Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Song facts (The Beatles)

‘Cry baby cry’
The lyrics were inspired by nursery rhymes and the songs Donovan was writing: Donovan's songs were "fairy tale" like. Donovan states, "I think the eventual imagery was suggested by my own songs of fairy tales. We had become very close in exchanging musical vibes." The song was based in part by two nursery rhymes, "Sing A Song Of Sixpence" and "Cry, baby, cry...stick a finger in your eye...etc."

John Lennon said he got the title for the song from an advertisement. The original line from that advertisement was, "Cry, baby cry. Make your mother buy." John told Hunter Davies (the Beatles official biographer) "I've got another (song) here, a few words, I think I got them from an advert - 'Cry baby cry, Make your mother buy.' I've been playing it over on the piano. I've let it go now. It'll come back if I really want it."

At the very end of the song, there is a conversation between George Martin and Alistair Taylor. Here is what's said:
Alistair Taylor: "bottle of claret for you if I'd realized. I'd forgotten all about it George, I'm sorry..."
George Martin: "Well, do next time"
Alistair: "Will you forgive me"?
George: "Mmmm...yes..."
Alistair: "cheeky bitch."

This is one of the songs begun in Rishikesh, India when the Beatles were staying with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In the song, John mentions the "Duchess of Kircaldy." Kircaldy is in Fife, Scotland and when he was young, Kircaldy was a stop that John always made when in route to visit his relations in Durness. The Beatles also performed in Kircaldy in their early years.

‘Because’
John Lennon got the idea for this song when he heard Yoko to playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. He asked her to play it backwards, and came up with "Because" based on what he heard. John said, "I was lying on the sofa in our house, listening to Yoko play Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on the piano. Suddenly, I said 'Can you play those chords backward?' She did, and I wrote 'Because' around them. The song sounds like 'Moonlight Sonata,' too. The lyrics are clear, no bulls--t, no imagery, no obscure references."

The vocals are a 3-part harmony by Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison that was overdubbed twice, creating a 9-part harmony. This is the only Beatles song with three singers throughout.

Lennon said the arrangement was terrible, but McCartney and Harrison felt this was the best track on Abbey Road.

This was the first use of a Moog synthesizer on any recording. Harrison had the instrument specially made, and did his best to figure it out.
The 2006 Love album, which is a soundtrack to the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, features an a capella version of this song. The album contains 26 tracks which are made up of 130 separate recordings - some are just a chord or two, and some tracks are superimposed on other tracks.

‘For no one’
Paul McCartney wrote this song sitting in a chalet while on holiday with his girlfriend Jane Asher in Klosters, Switzerland, March of 1966. The working title was "Why Did It Die," and there is speculation that McCartney wrote the song about Asher, who was a successful London actress.

The theory is that Paul wanted her to cater to his schedule, tour with him, and be the "perfect Beatle wife," but Jane had a life and career of her own, hence the "She doesn't need you" lyrics. Paul has never said it was about Jane specifically, however he did say, "I guess there had been an argument. I never have easy relationships with women." He knew what he was getting into when he got involved with Jane, and being that the song was written in 1966 and they didn't break up until 1968, it's likely that if the song was about Jane, it wasn't a serious argument.

When he heard the title, Alan Civil, who played the French Horn on this track, thought it was an orchestral piece called "For No. One"

This was recorded on May 9, 16 and 19, 1966 by only two Beatles - Paul singing and playing the keyboard and bass, and Ringo on percussion.

Maureen McGovern recorded this and "Things We Said Today" as a 2-song medley for her 1992 album Baby I'm Yours.

McCartney used this in his 1984 movie Give My Regards to Broad Street.

Revolver was the last Beatles album to have different US and UK versions. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers voted it the greatest album of all time. The album cover was created by artist Klaus Voormann, who became friends with the band when they were playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany in the early '60s.

‘Good day sunshine’
Paul McCartney wrote this on a sunny day at John Lennon's house. It was influenced by the Lovin' Spoonful, who had a happy hit with "Do You Believe In Magic?"

