Follow by Email

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Baby's in Black

On Ready, Steady, Go! - November 1964
In 1963, Lennon and McCartney had worked together to write a number of songs including a brilliant string of number one hits - From Me to You, She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand - but, by 1964, they had already taken to writing alone and collaborating with each other only when one of them required help in finishing off a song or fine-tuning it in the studio.  As they prepared to begin sessions for their fourth album, however, they actually sat down in the same room, "eyeball to eyeball" as John once said, to write a song from scratch for the first time in months.

Musically, they wanted to write a song in 3/4 time and, lyrically, they wanted to tackle somewhat darker subject matter - a woman mourning a lost love.  In addition, once the group convened in the studio on August 11th, there was a deliberate attempt to give the recording a rockabilly feel.  They had begun to explore this style a few months earlier during the final sessions for the album A Hard Day's Night and they would continue to mine it throughout their work on the new album-in-progress.  Perhaps their initial trip to America back in February had inspired this exploration; their upcoming tour of the USA would only serve to strengthen it.

The most noticeable aspect of the rockabilly sound was George Harrison's twangy guitar, prompting producer George Martin's question, "You want the beginning like that, do you?"  Fourteen takes were necessary to arrive at the master, though George made an additional thirteen attempts to get the distinctive opening right.  John and Paul also double-tracked their joint lead vocals in places and Ringo overdubbed a tambourine to complete the recording.

They debuted the song on the television program Ready, Steady, Go! in November a week before its release on the album Beatles for Sale.  Rather than playing live, the group mimes to the record, though John only pretends to be singing about half the time.  Some members of the standing studio audience actually waltz to the song and one female fan creates some interesting arm movements in time to the music.

John and Paul were quite proud of this song, choosing to add it to the band's live set list.  This is perplexing considering the time signature, the comparative complexity of the composition and the difficulty they had hearing themselves in concert.  When introducing it, John always enjoyed pointing out that the song was a waltz, as you can hear on the 1996 EP Real Love which features a performance of the number at the Hollywood Bowl from August of 1965.  Happily, this track has now been added to the new and improved Live at the Hollywood Bowl album released earlier this year.  They continued to play it in concert right up to and including their final show at Candlestick Park in 1966.

No comments:

Post a Comment