Beatles/Krishnas: The Untold Story!

Shyamasundar das will be a featured speaker at the upcoming Chicago Fest For Beatles Fans — Aug. 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

 

The author of Chasing Rhinos With The Swami, Shyamasundar will be sharing fantastic stories of his experiences with The Beatles, as told in his remarkable book.

 

Here’s a bit of a sneak preview:

 

Over the past 60 years, nearly every aspect of the Beatles’ collective and individual lives has been explored in great detail. But what about the Hare Krishnas? Till now, no one has chronicled Bhaktivedanta Swami and the Krishna devotees’ profound and enduring impact on the Fab Four!

 

What about elementary penguins, Here Comes The Sun, Give Peace A Chance, Instant Karma, My Sweet Lord, Give Me Love and another dozen of George’s songs? Rocketed into the stratosphere of magic, fame and fortune, the Boys asked, “Why me, Lord? Who am I? What’s the purpose of life? Where am I going?”

 

From 1968 onwards, the London-based Krishna people lived in the Beatles’ orbit, feeding them spiritual information that subtly shaped their world-views and many of their greatest songs.

 

Chasing Rhinos With The Swami, Shyamasundar Das’ three-volume masterpiece, fills this huge and important missing gap in the Beatles’ vast biography. In 1400 pages and with 108 never-seen-before Beatles/Krishnas photos, Shyamasundar describes in eye-witness detail theKrishna devotees’ massive influence on the world’s most famous band!

 

Here are just some of the exciting stories from CRWTS:

 

*September 1968: Six Hare Krishna devotees arrive in UK
*Shyamasundar meets George at Apple Xmas party
*Get Back/Let It Be sessions at Twickenham
*Kirtans at George’s house in Esher/“Here Comes The Sun”
*Apple co-signs for Krishna temple at Bury Place, London
*Montreal bed-in, surrounded by Hare Krishnas/“Give Peace A Chance”
*“Hare Krishna Mantra” recorded at Abbey Road; #11 on the charts!
*Bhaktivedanta Swami & 20 devotees live 3 months at JL’s Tittenhurst estate
*John/Yoko/George: recorded conversations with the Swami
*GH pays for printing KRSNA book, writes Foreward
*“Govinda” recorded 2/70 at Trident Studios; “Top of the Pops”
*Devotees live six months at Friar Park with GH; “All Things Must Pass”
*“Radha Krishna Temple” LP released, 5/71
*Shyamasundar with GH at Bangla Desh concert, NYC
*George donates 17-acre Bhaktivedanta Manor property in Hertfordshire
*Summer ‘73: GH often visits Prabhupada at the Manor; deep conversations
*1974: With George and Ravi in Jaipur, India
*A magic week with George in Vrindaban, India, 1996
*George & Olivia at Bhaktivedanta Manor, 1996
*Journeys to Friar Park 1970 – 1999
*November, 2001: The final days with George

 

To see fabulous unseen Beatles/Krishnas photos and to order Chasing Rhinos With The Swami, HEAD HERE

 

To contact Shyamasundar Das, email: chasingrhinos@gmail.com

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Revolver Deep Dive Part 11: Doctor Robert

Side Two, Track Four

Calling ‘Dr. Robert’

by Jude Southerland Kessler and Steve Matteo

 

This month, the Fest for Beatles Fans Blog enjoys a closer look at Revolver’s “Dr. Robert.”  Jude Southerland Kessler, our Fest Blogger and author of The John Lennon Series works hand-in-hand with Steve Matteo, author of Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film (2023), Let It Be, and Dylan to examine a Lennon song that has frequently been brushed aside as “a minor creation.” As Jude and Steve dig into the music and lyrics of this tongue-in-cheek creation, here’s hoping we all uncover some new insights into the story behind the song, the composition, and the recording techniques.

 

And we can’t wait to see each and every one of you at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, August 9-11! The lineup is too good to miss! Get your tickets and get ready for the time of your life!

 

What’s Standard:

 

Date Recorded: 17 April 1966

Place Recorded: Studio Two

Time Recorded: 2.30 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.

 

Technical Team:

Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald (Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 74)

 

On this day: The Beatles recorded their backing track with John on his 1961 Fender Stratocaster electric guitar with synchronized tremolo (or possibly his Epiphone ES-230TD Casino electric guitar), Paul on his 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S bass (which he was using more and more frequently in studio, when he could sit down), George on maracas, and Ringo on his 1964 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl “Super Classic” drums. As per their “now standard” method of recording, they first performed several rehearsal takes (not numbered) and then recorded seven actual takes, proclaiming seven as “best.”

 

Then, onto take 7, the boys made several superimpositions: John on the Mannborg harmonium (the studio’s), George on guitar,* and Paul on the studio’s Steinway “Music Room” Model “B” Grand Piano. (Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 123)

 

*I wrote to Jerry Hammack to ascertain which guitar George was using, and he graciously answered me: “George was working with a 1961 Fender Stratocaster with synchronized tremolo, 1964 Gibson SG Standard with Gibson Maestro Vibrola vibrato, or a 1965 Epiphone ES-230TD, Casino with Selmer Bigsby B7 vibrato during this period, and could have used any of these on his work. With this album and Pepper, the Casinos were certainly getting most of the attention.”

 

Hammack also tells us that at this point, “Dr. Robert” “…clocked in at 2:56” but “would be edited to 2:13 during remixing.” Sincere thanks to Jerry for helping with the Fest blog each month!

 

Second Date Recorded: 19 April 1966

Place Recorded: Studio Two

Time Recorded: 2.30 p.m. – 12.00 a.m.

 

Technical Team:

Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald (Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 74)

 

On this day: Since most of the work on “Dr. Robert” had been completed on the 17th, all that was left to do was capture the vocals from John and Paul…which they did. Later that same evening, a remix was done to thicken both those vocals and George’s guitar work.

 

Sources:

Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 75, Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 218, The Beatles, The Beatles Anthology, 209, Rodriguez, Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, 121-123, Womack, Sound Pictures, The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, 57, Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 209, Winn, That Magic Feeling, 12, Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 361-362, Spizer, The Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records, 215, Turner, Beatles ’66, 157-159, Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 114,  Margotin and Guesdon, All the Songs, 344-345, Davies, The Beatles Lyrics, 173-174, Spignesi and Lewis, 100 Best Beatles Songs, 227-228, Riley, Tell Me Why, 194-196, MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 158-159, O’Toole, Songs We Were Singing, 113-115, Womack, The Beatles Encyclopedia, 231, Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 122-124, Spizer, The Beatles From Rubber Soul to Revolver, 221, Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 239,  Shotton, John Lennon In My Life, 122, and Sheff, The Playboy Interviews (1981 edition), 152-153.

 

What’s Changed:

 

  1. A Thinly-Veiled Reference to Drugs – For years, Brian had sternly admonished The Beatles to remain “palatable to the mothers and fathers of teens everywhere.” And as such, the boys had not felt free to express opinions on anything, especially when it came to politics or the Vietnam War. Furthermore, Brian had asked the boys to present “a wholesome image,” eschewing cigarettes at press conferences or photo shoots. And through most of 1963-1964, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had reluctantly complied.

 

However, by the 1965 North American Tour, those old prohibitions were slip-sliding away. Indeed, the songs of late 1965’s Rubber Soul spoke frankly about difficult topics. They addressed marital infidelity (“Norwegian Wood”), a possible liaison with a rising film star (“Drive My Car”), the dissolution of John’s marriage (“It’s Only Love”), and the complications inherent in adult relationships (“You Won’t See Me” and “I’m Looking Through You”). Even The Beatles’ jaunty single, “We Can Work It Out/ Day Tripper” spoke frankly about love affairs that didn’t go smoothly or finish well.

 

Now, in the spring of 1966, John penned “Dr. Robert,” a light-hearted ditty about a doctor whom you could ring for drugs…and not cough syrup or any ordinary prescription. And the “rush” that John felt in penning a song like this was the knowledge that to “the Establishment” (Brian included) harmonizing about illegal drug usage was still very much taboo! In his book John Lennon In My Life, John’s lifelong friend Pete Shotton wrote, “When John played me the acetate of ‘Dr. Robert,’ he seemed beside himself with glee over the prospect of millions of record buyers innocently singing along.” (p. 122) Much like singing the “tit-tit-tit-tit-tit” backing chorus to “Girl,” the theme of “Dr. Robert” and his little black bag intrigued John and the lads because it felt quite naughty.

 

I was a tad surprised to find that in 100 Best Beatles Songs, Spignesi and Lewis rated “Dr. Robert” as #73. However, their explanation soon set me straight. They wrote, “Prior to Revolver…The Beatles…wrote about romance and relationships…Suddenly, with one album, their focus changed. Confiscatory taxes, the alienated and the lonely, laziness, consciousness, the afterlife, and lest we forget, yellow submarines were all topics on Revolver. And then, on this same album, came ‘Dr. Robert,’ which was about (blimey!) recreational drug use. The message was clear: ‘We’ve changed. Either get on board or get out of the way.’ And most of us went along happily for the ride.” (p. 227) Yes, indeed, in 1966 the times they were a-changing for The Beatles…and for us. And as we changed, they changed (or vice versa). The Beatles constantly evolved, and “Dr. Robert” is evidence of that.

 

  1. A Slathering of Humor – Though most listeners never comprehended it, in “Dr. Robert,” John Lennon was happily “takin’ the mickey” out of us all. He applied Lennonesque humor so subtly and with such finesse, that few realized that the heavy sound of the harmonium on the “Well, well, well, you’re feeling fine” bridge – backing those comforting words spoken by the goodly Dr. Robert – washed the words of the healer in a saintly soundtrack. When Dr. Robert spoke, it sounded exactly like a hymn offering salvation!

 

And why not? The healer was, John told us, the sort of doctor who “day or night will be there any time at all.” He’s the kind of physician who “will do everything he can – Dr. Robert!” From Dr. R’s “special cup” to his meds that would “pick you up,” the incomparable Dr. R had a unique way to “well, well, well make you.” You can almost see The Beatles cutting their eyes at one another and snickering.

 

Clearly, the boys were in on the joke. But actually, so were we, albeit unwittingly. In Tell Me Why, Tim Riley refers to the track as  a “penetrating satire,” and he says that John’s biting humor “implicates not only the doctor and his ‘patients’ but the listener who gets seduced by the song’s tease as well.” (p. 123) This clever “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” creation casts us all under the spell of the sympathetic and edgy Dr. Robert.

 

A Fresh, New Look:

 

This month we’re privileged to have journalist and author Steve Matteo join us for the “Fresh New Look” segment of our Fest Blog. Steve was part of the 2023 Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans and the 2024 New York Fest at the TWA Hotel. He is the author of Let It Be and Dylan and his 2023 release, Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film. Steve has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, Elle, and Salon. We’re looking forward to having Steve and his wife, Jayne, join us again for the Chicago Fest 2024 and we’re excited to hear his reactions to “Dr. Robert,” the fun “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” creation by John Lennon and the boys.

