Get it here – music.lorenradis.com/album/the-beatles-2
So I said there might be another cheat coming, and this is it – I covered the Beatles twice! How could I not though? There are literally hundreds of amazing songs to choose from and they’ve most definitely been the biggest influence on me as a musician. So you get four more Beatles songs this month, and I’m guessing no one’s going to complain about that
For those who don’t know, I’ve been putting out a new album every month in 2013 covering the songs of musicians who’ve influecned me in my own songwriting. I started and ended with the Beatles, and you can hear each month’s entry in the “In Honor Of…” project here – music.lorenradis.com
So this time’s a little different – I covered one song written by each Beatle, even Ringo! Here’s why I chose the ones that I did
Paul McCartney – I’m Looking Through You
Paul McCartney – sorry, Sir Paul McCartney – is a living legend. He’s one of the most prolific and talented songwriters ever and he and John Lennon practically invented numerous genres of music all on their own. That being said, I think my favorite Paul songs aren’t the experimental ones (“Helter Skelter”) or the throwbacks to old-timey music (“Your Mother Should Know”), but are rather the songs where he just commits to writing a really solid pop song. He was amazing at it, and there’s a reason people are still mimicking his style 50 years later. Anyone can tell you that Paul has a way with a melody, conjuring sequences of notes that are irresistable and so simple you wonder how they’ve never been used before.
I’m Looking Through You is no exception, the melody is catchy as all get up. The lyrics are relatable but not too obvious, the chord progression is unconventional and genius – the changes hit on a really abnormal beat in relation to the lyrics – and the arrangement is just flawless. This song was released on Rubber Soul, thought by many to represent the Beatles’ graduation from enjoyably forgettatble pop to truly historic songwriting. The boys and George Martin were just on fire for every single track this album, playing with new sounds and new styles without losing what made them the Beatles. And that attention to detail that they kept honing on through Abbey Road is present here, not a note out of place (unless it improved the song). I think this song really represents a zenith of pop songwriting, commercially viable while maintaining relevance and artistic integrity in a way that very few artists have duplicated since (even Paul, sad to say…)
My cover is a little more mellow, like my Paul Simon covers, I wanted to let the lyrics shine a little (simple as they are, they’re still good) and let the melody really take center stage, it blasts by so quickly in the original you almost don’t get to appreciate it. I directly copied a few harmonies and came up with several parts of my own, this song was a ton of fun to work on. Hope you enjoy it.
George Harrison – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
George Harrison would have been the standout musician in any band other than the Beatles. He was the whole package – a memorable singing voice, incredible and unique guitar work, and he turned out some really amazing songs both during his time with the Beatles and in his solo career. The only two musicians who could have overshadowed him are Paul and John, and it’s a shame that George didn’t/doesn’t get as much recognition as his more famous frontmen. Hearing stories about how his songs weren’t shown the same respect in the studio and how he had a hard time imposing his vision on the others is just heartbreaking.
George wrote a lot of really good songs for the Beatles, and maybe two or three really great – transcendent songs. I consider “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” to be some of the best work the Beatles ever put out, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is definitely in the running to be George’s 3rd best song ever. I didn’t cover either of the other two because, honestly, they’re perfect in a way that I don’t think I could capture. I know I’m not making any of these songs better, per se, but I think (see: I hope) that I’m presenting them in a new light that is worthwhile on its own. “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” are just too good, and too tied to their original arrangement. If I covered those in any other style, I can only see it being a detriment.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, on the other hand, is an amazing song that also has a lot of room for interpretation. George’s original demo was a beautiful, sparse, melancholy piece of music featuring only his voice and a guitar, and one extra verse. The White Album version is one of the great rock songs of the past … ever. Eric Clapton’s guitar work is some of his best and the whole band contributed perfect performances – the drumbeat in particular is so bizarre but so perfectly in line with the emotional thrust of that version of the song. They experimented with severeal different styles along the way, and my cover most closely emulates George’s original acoustic demo. It’s almost too melancholy, but not every song needs to be sunshine and rainbows, so I think it’s OK. Anyway, hope you like it.