The actual Lovin' Spoonful hit which inspired this song was "Daydream," a famously carefree, upbeat tune. McCartney confided in interviews that it was intended to evoke "the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel" and that "Good Day Sunshine" was Paul's effort to write something in the same spirit.

The song was recorded over two days, with the first day being the bass, piano, and drums picked best out of three takes, then the lead vocals (Paul, George, and John) dubbed over that. On day two, Ringo added more drums, producer George Martin added the piano solo on a tape recorder running a step slower so it would sound sped-up, and more harmonies and hand claps were added.

An early use of stereo, the chorus bounces between the left and right channels at the fade.

Covers for this song include Claudine Longet, who charted with it in 1967 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and the Scottish singer Lulu on her 1970 album Melody Fair. McCartney himself also rerecorded it for his 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street.

Rolling Stone ranks Revolver at #3 on its 2003 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time," second only to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. "Good Day Sunshine" received a lot of praise individually from critics, even out of all that.

This song is a popular pick for the wake-up music on space station missions. In November 2005, McCartney himself played it live to the crew of the ISS. Guess you might as well have a sunny, happy number to start your day when you're crammed into living space the size of a bus surrounded by infinite vacuum.

Ringo can be heard to mutter something here on the final verse, right after Paul's "she feels good" line.

‘Why don’t we do it in the road?’
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr recorded this without the other Beatles. It was one of the first Beatles songs recorded without the whole group present, something they would do more often as their relationships deteriorated.

John Lennon said this was one of Paul's best songs. He may have been joking.

This contains only 2 lines of lyrics, and they are probably about sexual tension.

Apparently, McCartney got the idea for this while he was watching a pair of monkeys conducting business: "I was up on a flat roof meditating and I'd see a troupe of monkeys walking along and the male just hopped onto her back and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again, and looked around as if to say, 'it wasn't me,' and she looked around as if there had been some kind of mild disturbance but thought, huh, I must have imagined it. And I thought, bloody hell, that puts it all into a cocked hat, that's how simple the act of procreation is, this bloody monkey just hopping on and off. There is an urge, they do it, and it's done with. It's that simple." McCartney was in India at the time.

This was a very John Lennon kind of song, John was very upset Paul did not include him in the recording of this.

‘It’s only love’
John Lennon once said this was the only song he wrote that he truly hated. Lennon told British journalist Ray Connolly: "It's the most embarrassing song I ever wrote. Everything rhymed. Disgusting lyrics. Even then I was so ashamed of the lyrics, I could hardly sing them. That was one song I really wished I'd never written."

An instrumental version was recorded by George Martin and his orchestra. Martin was The Beatles producer.

The original title was "That's a Nice Hat (Cap)."

George Harrison used a tone pedal on this track to produce an unusual guitar sound.

‘Julia’
John Lennon dedicated this song to Yoko and to his mother Julia, who was struck and killed by a car driven by an off-duty police officer on July 15, 1958, when John was 17. Lennon was raised mostly by Julia's sister Mimi, but starting to see more of his mother at the time of her death.

One of five daughters, nicknamed Judy by the family, Julia met Alf Lennon at the age of 14 while she was working as a cinema usher. Ten years later they married. Julia gave birth to John after 30 hours of labor, and Alf went AWOL when he jumped ship - neither the Navy nor Julia knew of his whereabouts. He later returned but Julia refused to reconcile. She was involved in a couple other relationships; John went to live with his aunt Mimi because Julia could not provide a sound home for the boy.

When John was in is early teens he visited Julia often, and she taught him to play the banjo. John would frequently stay over at Julia's house, and in 1958 Julia was hit and killed by the off duty police officer as she walked home from Mimi's house. John named his first son Julian after her.

Lennon recorded this by himself. He did it completely live with an acoustic guitar and occasional overdubs on the vocals. It is the only song he did completely on his own during his time with The Beatles.