 

Jude Southerland Kessler: Steve, welcome to the Fest Blog and thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your expertise with us. Steve, in the spring/early summer of 1966, The Beatles and George Martin (now an independent producer) returned to EMI Studios not merely as musicians but as artists and innovative technicians. Using “every trick in the book” (as Lou Christie would sing years later) they employed unique instruments, recording techniques, and even outside musicians to create precisely the effects they sought. Although it’s not as obvious with this song as with others, “Dr. Robert” is layered with intentional sounds and stylings that afford the listener samples of a stressed life eased by Dr. Robert and his medicine show. How does John Lennon utilize his guitar, the vocals, and George Martin/Geoff Emerick’s recording techniques to achieve this aural imagery?

 

Steve Matteo: “Dr. Robert,” released at a significant time in the history of the recordings of the Beatles, is a song often discussed because of its lyrical story. The group’s previous album was Rubber Soul, the first album that throughout showed off the new sounds and textures they were exploring in the studio. The album broadened the canvas of the recording studio and introduced new colors and shadings that made the group’s already extraordinary songs even more vivid. After Rubber Soul and just before they began recording Revolver, they recorded the single “Paperback Writer” and the B-side “Rain.” While lyrically “Paperback Writer” was a poppy story of a writer of dime-store novels, it had guitar and vocal effects that were quite new. “Rain” was even more musically adventurous. On what may be the group’s best B-side, the interplay between McCartney’s bass and Starr’s drums is some of the most exciting playing of any track from the group and illustrates the cosmic musical relationship the group’s rhythm section created.

 

The vocals, however, are primarily what make “Dr. Robert” so musically memorable. The vocals on the track utilize ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) technology more than the other tracks on this album that is filled with it. Also, some of the vocal harmonies when the group sings “Well, well, well, you’re feeling fine” sound like a Greek chorus. It is here where the druggy theme of the song is most pronounced, but also shows how the group is clearly having fun with the subject matter. Adding to the decadent debauchery of the song’s milieu is some spacey Mannborg harmonium keyboard work by John Lennon, the main writer of the song and lead vocalist. Musically the song is very simple and playful, belying its subject matter.

 

While the theme of the song, particularly the doctor in question, has been debated and speculated upon since its release, another potentially key influence on the songwriting may have been overlooked. It’s hard to tell the exact spark that influenced Lennon to write the song, but one possibility is intriguing and highly plausible. The Rolling Stones had recorded a song called “Mother’s Little Helper,” which was the lead track on the group’s Aftermath album, released on April 15, 1966.

 

The recording of “Dr. Robert” began on April 14. There’s certainly a good chance Lennon heard the album long before its official U.K. release. There is a much-viewed photo of McCartney in the recording studio closely examining the back cover of Aftermath, with his reading glasses on and holding onto his Rickenbacker bass guitar. With “Mother’s Little Helper,” rather than reflecting the burgeoning drug culture of the youth of the day, Jagger was writing about someone with parental and adult responsibilities dealing with the stress by taking pills.

 

“Dr. Robert,” Lennon’s first song to address the theme of drugs, rather than glorifying them, tells of a doctor available to the pampered and well-connected denizens of the demi-monde of the day. Unlike “Mother’s Little Helper,” the song doesn’t, for the most part, have a dreamy or spacey quality. While “Mother’s Little Helper” has a terse, almost gritty rock’n’roll edge, “Dr. Robert” is a jaunty little tune. It is a whimsical tale with the kind of light touch that appeared on the surface of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books, which were filled with drug references – literature Lennon was all too familiar with and fond of since he was a child.

 

Kessler: Steve, Beatles music experts and biographers have bandied about the identity of the infamous Dr. Robert. Some, like Hunter Davies, point to dentist John Riley who, without permission, gave George and John LSD in their coffee in the spring of 1965. Some point to London’s Robert Fraser. Most aver that Dr. Robert is New York’s famed Robert Freymann (Freeman or Frieman in other sources) who served as “healer” for the stars; some go so far as to claim that John was one of his clients. However, for those like you who know The Beatles’ harried schedule during those few days in which The Beatles were in New York during February of 1964, late August of 1964, mid-September of 1964, and mid-August of 1965 when they returned to play another “Ed Sullivan Show,” perform in Shea Stadium, and host celebrities in their suite the following day, there was absolutely zero time for John (and/or The Beatles) to trek over to see this supposed Dr. Robert. And there is no record of his presence in their suite, though myriad others are catalogued. Paul states that they have merely heard about the doctor and are writing this song based on that knowledge. In The Beatles Anthology and later in his Playboy Interviews, John Lennon stated that he consistently carried and administered the drugs for the band and –  like almost all of his other songs – this song was written about him; he was Dr. Robert. What say you?

 

Matteo: It would appear the doctor in question initially was based on a doctor in New York who indeed did administer “vitamin” injections for his curious clientele. A more sinister reality of the situation may have been the doctor giving amphetamine shots to wealthy socialites, the famous and the infamous. Various doctors have been named as the subject of Lennon’s song, even though Lennon himself may not have been aware of exactly who the doctor was and just what he was doing. Many sources, as Jude pointed out in the “What’s New” segment, claim the real-life doctor in question was Dr. Robert Freymann, a German-born doctor who, at the time of the writing and recording of the song, was 60 years old and whose office was located at 78th Street, in Manhattan, on the tony upper east side. Interestingly, in the film Ciao Manhattan, produced by Andy Warhol, there is a character named Dr. Charles Robert, who was likely based on the real Dr. Freymann, or even on Lennon’s song, since the film came out in 1972. In 1972, the real Dr. Freymann was still practicing medicine and was eventually expelled from the New York State Medical Society for malpractice in 1975.

 

What makes things even more confusing is that in Manhattan in the mid- to late-60s and early-70s there were many so-called “Dr. Roberts” offering a seamlessly endless cornucopia of potions to cure whatever ailed one. This doctor is the dark and destructive side of the drug culture, not those experimenting with marijuana or LSD who were seeking a more spiritual enlightening, although LSD and amphetamines could be equally lethal with enough use. It’s easy to read many other meanings (and doctors, real and imagined) into the song and on any given day, Lennon may have offered his own varying answers to what it was all about. It is, of course, not the only song on the album that has drug references, just the first he had written.

 

Prior to Revolver, “Rain” may have been influenced by drug use, but didn’t directly address drugs in the song’s lyrics. The other songs on the album about drugs, directly or indirectly, are “I’m Only Sleeping,” “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Paul’s songs that had direct or indirect drug references are “Yellow Submarine” and “Got to Get You Into My life.” All of them share an obliqueness when addressing drugs, but all have drugs as a key component, whether musically or lyrically or both. There is also the question of whether the songs were simply influenced by the drug culture, or written under the influence.

 

Lennon was always a fan of double-entendres, as were The Beatles, especially the naughty schoolboys that still lurked in the four. “Dr. Robert” doesn’t so much have double-entendres as it includes lyrics that don’t specifically spell out the story of the song’s title character. It’s a song for those in the know, who get the wink-wink wordplay. The lyrics that most spell out who “Dr. Robert” is and what his function was and how Lennon slyly laid it out are: “If you’re down, he’ll pick you up/Doctor Robert/Take a drink from his special cup.”

 

Kessler: Steve, as I mentioned in the “What’s Changed” segment of the blog, in Spignesi and Lewis’s book, 100 Best Beatles Songs, “Dr. Robert” is rated at #73 , above such songs as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Get Back,” and “Michelle.” How do you feel about the song’s ranking and the song itself?

 

Matteo: It’s difficult to rate “Dr. Robert.” In the context of Revolver, arguably the group’s best album, it may not be considered one of the group’s best songs or recordings. Among their entire catalog, it probably fares better. As is always the case, individual tracks from The Beatles that may not be considered among their best would probably rank pretty high against those from many other artists and certainly better than what passes for hits on the charts these days.

 

For more information on Steve Matteo, HEAD HERE

Follow Steve on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter

For my review of Steve Matteo’s book, Act Naturally: The Beatles on Film, HEAD HERE

Join Steve and Jude at the Fest for Beatles Fans, Aug. 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare!!

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Revolver Deep Dive Part 10: For No One

Revolver

Side Two, Track Three

“For No One” Is For Everyone

by Jude Southerland Kessler

 

This month, the Fest for Beatles Fans Blog enjoys a closer look at Paul McCartney’s exquisite ballad, “For No One.”  Jude Southerland Kessler, our Fest Blogger and author of The John Lennon Series is “going solo” on this deep dive, but calling upon the wisdom of many respected Beatles music experts as she explores this outstanding and touching work. Insights into this song have been enhanced by:

 

Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 78-79, Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 220-221, The Beatles, The Beatles Anthology, 207, Womack, Sound Pictures, The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, 82-84, Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 248, Emerick, Here, There and Everywhere, 128-129, Winn, That Magic Feeling, 18, Rodriguez, Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, 136-138, Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 360-361, Spizer, The Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records, 215, Turner, Beatles ’66, 107-108, Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 113,  Margotin and Guesdon, All the Songs, 342-343, Davies, The Beatles Lyrics, 169-171, Spignesi and Lewis, 100 Best Beatles Songs, 168-170, Riley, Tell Me Why, 193-194, MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 164, Womack, The Beatles Encyclopedia, 281, Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 138-140, Spizer, The Beatles From Rubber Soul to Revolver, 220, and Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 239. Also here.

 

What’s Standard:

 

Date Recorded: 9 May 1966

Place Recorded: Studio Two

Time Recorded: 7.00 – 11.00 p.m.

 

Technical Team:

Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald

 

On this day: A backing track was created in ten takes with Ringo on his 1964 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl “Super Classic” drum set and Paul on EMI’s Steinway “Music Room”  Model “B” Grand Piano. (Hammack, 139) The tenth was designated as “best” and to this, Paul added work on a clavichord (which had been hired from Martin’s AIR company at the cost, Lewisohn tells us, of five guineas). Ringo added cymbals and maraca to Take 10 as well. Note: John and George did not take part in creating this backing track. (Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 78 and Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 220-221)

 

Second Date Recorded: 16 May 1966

Place Recorded: Studio Two

Time Recorded: 2.30 p.m. – 1.30 a.m.

 

Technical Team:

Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald

 

On this day: Obviously, on this long day, the entire time in studio wasn’t spent on “For No One.” Most of the afternoon and evening was given to overdubs and mixing in order to create a master reel. But a portion of the day was set aside for Paul to overdub his poignant lead vocal onto Take 10 of “For No One.” It was recorded, Lewisohn reminds us, at 47 ½ cycles and then sped up on replay. (Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 78 and The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 220-221) Rodriguez comments that this “gave [McCartney’s] voice a slightly elevated pitch upon playback.” (p. 137)

 

Third Date Recorded: 19 May 1966

Time recorded: 7.00 – 11.00 p.m.

 

Technical Team:

Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald (Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 79)

 

On this day: Alan Civil, principal French horn player from the Royal (some sources say “London”) Philharmonic Orchestra was invited to EMI Studios to play the haunting French horn obbligato in this song. There are two completely different versions of what happened that day. Let’s look at both:

 

Many sources, including Civil himself, tell the story that Hunter Davies repeats in The Beatles Lyrics, p 171. He writes: “Civil came in [to EMI Studios], was told roughly what was wanted by George Martin and Paul, composed his own bit, played and went home, earning only his session fee.” This version of historical events can be found in great detail  in Womack’s Sound Pictures, The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, pp. 82-83. Womack summarizes: “In Civil’s memory, it was McCartney who asked him to improvise a solo – ‘to make something up,’ as it were, in a baroque style.”

 

However, there is another completely different version of the day’s events, and Womack, using direct quotes from The Beatles Anthology, unveils this second account as well. He writes, “McCartney’s memories of the session vary dramatically from Civil’s. The Beatle later recalled humming the melody to Martin, who dutifully adapted McCartney’s vision into musical notation.” Womack quotes McCartney as saying, “George asked me, ‘Now what do you want him to play?’ I said, ‘Something like this,’ and sang the solo to him, and he wrote it down.” (Womack, p. 83 and The Beatles Anthology, 207)

 

So, which version of the story actually occurred? Womack points out that the “high F” note in the obligato just might hold the answers we seek. Womack quotes Paul as saying, “At the end of the session…George explained to me the range of the [French horn]…” and showed Paul that what they had composed “goes from here to this top E.” Mischievously, Paul responded, “What if we asked him to play an F?” And Womack goes on to say, “In Paul’s recollection, George saw the joke and joined in the conspiracy. We came to the session and Alan looked up from his bit of paper: ‘Eh, George? I think there’s a mistake here – you’ve got a high F note written down.’ Then, George and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and smiled back at him, and he knew what we were up to and played it.” (Womack, p. 84 and The Beatles Anthology, 207) It seems unlikely that Civil would have written what was considered an “unreachable note” for himself. It is more likely that this impossible task was proposed by McCartney and Martin, and Civil rose to meet the challenge.

 

 

What’s Changed:

 

  1. Keyed in B…This song was composed in a key used quite rarely by The Beatles. In fact, only these of The Beatles’ songs were composed in B: “For No One,” “Penny Lane” (whose chorus changes to A major), and “Revolution.” The official sheet music for “For No One” has the key raised to C, but that is not the key in which the song was written or recorded. It’s felt that C was chosen for the sheet music to make the song easier to play. Spignesi and Lewis, 169 and here

 

 

  1. Museum Piece Rescue – Paul wrote and recorded “For No One” but never had occasion to perform it live. He regretted this inability to share his ballad with an audience, making the song what Paul dubbed “a museum piece.” Therefore, “For No One” was included in Give My Regards to Broad Street.

 

  1. Reverb Reserve – Geoff Emerick famously employed very little reverb in the songs he engineered, and “For No One” really benefits from this economy of treatment. It produced a simple, pure sound.

 

  1. Destiny’s Role – The French horn obbligato was originally slated to be performed by maestro Dennis Brian. (Rodriguez, 137) However, Brian died in an automobile accident before he could record the solo, and Alan Civil, described by Rodriguez as “an equal caliber musician,” was selected to replace him. Civil turned in an exceptional performance and is one of the first “outside” musicians (along with Anil Bhagwat) to be mentioned on a Beatles record.

 

  1. Continued Experimentation with a Classical Theme – “For No One” has been categorized as “chamber music” or “baroque music.” In a vein similar to “Eleanor Rigby,” this song’s lovely melody has classical roots, but it flourishes when the French horn obbligato is added to the score. In the Autumn of 1965, The Beatles were elbow-deep in musical exploration, and we’re all the better for it.

 

 

A Fresh, New Look:

 

The Reviews are In!

 

“One of my favourites of [Paul’s]! A nice piece of work.”
John Lennon

 

“Another remarkable McCartney ballad, melodically sophisticated and lyrically mature.”

Barry Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 239

 

“A great ballad with a beautiful melody and striking production.”

Spignesi and Lewis, 100 Best Beatles Songs, 168

 

“…a sad, regretful, wistful, heartbreaking song…impeccably put together with a wonderful French horn solo by Alan Civil, perhaps the best-known hornist of his day…”

Hunter Davies, The Beatles Lyrics, 171

 

“…conveys the solitude and regret of Yesterday, with more disbelief, more longing…”

Tim Riley, Tell Me Why, 193

 

“…remains one of Paul’s greatest accomplishments, with…a simple but effective melody.”

John C. Winn, That Magic Feeling, 18

 

“For No One” is universally respected. Calling it “a dark sister to ‘Here, There and Everywhere,” and “the true heir of ‘Yesterday,” Jonathan Gould (among so many others) extols this unusual song’s unvarnished honesty, and its “stark, sinking feeling” that something beautiful is dying and cannot be revived. (p. 360)  This is not a ballad of love; it’s a requiem of loss.

 

When first approached about the song in the 1960s, Paul denied that it was written for a particular person, but later, he confessed, “I wrote that on a skiing holiday in Switzerland. In a hired chalet amongst the snow.” (Womack, The Beatles Encyclopedia, 281) And with him on that holiday (in the Swiss resort of Klosters) was, of course, his long-time love, Jane Asher. (Spizer, 215 and Winn, 18) Paul states, “I suspect it was about another argument. I don’t have easy relationships with women, I never have. I talk too much truth.” (Womack, 281). The lovers’ quarrel in that snow-banked chalet must have been calamitous, because the first title of this Revolver track was “Why Did it Have to Die?” And in The Beatles Lyrics, 172, Davies shares the hand-written draft of Paul’s original lyrics. They read:

 

“Why did it have to die?

You’d like to know

Cry and blame her

You wait

You’re too late

As you’re deciding why the wrong one wins the end begins

And you will lose her

Why did it have to die

I’d like to know

Try – to save it

You want her

You need (love) her

So make her see that you believe it may work out

And one day you may need each other.”

 

Unlike some of Paul’s songs for Jane which threaten (“Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?/ Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight”) or chide (“Now today I find/ You have changed your mind/ Treat me like you did the night before”) or point out unfair treatment (“When I call you up/ Your line’s engaged/ I have had enough/ So act your age!”), “For No One” is neither angry nor frustrated. Instead, it is a tender song of love lost.

 

Paul, who in the latter part of 1965 had been extensively reading plays, wrote the lyrics almost as if they were stage directions:

 

Your day breaks, your mind aches,
You find that all her words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you.

She wakes up, she makes up,
She takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry,
She no longer needs you.

 

We watch the characters moving through the miasma of a sorrowful morning, a day in which two lovers have both physically and metaphorically awakened to the realization that their “love is dead.” And suddenly, McCartney’s message is inclusive. Using simple, direct language and brief sentences, he pulls us into his lyrics. He speaks a language that everyone understands and draws each listener into these familiar scenes of heartbreak. His lyrics are, as John Winn commented, “evocative.” (That Magic Feeling, 18)

 

For me, that word “familiar” was the very lynchpin of my love of this song. I was 12 years old…sitting on the side of my bed and playing Revolver for the first time…carefully placing the 33 1/3 on the turntable of my lift-top record player and lowering the needle. For the next hour, I sat cross-legged and listened…and listened and listened and blinked back tears.

 

“A song about taxes?! John Lennon knowns what it’s like to be dead?!!!! And what in the world has happened to George Harrison? ‘Love You To?’ Love you to what????” The studious me was completely bewildered by Revolver’s suggestions to “lay down your thoughts” and “turn off your mind.”

 

The only track to which I could relate was “For No One.” It recalled “Yes It Is” and “This Boy.” It hearkened back to “I’ll Follow the Sun” and even to John’s “If I Fell.” In myriad ways, it tethered me to “Yesterday.”

 

Years later, I read Robert Rodriguez’s brilliant work Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock and Roll, and the LP unfolded for me like a brightly colored pop-up book! (Thank you, Robert!) But at age 12, “For No One” provided a tidbit of the wonderfully familiar. On this strange LP of eccentric songs, “For No One” supplied music I understood. Like Paul’s universal lyrics, his melody offered a sound to which fans of the Cavern Beatles or The BBC Beatles could cling. In the turbulent, kaleidoscopic Summer of 1966, this song alone whispered, “Safe and sound.”

 

Each month, in our “Fresh, New Look” segment of the Fest Blog, I ask our guest commentator, “What do you like about this song? What appeals to you?” So…this month, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Please comment below and tell us what you felt when you first heard “For No One.” How did you react and why? And almost sixty years later, how do you feel about the song today?

 

I’d love to hear from you. And more importantly, I can’t wait to see you all in just a few months at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, August 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare!

 

 

For more information on Jude Southerland Kessler or  The John Lennon Series, HEAD HERE

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Revolver Deep Dive Part 1: Taxman

Side One, Track One

“Taxman”… in Which Everybody Gets a BIT of Money

 

by Jude Southerland Kessler and Bruce Spizer

 

Through 2023, the Fest for Beatles Fans blog will explore the complexities of The Beatles’ revolutionary 1966 LP, Revolver. This month, taxman-by-day (a.k.a. corporate tax attorney) and Beatles music authority in all other hours, Bruce Spizer, will provide our “Fresh New Look” at this song, penned over five decades ago.

 

Bruce is an integral part of our Fest Family and is the author of The Beatles Are Coming!, Beatles for Sales on Parlophone Records, The Beatles Story on Capitol Records (Parts 1 and 2), The Beatles on Apple Records, and The Beatles Swan Song. In recent years, he has created the insightful Beatles Album Series, including The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper: A Fan’s Perspective, The Beatles White Album and the Launch of Apple, and his latest release, The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver. For our February blog, Bruce joins Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, for exciting, in-depth coverage of the opening track of this important and pivotal LP.

 

 

What’s Standard:

 

Date Recorded: 20-22 April 1966

Time Recorded: Work done on the 20th followed work on “And Your Bird Can Sing.” That session, in its entirety, was from 2:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

On 21 April, work took place between 2:30 p.m. – 12:50 a.m.

On 22 April, work took place between 2:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Studio: EMI Studios, Studio 2

 

Tech Team

Producer: George Martin

Balance Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Second Engineer: Phil McDonald

Stats:

 

On 20 April, four tracks were recorded. Only two were completed. (Rodriguez, 126)

 

On 21 April, eleven rhythm tracks (electric guitars, bass, and drums) were recorded. George overdubbed two vocal tracks, with backing vocals from John and Paul. Ringo added a tambourine. Paul recorded the incredible lead solo. John and Paul sang the rapid falsetto “Anybody got a bit of money” lines. Paul’s count-in is present. (Winn, 13)

 

On 22 April, a reduction mix of Take 11 combines both vocal tracks onto one track of a new tape. That is referred to as Take 12. The newly-available track is then filled with a cowbell. The falsetto line, “Anybody got a bit of money” is erased. The “Mr. Wilson/Mr. Heath” bit is added. Some errant guitar notes are erased. Another “rasping lead guitar solo,” as Beatles guru Mark Lewisohn phrases it, was added by Paul. (The Beatles Recording Sessions, 76) John C. Winn points out that it was, “spliced on to the main body of the song and George’s final ‘me’ at the end of the song.” (14)

Editing was done on 27 April and 16 May.

 

Instrumentation and Musicians:

George Harrison, the composer (with assistance from John Lennon) sings lead vocals and plays one of three guitars that he had available. These guitars were, according to Hammack’s Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, either the 1961 Fender Stratocaster, the 1964 Gibson SG Standard, or the 1965 Epiphone ES-230TD Casino. (129)

John Lennon, lyrical contributor, sings backing vocals, and some sources have John manning the tambourine.

Paul McCartney, plays bass on his 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S bass and provides the lead solo on his Casino electric guitar (Hammack, 130). Paul also provides backing vocals with John.

Ringo Starr plays his 1964 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl Super Classic drum set; he also mans the cowbell and most sources say the tambourine as well.

 

Sources: The Beatles, The Anthology, 197, Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 218-219, Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions, 76, Spizer, The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver, 22-35, Rodriguez, Revolver, How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, 126-129, Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 129-131, Margotin and Guesdon, All the Songs, 324-325, Winn, That Magic Feeling, 12-13, Emerick, Here, There, and Everywhere, 126, Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 102-103, Riley, Tell Me Why, 182-183, Spignesi and Lewis, 100 Best Beatles Songs, 147-149, MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 160, Davies, The Beatles Lyrics, 142-143, and Babiuk, Beatles Gear, 178-185.

 

What’s Changed:

 

  1. A Harrison Album Opener – Almost always, John Lennon had been afforded the honor of opening his band’s LPs. He’d done so on With The Beatles, Beatles for Sale, A Hard Day’s Night, and Help! On The Beatles’ first LP Please Please Me, the opening track was a collaborative effort (“I Saw Her Standing There”) that introduced the lads to the listening world. But not until the band released Rubber Soul did Paul McCartney motor into the opening slot with “Drive My Car.” Traditionally, one expected Lennon to kick albums off, but of course, one could readily accept Paul at the helm. George had been accustomed to one-sies (and rarely, two-sies) at the mic on each long-playing record. Now, to be selected to open the record was a rather revolutionary honor for George.

 

Indeed, in Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, Rodriguez points out that “Not only would [Harrison] get an unheard-of three songs on the album, but he had the first cut as well. It was an honor that left him ‘dead chuffed’…” And George handled this nod with aplomb. (128) Note: As Bruce Spizer will point out, Rodriguez is referring to three original songs on an LP and not counting cover songs sung by George.

 

In his book, Here, There, and Everywhere, new Revolver Engineer Geoff Emerick commented, “I thought George’s strongest song on Revolver was ‘Taxman,’ and George Martin must have agreed, since he decided to put it first of the album – the all-important spot generally reserved for the best song, since the idea was to try to capture the listener immediately.” Emerick and a host of other Beatles music experts cite the extremely clever lyrics as the song’s strongest feature. Part of that charm came from…

 

  1. A Lennon/Harrison Collaboration – By 1966, Beatles fans were accustomed to John’s collaborations with Paul and to John writing songs such as “Do You Want to Know A Secret” and “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” for George. But this time, George penned the album’s opening track by himself and then approached John for a bit of assistance.

 

Years later, John stated, “[George] came to me…I didn’t want to do it. I thought, ‘Oh no, don’t tell me I have to work on George’s stuff. It’s enough doing my own…But because I loved him and didn’t want to hurt him, [I] said okay.” (Margotin and Guesdon, 324) In Beatles Lyrics, Hunter Davies points out that to enhance “Taxman,” John added the lines: “…if you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat.” Davies says, “John’s input made [‘Taxman’] wittier and smarter and the finished lyrics were much better.” (142) In his extraordinary work, Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, Robert Rodriguez concurs to some degree. He states that Harrison had already crafted strong lyrics, but says, “It was John who gave the already-biting lyrics some extra sting.” (126) Beatles music experts also point out that this section was re-written in a call-and response-pattern, and it certainly revealed a band angst, a general feeling of resentment towards the British income tax system (which was taking over 90 percent of their income), not just from George’s perspective but from all of The Beatles.

 

  1. A Change in Engineers – Just before the group began to record Revolver, long-time engineer, Norman Smith was replaced by Geoff Emerick. As Andy Babiuk points out in Beatles Gear, Emerick “was a young engineer, eager and willing to experiment. Emerick had worked on Beatles sessions as far back as A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, but now he joined George Martin’s production team as chief engineer to help translate The Beatles’ ever-expanding musical ideas.” (178) And Babiuk states that with Emerick on board, the watchword for Revolver was “experimentation.” (178)

 

For example,  in “Taxman,” there are not one but two count-ins. George clearly voices what is ostensibly “the real thing” as part of the song. Yet in the background, Paul is speaking the actual count-in. Not only does the verbal count-in reflect back to the first song of their first LP, but the dual count-ins (one real and one “for show”) function symbolically, perhaps representing the fans’ fantasy version of The Beatles’ life spread atop the surface of the harsh, underlying real world in which John, Paul, George, and Ringo actually lived and breathed. The juxtaposition of the dual count-ins signals a new level of creativity and a new depth of meaning in each song on Revolver.

 

Harrison also wryly employs the popular “Batman!” theme shriek for a hero when decrying the band’s actual anti-hero, the “Taxman!” Rodriguez points out that the “Batman!” theme was well-known in England in 1966, having been covered in an instrumental by the Markettes and later by The Who. So, using the comic theme, Rodriguez suggests, is George’s way of “giving his listeners a wink [and]…letting them [know] that, real tax issues aside, his rant shouldn’t be taken at face value.” (Revolver, How The Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, 127) It’s a tacit joke between the artists and the audience. Thankfully, Martin and Emerick were open to such crafty ideas, and without a blink, they found a way to “make it so.”

 

  1. Unique Subject Matter – George Martin readily admitted that the songs on Revolver were “far more varied than anything [The Beatles had] ever done before.” (Spizer, The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver, 23) And it wasn’t only the boys’ music that was innovative! The song themes themselves were sweepingly different. Instead of the traditional “moon, croon, spoon, June” songs, Revolver frankly discussed death, loneliness and isolation, loss, drug usage, and yes, taxes.

 

George commented, “’Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and is so typical. Why should this be so? Are we being punished for something we have forgotten to do?” (Davies, The Beatles Lyrics, 142)

 

By 1966, The Beatles’ eyes were wide open. They were no longer young, green boys, fresh on the scene. The new “studio Beatles” were sophisticated world travelers who had learned how to wrangle with the music industry’s “big cigars,” fans, governments, and press…and to survive. They had faced near-death experiences, complicated personal relationships, and yes, even financial worries. As Hunter Davies points out, “Brian Epstein [had] tried a few tax-saving devices – sheltering one million with a financial wizard in a tax haven in the Bahamas. The money disappeared…” (The Beatles Lyrics, 142) The Beatles of Revolver have learned a thing or two, and on their 7th LP, they tell us about it.

 

  1. Paul Takes the Lead – In our next section, Bruce Spizer will discuss Paul’s remarkable lead guitar work, but we must note here that having Paul rather than George play the lead solo in the middle and at the end of “Taxman” was a landmark moment. From Revolver on, the vastly talented McCartney would increasingly begin to assume roles traditionally allotted to the other three.

 

A Fresh, New Look:

 

Who better to give us all a unique and insightful look at “Taxman” than our own Fest Beatles music expert, Bruce Spizer?! (And let us not forget that in addition to being a Beatles author/historian, Bruce is Board Certified in Taxation by the Louisiana Bar Association, making him a “Taxman” by trade.) In his latest book The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver, Bruce reminds us that when Revolver was released, Melody Maker observed that there are “still more ideas buzzing around in The Beatles’ heads than in most of the pop world put together.” (31) Let’s chat with Bruce about those incredible ideas and innovations in “Taxman.”

 

Jude Southerland Kessler: Bruce, the fact that a George Harrison composition opens Side One of Revolver is significant in many ways. Tell us about this interesting new development in Beatles music history and why it matters.

 

Bruce Spizer: George had always been intimidated by John and Paul when it came to songwriting. Who wouldn’t be? He had to wonder at first if his songs were good enough to be on a Beatles album. And it only got worse when The Beatles phased out cover versions of songs from their stage act as album material. Any song George got would eliminate a Lennon-McCartney composition, so it had to be good.

 

Although George had received co-writer’s credit for coming up with the guitar solo on Paul’s early composition “In Spite Of All The Danger” and wrote the Hamburg days instrumental “Cry For A Shadow” with John, John and Paul decided to exclude George from their songwriting team. Harrison would have to go it alone. He got his first proper song, “Don’t Bother Me,” on the group’s second U.K. album, With The Beatles. After being shut out for the next two albums, he had two songs each on Help! and Rubber Soul. But on Revolver, he not only had three songs, but was given the all-important opening track, a show of confidence from George Martin and his fellow band mates.

 

This validation of his songwriting ability encouraged George to write more songs and to push for having them included on The Beatles albums. He had four songs included on The White Album and two of the best songs on Abbey Road. George no longer lacked the confidence to write songs and was even beginning to push to have more of his songs being included on the group’s albums. When George realized during the Get Back sessions that he could not get his songs recorded when limited to two or three songs per album, the seed was planted for him to put all of his own songs out on a solo album, leading to his excellent LP All Things Must Pass.

 

So, the placement of “Taxman” as the lead track of Revolver is significant because it contributed to George’s growing confidence as a songwriter, and it forced John and Paul to recognize that George’s songs were worthy of inclusion on Beatles albums even if it meant fewer songs written by John and/or Paul.

 

AMERICAN NOTE: While fans only familiar with The Beatles’ core catalog of British releases will tell you that Revolver is the first Beatles album to open with a George song, that is not quite correct if one counts songs in which George is the lead vocalist. Capitol’s April 1964 release, The Beatles’ Second Album, opens with George singing lead on Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.”

 

BRITISH NOTE: While Revolver is the first British album containing three George compositions, it is not the first to have three George lead vocals. I want to tell you the answer, but I need you to think for yourself. Don’t bother me with asking for clues. The answer is With The Beatles, on which George sings lead on his own “Don’t Bother Me,” Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and the obscure girl-group song by the Donays, “Devil In His Heart” (gender changed in the lyrics and title to “Devil In Her Heart”).

 

Kessler: A comparison of the opening of “Taxman” and the opening of “I Saw Her Standing There” on Please Please Me produces some interesting similarities and differences. In Revolution in the Head, for example, Ian MacDonald says that the differences in these two introductions clearly symbolize “a new start in The Beatles career.” How so?

 

Spizer: In my book The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver, I compare the two openings as follows:

 

Revolver opens with a slow, lazy “One, two, three, four, one, two” count-in by George augmented by tape sounds and a cough. Paul’s original count-in for the song’s backing track can be heard as well, just as Harrison ends his count. It is a far cry from Paul’s youthful, exuberant “One, two, three, faaa!” count-in that preceded “I Saw Her Standing There,” the opening track on the group’s first Parlophone LP, Please Please Me, and the second song on Capitol’s Meet The Beatles! LP. In comparing those early albums to Revolver, the music and lyrical themes that follow are as different as the count-ins.”

 

Looking back, Paul’s “One, two, three, faaa!” count-in to the lead track on the Please Please Me LP was a stroke of genius on the part of George Martin. He wanted to get The Beatles’ first album off to a memorable and rousing start with what he described as a “potboiler,” so he chose “I Saw Her Standing There,” a high-energy rocker. He edited Paul’s count-in from Take 9 (with the volume increased) to the opening of the master take of the song. It was the perfect introduction to a great 14-song set of performances taken from The Beatles’ stage show.

 

In my upcoming book, The Beatles Please Please Me to With The Beatles, I discuss how the Beatles and George Martin selected the songs for the first LP:

 

“With only a single day available, Martin knew time was an issue. ‘I asked them what they had which we could record quickly, and the answer was their stage act.’ This would consist of a mix of Lennon-McCartney original compositions and cover versions of songs by other artists.”

 

Although Martin had ruled out recording The Beatles in concert at the Cavern, he wanted to capture that sound in the studio. In my upcoming book I write:

 

“Engineer Norman Smith placed the microphones further from the amplifiers than what was normally done so that they would pick up not only direct sound from the amplifiers, but also the ambient sound of the room. This gave the songs a more raucous sound, resembling what was heard at the group’s live performances.”

 

By 1966, the boys had grown up. They and George Martin were no longer looking for that “live-in-concert” sound. As stated on the back cover to The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver:

 

“With Revolver, The Beatles were looking for more color in their recordings, trying new instruments and techniques. But they were not using studio wizardry to cover weaknesses; they were looking for new sounds to enhance their already brilliant songs.”

 

In effect, the studio became an instrument all its own for The Beatles to experiment with. The whirling tape sounds heard in the introduction to “Taxman” foreshadow the role that recording tape would play on the album – new techniques such as artificial double-tracking, varispeed recordings, backwards tape recordings and tape loops. Although many of these tape tricks are heard throughout the album, it is the album’s final track, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” that takes full advantage of the techniques that the Abbey Road engineers used so effectively on the album.

 

The Beatles’ next few projects continued to take advantage of the studio, although The Beatles briefly attempted to get back to the sound of their Please Please Me LP during the Get Back project, foregoing overdubs and other tape effects and going for a “live-in-the-studio” sound, culminating with their famous rooftop concert, where their sound bounced around London buildings instead of studio walls.

 

Paul’s fast and youthful count-in on “I Saw Her Standing There” is appropriate for an album whose ten new songs were quickly recorded in 14 hours on a single day by a group referred to as “the boys.” George’s slow and mature-sounding count-in on “Taxman” is equally appropriate for an album recorded in 300 hours over a two-and-a-half-month span by a group of maturing young men whose musical abilities were evolving at a mind-numbing pace.

 

AMERICAN NOTE: Americans who bought the Vee-Jay album Introducing The Beatles, which featured 12 of the 14 songs appearing on the Please Please Me LP, were literally short-changed on the opening. Engineer Roger Anfinsen, who worked at Chicago’s Universal Recording Studios, prepared mono and stereo masters of the Vee-Jay album in late June 1963. Either on his own or following instructions from Vee-Jay, Anfinsen edited most of Paul’s count-in at the beginning of the tape, perhaps thinking it did not belong on the album. Thus, both the mono and stereo versions of Introducing The Beatles open with Paul shouting “Faaa!”

 

Kessler: Although George wrote the lyrics to this song with some assistance from John  Lennon, many music experts call “Taxman” a “true group effort.” Do you agree with this observation, and if so, why?

 

Spizer: I guess people call “Taxman” a “true group effort” because John assisted George with the lyrics, Paul contributed a great lead guitar solo, and all four Beatles play on the song. That was not always the case on Revolver. No Beatle plays on “Eleanor Rigby,” and Paul and Ringo are the only Beatles playing instruments on “Good Day Sunshine” and “For No One.” John also does not play an instrument on “Love You To” or “Here, There And Everywhere.” But over half the songs on the album have all four Beatles fully participating.

 

Nonetheless, when the album came out in 1966, Melody Maker astutely noted that “The Beatles individual personalities are now showing loud and clear,” with only a few of the LP’s songs really being Beatle tracks. “Most are Paul tracks, John tracks, George tracks, or in the case of ‘Yellow Submarine,’ Ringo’s track.” George’s fascination for Indian music and Paul’s liking of classical music effects clearly come through. Out of George’s three songs on the album, “Love You To” and “I Want To Tell You” are clearly “George tracks,” while “Taxman” is more of a group effort.

 

As for Paul playing the guitar solo, that had to have been an awkward moment for George. After all, he was the group’s lead guitarist, and it was his song. But the final result was well worth it. According to Paul: “George let me have a go for that solo because I had an idea. I was trying to persuade George to do something…feedback-y and crazy. And I was showing him what I wanted, and he said, ‘Well, you do it.’” Although George may have capitulated with a taste of resentment and sarcasm, he was later appreciative, saying: “I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on ‘Taxman.’ If you notice, he did like a little Indian bit on it for me.”

 

George allowing the band’s bass player to usurp his guitar solo on his own composition shows that George put the group and the quality of the song ahead of his ego. Now that’s a group effort!

 

AMERICAN NOTE: While the British version of Revolver has 14 tracks, the Capitol version only has 11 songs. This is because Capitol placed three of the British album’s songs on an earlier release, Yesterday And Today. Unfortunately, all three of these songs, “I’m Only Sleeping” “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Doctor Robert,” were songs with John on lead vocal. This gave Americans the impression that John had contributed very little to the album.

 

Kessler: Revolver firmly established The Beatles as recording artists rather than a stage band or a touring band. Tell us about some of the techniques used on “Taxman” that would have been difficult to duplicate on stage.

 

Spizer: Before Revolver was released, Paul was quoted as saying about the album: “They’ll never be able to copy this one!” He was most likely thinking of songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Love You To,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and to a lesser extent, “For No One” and “Got To Get You Into My Life.” “Taxman” is actually one of the album’s songs that could have been played live; however, it would not have sounded like the album track unless you had an extra guitar player for the song’s solo and people adding tambourine and cowbell. And, of course, you’d need great musicians to handle Paul’s stop-and-start bass guitar riff working in tandem with Ringo’s energetic drumming, not to mention George’s distorted rhythm guitar and Paul’s aggressive guitar solo.

 

The Fest loves Bruce…and we sincerely appreciate his sharing insights on “Taxman” with us. You can meet Bruce in person, get a copy of his book, and hear him speak throughout the weekend at the

 

New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans, 31 March – 2 April at the Hyatt Regency, Jersey City

 

For more information about Bruce and his books HEAD HERE

 

Follow Bruce on Facebook HERE 

 

Join Bruce Spizer on “She Said She Said” as he talks about The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver

 

For more information about Jude Kessler and The John Lennon Series, HEAD HERE

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Rubber Soul Deep Dive Part 14: Run For Your Life

Side Two, Track Last

“Run for Your Life,” The “Excellent” Potboiler Closer

 

by Jude Southerland Kessler and Jim Berkenstadt

 

For the last 18 months, the Fest for Beatles Fans blog has explored the intricacies of The Beatles’ remarkable 1965 LP, Rubber Soul. This month the Rock and Roll Detective, Jim Berkenstadt, author of Black Market Beatles, Nevermind Nirvana, The Beatle Who Vanished, and his recent best-seller, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed, joins Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, for a fresh, new look at the raucous early-Beatles-sounding final track of this creative LP. Jim – who served as the official historian for the Harrison family in the making of George’s biopic film, “Living in the Material World” – has been the Featured Author at Beatles at the Ridge and is a long-time Guest Speaker the Fest for Beatles Fans. We’re honored to have him with us.

 

What’s Standard:

 

Date Recorded: 12 October 1965 (the first day of recording for Rubber Soul)

Time Recorded: 2:30 – 7:00 p.m. (In his Complete Beatles Chronicle, Mark Lewisohn says this was the time frame spent on “Run for Your Life.” The session continued until 11:30 p.m., but the rest of the time was spent on John’s “This Bird Has Flown.”)

Studio: EMI Studios, Studio 2

 

Tech Team

Producer: George Martin

Engineer: Norman Smith

Second Engineer: Ken Scott and Phil McDonald

Stats: Recorded in 5 takes

 

Instrumentation and Musicians:

 

John Lennon, the composer, sings double-tracked lead vocals and plays his 1964 Gibson J-160E acoustic guitar. At the outset of the EMI tapes for the day, you can hear John talking to Paul about his “Jumbo Gibson.”

 

Paul McCartney, sings accompanying double-tracked vocal harmony, plays bass on his 1963 Hofner 500//1 Violin Bass, and according to Hammack, tambourine. (Hammack refers to the tambourine work as “a dominant part of the backing track,” p. 61)

 

George Harrison sings double-tracked backing vocal harmony and plays either his 1963 Gretsch G6119 Chet Atkins Tennessean electric with Gretsch Bigsby vibrato (more preferred) or his 1961 Fender Stratocaster electric with synchronized tremolo.

 

Ringo Starr plays one of his Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl Super Classic drum sets and according to some experts, tambourine.**

 

**This information is from Jerry Hammack’s The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, p. 61.

 

Sources: The Beatles, The Anthology, 193-199, Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 202, Lewisohn, The Recording Sessions, 63, Kruth, This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On, 64-68, Womack, The Beatles Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 796-797, Margotin and Guesdon, All the Songs, 308-309, Winn, Way Beyond Compare, 362-363, Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, 61-62, Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 216-218, Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 98, MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 129, Riley, Tell Me Why, 170-171, Womack, Long and Winding Roads, 125, and Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 570.   

