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alan w. pollack's
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Notes on the cover songs on the "Beatles For Sale" album

 





Notes on ... Series #64 (COVERS3)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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General Points of Interest

 

It's Still The Same

  Next note Some things would appear to never change:
 
  • We have here yet another album of fourteen songs, eight of which are Beatles' originals and six of which are covers.
  • Music in the Blues form remains this time around the most conspicuous item that the group would order out for.
  • The tendency charted earlier on "With The Beatles" and the "Long Tall Sally" EP of their dipping back into the procrustean layers of their pre-fame repertoire is continued further here, yet again.
 

But You Have Changed

  Next note Nevertheless, this group of covers is different in some respects from the ones we've seen in the past:
 
  • The Beatles stay more slavishly close to the originals this time around than they had before, in spite of an earlier trend toward liberal reworking noted on "With The Beatles" and the "Long Tall Sally" EP; perhaps a side- effect of the relative haste with which this album is known to have been put together. Notably, the original key choices and section orderings are closely followed for most of the songs in this bunch.
  • Stylistically, this set of six songs is evenly weighted between straight rock, rockabilly and pop/novelty. The folksier stuff resonates with the several original songs on the album that have acoustic arrangements, and the rockier stuff makes up a bit for what could be (fairly, I hope) described as a deficiency of fast jumping music among the eight originals. By the same token, the appearance of "I'll Follow The Sun" must have eliminated the "need" for them to include a tender/soppy cover along the lines of "Till There Was You" or "A Taste Of Honey".
  • For a change, no Girl Groups are represented in this group of covers. If anything, you might describe this as an "oldies" and/or "tribute" collection of songs. This time, we not only have the familiar Berry and Penniman, but Buddy and Carl as well. There's a temptation to draw a connection between here and the "Long Tall Sally" EP, but I believe that the caricatures are much less outrageous this time around.
  • Five out of these six covers were originally recorded by their composers! This was not at all the case earlier on, and I'm tempted to suggest that this was a conscious part of the "tribute" element, based on the group's firmly established preference by this point in time for recording their own original material as much as possible.
  Next note Over now to a song-by-song walk-through.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Rock And Roll Music"

Notes on ... Series #64a (COVERS3a)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: A Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        -------- 4X ------
             Intro | Refrain -» Verse | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 4 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Chuck Berry
Influential
    version: Chuck Berry (1957)
   Recorded: 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 15th December 1964 (LP "Beatles '65")
 
  Next note Within this batch of six covers, this was clearly the "longest running" number, still hanging in there at the bitter end of their touring days. Along with "Twist and Shout", it is one of a very small number of non original songs which might be described nonetheless as one of the group's emblematic "anthems". Curiously though, this particular Chuck song appears to have not been on the playlets of the Quarrymen era in spite of the fact that they were already playing back then the likes of "Roll Over Beethoven", "Johnny B. Goode", and "Sweet Little Sixteen".
  Next note While the harmonic material of this song is limited entirely to the familiar I, IV and V of the blues, the formal schema used in both refrain and verse are more flexible here than the rigid twelve-bar formula we're so used to finding in Berry's other songs. The refrain comes close to the 8 + 4 sub-species of the twelve-bar form, though a petit-reprise-like repetition of the final half-phrase ("if you wanna dance with me") rounds the section out to an unusual fourteen measures. The verse is only eight measures long and harmonically opens and closes on the V chord.
  Next note The Beatles' version follows the formal outline of the original, but both the arrangement and John's vocal performance suggest a harder-driven interpretation of the song rather than a stylized impersonation. Once having gotten used to the Beatles' version as the default, I find myself a bit "surprised" to rediscover how much more melodic and laid back the original sounds in comparison.
  Next note Beyond this, the two versions differ in a matter of some details. For example, Chuck played it in the lower key of E (or is it E-flat — the CD re-issue from MCA is mastered at what sounds like off-speed), and there is some variation in the scanning of the words (e.g. "PI-an-O versus "pi-AN-o"). Note too how Chuck cues himself with a I chord at the beginning, whereas the Beatles sensibly change this to V.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Mr. Moonlight"

Notes on ... Series #64b (COVERS3b)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: F# Major (yep, that's right!)
      Meter: 4/4
       Form: Intro | Verse (initial) | Verse (variant) |
                   | Verse (half solo, half vocal) |
                   | Verse (variant) -» Outro (fade-out)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 6 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Roy Lee Johnson
Influential
    version: Dr. Feelgood (1962)
   Recorded: 14th August, 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 15th December 1964 (LP "Beatles '65")
 
  Next note Judging from the introductory vocal scream you'd be tempted to suppose that John had a hankering to play the good Doctor that was as long-lived as Paul's desire to be Little Richard. It turns out that this song was not at all an "oldie" at the time the Beatles picked up on it and they didn't even keep it in their repertoire for all that long!
  Next note Seems like this is the Beatles' cover which everyone loves to hate; it must be something about the self-consciously campy vocal, lugubrious Hammond organ, and generally queasy blend of dooh-whop and Latin musical styles. But get beyond this if you can and discover a number of compositional details which are more reminiscent of the Beatles' own style than you'd ever expect from the surface. Some examples:
  Next note The first section is based on a subtly different form from the rest of them. The relatively long verses all sub-divide into two halves, the second of which is always introduced by a rising scale played solo by the bass guitar, and if you bother to check, the first half of the first one is quite different from (and eight measures longer than) all the rest.
  Next note The harmonic rhythm is very slow and contains many cases where the same chord is sustained for two or four measures or even longer, and the overall result is that the poetic scanning of the phrases sound less four-square than they actually are.
  Next note The half instrumental solo and half vocal division of the middle section is a favorite, granted not original with them, device of the Beatles seen in such places as "From Me To You" and "A Hard Day's Night".
  Next note As with "Rock And Roll Music", the original version turns out to be less extremely inflected than the Beatles' cover of it. One of the strangest variances is in the choice of key, the original having been in G. I can't honestly figure what would have influenced the Boys to do it in the very unusual key of F# Major, unless the half-step difference was just sufficient to keep John from cracking on the high notes. Still, I'd assume they must have fingered it in an easier key like E or F and used some capos.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Medley: Kansas City - Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey"

Notes on ... Series #64c (COVERS3c)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: G Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form: KC--------------------------»|HHHH------------»
                    - 2X --                - 4X --
             Intro | Verse | Verse (solo) | Verse  (fade-out)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 7 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller - Richard Penniman
Influential
    version: Little Richard (1959)
   Recorded: 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 14th June 1965 (LP "Beatles VI")
 
  Next note Here we have the inevitable song, actually two of them spliced together, in which every section is in straight twelve-bar (8 + 4 or AAB) blues form. Though recorded originally as two separate songs, Little Richard himself had already popularized the "medley" performed here by the Beatles. Independent of Paul's Penniman fixation, it's easy to imagine that the antiphonal backing vocals of the second half would have been something to attract the Beatles toward this number.
  Next note For all its apparent simplicity, this turns out to be one of the more re-worked items in this set of six cover songs. Paul reverses the lyrics to the first two verses; perhaps an oversight more than anything else. But Little Richard saves the instrumental section (played on his version by a saxophone instead of guitar) until after the first "hey hey" section has been sung. Along the same lines, we find that the original contains a complete ending instead of the Beatles' fade-out; very strange considering the large number of other cover songs with fade-outs on the original version changed to a complete ending by the Beatles.
  Next note Both versions are performed in the same key though. As is the case concerning John versus Chuck, we find here that Paul's vocal sounds a bit strained and affected compared to the original. The Beatles make a small but persuasive chord change at the end of the first verse; changing measure 12 to the V chord (instead of sustaining the I chord from measure 11), all the better to motivate the next section.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Words Of Love"

Notes on ... Series #64d (COVERS3d)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: A Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        - 2X -- ---- 2X ------ - 2X --
             Intro | Verse | Verse (solo) | Verse |
                   | Outro (fade-out)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 9 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Buddy Holly
Influential
    version: Buddy Holly (1957)
   Recorded: 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 14th June 1965 (LP "Beatles VI")
 
  Next note Strange, isn't it, given the extent to which the group can be said to have been influenced and inspired by the nice fellow from Lubbock, that this is the only one of his tunes to have become part of the official Beatles' songbook, especially considering the relatively large number of his tunes that had been in their early repertoire, starting as early as the infamous Quarrymen acetate of "That'll Be The Day".
  Next note The form is "monotonous" in the manner of Chuck's blues numbers though the sections here are all eight, instead of twelve, measures long. The harmonic content is an ostinato/mantra-like endless repetition of the I -» IV -» V chord progression, and the two-fold instrumental solo section is an unusual touch.
  Next note Buddy's original is a tad more Latin in its back-beat, but the choice of key, as well as much of the guitar work, is identical in both versions. Granted, the Beatles do greatly emphasize their own open-fifth style of vocal counterpoint in the arrangement, plus they add hand claps and Ringo's banging on a "packing case" to the percussion section. But still, it remains essentially a sentimental and nostalgic Tribute To Buddy, rather than an outright imitation.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Honey Don't"

Notes on ... Series #64e (COVERS3e)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: E Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        ----- 2X --------
             Intro | Verse | Refrain | Verse (solo) | Refrain |
                   | Verse | Refrain | Verse (solo) | Refrain |
                   | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 10 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Carl Perkins
Influential
    version: Carl Perkins (1956)
   Recorded: 26th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 15th December 1964 (LP "Beatles '65")
 
  Next note Forget about Buddy and Berry :-) Clearly, our Boys had some kind of Carl Perkins fixation. Surprisingly, he scores — together with Larry Williams, of all people — the highest number of songs by a single artist to have been covered by the Beatles on their official releases!
  Next note Once you recover from your initial shocked surprise, it's worthwhile acknowledging the extent to which Perkins' "rockabilly" style rounds out the repertoire of a group that at the time was in transition toward "Rubber Soul" by way of "For Sale". From a different perspective, you can even argue that Carl's penchant for surprising, enigmatic lyrical turns of phrase ("sometimes you say you will when you won't " / "got that sand all over your feet") would also intrigue the Beatles, especially John.
  Next note This specific song didn't come into the act until as late as 1962, but it stayed there as the default Ringo song on stage, for a while. Personally, I always find John's rendition (as heard on a pair of Beeb radio appearances) the more knowing and trenchant.
  Next note For a fellow like Perkins whose output otherwise focuses around twelve-bar formats, this one is a bit unusual. Granted, the refrains here are in the straight blues form, but the twelve-bar verses incorporate a rather Buddy-esque use of the flat-VI chord, and the guitar solo sections are actually a clever eight-bar contraction of the verses in which the eighth measure moves to V instead of sustaining the flat-VI from the previous measure.
  Next note Compared to the tidiness of the typical Beatles' original composition, the repeat and alternation pattern sections of this one is relatively cranked out seemingly at random. Note especially the multiple solos and their asymmetrical placement. Faced with a similar game plan back in "Matchbox", the ever-fastidious Fab Four had taken the trouble to "reorganize" the song for increased tightness.
  Next note Those who are primarily familiar with the Beatles' version will likely be surprised by the extent to which it matches the original, right down to the same key, form, basic arrangement including the solo guitar work. Perkins' original vocal delivery though is unique and would not easily be imitated; especially by Ringo.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby"

Notes on ... Series #64f (COVERS3f)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
        Key: E Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        - 2X --
             Intro | Verse | Verse (solo) | Verse |
                    ----- 2X ----- - 2X --
                   | Verse (solo) | Verse |
                   | Outro (complete ending)
         CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 14 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
   Composer: Carl Perkins
Influential
    version: Carl Perkins (1958)
   Recorded: 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
 US-release: 15th December 1964 (LP "Beatles '65")
 
  Next note Yet another Perkins' song, dropped out of the repertoire during 1963 only to return for 1964 and 1965, likely in order to give George a solo vocal with which to fill the gap between "Roll Over Beethoven" and "If I Needed Someone", the poor guy.
  Next note This one sports the familiar Perkins' signature of a lengthy form with unusual repeat patterns and multiple sections for instrumental solo. In contrast to "Honey Don't", this time every section is in the classic twelve-bar blues mold. Indeed, the 4 + 8 inner structure of each frame obviates the need for a separate refrain since the longer second half of each section provides its functional equivalent.
  Next note The Beatles opt for a thick, muddy sounding instrumental backing that makes Perkins' original look primitive and homespun in comparison. The choice of key and form though match up with the original.
 
 

Some Final Thoughts

 

Going In And Out of Style

  Next note The following chart, derived from data published in Lewisohn's "Live" book, provides some insight into the historical layering of the Beatles' cover repertoire. The data below covers only the six songs under discussion in this article, but I'd suggest the same technique should be applied to their entire catalog; volunteers? :-)
 
          '57-'59  '60   '61   '62   '63   '64   '65   '66    #years

   Every                   X     X           X     X         ||   4
   Honey                         X     X     X     X         ||   4
   Kansas                  X     X           X               ||   3
   Mister                        X     X                     ||   2
   Rock              X     X     X     X     X     X     X   ||   7
   Words     X       X     X     X                           ||   4
   ======  ======  ====  ====  ====  ====  ====  ====  ====
   #songs    1       2     4     6     3     4     3     1

   [Figure 64.1]
  Next note Some observations:
 
  • Our six songs entered and exited their repertoire on a staggered basis over the course of their entire stage career, with all six appearing only in the 1962 season. With the exception of "Mr. Moonlight", all of these songs were adopted by the Beatles at least a year or more later than the original appeared.
  • The persistence of two-to-three of these songs in the continually shrinking list of songs the Beatles would play live as the group ground toward their last couple seasons as a touring band is striking in light of the expected trend toward original material. It's also interesting too to see how the four cover songs current during 1964 are evenly divided among the foursome in terms of who is the lead vocalist.
  • Three of these six covers were dropped out during the busy 1963 season, though two of them paradoxically were returned to the lineup in 1964. Even stranger, and likely indicative of their scrambling to fill out the album, is the inclusion on the album of two songs which were not part of the live lineup any more as of 1964; indeed, was it nostalgia or desperation?
  • The earliest included song of the six, "Words Of Love", was also the first one to be dropped out. And quite appropriately, "Rock And Roll Music" was fated to be the longest running!
  Regards,
  Alan (080592#64)
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Copyright © 1992 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.