Thursday, 14 April 2011

Top Five Beatles B Sides

Whilst listening to The Beatles Pastmasters compilation t'other day, I was droning on about how generally brilliant the Beatles B sides were. Not merely throwaway rubbish, as B sides had generally been pre-Beatles, but genuine songs/recordings that stood on their own merits. Indeed on several occasions Beatles' singles were released as double A sides because neither they nor t'management could decide which side was better or more likely to get bigger sales (e.g. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out).
Fabmary thus challenged me to come up with the five best Beatles B sides. This is an impossible task and on any particular day I might give you a different list. But here goes, in chronological order, what I think today:
I'm Down - t'other side of Help! (1965). 
A proper rock 'n' roll record reflecting The Beatles' background as rockers influenced by Little Richard, Chuck Berry and so forth. Complete with semi-comprehensible lyrics, manic organ and technically inept but spiffing guitar solo.
Rain -  the flip side of Paperback Writer (1965). 
It was around this time that The Beatles moved on from simple pop songs mostly about being in or out of love. Bob Dylan and marijuana were the principal causes, although I suspect Lennon was always inclined more towards Edward Lear than he was to Shakespeare's sonnets. Excellent drumming from Ringo, spiffing bass, and backwards tape at the end. Recorded at the same time as the Revolver LP.
Baby You're a Rich Man -  hidden behind All You Need Is Love (1967).
John and Paul attended the Technicolour Dream 'happening' at Alexandra Palace, which was a significant event in terms of the development of the hippy culture in London in 1967. All the beautiful people were there. Hey, peace, love and dope, maaan. This song is the result, and was recorded and mixed in one six-hour session. Loads of groovy far out sounds, including a clavioline keyboard slowed down to sound like an Indian oboe, and the bass intro sounds reminiscent of that bit on 'Reach Out I'll Be There' by The Four Tops just before he says "hah!". Originally intended for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.
Revolution -  flip side of 'Hey Jude' (1968).
This is what happens after John Lennon has heard Jimi Hendrix, Cream and others in the blues and rock explosion of 1967/68. Lennon's guitar intro is a direct take on Elmore James' Dust My Broom, brought to everyone's notice by Fleetwood Mac, (see also Yer Blues on The White Album) and the lyrics are a response to the militant hippies who were trying to get Lennon to sign up.
Don't Let Me Down -   B side of 'Get Back' (1969).
Both songs were recorded on 28 January 1969, two days before the famous rooftop concert, The Beatles had been joined by Billy Preston on keyboards and he duly got a credit. John makes a beautiful song from some very straightforward chords, but sneaking in a major seventh for contrast, and he's singing about his new love Yoko who, he hopes, won't abandon him as his mother did. Heart on his sleeve and so forth.

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