 

What’s Changed:

 

  1. Unpolished Performance – In his book, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Recordings and the Sixties, Ian MacDonald says of “Run for Your Life”: “The performance is slapdash, Lennon muffing the words and “ popping” the microphone several times by getting too near to it. The guitar-work, some of which is badly out of tune, is similarly rough…” Likewise, in Way Beyond Compare, John C. Winn notes that “…a thumping sound [is present] during the guitar solo.” (p. 362)

 

Whilst one might assume that The Beatles were getting “sloppy” in their artistry, we must remember that these are characteristics of the Please Please Me LP, which was designed to sound like a raw, unpolished Cavern Club performance. On the “Please Please Me” single, for example,  we recall that Paul and John sang completely different lyrics on the “Last night I said these words to my girl” follow-up, and the bobble was kept intact, despite the fact that many “helpful” fans wrote the boys to alert them of their “error.” (Smile.) The glitch, according to Martin, added charm.

 

It is true that in the autumn of 1965, the boys were under tremendous pressure to get Rubber Soul recorded and polished quickly. Barry Miles in The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1 comments: “The Beatles were trapped on a deadline-powered treadmill.” (p. 216) They hadn’t paused once all year from the making of their United Artists film “Help!” and its accompanying LP to their European Tour to the July movie premieres and a live Blackpool show for the ever-demanding BBC to the 1965 North American Tour and the impending 1965 UK Tour. So, time was a commodity of which The Beatles had precious little.

 

But that did not stop Rubber Soul from being one of their most artistic, incredible LPs. In fact, John Lennon commented, “We were…getting better, technically and musically…we finally took over the studio. On Rubber Soul, we were sort of more precise about making the album…” (p. 21) Thus, the glitches in “Run for Your Life” seem to have been left in the song intentionally. They gave the track an early Beatles flavor. On an album replete with new outlooks, new instruments, and new sounds, here at last, fans could find “the lads from Liverpool.” For many, it was a refreshing, “ahhhhhh!” moment.

 

  1. John Lennon (instead of Paul McCartney) “does Elvis” – One wonderful feature of The Beatles’ Cavern Club shows was Paul’s talented homage to Elvis in songs such as “That’s All Right, Mama.” Able to closely imitate the American star to a “T,” McCartney always brought down the house with his Presley renditions. Here, it was John Lennon’s turn to pay tribute to the icon. Indeed, John wrote this entire song based on two lines from one of Elvis’s classic rockabilly tracks (“Baby, Let’s Play House,” composed by Arthur Gunter): “I’d rather see you dead, little girl/ than to be with another man.”

 

Then, employing a jagged, halting vocal style, John performs “Run For Your Life” a la E! In fact, in All the Songs, Margotin and Guesdon tell us that “In the first take, John’s voice was wrapped in a slap-back echo, which [gave] a rockabilly feel to the piece.” (p. 308-309) And to make the sound even more authentic, the song was laced with George Harrison’s “chord slides,” to enhance that 1950s Elvis sound. Having met and talked with Presley in his Los Angeles mansion only a few weeks earlier, John offers this Rubber Soul nod to his hero, of whom he had often quipped, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

 

  1. A Glimpse Back at The Early Beatles – As we’ve observed in songs such as “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Girl,” “What Goes On,” “You Won’t See Me,” and even “Michelle” (who doesn’t even know the adoring male exists), the women of Rubber Soul are not the up-on-a-pedestal, helpless women in “Ask Me Why,” or “Do You Want to Know a Secret” or “I Need You.” Rubber Soul’s women are strong, independent, and many times, unemotional. And their romantic relationships are quite complicated. In “Run for Your Life,” for example, the female is suspected of infidelity.

 

John’s reaction to her unfaithfulness, however, isn’t as open-minded or “as 1965” as the other songs on Rubber Soul seem to be. Lennon reacts like John of old: John of the Casbah, John of the Cavern boards, John of gritty Hamburg. He reveals himself as the jealous “Northern man” that he’s always been. His attitude is inappropriately edgy, as are his threats, founded in wounded machismo. And in later years, John regretted and apologized for these lyrics.

 

But the “antiquated attitude” John expressed was not intended as an anti-feminist statement. As Tim Riley points out in Tell Me Why, this is merely Lennon “let[ting] off steam.” (p. 170) According to John, “‘Run for Your Life’…was just a song I knocked off” (Kruth, p. 66), “just a sort of throwaway song of mine that I never thought much of.” (Riley, 170). It’s merely a hard-charging, angst-filled rock anthem that gets the blood pumping.  On an LP featuring sitars, melodies that hint at a droning tabla sound, exotic French lyrics, baroque orchestration, and elevated themes embracing the agape love of mankind, “Run for Your Life” sweeps the listener back to an earlier era. (Arthur Gunter wrote “Baby, Let’s Play House” in 1954, and Presley released it in 1955.) Here, in this final track of an extremely metamorphic LP, we encounter our band of old: The Beatles. As Jerry Hammack so aptly observed in his Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, “ ‘Run for Your Life’ might have been a warning shot across the bow of expectation that these were still the same lovable mop tops that had burst upon the scene just three years earlier.” The past was still a part of them all – and of John, in particular.

 

A Fresh New Look:

 

Recently, John Lennon expert Jude Southerland Kessler sat down with the Rock and Roll Detective, best-selling author Jim Berkenstadt, to talk about this LP-closing rocker. Accustomed to routing out rock’n’roll’s greatest mysteries in books such as Black Market Beatles, consulting to the late George Harrison and The Beatles Apple Corps Ltd, and his latest release, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed, Jim agreed to give us his unique perspective on “Run for Your Life.”

  

Jude Southerland Kessler: Jim, thank you for taking time out from the making of the new movie based on your book The Beatle Who Vanished to talk with our Fest Family about “Run for Your Life.” You know, in John Kruth’s book This Bird Has Flown, The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On, he tells us that if one listens to the EMI tapes for 12 October 1965, one can hear John – preparing the band to record “Run for Your Life” – directing the others to “make it heavy!” (p. 63)  Kruth says this was “years before anyone had heard the term heavy metal, or used the term heavy instead of profound.” (p. 63) So, what is John Lennon after here, Jim? And how do The Beatles accomplish that “heavy” goal?

 

Jim Berkenstadt: Thanks, Jude.

 

Even though many have described this track over the years as a toss away or album filler, I loved this song the first time I heard it, which was Christmas Day, 1965. I will never forget get it.

 

The musical and vocal elements are what make the song “heavy”. I don’t think Lennon meant heavy in the sense of the future genre “heavy metal.” I think he meant that suggestion as a way to get the entire band to play it as a hard rocker. Clearly, his recent visit with Elvis in LA, and John’s love of early Elvis recordings was on his mind when he began to write the song. It is interesting that The Beatles recorded the song exactly 10 years after Elvis released his song, “Baby Let’s Play House.”

 

I believe John wanted a tougher rock sound to match the macho, edgy vocals and jealous lyrics he was writing. Even the acoustic strumming at the start sets the driving pace, as the loud opening lead guitar riff kicks in, pulling the listener in to pay attention to Lennon’s opening and threatening lyrics. At the same time, we hear a very hard 2 and 4 backbeat from Ringo on drums and Paul overdubbing the driving tambourine. I think the double-tracked backing vocals and harmonies in the chorus are very strident, crisp and aggressive too. At the same time, they are beautiful and precise in their execution. The guitar slides that accompany the tough lead guitar solo by George are amazing. All of these elements combine to push the listener to pay attention. The song achieves its “heavy” goal with its driving passion and sound. Musically it is very hooky and catchy. You cannot get the song out of your head after only one listen.

 

Kessler: Kruth also says that “Run for Your Life” was “tacked on at the end of the record, stashed behind a second Harrison number (on the U.K. version).” (p. 66) But traditionally, George Martin had always given special attention and consideration to the closing “pot-boiler” on each of The Beatles’ LPs. Tell us about some of the other exceptional closing songs, please, Jim. And do you think “Run for Your Life” measures up?

 

Berkenstadt:

The Sgt. Pepper LP featured “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Reprise),” which has a similar hard-charging feel that provides us with another closing “Pot Boiler” like “Run for your Life.” And my favorite LP-ending song by The Beatles will always be “The End,” from Abbey Road, with the group trading solos in a rousing farewell to their fans. But, it is important to recall that The Beatles matured and changed with each album they created. I think Rubber Soul was a transitionary album that drew a bit from the old days and also shared a more mature future musical direction as well. For that reason, comparing closing numbers is a bit of “apples and oranges.” However, I think “Run For Your Life” really holds up as a great album closer 27 years on.

 

Kessler: Okay, the elephant in the room! Our friend Ken Womack, in Vol. 2 of his Beatles Encyclopedia informs us that in 1992, Ottawa’s radio station CFRA banned “Run for Your Life” for its misogynistic lyrics. When Beatles fans wrote in to inform the station that the offensive line was a direct quote from Elvis’s “Baby Let’s Play House,” that song was then banned as well. But CFRA did not ban Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” or Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Run for Your Life” in which she sings “I’d rather see you dead little boy than to be with another woman.” They did not ban Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” or the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” or Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” For that matter, they didn’t ban female rockers performing songs such as the Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” or Joanie Summers performing “Johnny Get Angry.” So, what’s really at play here, Jim? Does John Lennon’s penchant for being constantly censured figure into the mix?

 

Berkenstadt:

Censorship of music has always been a slippery slope. In my new book, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed, I reviewed 100s of pages of de-classified FBI investigation documents into whether the song “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen was in fact obscene. In that case, the FBI and the Governor of Indiana (who basically banned the record from radio in violation of the First Amendment) were pre-disposed to find something wrong with the song. I detailed their sloppy investigations which were an embarrassment. The 3-year FBI witch-hunt cost taxpayers around $62 million dollars in today’s money, and never found any evidence of obscenity. The details I revealed in the book demonstrated what they failed to find and what they should have discovered. Readers will enjoy this fresh new deep-dive on the topic of music censorship.

 

The censorship of John Lennon’s song doesn’t necessarily indicate that they were picking on Lennon per se. Censorship really is a totally subjective process. Perhaps the station chose Lennon for a public relations reason? Admittedly, Lennon and The Beatles were bigger than all of the other artists they could have picked on. By selecting him, perhaps they thought they might gain more listeners from the controversial publicity? Or maybe someone didn’t like The Beatles at that station? We may never know the motive behind this action. I think the only way to truly answer this question would be to locate all of the decision makers at the station in 1992, and ask them about their motives in the censorship of Lennon’s song and try to determine why they chose the Lennon/ Beatles song and not the others.

 

Ironically, the biggest pop song of last year was not investigated by the FBI for obscenity. It was a Cardi B hit called, “WAP.” I will let your readers look up what that stands for. LOL.

 

Kessler: Jim, so many Beatles experts link this 1965 song to earlier Lennon “insecurity” tracks such as “No Reply” and “You Can’t Do That.” Others see “Run for Your Life” as a precursor  to “Jealous Guy,” “I’m Losing You,” and “Crippled Inside.” There is an obvious common denominator in John’s life story…the story he tells us over and over and over throughout his career. Talk a little about that, please, Jim, and what other songs do you see as part of this “Lennon Litany of Loss”?  

 

Berkenstadt:

Sadly, as many Beatles fans know, John lost his mother two times. The first time was after his parents broke up and John went to live with his Aunt Mimi. This alone would have been traumatic enough for a young boy to see his mom get together with another man and start a new family without him in the home. But then, as he was starting to spend more time in his teens with his mom, and she was teaching him guitar chords and giving him his first guitar, she was sadly killed by an off-duty drunken officer who hit her with his car. The loss of family at a young age can create a lifelong trauma, not easily remedied. I think John’s trauma did lead to many songs of loss, sadly.  Perhaps the most poignant song he ever wrote was “Mother.” Who can forget the grief-filled and chilling lines of John’s Plastic Ono Band song:

 

Mother, you had me but I never had you,
I wanted you,
You didn’t want me
So I, I just got to tell you
Goodbye goodbye.
Father, you left me but I never left you,
I needed you,
You didn’t need me
So I, I just got to tell you
Goodbye goodbye.

This is such a broken-hearted song. It is my belief that John did benefit from putting his grief and feelings of loss into his music. In a way, it was a healthy form of therapy. And it probably served to help others who had similar childhood traumas to relate to Lennon’s honest and brave “Litany of Loss” songs.

 

Kessler: Jim, thank you so much for your insights into this controversial but (as Margotin and Guesdon observed) “excellent song.” (p. 309) I’m enjoying your intriguing Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed book so much! And I can’t wait to see you in Chicago in just a few weeks for the Fest!

 

For more information on the Rock and Roll Detective Jim Berkendstadt, go to:

 

Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed (free excerpt download and signed copies)

The Beatle Who Vanished (free excerpt download and signed copies)

 

HEAD HERE to learn more about all of Jim’s projects  

 

You can meet Jim in person at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, Aug. 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare where he’ll be discussing and signing his most recent book, Mysteries in the Music, Case Closed.

 

To purchase Jim’s books, go to: Amazon.com: Jim Berkenstadt: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle and www.thefest.com

 

Follow Jim on Facebook here 

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Rubber Soul Deep Dive Part 13: If I Needed Someone

Side Two, Track Six

“If I Needed Someone”

 

Through 2021 and 2022, the Fest for Beatles Fans blog has explored The Beatles’ remarkable 1965 LP, Rubber Soul. This month, Lanea Stagg, author of The Recipe Records Series including the original Recipe Records, Recipe Records: Sixties Edition, Recipe Records: A
Culinary Tribute to The Beatles, and The Rolling Scones: Let’s Spend the Bite Together joins Jude Southerland Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, for a fresh, new look at the exciting next-to-last track on this unique, creative LP.

 

What’s Standard:

 

Date Recorded: 16 October (superimpositions added 18 October)

 

Time Recorded: Late in the evening of 16 October, probably around 11.30 p.m. Most of the session (from 2:30 p.m.-midnight) had been spent on “Day Tripper.” In Way Beyond Compare, John C. Winn says, “Before going home for the night, The Beatles also started work on a George Harrison composition, “If I Needed Someone.” (P. 364) And Mark Lewisohn in The Complete Beatles Chronicle gives us a time stamp by saying that the boys turned to George’s creation “with the clock ticking towards midnight…” .

Studio: EMI Studios, Studio 2

 

Tech Team

Producer: George Martin

Engineer: Norman Smith

Second Engineer: Ken Scott

Stats: Backing track (of bass, drums, rhythm guitar, and twelve-string electric guitar) recorded in one take on 16 October 1965. (p. 364)

 

Then, on 18 October, George double-tracked the lead vocal, accompanied by John and Paul’s harmonies to create the famous Beatles 3-part harmony. Then, Ringo on tambourine and George were on lead guitar recorded together on another track.

 

Instrumentation and Musicians:

 

George Harrison, the composer, sings lead vocal, plays on his 1965 Rickenbacker 360/12 (12-string electric guitar).

John Lennon sings harmony vocals and plays rhythm on his 1961 Fender Stratocaster with synchronized tremolo.

Paul McCartney sings harmony vocals and plays bass on his 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S bass.

Ringo Starr plays one of his Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl Super Classic drum sets and plays tambourine in superimposition.[i]

 

Sources: Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 202, Lewisohn, The Recording Sessions, 64, Gunderson, Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How The Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966, 90-91, Everett, The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men through Rubber Soul, 318-319,  Margotin and Guesdon, All the Songs, 306-307, Winn, Way Beyond Compare, 364, Hammack, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 71-72, Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 218, Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 98, Spizer, The Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records, 203, Babiuk, Beatles Gear, 167-168, Womack, Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles, 125,  and Mellers, Twilight of the Gods: The Music of The Beatles, 61.

 

What’s Changed:

 

  1. Influence of the Byrds and the Folk Rock Sound – During the 1965 North American Tour, when Capitol’s Alan Livingston threw a party for The Beatles and invited stars such as Edward G. Robinson, Groucho Marx, Eddie Fisher, Jack Benny, and Rock Hudson, George opted to “go his own way” for a meeting with the chart-topping folk-rock group, the Byrds. The California group’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” (written by Bob Dylan) had hit Number 1 on 26 June 1965, and the Byrds had said in several interviews that they liked The Beatles’ music, were inspired by them, and in fact, played the exact same instruments that The Beatles played.

 

Indeed, Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker lead became an important part of the Byrds’ signature sound. Honored by this homage, George wanted to get to know the group and made the effort to visit them. As a result of this meeting, plus a second visit to the Byrds in studio (on 27 August, this time accompanied by Paul), George began to compose a new song in West Coast folk-rock genre. In fact, Harrison specifically stated that the guitar riff of the Byrds’ “The Bells of Rhymney” and the melody of their song “She Don’t Care About Time” inspired “If I Needed Someone.” (Turner, 98) More about this coming up in Lanea Stagg’s “Fresh, New Look.”

 

However,  “If I Needed Someone” isn’t at all derivative of these two Byrds compositions. Instead, George’s second original song on the Rubber Soul LP is actually a study written around the D chord. George marveled that “a million other songs” had also been written around the D chord. He said, “If you move your fingers about, you get various other melodies…it amazes me that people still find new permutations of the same notes.” (Margotin and Guesdon, 306 and Turner, 98) And yet, the influence of the Byrds’ jingle-jangle sound – enhanced by Ringo’s work on tambourine – gives “If I Needed Someone” a unique timbre.

 

  1. George’s New Guitar – On the 1965 North American Tour, at the end of the Minneapolis press conference, a special presentation took place. The co-owners of a local music store named B-Sharp gifted George with a Rickenbacker Fireglo (red sunburst) 360/12 (12-string electric guitar). Both Andy Babiuk in Beatles Gear (pp. 168-169) and Chuck Gunderson in Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How The Beatles Rocked America: The Historic North American Tours, 1964-1966 (p. 91) give us the backstory for this presentation. They say that when Liverpool’s Remo Four had visited the shop some weeks before The Beatles landed in Minneapolis, the group spotted the instrument and commented, “George [Harrison] would love this!” Right then and there, owners Randy Resnick and Ron Butwin decided to give the Rickenbacker to George when The Beatles arrived in Minneapolis on 21 August. George was thrilled! And as a result, both Butwin and Resnick were given VIP seats in the Twins dugout for the concert in Metropolitan Stadium. It is this new guitar that George uses on “If I Needed Someone.”

 

  1. Toughness in Romantic Relationships – As we’ve discussed previously, all of the songs about women on Rubber Soul are 180-out from the early Beatles’ head-over-heels attitudes in “She Loves You,” “From Me to You, “Ask Me Why,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” On Rubber Soul, love has become complicated. “Drive My Car” featured a hard-charging female determined to get to the top and only interested in a man who can “drive her car.” “Girl” shone a light on a callous woman who “put you down when friends are there/you feel a fool.” The girlfriend in “You Won’t See Me” doesn’t “treat me right,” and even the enchanting “Michelle” doesn’t realize that her suitor exists! In “If I Needed Someone,” however, the problem isn’t rejection of the male. It’s his (rather reluctant) rejection of her with the wistful caveat that “Had come some other day/Then it might not have been like this/But you see now I’m too much in love.” Rubber Soul’s relationships are clearly not simple or sweetly romantic. As Wilfred Mellers points out, “In all these songs, there’s a toughness, beneath lyricism or comedy that is not evident in other songs.” (p. 61)

 

A Fresh New Look

 

Note from Jude Kessler: It has been my distinct pleasure to work hand-in-hand with author Lanea Stagg almost daily for the last ten years. Together we produce the monthly podcast “She Said She Said” on Apple Podcasts, Podbean, and Spotify. In our five years with that show, we’ve been blessed to interview Julia Baird, May Pang, Ken Mansfield, Roag Best, Helen Andersen, Chas Newby, Leslie Cavendish, and so many others in The Beatles family as well as a host of Beatles experts and authors. From 2012-2019, Lanea and I co-chaired the Authors and Artists Symposium for Walnut Ridge, Arkansas’s “Beatles at the Ridge.” And in 2016, we worked together to chair the GRAMMY Museum of Mississippi’s Beatles Symposium. Lanea is not only the author of the Recipe Records Series, but is also the author of two successful children’s books, Little Dog in the Sun and Little Dog About Town. She has been a Guest Speaker at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, Abbey Road on the River, and the Monmouth University White Album Conference. Her articles have appeared on the All Music website and in 2021, she worked with Angie and Ruth McCartney to feature her recipes @GourmetNFTOfficial. I was so thrilled to be able to sit down and chat with Lanea about George Harrison’s second song on Rubber Soul.

 

Jude Southerland Kessler: In the “What’s New” segment of this blog, we discussed the strong influence of the Byrds on this George Harrison number. What elements of the “jingle-jangle folk rock” movement has Harrison employed in “If I Needed Someone”?

 

Lanea Stagg: It is a very curious musical event when one band gives another “the nod” by borrowing another band’s riff, or other sound.  When we hear that curiosity today, we don’t really think of this as “a nod,” but more as stealing!

 

George’s song, “If I Needed Someone,” actually contained “the nod” to California band the Byrds, who were comprised of Roger McGuinn (known as “Jim” at that time), David Crosby, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, and Chris Hillman.  But…the Byrds (as Jude noted in the “What’s New” segment) had created their sound based upon influence from The Beatles’ music, specifically from the film A Hard Day’s Night. McGuinn was very taken with the sound of Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker, so he acquired one as well. Chris Hillman stated in 2008 for Central Coast Magazine, “McGuinn saw George playing a Rickenbacker 12-string in A Hard Day’s Night. McGuinn had been playing a Gibson acoustic 12-string when he saw Harrison,” and the rest became history.

 

When George met up with the Byrds in California, they discussed their sounds. The Byrds had released “The Bells of Rhymney” in June 1965,  and George was very fond of the jangly 12-string Rickenbacker riff. George incorporated the riff as “a nod” back to the band.

 

I recommend listening to “The Bells of Rhymney,” and it won’t take long to recognize the riff. The song is a very old story, and quite sad, about a coal mining disaster in Wales. Harrison loved the sound McGuinn used with the Rickenbacker, and he “borrowed” the riff for “If I Needed Someone.”

 

In a 2004 interview for Christian Music Today, Roger McGuinn said, “George Harrison wrote that song [“If I Needed Someone”] after hearing the Byrds’ recording of ‘Bells of Rhymney.’ He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes, The Beatles.”

 

Curiously, “If I Needed Someone” was not on the U.S. release of Rubber Soul. It wasn’t released in the U.S. until June of 1966 when it appeared on the LP Yesterday and Today. So, it was a BIG DEAL for George to send a copy of his recording to Roger McGuinn!

 

So, here we have George writing a song where he was inspired by the Byrds, and in “turn, turn, turn,” the Byrds were first inspired by The Beatles.

 

Kessler: Lanea, many music experts have tagged “If I Needed Someone” as the precursor to “Within You Without You” and “Love You To.” Some have even noted that it might have served as a springboard for John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” What musical connections do you see between this 1965 composition and George’s later Indian-inspired melodies?

 

Stagg: Musicology is not for the faint of heart! With so many elements to digest in a song – especially a Beatles’ piece – the casual ear might miss a tasty morsel.

 

I find this to be the case in George’s “If I Needed Someone.” First, we hear the satiny smooth jingle-jangle of the Ric as well as a steady bass, which is greeted with George’s declaration: “If I needed someone to love/You’re the one that I’d be thinking of.” The frosting on this delicacy is the harmony by John and Paul as well as Ringo’s tambourine. That all happens in 20 seconds!

 

What develops further in this song is quite full. As mentioned earlier in the “What’s Changed” segment, the song is built around the D chord. This produces a rather dronish sound…which conjures up the possibility of adding a sitar (which George was learning to play). However, here he chose not to.

 

Musician/songwriter Rande Kessler stated that George “was enjoying a playfulness around only a few chords, climbing and descending a small scale to produce a lilting, droning, chanting effect. It is almost a repetitive “humming” sound that is sung along with his Ric 12-string, more or less emulating a sitar. The melody doesn’t stray far from the original chord, and the bridge simply floats a variation that brings the melody back to the beginning. To me, ‘Within You Without You’ essentially takes that same lilting chord-orbit that George started with and uses the sitar to play along with the chanting melody…as an evolution from “If I Needed Someone” and its sitar-sounding capoed Ric 12-string.”

 

In Hunter Davies’s The Beatles Lyrics, George states: “[Rubber Soul] is my favorite. We certainly knew we were making a good album. We were suddenly hearing sounds that we weren’t able to hear before, everything was blossoming at the same time, including us, because we were still growing.”

 

Kessler: Many music experts have referred to this song as “a tribute to Pattie Boyd” (who became Pattie Harrison in January 1966). And yet, George’s response to the flirtatious “other” in this song is rather coy and complicated. I see a bit of a parallel between “if I Needed Someone” and another 1965 hit written by The Lovin’ Spoonful entitled “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?”. Do you? And do you think that this song serves as a tribute to Pattie Boyd?

 

Stagg: Many sources state this song is a tribute to Pattie Boyd. However, if I were Pattie Boyd, I would hope not! George Harrison is clearly leaving the door open for one, or perhaps more, potential love interests…in case things do not work out with Pattie.

 

George does proclaim, “I’m too much in love,” and therefore, announces to the ladies that his heart has been stolen away by the gorgeous Miss Boyd. Remember, George was only 22-years-old when he penned “If I Needed Someone.” He had been swarmed by women for years, and I’m sure had played a lot of games. Perhaps he was unsure if Pattie would continue to be in love with him, especially knowing the challenges attached to being a “Beatle wife.” He had seen how difficult that was for John. So, perhaps George is keeping one foot in the door…just in case!

 

“If I Needed Someone” is the beginning of George’s effort to pen meaningful lyrics. The song was released on the UK Rubber Soul LP almost one year after the release of The Beatles’ album Beatles for Sale, where George gave a cover performance of Carl Perkins’s “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby.” We envision George singing, “Everybody’s trying to be my baby,” over and over…and perhaps he really was experiencing the deluge of women trying to be his baby! Was that part of the inspiration for his 1965 lyrics: “Carve your number on my wall…”? Could George have written a follow-up to his experiences during that year where there was ALWAYS someone trying to be his baby?  George was enveloped in Beatlemania and the avalanche of women trying to get to him.

 

While Lennon and McCartney were able to create intricate lyrics as easily as taking a breath, George had to work harder at it. His early songs were rather unpolished and at times, even bland. On Rubber Soul, he penned lyrics for not only “If I Needed Someone,” but also “Think for Yourself.” “Think for Yourself” is a rather somber statement to fans as opposed to the syrupy songs they were used to from Lennon/McCartney. The tune is peppy, but the lyrics, not so much.

 

The boys were faced with many choices, and it feels as if George is choosing to “make up his mind” to pick up on Pattie and leave the other birds behind.

 

Kessler: Lanea, “If I Needed Someone” is ranked #54 in Spignesi and Lewis’s 100 Best Beatles Songs – a rather impressive rating! The song is so appealing that it has been covered by the Kingsmen, Cryin’ Shames, Hugh Mackels, Michael Hedges…and the Hollies. However, George Harrison despised the Hollies’ version of his song. He said, “I think it’s rubbish the way they’ve done it. They’ve spoilt it.” (Womack, Long and Winding Roads, The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles, 125) What do you hear in the Hollies’ version of “If I Needed Someone” that supports or refutes George’s appraisal?

Stagg:  I concur with George Harrison. Hearing the version released by the Hollies is a let-down, and if I were George, absolutely would not consider it a compliment!

 

While the Hollies perform the song in their unique and typical sound, they come off sounding tinny, and George’s beautiful riff was now played on what sounded like a plastic guitar! The Beatles’ brilliant performance of harmonies on George’s song really cannot be matched or recreated. The Hollies lack the crisp, clean, and more pure harmonies that The Beatles flawlessly added to George’s song. I think George was right, and I would send the Hollies back to the “Bus Stop!”

 

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[i] Instrumentation information from Jerry Hammack’s The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, Vol. 2, 71.

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Beatles Poetry Contest: The Three Winning Poems

Since January 2021, we’ve been examining The Beatles’ 1965 work of genius, Rubber Soul, taking deep dives into each track. Having concluded Side One, this month we took a short intermission to stand, stretch, and have a bit of fun.

 

We invited Fest for Beatles Fans poet Terri Whitney — who has written two books of poetry on The Beatles and other rock’n’roll greats — to serve as one of the judges in a POETRY CONTEST in her honor: The Rockin’ Rhymer Poetry Contest.

 

Thanks to all who submitted poems. They were all wonderful.

 

Here are the three winning poems…

 

Sai Matekar, Winner

 

In My Life/ Two of Us (or 6th july, 1957, the birth of the Beatles)

 

 

6th July, 1957

Woolton church fete, on a beautiful sunny day

Life became a song,

When, John found Paul

Soulmate found soulmate

Music found magic,

Loss found love,

When Paths lead to home,

Wrong Words and banjo chords,

Found lost rhymes and a tuned guitar

Together came

Motherless sons, two

They, cried

Till nothing was left inside,

On a neverending night

Lines, in fully formed songs

Songs, in half written lines

Hands four played one melody,

Strings across searching eyes

Knee to knee,

Growing and healing

Memories,

Longer and

On a long road,

John hugged Paul

When the world changed

 

And they

 

Changed the world

When Paul hugged John,

On a road, long

and longer memories

Of healing and growing,

Knee to knee

Eyes searching, across strings

One melody played four hands,

Lines written, half in songs

Songs formed fully in lines

On a Night, neverending

Inside, nothing was left

Till they cried,

Two Sons,

Motherless

Came together

A tuned guitar and lost rhymes,

Found banjo chords and wrong words

Home lead to paths,

When Love found loss,

Magic found music,

Soulmate found soulmate ,

Paul found John, when

A song came to life

On a beautiful sunny day, Woolton church fete

1957,July 6th


Phillip Kirkland, First Runner-Up

 

THE LIFE OF JOHNNY (ABRIDGED) 

 

Born of Mother (partly timey)

Virtual Orphan, Mimi cares

Wayward Johnny, daily howly

Auntie living deep despairs

 

Cocky muso young McCartney

Teaches roughneck, tuney strings

Jam together, fledgling combo

Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ Blues ‘n’ things

 

Off to Hamburg, popping Prellies

Playing socks off, kiddies’ cheers

Man, we’re groovy little group now

Playing Cavern, Epstein hears

 

Richly contract, muchy money

Funny haircut, shiny suit

Liddypool is distant memory

Muchy fame and girls to boot

 

Arty Yoko, avant gardly

Wide-eyed Johnny, falls in lust

Beatles crumbly, end of era

Golden Apple turns to dust

 

Uncle Sammy, John and Yoko

Little Sean and baking bread

Starting Over, not for muchly

Mad assassin – Johnny’s dead!

 


Presley Moffett, Second Runner-Up

 

Like Mother, Like Daughter 

 

Like mother, like daughter

Music is our common bond

And every moment in our lives is connected to a song

 

Mom gave me her copy of Sgt. Pepper

She bought the record

Sometime in the ’80s

The vinyl was missing, but the cover was still intact

She gave it to me and said, “I have listened to this album since I was your age in fact.”

 

Like mother, like daughter

Music is our common bond

And every moment in our lives is connected to a song

 

On the way to elementary school

Mom and I would listen to the 1 CD

It became a daily ritual

Driving down the street

Me singing my heart out in the backseat

We didn’t have real microphones

So we just used our hands, you know

 

Like mother, like daughter

Music is our common bond

And every moment in our lives is connected to a song

 

Even years later

I’m in college about graduate

And we still listen to The Beatles in the car

As soon as the first note starts

We get lost in the lyrics and forget everything else

It’s truly an escape from the chaos this world creates

 

Like mother, like daughter

Music is our common bond

And every moment in our lives is connected to a song

 

Sometimes we fight because we care

Because we never want to hurt each other

Or be unfair but

With all the challenges we face

The Beatles have ultimately brought us closer together

 

Like mother, like daughter

Music is our common bond

And every moment in our lives is connected to a song

 

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