I have almost 15,000 songs on my iPod now and these two are my most played Beatle songs. Here’s why.

Long Tall Sally
March 1, 1964. One take! John once said that in the years before they exploded on to the public consciousness there was no band in the UK that could touch The Beatles when it came to playing straight rock – and on this evidence no one in their right mind would disagree with him. This is what I imagine the Cavern Beatles would have been like, the group that returned from Hamburg at the end of 1960 and blew the roof off Litherland Town Hall on December 27. That was the night Beatlemania first broke out and, boy, do I wish I’d been there. Billed as ‘Direct from Hamburg’ the audience thought they were German. “They said, ‘Christ they speak good Enghlish,’” said John. “Which we did, of course, being English. But that’s when we stood there being cheered at for the first time.”
The Beatles take Little Richard’s song and wring it dry, simply shred it, in a shattering, full-tilt performance with George Martin duplicating Richard’s piano-thumping, Paul on throat-searing lead vocal, his finest up-tempo performance ever in a recording studio, and George weighing in with a couple of slightly sloppy solos that perfectly suit the mood, especially the ascending chord run second time around. The power of The Beatles on this song matches the stupendous ‘Twist And Shout’, recorded for their first LP slightly over a year earlier, and in this respect it’s Paul’s answer to his songwriting partner: anything you can do I can do, whack.
 This track first appeared on an EP in 1964, a year in which their confidence was at an all-time high – and it shows. Remember, one take! It’s all over in two minutes and three seconds. It took them as long to record it as it does to listen to it.

Don’t Let Me Down
From Paul on a high to John on a low, his cri de coeur for Yoko, and my choice as his finest late period Beatle song, used as the B-side of ‘Get Back’, which they just happened to record on the same day, January 28, 1969. I believe this was recorded live in the studio, with a minimum of overdubs or studio trickery and it set the tone for John’s style of recording for the next two years or so. Not unlike Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ in the drama of its delivery, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ opens with its sublime chorus and hovers precipitously on two chords during the verse before descending back into John’s cry from the heart.
         I first fell for this song when it was played endlessly on the jukebox in La Chasse Club on Wardour Street, the private members bar up two flights of stairs a few doors along from the Marquee, and used by music industry types who wanted to avoid the crush there. Three songs seemed to be on permanent rotation here, ‘Wigwam’, the instrumental from Dylan’s Self Portrait album, ‘Sweetness’ from the first Yes LP (Jon Anderson once worked behind the bar at La Chasse, washing glasses) and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. Inexplicably, it had been left off The Beatles’ Let It Be album – though it’s now added to Let It Be Naked – and, since I didn’t buy the ‘Get Back’ single because I had the album (in its original box, with accompanying book), I missed out on it until I heard it here.
          Much covered, I like the c&w style version by Gene Clark & Doug Dillard which I dusted off a week ago after watching the Gene Clark documentary The Byrd Who Flew Alone. And my friends Goldrush used to do a mean version when they played in the Compasses, my local pub, too, so thanks Rob, Gavin and Cam for that!


Ian Gordon Craig said...

Certain character traits which in the “real world” are judged to be a vice, can often be a virtue in the creative arts. One such is John Lennon’s oft reported impatience in the studio.

The bootlegs of Don’t Let me Down show McCartney trying out (positively cooing) a variety of truly awful ideas for the song’s arrangement. They are based around their by then well-seasoned trick of “call and response”. As in “Getting better all the time – It couldn’t get no worse”. In this case it goes something like:

I’m in love for the first time
for the first time in my life
Don’t you know it’s gonna last
last forever and a day

Thankfully Lennon ignored all suggestions and recorded, in his inimitable style, his last great song with the Beatles and first since the White album. I’m a huge McCartney fan, in my opinion the most musically creative Beatle, but I wish he could more often shared Lennon’s “impatient” ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Chris Charlesworth said...

'Thankfully' indeed! Thanks Ian.