Psychedelic singer Donovan Leitch taught Lennon the fingerpicking guitar style he used on this track. Donovan was with The Beatles in India at the Maharishi's camp in Rishikesh, India in February 1968. When Lennon was in Rishikesh, one of the biggest revelations he had was truly opening up (to himself) regarding the feelings he had for his mother, Julia. In leaning the finger-picking method, it did allow John to dig deeper into his emotions. To quote Donovan: "Learning a new style meant composing in a different way. In his deep meditation sessions, John had opened up feelings for his mother. He found release for these emotions in 'Julia,' the tune he had learned with the new finger style. I remember when I played 'Julia' on my guitar I was struck by how much the images in the song were like the images in my songs. They were very unLennon-like."

Donovan was a great conduit for capturing the wonder and innocence of childhood, as he had released an album of children's songs shortly before the trip to India. In his Songfacts interview, he added: "He [Lennon] was trying to write a song about a childhood he never had, and that was very touching to me. He said, 'You are the guy who writes the children's songs. Can you try and help me with this one?' So I may have added a line there."

The first 18 notes of this song are the same (in different metres, only changing the chords) but it's unlikely that this was done deliberately. If anything was deliberate about those notes, it would be that the number 18 resolves to a 9, which Lennon did slip into some of his tunes, but in this case, it was probably just a happy accident.

In Japanese, the name Yoko means "ocean child," which Lennon included as a line in the song.

Sean Lennon sang this at the special Come Together: A Night For John Lennon's Words And Music, which was held October 2, 2001 at Madison Square Garden.

Paul Shaffer and the Late Show Orchestra would play this every time Julia Roberts was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman."

In The Anime series Cowboy Bebop, the main character's "girlfriend" is named Julia. The creator named her after this song - most of the episodes are named after songs.

‘Mother nature’s son’
Paul McCartney wrote this in India after the Maharishi gave a speech about nature. The 4 Beatles were attending the camp to learn transcendental meditation, but were not impressed with the results. John Lennon's demo "Child of Nature," which he later re-worked into "Jealous Guy," was similarly inspired by Maharishi's lecture.

McCartney recorded this by himself after the other Beatles had left the studio.

Paul McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008 that Nat King Cole's 1948 standard "Nature Boy" influenced this gentle pastoral, "because that's a song I love." He added: "At that time I considered myself a guy leaning towards the countryside. But I would have to tip a wink to Nature Boy. Though, when you think about it, the only thing they have in common is the word 'nature'- the rest of the link is pretty tenuous."

John Denver recorded this in 1972. He was going to name his album after this song, but changed it when he came up with the song "Rocky Mountain High."

The song's bongo-style percussion sound was achieved by miking up the drums in the Abbey Road corridor.

‘Dear Prudence’
While Mia Farrow inspired such men as Andre Previn, Frank Sinatra and Woody Allen, her sister Prudence left her mark on John Lennon. According to Nancy de Herrera's book, All You Need Is Love, Prudence met The Beatles on a spiritual retreat with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in India, which she attended with Mia. When Prudence, suffering depression, confined herself to her room, Lennon wrote this hoping to cheer her up. It did.

According to American flautist Paul Horn, who was also with them in Rishikesh, Prudence was a highly sensitive person, and by jumping straight into deep meditation, against the Maharishi's advice, she had allowed herself to fall into a catatonic state. Horn stated, "She was ashen-white and didn't recognize anybody. She didn't even recognize her own brother who was on the course with her. The only person she showed any slight recognition towards was Maharishi. We were all concerned about her and Maharishi assigned her a full-time nurse."

Prudence Farrow wanted to "Teach God quicker than anyone else," according to John Lennon. She would lock herself in her room trying to meditate for hours and hours. From A Hard Day's Write, by Steve Turner: "At the end of the demo version of Dear Prudence John continues playing guitar and says: 'No one was to know that sooner or later she was to go completely berserk, under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. All the people around were very worried about the girl because she was going insane. So, we sang to her.'"

