Lennon songs and McCartney songs on each album, and this album marks Lennon’s strongest count, with McCartney’s strongest period during Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour when Lennon had become disillusioned with the idea of being a pop star.

Hit: A Hard Day’s Night

Hidden Gem: Any Time At All

Rocks In The Attic #49: The Beatles – ‘Beatles For Sale’ (1964)

Rocks In The Attic #49: The Beatles - ‘Beatles For Sale’ (1964)The fourth Beatles album – also known as the ‘haphazardly-put-together-between-tours-to-get-it-out-in-time-for-Christmas’ album – and for me, just as good as the albums on either side of it.

I read somewhere that Eight Days A Week is notable as the first ever pop song with a faded-in intro. Now, I don’t know if that’s true – I’m sure whoever came up with that fact hadn’t listened to every pop song that came before this, but it does seem a little unlikely. Especially since the way recording had progressed from single takes into multitracking. With single takes, it’s far more likely that a song would be faded in at the start. Anyway, who knows? Or cares?

I sometime have great difficulty picking the ‘Hidden Gem’ on albums to detail at the foot of these blogs, but with Beatles For Sale it was too easy. The McCartney song What You’re Doing is so underrated – essentially unknown – that it’s almost criminal.

It’s also worth mentioning I Feel Fine (b/w She’s A Woman) which was released a week before this album – a great single, with a lead-guitar riff setting the template for rock music, and proof again that they were starting to get better and better at capturing the excitement of their live performances in the studio.

Hit: Eight Days A Week

Hidden Gem: What You’re Doing