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alan w. pollack's
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Notes on the cover songs on the "Help!" and "Beatles VI" albums

 





Notes on ... Series #76 (COVERS4)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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General Points of Interest

 

The End Of The Line

  Next note For us listeners, the use of cover songs by The Beatles as "filler" was wearing out its welcome by this point, but it was also something on which they thankfully would never have to rely upon again; with the exception, of course, of their arrangement of the "traditional" "Maggie Mae" for "Let It Be", but that's another story altogether.
  Next note The three songs in the current group still do play some role in stylistically rounding out the collections of which they are a part; it would be an overstatement to describe them as the musical equivalent of styrofoam peanuts. "Act Naturally" both resonates with, and extends, the gesture that the group had already made in the direction of folk rock. It also fits perfectly within the already well established pattern of handing off novelty songs to Ringo. The two Larry Williams' songs provide a double shot of plain old hard rock-and-roll the likes of which the Beatles own originals on these albums had already grown beyond in sophistication of vocabulary and ethos.
  Next note The two Williams' numbers had been a part of the pre-Beatles repertoire as early as the period of 1960-1962. They then disappeared from it during the major concertizing heydays of 1963-1964, with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" resurrected for the 1965 season, but "Bad Boy" reappearing only for its use on the American "Beatles VI" album. "Act Naturally" appears to have been added to their set list specifically in 1965.
  Next note Let's look for some of the details in a song-by-song walk-through.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Act Naturally"

Notes on ... Series #76a (COVERS4a)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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        Key: G Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form: Intro | Verse | Bridge | Verse | Break (intro) |
                   | Verse | Bridge | Verse |
                   | Outro (with complete ending)
         CD: "Help!", Track 8 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
   Composer: Voni Morrison / Johnny Russell
Influential
    version: Buck Owens (1963)
   Recorded: 17th June 1965, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
 US-release: 13th September 1965 (B Single / "Yesterday")
 
  Next note This rockabilly entry goes much further down the "countryish" path than any Beatles' original had to-date but it works in context, due in large part to Ringo's unvarnished vocal which sounds astonishingly similar in treatment to the Buck Owens' original.
  Next note The music is built on a sturdy and frugal set of chords limited to just I, IV, V, and V-of-V; the latter held back for strategic deployment at the end of the bridge. The arrangement is characterized by a recurrent obbligato for the low strings of the guitar (with the low E tuned down to D!) and the tapping of drumsticks.
  Next note Beyond the lead vocal, the Beatles' version matches the original in many other respects including same key, same basic arrangement right down to the tapping, and the backing vocal part for the bridges.
  Next note There are some differences, as well, the most significant of which affects the form: the music used by the Beatles for the intro, outro and break appears in the original only for the break and even there it is used in abbreviated form. At the detailed level, the original uses a boogie-like arpeggio bassline for the bridge while the Beatles stay with the oompah figuration used in the verse. Paul continues the backing vocal into the final verse whereas the original omits it. And, for those more or less exclusively acquainted with the Beatles' version, the different scanning of the words by Owens sounds somehow "wrong" at first.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Bad Boy"

Notes on ... Series #76b (COVERS4b)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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        Key: C Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        - 2X --
             Intro | Verse | Break | Verse (with complete ending)
         CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 16 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
   Composer: Larry Williams
Influential
    version: Larry Williams (1959)
   Recorded: 10th May 1965, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 9th December 1966 (LP "A Collection Of Beatles Oldies!")
 US-release: 14th June 1965 (LP "Beatles VI")
 