Prudence Farrow explained years later that she was just trying to take Transcendental Meditation seriously. She said in Mojo magazine, September 2008: "They were trying to be cheerful, but I wished they'd go away. I don't think they realized what the training was all about."

Ringo had left the group as the White Album sessions got very tense, so Paul McCartney played drums. When Ringo came back a short time later, there were flowers on his drum kit welcoming him back.

According to the singer-songwriter Donovan, who was on the retreat in India with The Beatles, he taught John Lennon a "clawhammer" guitar technique that he used on this track. "He was so fascinated by fingerstyle guitar that he immediately started to write in a different color and was very inspired," Donovan said in his Songfacts interview. "That's what happens when you learn a new style."

The clawhammer style, is played with the strumming hand formed into a claw, using the backs of the fingernails to strum down on the strings.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics were auctioned off for $19,500 in 1987.

Lennon considered this one of his favorites.

Siouxsie And The Banshees covered this in 1983. Their version went to #3 in the UK and became their biggest hit.

This song was in the movie Across the Universe, which was based on The Beatles music. In the movie, Prudence (played by T.V. Carpio) locked herself in a closet after discovering that Sadie and JoJo were together when she thought she loved Sadie. Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), Jude (Jim Sturges), Sadie (Dana Fuges) and Max (Joe Anderson) sing this to make her feel better. It gets her out of the closet and they end the song at a anti-Vietnam War rally.

‘Michelle’
John Lennon invited McCartney over to college parties when he was still in high school, and French culture was a trend. Paul would try to fit in by sitting in a corner and pretending to be French. He would play little tunes in French, but he only knew a few French words so he would groan or make words up. John told him that he should make it into a real song for Rubber Soul, so he asked his friend Ivan Vaughan, whose wife was a French teacher, for a French name and some words to rhyme with it. Vaughan came up with "Michelle, ma belle." McCartney came up with the next line, "These are words that go together well," and Vaughan taught him the French translation, "Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble," which he used in the song as well. When he played it for Lennon, John suggested the "I love you" part in the middle.

This is not based on any particular woman. They chose the name because it sounded good.

None of The Beatles spoke French. They picked up some German when they went there in 1962, but no French.

This won a Grammy in 1966 for Song of the Year, one of just four Grammys The Beatles won while they were still active.

In France, this went to #1.

McCartney mailed a check to Ivan Vaughn's wife, Jan, for helping with the French lyrics.

The French verse is often misheard as "Sunday monkey won't play piano song.”

Paul McCartney said in Observer Music Monthly October 2007: "We used to go to these art school parties because John was at art school and me and George were at the school next door, which is now a performing arts school. John was that little bit older than us, which at that age is impressive. He was a year-and-a-half older than me and you really look up to people like that. But it's funny because I don't think I had that same feeling with Ringo, who I think was a few months older than John. John was a pretty impressive cat - being a year-and-a-half older and going to art school, all that was a pretty cool combination for us. So we'd tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They'd all wear black turtleneck sweaters, it's kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be 'Michelle.' It was just an instrumental, but years later John said: 'You remember that thing you wrote about the French?' I said: 'Yeah.' He said: 'That wasn't a bad song, that. You should do that, y'know.'"

The singer-songwriter Michelle Branch was named after this song.

Encouraged by the successful foray into French on this song, Beatles ami Donovan sang a verse of his 1968 hit "Jennifer Juniper" in French.


When Paul McCartney received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song award at a White House ceremony in 2010, he did something he later said he'd been itching to do for a while: sing "Michelle" to the First Lady. President Obama credited McCartney with helping "to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation." For his part, Sir Paul managed to work in a line hinting at his view of American presidential politics. "After the last eight years, " he joked, "it's great to have a president who knows what a library is." McCartney is the third recipient of the award - Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder are previous honorees - which recognizes songwriters "whose careers reflect a lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of artistic expression and cultural understanding."

No comments: