Saturday, March 22, 2008

Un-Butchered Beatles: 1963-1966

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I'm a Beatles fanatic.  To the chagrin of fanatics all over the world, the Beatles' songs are back in the spotlight in a very bad way, and we've been bombarded with the following two questions...

1) Did you see Across the Universe?
No, but I've heard good things about it, so I'll rent the recently-released DVD one of these days.
2) Did you hear [insert bad singer here] sing [insert Beatles song here] on American Idol?
Yes, no thanks to my mother and sister, who blast the TV while I'm just trying to not do my homework.
In case you haven't figured it out, I'm picky when it comes to Beatles covers.  Theirs was the greatest band of all time, and if one is to even touch one of their songs, it better be damn good.  If not, I will grow muscles and turn green.
Each song has a story to tell, a mood to create, you know, all that good stuff.  And over the past two weeks, these amateurs have been completely missing the mark, just to garner screams from the teenage girls in the audience anyway.  And God forbid Simon or Randy say anything bad, or else they'll get booed, those meanies.
It's clear to me that these kids have no idea how these songs should sound.  So, as a public service to the youth of America, the Wakefield Étudiant presents Un-Butchered Beatles, a crash course in Beatles history.  With the help of YouTube, I will be presenting a few classic tracks from each period.  This first post in the series focuses on the early years, i.e. everything up until Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
"Love Me Do" - Witness the world's greatest band in its infant state.  This is a simple love song at first listen, but musicians can appreciate just how tight this band already was.  Love the bluesy harmonica and soulful two-part harmonies.
"And I Love Her" - Bossa doesn't come to mind when thinking of early Beatles, which makes this ballad stick out.  Thusly, it put the band's versatility as songwriters and performers on display.  Check out the guitar solo, where George Harrison's clean, melodic style shines through even on an acoustic.
"Help!" - The lyrics sound like Dylan: "Help me if you can, I'm feeling down/And I do appreciate you being round/Help me get my feet back on the ground".  The guys were maturing rapidly over these early years.  This is more famously exemplified by the following song...
"Yesterday" - Each member had a public persona, and Paul's was "The Cute One", the naive optimist whose heart was prone to injury.  This was his saddest song yet, and stuck out like a sore thumb on the album Help!  This song paved the way for emo, a genre with the same lyrical themes, sans sincerity, so Pete Wentz can thank Paul for his millions and millions of dollars.
"In My Life" - Here's a love song of a different color.  The boys look back on the past with their 60s garage band sound, with a little help from a sped-up piano solo.  Between this and the strings on the studio version of "Yesterday", the band was getting much more ambitious in the studio, leading to songs like the next one...
"Eleanor Rigby" - The band had come a long way from "Love Me Do", creating stories like this, about old age, death, and loneliness.  Gone is the traditional garage band instrumentation, replaced by strings right out of the Psycho score.  The Beatles were done with the same old and ready to really branch out and experiment.  This was one of 14 classic tracks on Revolver, one of the band's very best albums.
Next post: A song about a walrus, and more!


  1. Yeah, I never saw the AI covers, but I can imagine they were terrible. I also anticipate seeing Across the Universe, not just for the Beatles tunes though. Oh and Ben, if you're looking for good Beatles covers, I recommend the I AM Sam soundtrack, so would Ms. Lopez!


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