January 14, 2021Series
About five months after A Hard Day's Night came out, the Beatles released ANOTHER album, Beatles for Sale. If you do any reading about the record, you'll find lots of people commenting on how tired they all look on the cover. They were working at what would seem to be a punishing pace. No wonder they'll be crying for "Help" on the next album! It's really no surprise that this record is a lot more melancholy than previous entries in their catalog. Also, after producing all-original songs on A Hard Day's Night, this time they're back to a mix of originals and covers. There are some fun tracks and legit one of the best pop songs ever made ("Eight Days a Week" - my opinion only, but it FEELS true). There's also actually a song called "I'm a Loser" - seems like pop stardom was really starting to wear on the fellas. Pretty much all their originals here have at least something to be impressed with - maybe not always the whole song, sometimes just the bridge or a cool guitar solo. And, as ever, when they amp up the power on their harmonies any other flaws in the composition are forgiven. One of my favorite parts about this listening experiment is discovering songs that were completely off my radar in the past. I don't have any recollection of "Baby's in Black" on the radio or elsewhere, and it seems pretty ordinary and even old-fashioned at the beginning. But then it breaks and soars with a key change and additional layers to the harmony. Next to the aforementioned "Eight Days a Week" it's my favorite song on the album. Overall not the most exciting stop on the Beatles hit parade, but had enough interesting work to keep everyone at the time of release engaged and committed to buying the next album, I'm sure.
You can listen to samples of each song here.
Track One: No Reply
The storyline of this song is a little stalker-ish. The gist is you're trying to call your girl and you know she's there but she's not answering, or you watch her walking hand in hand with another guy. So it's a little hard to sympathize, and yet John imbues a lot of pain in phrases like "I nearly died", which elevates the song more than it probably deserves.
Track Two: I'm a Loser
"Although I laugh and I act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown." This is another song about lost love, but it sounds to me they're working some other stuff out here.
Track Three: Baby's in Black
..."And I'm feeling blue". I love the simplicity of the lyrics and play on words. Plus those gorgeous harmonies. I could listen to it forever.
Track Four: Rock and Roll Music
It's pretty gutsy to cover Chuck Berry. But John Lennon's vocals are up to the task.
Track Five: I'll Follow the Sun
Shortest song on the album - 1:49. I think you can see the DNA of "Yesterday" in this tune (coming soon on Help!) And it's really hard to argue with the beauty of the line "for tomorrow may rain so I'll follow the sun". Paired with Paul's truly pristine vocals, this is one of the prettiest songs in the Beatles' catalog.
Track Six: Mr. Moonlight
Another cover that makes the most of those gravelly Lennon high notes.
Track Seven: Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey
This time Paul gets the cover and he rocks it, plus there are some great guitar solos.
Track Eight: Eight Days a Week
Sure the title doesn't make any sense. But starting from the opening notes that fade in, through the happy "clap" and "clap claps" that are peppered throughout, resistance is futile. I'll never get sick of this song.
Track Nine: Words of Love
I feel like I should have a beehive hairdo to get the full effect of listening to this song.
Track Ten: Honey Don't
Ringo alert! Every song he sings reaffirms my idea of him as a loveable goofball, just excited to be invited to the party.
Track 11: Every Little Thing
It's not the first time the tune of a Beatles song seems a little distanced from the lyrics - ostensibly this is a song about being happy to be loved, but the melody is pretty solemn. So my reaction to this one is also mixed.
Track 12: I Don't Want to Spoil the Party
This one definitely has a country feel to it - it tells a story, and there is some drowning of sorrows in a "drink or two". I also hear a little tambourine shaking, which I'm not mad at.
Track 13: What You're Doing
Another song about being wronged in love. I like it though!
Track 14: Everybody's Trying to be My Baby
Definite rockabilly vibes on this cover. The Beatles really liked that stuff!!!! Fun track to end the record, but things are about to get super exciting - see you next month to talk about Help!