  Next note The common wisdom on this as a cover choice by the Beatles is that it was aimed in particular at The American Audience, as if somehow the humor contained therein night be found incomprehensible on the other side of the pond. Granted, the amusingly disruptive behavior described in this song as somehow traceable to an unhealthy preoccupation with rock-and-roll is admittedly as American as almost any song by the Coasters. But I'm just a tad skeptical that we could have possibly had some kind of monopoly on this relatively benign strain of juvenile delinquency :-)
  Next note To be sure, this is compositionally a very typical song of Mr. Williams and it bears some direct comparison with his "Slow Down", also covered by Our Own Sweet Boys on the "Long Tall Sally" EP. With "Slow Down" we found a bloated, twice-as-slow twenty-four-bar variant on the twelve-bar blues form. Here in "Bad Boy" the variation is a bit more interesting: a twenty-measure form in which the final, suddenly heavily syncopated phrase reverts to the strict four measures instead of being doubled up to eight. Note, by the way, how the break section is a strict twelve-bar frame!
  Next note The Beatles' version features a nice single-tracked vocal by John, equally nice lead guitar work that mimics the original suprisingly closely by George, and the inevitable rhythmic shaking of a tambourine. The form matches the original, but as you might expect differences abound at the detailed level.
  Next note The original (by the composer, himself, of course!) sounds as though backed by an ensemble the size of a small stage band, dominated by the sounds of piano and saxophone. Williams sings it in the slightly lower key of B-flat, and the vocal arrangement features the relentlessly kitschy, not to say judgmental, recitation of "he's a bad boy!" between every single line of the lead vocal.
 
 
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"

Notes on ... Series #76c (COVERS4c)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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        Key: A Major
      Meter: 4/4
       Form:        - 2X -- --------- 2X ---------
             Intro | Verse | Verse (solo) | Verse |
                   | Verse (with complete ending)
         CD: "Help!", Track 14 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
   Composer: Larry Williams
Influential
    version: Larry Williams (1958)
   Recorded: 10th May 1965, Abbey Road 2
 UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
 US-release: 14th June 1965 (LP "Beatles VI")
 
  Next note This Williams' song is of the genre in which every single section is in the strict twelve-bar format. Indeed, no Beatles' album to this point would be complete without at least one example of this kind. Here, the distinctive feature is the bluesy lead guitar ostinato figure used as solo material in the intro and break and as an obbligato in all the verses.
  Next note John is double-tracked throughout this time and seems to be busting out all together with various "oohs" and "ows" which are not very much in evidence on the original; perhaps he was getting mixed up between this song and the previous one, the original of which does have the lead singer thus expostulating. The reverb that seems to have been gratuitously added to the CD remix of this track is among the more infamous "recording anomalies" of the Beatles' annals.
  Next note It turns out that the Beatles tamper with the form of the original, adding a second instrumental break section and a final repeat of the "fever" verse.
  Next note Though a boogie-woogie piano part figures prominently in both versions, the original again has more of a stage band sound than the less-is-gutsier sound of the Beatles. Williams performs yet again in B-flat and he inconsistently sustains the I chord in measure 12 of some of the frames instead of always shifting to V as the Beatles do.
  Next note The lead vocal of the both Williams' originals has a restrained and mellifluous quality that will no likely come as a surprise to those familiar with only the Beatles' covers. Alas, the Beatles of the mid sixties would seem from our politically correct vantage point to have labored under the unnecessary, even misguided presentiment that it was a virtue for a white singer, in performing the works of a black artist, to resort to raspy shouting in order to hit the mark. I have to call them as I see them, and this foible would seem to be as common to Paul's evocations of Richard Penniman as it was to John's of not only Williams, but also Berry and even Robinson. This is not to say that such Beatles' covers are entirely without either merit or success, but I'd dare say that on some level they sound a bit more parodistic and less interpretive than intended.
 
 

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note With this note we've completed our studies of the Beatles officially recorded canon from "Love Me Do" up through the end of the "Help!" and "Beatles VI" albums, including all singles of the period.
  Next note Next time we move on to tackle the songs of "Rubber Soul" and beyond.
  Regards,
  Alan (020892#76)
  [** The "Beatles VI" album (Capitol (S) T 2358 - 14th June, 1965) was an American album released one month before "Help!". On its track list we find these songs: Side 1: "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey"; "Eight Days A Week"; "You Like Me Too Much"; "Bad Boy"; "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party"; "Words Of Love"; Side 2: "What You're Doing"; "Yes It Is"; "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"; "Tell Me What You See"; "Every Little Thing".]
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Copyright © 1993 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.