Posts Tagged ‘getting better’


My Beatles Favorites, Part III

August 7, 2009

It’s been nearly a month since my last Beatles post. Ahhhh I’m really lagging. Anyway, here’s another of my 5 favorite Beatles tracks, and why. 15 tracks down, 30 to go.


“Drive My Car”
Album: Rubber Soul

Laden with innuendo and bristling with the sound that would later be identified with the whole of 60’s rock, “Drive My Car” begins Rubber Soul with a little taste of the musical change that was only beginning to taking place. The Beatles themselves highly regarded Rubber Soul as “the pot album” (no pun intended), which may account for the slightly augmented lyrical as well as musical creativity. They didn’t smoke in the studio (because it made them way too giggly to get anything done) but the influence is readily apparent throughout the album.

The song starts with a guitar lick distinctive from nearly anything the Beatles had done before. Then the verses kick in, with one of McCartney’s rawer vocals telling the story of an aspiring actress who feigns a search for a chauffeur in order to find… well, a driver of a different kind. The verses are also backed by a lively cowbell (the most beloved livestock-related percussive instrument of all time).

And don’t forget the “beep beep ‘n beep beep, yeah!” that sometimes follows the chorus. It’s extremely hooky, even after we learn that the song isn’t really about a car. It’s also just fun to shout out loud when no one expects it.

“Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
Album: The Beatles

Loosely based on a saying frequently used by the maharishi whilst The Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation in India, “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey” is the longest Beatles title ever. It’s anyone’s guess to whom or what the “and my monkey” refers, seeing as it wasn’t a part of the original adage, but it does well to suggest the frantic energy of the lead guitar that dominates the song.

It begins with three escalating guitar notes repeated over handclaps. The lyrics are nearly shouted over the backing handbell. John almost sounds like an excited kid who really wants to show you something. He shouts “take it easy” in a voice that suggests that he’s coaxing not just a listener but himself. Lennon said that the song was written about an especially paranoid period of the Beatles’ lives, at which point John felt like the only one of them who had a handle on things. The others argued that he was just as paranoid as the rest of them, if not more so. The song seems to convey this discrepancy between what John thought and what he felt.

The double lead guitars in the verses allow the guitar sound to be at once lazy and frenetic, which is again all too appropriate for the message that the song conveys. The ditty also came packaged with a semi-discreet drug endorsement in “the higher you fly the deeper you go,” which leads some to believe that Lennon’s “monkey” was really heroin (to which he was addicted at the time.) Whatever the song really meant to John, is lost on me, but the little energetic riff that ends each chorus more than makes up for that.

“For No One”
Album: Revolver

“For No One” is the lyrical antithesis of “She Loves You.” In this instance of McCartney as the middleman, he’s past trying to comfort his friend and is on to essentially saying “she doesn’t love you anymore.” Whereas in “She Loves You” the story is a matter of miscommunication and reconciliation, in “For No One” the mediator steps in because, despite the fact that the jilted boyfriend knows how his ex feels about him, he refuses to accept it.

McCartney masterfully conveys this sentiment through the tone of the music, making this melancholy tune one of the highlights of Revolver. The almost jaunty piano and clavichord tune that drives the verses gives them the air of blunt straightforwardness. It sounds almost happy, but underlying that happiness is the detectable sound of distress, as if Paul is really explaining this situation to you and you’re happily in denial until he breaks the barriers down.

The chorus is the most straightforward of all. The piano melody is more complex and sounds sincerely sad, accompanying the feelings of the man in the song whose complicated emotions seem closest to the surface during the choruses. The French horn compliments the sentiment precisely, and is especially impressive because it features a note that is allegedly out of the range of said instrument.

McCartney’s lyricism is especially excellent here as well. His clear and concise, yet poetic, lyricism make this one of the most emotionally evocative tracks of the Beatles catalog. “The tears cried for no one” are futile and aren’t going to make the girl love again, yet the song states that the love “should have lasted years,” as if the singer, too, is beginning to fall prey to denial. In the fourth verse the girl talks about her former lover as if he no longer exists, which told from the perspective of this third, uninvolved party is especially poignant.

The way that the song hits these emotions directly on the head may be a result of turmoil in Paul McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher at this period. It was written as their relationship was coming to a close, and it seems nearly impossible for Paul to have written this beautiful song without drawing from everything he was feeling during that time. Like many other Beatles songs, it is relatable because he emotion channeled into the song comes from somewhere very real.

“Getting Better”
Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The upbeat positivity that characterizes “Getting Better” is apparent from the second the song begins, and is reinforced immediately with the song’s first “It’s getting better all the time!” Throughout the song, McCartney goes through a laundry list of how his life used to be bad but, now that he’s found someone to be his, his life has gotten better.

The song showcases the Paul and John dynamic of the group, with most of the song being dominated by Paul’s optimistic theme of “getting better,” and only peppered with John’s pessimistic “It can’t get no worse.”

It’s almost charming that having a new girl should have little to no correlation with how his teachers in school are treating him. Instead, this new girl seems to help him with his anger issues, making him more likely to put up with nonsense at school. Also particularly interesting are the lines about being “cruel to [his] woman” and “ke[eping] her apart from the things that she loves,” which seem to suggest that he’s still with this woman, yet he’s gotten better since he’s been with this new one. Every aspect of this guy’s life has improved since he began this affair. But he is “doing the best that [he] can,” right?

“Good Day Sunshine”
Album: Revolver

I know quite a few people who absolutely can’t stand this song. Why? It’s way too happy. But I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with “too happy” in this case. The “good day sunshine!”  repeated throughout the song just makes you feel good, even if the reasons given in the song are kind of silly.

The first verse’s “when the sun is out I’ve got something I can laugh about” seems almost ridiculous out of context. Sunshine isn’t typically enough to make a elicit a chuckle (unless you of course consider that The Beatles were from England, where the weather was typically gloomy, but even here laughter seems unwarranted).

It’s better explained a couple of lines later with “I’m in love and it’s a sunny day.” It’s really a song about new love, and how it changes the way you feel, so that even the most minute things can induce drug-like bliss. Even the fact that the sun’s heat is such that he “burns [his] feet as they touch the ground” makes him happy. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Here, George Martin’s piano perfectly compliments the sentiment. It is the epitome of the feel-good song, and if you don’t like it you’re probably just jealous that you don’t feel this good.


And if you missed them, check out Part I and Part II !!!