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Monday, October 24, 2011

Long Tall Sally

The boys with Little Richard
The EP was a curious format.  It was the same size as a single, but it contained two tracks per side.  Parlophone Records issued twelve EPs by the Beatles during the first half of the group's career, usually containing previously released material - except in this instance.  The sessions that had produced the songs for A Hard Day's Night had been especially productive.  The Beatles had managed to record more than enough numbers for a full album and so, it was decided that an EP of all-new tracks could be released in advance of the soundtrack.

Long Tall Sally - The Beatles had played on the same bill as Little Richard, one of their rock and roll heroes, on more than one occasion in 1962.  Paul had already been singing Little Richard songs for years, but he still took the opportunity to get some vocal coaching from the master.  By the time they get around to recording this number, Paul has it down to a science.  As they had done with Twist and Shout, the Beatles and producer George Martin (on piano) are able to capture this performance in only one take, live in the studio.  Paul's vocal attack is electric, setting a frantic pace that dares the band to keep up.  The excitement builds even higher in George's second guitar break as the band climbs up together with uncanny precision.  And as Paul screams towards the finish line, Ringo lets loose with a flurry on his drum kit until the whole thing screeches to a halt.  Another breathless two-minute performance.

I Call Your Name - By the middle of 1963, the songwriting wares of Lennon and McCartney were already in demand.  This song by Lennon was given at that time to Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, another Liverpool band under Brian Epstein's management.  Now, John decided that the Beatles should record it, as well.  As with You Can't Do That, the first sound we hear is George's 12-string Rickenbacker.  John sings the title line solo, then is double-tracked for the rest of the song.  The instrumental break is quite peculiar, and it is years before Lennon states in an interview that it is the Beatles attempting ska.  If this is true, it is astonishing.  In 1964, ska was hardly known outside of Kingston, Jamaica.  How the Beatles could even have been aware of it is puzzling, unless they heard it in Miami on their first American visit.

The above two numbers were recorded on March 1st, 1964, during the sessions that yielded the songs for the film soundtrack.  A month later, Capitol Records was allowed to release them on The Beatles' Second Album, marking the first of several times that songs would be debuted in the US market.

Slow Down - Larry Williams is not exactly a household name in the pantheon of rock and rollers, but the sailors of Liverpool must have brought plenty of his records back to the Beatles' hometown, because John Lennon was a big fan of the American.  The group would wind up recording three of his compositions in less than a year's time.  This one is a basic, driving rocker which they had been performing for years.  It is just as much of a screamer for John as Long Tall Sally is for Paul, and gives us some of the longest instrumental stretches that they have played to date.  George Martin once again adds piano to the mix, overdubbing it a few days after the group session.

Matchbox - Carl Perkins, on the other hand, is one of the seminal rock and rollers.  He wrote and recorded Blue Suede Shoes before Elvis turned it into a monster hit.  To a man, the Beatles loved Perkins and his rockabilly style, but none of them more than Ringo.  His first two turns at the microphone had been face-paced rockers, but now, the drummer finds his niche.  Perkins was actually in the studio to witness this recording, which must have been a bit nerve-wracking for the boys, but they turned in a fine performance nonetheless.  George loved playing in this style, and he would get to do much more of it before year's end.  Martin plays piano yet again, live this time.

These last two items were recorded on June 1st, 1964, during sessions for the non-soundtrack side of the album.  Capitol Records added them to the album Something New in July.  A month later, they released them as a single, with Slow Down reaching number twenty-five and Matchbox peaking at number seventeen.  Matchbox was chosen to be the A-side.  Why?  Because the most popular Beatle in America was Ringo, of course.

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