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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ticket to Ride b/w Yes It Is

Another year, another movie, another batch of soundtrack songs to be recorded.  The first, on February 15th, 1965 was Ticket to Ride.

Lennon wrote this finely-crafted pop number, which features a few distinctive touches as recorded by the Beatles.  The first is the towering guitar riff, kicking off yet another single with an ear-catching hook.  The second is the lopsided drum pattern played by Ringo, but suggested by Paul.  It is not until the first bridge that the drums shift into standard 4/4 time.  Yet another novelty is that Paul plays lead guitar in addition to bass and, of course, adds his usual superb high harmonies to John's lead vocal.

In one of his final interviews for Playboy in 1980, Lennon called Ticket to Ride "one of the earliest heavy metal records made."  I would call that quite a stretch, but it is interesting to note that the verses are only one chord almost all the way through, creating something of a droning effect - and this slightly in advance of their awareness of, and influence by, Indian music. 

Director Richard Lester used this song for the most memorable musical sequence in the film, even better than the Can't Buy Me Love sequence in A Hard Days' Night.  And yet, today, it would be unthinkable to take the biggest act in the world (which the Beatles unquestionably were at the time), bring them to the Austrian Alps and put them on a ski slope (only Ringo had ever even been on skis before) and have them cavort in front of the cameras, risking life and limb.  

Although Lennon wrote Yes It Is for consideration for the soundtrack, it was quickly relegated to the B-side of this single.  That is not to say that it is in any way a lesser song, as we have already looked at several high-quality B-sides.  It simply did not fit the mood of any of the scenes as conceived by Lester.

Yes It Is is a composition in the same vein as This Boy.  John, Paul and George sing the verses in three-part harmony, then a double-tracked John sings the soaring bridge.  This lovely piece is enhanced by a new toy that George Harrison began using in the studio at this session.  Known at the time as a tone pedal, the device soon became known to all guitarists as the wah-wah pedal.  But while most guitarists would use the wah-wah in a spectacular fashion, George wisely elected to use it in a restrained and subtle way on this delicate track.  Not knowing exactly how the sound was being produced at the time, I came to believe that he was drawing a bow across his guitar's strings, and I still think that is a fairly accurate description of how it sounds.

The single was released in April of 1965, well in advance of the movie.  The song Ticket to Ride also appeared on the differing versions of the Help! LP in both the UK and the US.  Yes It Is was only released as a B-side in the UK, but in the US it also appeared on the compilation album Beatles VI.

The Beatles added Ticket to Ride to their live set.  You can hear performances of it on The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl and on Anthology 2.  On Live at the BBC, they perform the song on The Beatles Invite You to Take a Ticket to Ride, which turned out to be their final appearance on a BBC radio program. 

If you have an early pressing of the original single, you have a real collector's item in your possession.  The caption on the A-side indicated that Ticket to Ride was "From the United Artists screenplay Eight Arms to Hold You."

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