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Monday, November 14, 2011


Eight Days a Week - The first time they flipped over the album, many British fans may have thought there was something wrong with the volume control on their record player.  Adding yet another innovation to their already-impressive list, the Beatles' guitars actually fade in to this delightful pop song.  But, as you can hear on Anthology 1, they attempted numerous vocal intros to the song before coming up with this idea.  They also altered the way they sang the word "week," opting to go down a few notes at the end of the line rather than up.  Composed by McCartney, this is the first of four Lennon-McCartney duets on side two.  And though the song is Paul's, it is John's voice that is dominant in the mix.  Like No Reply and I'm a Loser, this song was under consideration to be a single until John came up with I Feel Fine.

And, in fact, Capitol Records in the US held this recording back for a few months and did release it as a single in February of 1965.  It became the first single created by the American company to go to number one.

Words of Love - The earliest existing recording of the group dates from 1958, when they were still known as the Quarrymen.  John, Paul, George, John Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums pooled their money and went to a local house in Liverpool where you could record two songs and walk out with a 78rpm disc.  The song they chose for the A-side was That'll Be the Day by Buddy Holly, with John singing lead and Paul harmonizing.  Six years later, they made their one and only official recording of a Buddy Holly tune.  John and Paul sing this as a duet, John singing about as low as he possibly can in his vocal register.  This is pure rockabilly and features George playing an incredibly twangy guitar part.  According to the liner notes, instead of the drums, Ringo plays a packing case!

Honey Don't - For the second time in a row, Ringo sings a Carl Perkins tune for his vocal spotlight.  George turns in another fine rockabilly guitar performance, with Ringo urging him on before each break - "Aw, rock on, George, for Ringo one time."  This material suits Ringo so well that it seems hard to imagine that John used to sing this number in their live set, but you can actually hear him do it on Live at the BBC.  And, as blasphemous as it may seem, I have to admit that I prefer Ringo's version over John's.

Every Little Thing - The third Lennon/McCartney duet on side two is this lesser known but wonderful little pop number which has a bit of mystery about it.  Whenever John or Paul sat down over the years to talk with interviewers about who wrote what, neither one of them laid a real claim to this song.  And when I listen to it, I lean first one way, then the other, because it contains elements of each songwriter.  Ultimately, I give up and simply enjoy it for what it is.  Paul adds a bit of piano to the track, but the biggest delight is Ringo on timpani.

I Don't Want to Spoil the Party - The final duet is a composition by Lennon with a strong country flavor to it.  George's guitar sounds as twangy as it did on Words of Love earlier on this side.  John and Paul alternate high and low harmonies between the verses and the bridge, creating a nice variety to their vocal blend.  And George even joins Paul for brief backing vocals as John sings one solo line near the end of each verse.

Capitol Records chose this song to be the B-side of Eight Days a Week in the US.

What You're Doing - Another lesser known gem is this number by McCartney.  For starters, it opens with a true rarity - four bars of just Ringo setting the beat.  Then the band enters with George playing a repeating riff that is simpler but equally as catchy as the one in I Feel Fine.  The bridge features Paul seizing the opportunity to absolutely soar vocally - a beautiful moment.  George turns in a fine guitar break, but underneath his line George Martin adds an oddly out-of-place piano part which Tim Riley terms "razzmatazz."  At the end of the song, Ringo goes solo again for a few bars before Paul adds a brief bass solo and the band reenters for the fade out.

Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby - Martin closes out the side with this rousing Carl Perkins number, which also happens to be George Harrison's one and only lead vocal on the album.  This is another one-take performance by the band, since the song had been a staple of their live act for years.  For some reason, there is a huge amount of echo put on George's vocal, but it doesn't much matter because the real focus here is on his rockabilly guitar chops.  He has been putting them on display for most of the album, and this song gives him one last stab at paying his respects to one of his idols.

A remarkable performance of this number appears on Anthology 2 from the historic concert at Shea Stadium in 1965.  The guitar sound is much heavier due to the greater-than-normal amplification system which still managed to be ineffective in the face of 55,000 screaming fans who were drowning out the jets taking off and landing at nearby LaGuardia Airport.  Still, George and the rest of the Beatles somehow manage to deliver a decent rendition under such unprecedented conditions.

In the US, the two Carl Perkins cover versions appeared on the album Beatles '65.  The remaining songs were all featured on the compilation album Beatles VI released in June of 1965.

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