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alan w. pollack's
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Notes on the cover songs on the "With The Beatles" album

 





Notes on ... Series #42 (COVERS2)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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General Points of Interest

  Next note Both the "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles" albums contain six cover songs and eight originals. While there are some parallels between the covers on both albums, there are equally interesting differences as well.
  Next note The parallels:
 
  • Both sets of covers contain examples of types of material that the group could or at least would not write for themselves at this stage of their career. The connections between "Taste of Honey" versus "Till There Was You" (soppy love ballads), "Boys" versus "Roll Over Beethoven" (jumping little records with every section a twelve-bar blues frame), "Anna" versus "You Really Got A Hold On Me" (heavy soulful ballads), and "Twist and Shout" versus "Money" (raving screamers) are fairly obvious.
  • Given the decidedly male image of the group, both sets of covers contain a surprisingly strong showing of material first popularized by so-called Girl Groups; three out of six on the first album, and two out of six on the second.
  • Although the Boys would seem in some respects to rather slavishly copy the original versions of the songs in both sets of covers, they almost always, by the same token, appear to include their own subtle stylistic touches. This appears with increasing liberty on the second album, where for example three of the covers whose originals feature a fade-out ending are given a complete one by the Beatles.
  Next note The differences:
 
  • Overall, the set of covers on "With The Beatles" is more heavily weighted toward driving R&B. Either that or perhaps it is in sympathetic vibration, as it were, with the heavier set of originals on this album that one hears the covers this way. Though a highly subjective call, I dare say that "With The Beatles" packs a harder punch as an album than does "Please Please Me" partly because of the type of covers it contains.
  • Less subjective is the fact that the "With The Beatles" covers represent, in part, an older layer of the Beatles' repertoire than the ones on "Please Please Me". Of the six covers on "With The Beatles" two ("Till There Was You" and "Money") go back at least as far as the Decca audition, and "Roll Over Beethoven" goes back even further. According to Lewisohn, there was even a time when the proto-Beatles played "Roll Over Beethoven" with John singing lead! The "Please Please Me" covers, in contrast, were mostly recent hits at the time the Beatles recorded them; only "Baby It's You" predates the 1962 season which immediately preceded the recording of "Please Please Me".
  Next note Now get ready for a song-by-song walk-through.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Till There Was You"

Notes on ... Series #42a (COVERS2a)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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        Key: F Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Verse |
                   | Verse (guitar solo) | Bridge | Verse |
                   | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 6 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
   Composer: Meredith Willson
Influential
    version: Peggy Lee (1961)
   Recorded: 18th, 30th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 20th January 1964 (LP "Meet The Beatles")
 
  Next note The Beatles' acoustic arrangement with its Latin beat and bongos is certainly a far cry from the smoothly flowing schmaltz of the original version heard in "The Music Man" Broadway show. Perhaps this bouncier treatment was inspired by Peggy Lee (unfortunately this is the one original cover version I did not have on hand for this article), or perhaps, they took their own cue for it from the likes of "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why".
  Next note A couple of details betray the Beatles' own fingerprints; e.g. the flat-VI chord (D-flat Major) in the coda and the final F-Major chord with the added Major seventh are definitely not part of the original. Despite this, the musical essence of this song, with its chromatic winding that pervades both vocal melody and bassline (and which indirectly affects the choice and progression of chords) is something quite off the Beatles' track.
  Next note No matter how much you think he deserves to be ragged on for playing it apparently from such rote practice, George's acoustic solo work on this track is tastefully conceived and executed with great nuance. Granted, it's simultaneously both impressive and depressing to hear the identical solo, note for note just about, on the Decca tape.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Please Mister Postman"

Notes on ... Series #42b (COVERS2b)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: A Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Refrain | Verse | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Refrain |
                  | Refrain (fade-out)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 7 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
   Composer: Dobbin / Garrett / Garman / Brianbert
Influential
    version: The Marvelettes (1961)
   Recorded: 30th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")
 