Ringo Starr – Don’t Pass Me By
So, let’s get right down to it. Ringo (Richard Starkey) is a very talented drummer and he has a unique style that was perfectly suited to the Beatles’ sound. Without him they might still have succeeded, but they wouldn’t have been the same, and I think they would have sounded worse with any other drummer.
Ringo was not, however, a super awesome songwriter. He only contributed two tracks to the Beatles library, this one, and Octopus’s Garden. Octopus’s Garden is actually really solid. It’s silly and simple but it’s catchy and the opening guitar riff (which I’m told Ringo wrote) is downright eloquent. Don’t Pass Me By, on the other hand… well, it’s one of those cases where it’s so bad it’s good. OK, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s so laughably simple. Every lyric is the most obvious rhyme (Don’t pass me by/Don’t make me cry), the story of the song is just as dull as a highschool hocky game (he’s mildly concerned because his date is late, turns out she got in a fender bender and will be there soon), and the instrumentaion, man. It almost seems like the other guys realized what a clunker this was and just owned it, y ‘know? “Let’s make this sound so boring and amatuerish and phoned in that no one will know it was us.” Even the violin seems to be out of tune. Crazy.
But here’s the thing. Something about it is just so damned endearing. The song is unassuming. It’s not pretentious. It shows you so much of Ringo’s character – his life isn’t full of these big philosophical questions, he’s just worried that his girl is either hurt, or she doesn’t care about him anymore. His insecurity is so pathetic that it’s kind of sweet, and we’ve all been there. Even if he was low man on the totem pole, he was still a Beatle, and if even he can get scared that this person he loves doesn’t feel the same way about him, then it’s OK that I’ve felt that too, right?
Plus, the image in my head of Ringo walking up to John and Paul (who had just recently put out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) saying “Hey guys, I’ve written this song called ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, I’d love it to be on the next record…” is just too funny to ignore.
So what I decided to do was try to highlight the sweet and unassuming nature of this song. Plus, I just got a ukulele for my birthday and wanted to try it out, and nothing says sappy sweet like a ukulele cover of a pop song! I think the song benefits from a simpler renditionlike this, I think it feels a little less silly without all the busy-ness of the original version. No pomp or circumstance, just a sweet love song by a guy who’s not super confident in himself. Love ya Ringo.
John Lennon – Don’t Let Me Down
John, John, John… He’s such a tragic figure… Don’t Let Me Down was recorded during the Let It Be/Get Back sessions and never ended up seeing release on a proper album, though it appeared on Past Masters and a few other places. By all accounts, John had mentally checked out during their recording sessions, showing complete apathy towards the Beatles and instead focusing on his solo work with Yoko Ono. George and Ringo had both quit the band (only to rejoin after a brief absence) by this point, and it wouldn’t be long before John left and the group disbanded for good. The Let It Be sessions were reportedly the most heated of any in the Beatles’ short history together. I wonder when John wrote this song? I wonder who John wrote this song for? I wonder who he wrote it to? Is he pleading with the Beatles to rise above their personal squabbles and be the great musicians he knows they can be? Is he pleading with Yoko not to let him down since he’s choosing her over the Beatles? Is he screaming at himself? Is John begging John not to disappoint him? Who knows. I sure don’t. But if John was checked out while recording Let It Be, he definitely wasn’t when he recorded this song.
Like a lot of his later work, you get a peek behind the curtain at the anger, the insecurities, and the hope that made John who he was. He’s divorced his first wife at this point and has a strained relationship with his oldest son, but he has the gall and simultaneously the optimism to say he’s in love for the first time, and that he has no doubt it’ll last. And yet he begs every chorus not to be disillusioned again. He’s a dichotomy, the yelling choruses are so full of anger while he’s pleading for love. John was nothing if not complex, and the tension in himself produced some amazing songs. Even though this is so simple lyrically, sonically it’s got a depth that resonated with me.
My cover is very toned down, but I did very little to change it, sticking with the same tempo and progression and melody. I don’t claim to understand John any better than anyone else, but everyone has a past, a history of defeats, a desire to have their hope rewarded for once. If the song feels like that at all, then I did what I was trying to do.
So if you haven’t yet, have a listen, let me know what you think – http://music.lorenradis.com/album/the-beatles-2
Thanks for reading, later,