Archive | November, 2014

Certain Songs: The Beatles – “She Said She Said”

image

Album: Revolver.

Year: 1966.

This fucking thing. The beautiful fucking thing.

There is an entire lifetime between the initial “She said” … “I know what it’s like to be dead.” Or an entire deathtime, I guess. It’s one of the most beautiful uses of negative space in all of popular music.

I know that “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the more formal experiment on Revolver, the song on which Mad Men spent a zillion dollars to once and for all to show us the audience that former King of the World Don Draper was now old and out of it. And no doubt it – and all of Revolver – is a major achievement.

But I said …

…  "She Said She Said" is pretty damn close to my most favorite song in the universe, combining the trippy drums of “Rain,” the tough guitar of “Paperback,” that infinite edge-of-consciousness organ, and maybe the best lyrics John Lennon ever put on paper.

What it’s like to be dead, what it is to be sad, and making no distinction, so that sadness is the same as death. And death is like having never been born.

Of course, it could just be the drugs, because when I was a boy, I never even thought about this shit. Or maybe I’m just lying to myself.

Fan-made video for “She Said She Said”

My Certain Songs Playlist on Spotify

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #33: The Beatles – “Rain”

image

B-side, 1966.

The other half of my favorite Beatles 45 may or may not be the first psychedelic song, but with the shimmering guitar, unpredictable bass, backwards vocals and good god, Ringo Starr on the drums, it’s always been one of the greatest. 

Did I mention Ringo? I can’t believe that it’s still a trope – shit, I can’t believe it was ever a trope – that Ringo was a shit drummer, but if you ever run across someone who believes that, just play them his fills as they come out of the second verse and he’s somehow falling apart and coming together all at the same time. Like a sunshower.

And the bit at the end, where he and Paul are starting and stopping in unison just before the backwards vocals – I envision them locking eyes in the studio, each one daring the other one to fuck this up, but breaking down in laughter when one of the them did – is quite possibly my favorite musical bit in all of Beatledom.

Official promo video for “Rain”

And as a bonus, here’s a version Blackbird Stories (with help from Scott Oliver & Nate Butler!) recorded at a drunken party in 1988 with me playing the drums. It’s the exact opposite of good.

My Certain Songs Playlist on Spotify

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #31: The Beatles – “Paperback Writer”

image

Single, 1966.

Conventional rock & roll wisdom states that the greatest 45 ever made was “Strawberry Field Fields Forever / Penny Lane,” but I say that isn’t even the greatest 45 that The Beatles ever made. This is.

In 1966, The Beatles were fucking insane. “Paperback Writer,” written and recorded around the same time as Revolver, combines the tough guitar riffs that The Rolling Stones & The Who were sporting with the multi-arranged harmonies that the Beach Boys and the Byrds were showcasing.

Oh, and it also happens to be the song that inspired the title of the greatest (and funniest) book ever written about The Beatles, Mark Shipper’s 1978 faux-history “Paperback Writer.”

image

Seriously, out of all of the parodies of story of the Beatles over the years, this is the best (though, admittedly, it lacks Eric Idle’s and Neil Innes’ songwriting chops), full of wonderful invented history (the song they wrote with Dylan!) silly running gags, and positing that they would get back together within a decade after they broke up. The chapter on the Beatles reunion is particularly poignant in light of subsequent events.

Good luck trying to find it, though: it’s been out of print forever, existing as at most a footnote when it comes to the massive volume of books written on the band. 

Anyways, “Paperback Writer” is my favorite kind of Beatles song: big riffs, amazing bass and/or drum parts, awesome harmonies, and lyrics that tell some kind of story (though, given that they’re Paul’s lyrics, kind of a silly story).

Official Video for “Paperback Writer”

My Certain Songs Playlist on Spotify

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #30: The Beatles – “A Hard Days Night”

image

Album: A Hard Day’s Night
Year: 1964.

With George Harrison’s iconic Rickenbacker chord signalling a new phase of both lyrical and musical sophistication, “A Hard Day’s Night” is quite possibly my favorite Beatles song. 

I mean, what’s not to love: John & Paul trading off vocals, the overtly sexual words, two Georges on the solo, and all of the extra percussion throughout, epitomized by the cowbell underpinning Paul’s bit.

It all adds up to one of the greatest pure pop songs in history, and I would argue, maybe the first power pop song ever recorded, though I guess you could really apply that label to any of the early great Beatles uptempo singles.  

We covered this in Sedan Delivery, and all I did throughout the entire song was bash my drums in double-time, desperately attempting to recapture the joy and energy that comes through every time I hear this song.

Opening sequence from the film A Hard Day’s Night

Every “Certain Song” Ever

Certain Songs #29: The Beatles – “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

image

Single, 1963.

Now we come to the part I’ve actually been dreading: The Beatles.

Not because I don’t love The Beatles, because that’s beyond contrary – there is literally zero point to disliking the Beatles – but because I’ve never been able to get any perspective on The Beatles.They’ve been there my entire life, and despite – actually because – I’ve consumed countless books and films and articles and videos about them, what can I possibly say that’s even remotely new?

After 50 years, it’s like coming up with a hot take on the sunrise. The sun rises every single day, and it is always fucking awesome.

I mean, take this song: what could I possibly say about it that others haven’t already said? I mean, even fucking Bob Dylan weighed in on it. So I guess I could point out that it invokes The Handclap Rule (that handclaps make a good song great and a great song immortal), the bridge (twice!) provides a modicum of normality amidst what’s a pretty insane arrangement, and Ringo’s drums just before each chorus are fucking masterful, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first.

So I guess all that’s left is to wonder what would have been like to first hear this on the radio as a teenager? In the U.K., they were at least prepped by “She Loves You,” but here in the U.S., “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was so far beyond just about everything else that it must have been like a bomb detonating.

Official video for “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

My Certain Songs Playlist on Spotify

Every “Certain Song” Ever