  Next note Every section of this song is based on the same I -» vi -» IV -» V chord progression, one of the most popular clichés of early Rock and Roll, yet one which for some reason the Beatles generally eschewed.
  Next note The monotony of the harmonic plan tends to blur somewhat the distinction between what is "refrain" and "verse", but it should be noted how the former utilizes dramatic antiphonal counterpoint between the backing and lead vocals, while the latter features the lead up front with the backers softly oooh-ing. One of the other covers here features similarly conspicuous antiphony (see "Devil In Her Heart") and this sort of device would eventually become a major trademark of the Beatles' original work; think of the likes of "You Can't Do That" and "You're Going To Lose That Girl". In "Postman" the vocal antiphony starts, bang!, right in the intro, and I for one can't avoid hearing a direct resonance between those opening shouts of "Wait!" and the Boys own "Help!"
  Next note John is double tracked while the Marvelettes' lead is not. Otherwise the arrangement of both versions is essentially the same, allowing of course for the large change of key required to accommodate the different vocal ranges of the two groups.
  Next note Incidentally, you'll find that there is some confusion over the authorship of this song if you compare various sources. Current CD pressings of "With The Beatles" credit the team listed above. However the older LP copies of the "Second Album" list just "Holland" and this is supported by the Parlophone company-memo originally defining the running order for "With The Beatles" as reproduced in Lewisohn's "Recording Sessions." Note though that Lewisohn's "Live" book lists it as "Holland / Bateman / Gordy." Does anybody out there know what I sense must be an interesting story behind this?
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Roll Over Beethoven"

Notes on ... Series #42c (COVERS2c)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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        Key: D Major
      Meter: 4/4
                    ------ 3X ------
       Form: Intro | Verse / Refrain| Bridge |
                                  ------ 2x ------
                   | Guitar Solo | Verse / Refrain|
                   | Refrain (complete ending)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 8 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
  Composer: Chuck Berry
Influential
    version: Chuck Berry (1956)
   Recorded: 30th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")
 
  Next note As with many other, if not quite literally all, of Chuck Berry's songs, every section of this one is in the twelve-bar blues form — eight of them all in a row! I only call the fourth section a bridge ("Well if you feel it") because of the subtle change in the melody and back-beat.
  Next note There's a minor variation here on the standard blues formula in the way that the chord progression of the last four measures of the twelve-bar pattern is played as IV -» V -» I instead of V -» IV -» I. This is actually much easier to hear on the Beatles' version than the original, though I believe they both play it the same way.
  Next note Formalistically, each twelve-bar section is internally sub-divided so that the first eight measures provide verse-like exposition, and the final four measures deliver a refrain-like hook. Note how the text of the hook/refrain itself is varied from section to section. Also, note the subtle way in which formal plan here contrasts from of that of "Money" below.
  Next note The lyric is wordy to an extreme bordering on the "talkin' blues" style, and is quite wryly irreverent. Seen in this perspective, Chuck's performance scans the words against the beat more freely than does George, in a way that anticipates the style of Dylan in some respects.
  Next note The original features a drumming style that is less splashy than the Beatles' cover while the Beatles double track the lead vocal and add their hand-claps to the rhythm track. But these are small details and otherwise, the Beatles just about rip the whole thing off from Chuck right down to the opening riff and "middle twelve" break.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "You Really Got A Hold On Me"

Notes on ... Series #42d (COVERS2d)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: A Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form: Intro | Verse | Refrain | Verse | Refrain |
                   | Closing | Bridge / Re-Intro | Verse |
                   | Refrain | Closing | Refrain |
                   | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 10 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
   Composer: William Robinson
Influential
    version: (Smokey Robinson and) The Miracles (1962)
   Recorded: 18th July, 17th October 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")
 
  Next note There's an unusually complex form at play in this song; note, that I define my terms used above as follows:
 
  • Verse — "I don't like you ..."
  • Refrain — "You really got a hold on me ..."
  • Closing — "I love you and all I want you do ..."
  • Bridge / Re-Intro — instrumental followed by "Tighter!"
  Next note The vocal arrangement is equally complex with the relationship between the lead and backers frequently alternating between trio, solo, and some antiphonal singing.
  Next note Harmonically, the song features an emphasis on the I -» vi progression that is rather Beatles-like in an coincidentally ironic way.
  Next note Smokey does it in the higher key of C with (just like Chuck) a different scanning of the words. The original arrangement also features saxes and notably, a fade-out ending. John has the good sense here to sing it single tracked, but while his performance has an obvious intensely raw sincerity to it, Smokey's own smoothness is rather hard to beat.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Devil In Her Heart"

