A Power Pop Music Blog Where guitars either chime or jangle all the live long day.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Chains"

My Beatles criticism project continued:

The sound of an harmonica in the opening bars of this mid-tempo number is almost all the real interest that will be generated for the next 2:23. The song, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, is presented in such a matter-of-fact manner that emotion seems strangely absent. This is all the more striking given the obvious bluesy roots of the song.

The verses feature group vocals by John, George & Paul, while George takes the bridge vocals solo. The vocals of the verses are nice, but so dry and clipped that lyrics such as "Whoa, these chains of love have a hold on me. Yeah." lack any punch, even with the two exclamations. When the bridge kicks in (George's "I want to tell you pretty baby...") the singing is smooth and assured, but it sounds so clinically clean and innocent that it seems to have nothing to do with the world weary lyrics.

The song is presented so straightforwardly that by the end it has become monotonous. Only as the song fades out do you hear George's voice start playing with the bluesy edges of the song. By that point its too late.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Anna (Go to Him)"

My Beatles criticism project continued:

This ballad, a cover of a song by Arthur Alexander, begins with drum and rhythm guitar. A hesitant staccato lead guitar line then enters and sets the musical tone for the rest of the song.

Alexander's lyrics of self sacrifice and anguish display a confident piece of songwriting. The tone of the lyric is not self-pitying or maudlin in any way, and Lennon's vocal take on it is a thing to behold. Working mostly in his lower register, Lennon sounds silky smooth on the verses which are lyrically set up to be sung to the girl in question. When the bridge comes the lyrics become an internal monologue, and it is here that the power & raw edge to Lennon's voice comes to the forefront. For the listener the contrast is stark between the outward show of emotion in the verse (the resigned "Go to him"), and the inward cry of the bridge (a heartbroken "What am I, What am I supposed to do?")

Another nice addition can be found in George's backing vocals as the song comes to a conclusion. His sing-songy "Anna"s add an almost ghostly touch from the girl that's forever gone.

All in all this is a masterful record that deserves to be remembered as such.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Misery"

My Beatles criticism project continued:

With a flourish of George Martin's piano as intro, Lennon, in his best melodramatic voice, intones "The world is treating me bad.......," and then with tongue planted fimrly in cheek, "Misery!" So begins this mid-tempo shuffle.

As an arrangement there isn't a lot of variety in the song, excepting Martin's piano offering a bit of spice. Lyrically it's no great shakes either. Boy loses girl and is none too happy about it. The second verse offers an almost disastrous near-rhyme in the line, "I've lost her now for Sure, I won't see her no More" which gets by only because of John's broad Liverpudlian accent and the goodwill generated by the next (and best) lyric in the song, "It's gonna be a drag-------Misery!"

The bridge follows and re-introduces the piano which adds a Chopinesque flair after the line "I'll remember all the little things we've done" but the jokeyness of the song returns as the piano hits single notes to accentuate the words "only one " twice.

A new third verse is followed by the bridge repeated, changing the second "Only One" to "Lonely One". The third verse is revisited as the fourth verse, and the song fades out as the words "In Misery" are repeated interspersed with various "Ooo"s and "La La"s.

There is no doubt that the song is slight. Were it played completely straight it might have been truly terrible. But the good humor of it all and its gentle mocking of youthful sensibilities of "love lost" redeems it somewhat.

"I Saw Her Standing There"

Note: Several years ago I began a project running through the Beatles' catalog. I didn't get very far in that effort, but I felt it was worthwhile archiving that work here. Enjoy, if you dare!

For a song nearly 3 minutes long, "I Saw Her Standing There" (ISHST) sures packs a lot into the first 7 seconds. Paul counts us in with a "One, two three" and a shouted "Four!" While the guitars riff on an E chord, Paul's bass line starts pounding away. Overlaying it all, handclaps are heard; two quick claps on the second beat, another on the fourth.

The lyric begins will Paul informing us, with a nod and a wink, that, "Well, she was just 17, you know what I mean." Immediately the stage is set for this rollicking fast rocker. The dancefloor looms before us, and all the lustful pursuits of teenage boys are on display. Lustful but, in the end, rather innocent as in the bridge Paul's voice rises when he tells us all that he "held her hand in mine!"

The song is propelled along by its sheer velocity and the force of its precocious sexuality. When Paul starts to scream going into George's solo it is one of joy not release. The solo begins rather slowly and has a meandering quality to it, which might work against most other quick rockers, however, the bass line and hand claps are so forceful throughout that the solo feels like the sonic equivalent of picking your way across a crowded room. The stops and starts feel authentic.

Ringo's drums roll us out of the solo and into the bridge a second time. The song ends on pretty much the note it started. We haven't left the dance floor, although the band has stopped to take a bow. Who knows if true love will be found with the 17 year old girl. But when you are on the dance floor, who cares?