Notes on ... Series #42e (COVERS2e)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: G Major
      Meter: 4/4
                    -------- 3X -----
       Form: Intro | Refrain / Verse | Refrain |
                   | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 12 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
   Composer: Richard B. Drapkin
Influential
    version: The Donays (1962)
   Recorded: 18th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")
 
  Next note The lyrics and arrangement of this song present an argument between the backers who warn the lead of his lover's cruel dishonesty, and the lead who point-by-point protests their sad prophecies as false and refuses to be swayed by their counsel; it's a regular little Greek Chorus Drama in miniature.
  Next note The form of the song though is surprisingly flat in spite of the dramatic scenario, with a mechanical succession of refrain and verse pairs. Defining my terms again:
 
  • Refrain — "She's got a devil in her heart ..." — I'll still peg these sections as refrains in spite of the fact that the lyrics which follow the hook line keep changing in each reiteration.
  • Verse — "He'll never hurt me or desert me ..."
  Next note Both formal sections of the song have a convergent harmonic shape, which is unusual. The refrains start off with ii -» V -» I (shades of "Don't Let Me Down") and the verses start off with the IV -» iv -» I (Major IV to minor iv) cliché.
  Next note The transfer of this song from a female to male group obviously necessitated changing the words a bit as well as a transposition of key (the Donays did it in E). The original has a large-ish sounding band behind it and a fade-out ending. The Beatles include maracas, and not only make the ending a complete one, but adorn it with one of their beloved Major ninth/seventh chords on I.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Money (That's What I Want)"

Notes on ... Series #42f (COVERS2f)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: E Major
      Meter: 4/4
                    ------ 3X -------
       Form: Intro | Verse / Refrain | Break |
                   | Verse / Refrain | Refrain |
                   | One Last Refrain (complete ending)
         CD: "With The Beatles", Track 14 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
   Composer: Janie Bradford / Berry Gordy
Influential
    version: Barret Strong (1959)
   Recorded: 18th, 30th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
 US-release: 10th April 1964 (LP "The Beatles' Second Album")
 
  Next note This is yet another song in which (virtually) every section is in twelve-bar blues form, but it bears an interesting comparison with "Roll Over Beethoven". Here, the twelve-bar frame is divided so that only four measures are verse-like exposition with the remaining eight devoted to a raving refrain. The proportions in "Roll Over Beethoven" are a reversed eight-to-four. And the difference is more than just a mathematical curiosity to the extent that the longer refrain section in "Money" is as much a factor in making it a "screamer" of a song as is the performance of the lead singer. If you're looking for other examples with which to test this theory, look back to the first album where you find the verse of "Chains" which corresponds to the "Roll Over Beethoven" 8 + 4 pattern as well as "Boys" which matches the 4 + 8 pattern of "Money".
  Next note One additional parallel between "Money" and "Roll Over Beethoven" is the way they both have final sections in which the hook-phrase takes over the lyrics completely.
  Next note The Beatles' cover presents the intro and solo as an eight-measure compression of the twelve-bar frame. The original keeps both those sections at the full twelve bar count. Note however that the original has only two instead of three verse/refrain pairs before the break.
  Next note The vocal line of this is very bluesy with lots of juxtaposed Major/minor thirds and flat sevenths and the arrangement yet again features a large amount of antiphonal singing. The Beatles throw a hard edged piano in the mix and of course John's blistering vocal now single tracked. The use of the E Major key nicely supports Tony Barrow's suggestion that you can flip the disk over for a second play from the beginning since the first track, "It Won't Be Long", is also in E.
  Next note The selection of this particularly raving number for the final track of the album and the modification of it to include a big-finish complete ending sounds to me like they were striving hard to repeat the immense success of "Twist And Shout" on the first album, and I'd dare say they come pretty darn close. If you want to get picky here, perhaps you might deduct a few points either because the spin-off of the earlier "Twist And Shout" triumph is a bit too obvious or because the message of the lyrics is kind of crass and rough, for all its tongue-in-cheek posturing, in a way which doesn't entirely become the image of the group at this point with their collarless suits and little boots. If I don't watch it, though, I'm going to starting sound too much like Eppie.
  Regards,
  Alan (121791#42)
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Copyright © 1991 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.