Eight Arms To Hold You

1965 was a curious year for The Beatles. Basically they did everything they had done the year before: two albums, three singles, tours of the UK, Europe and USA, another film. Another book of John’s. But it was also a year of artistic growth and some decisions which foreshadowed their decision to leave the concert stages for good the following year. First, after their 52nd (!) appearance on the BBC radio in May, they finally stopped providing the “Auntie” exclusive musical material. Later in the year they stopped appearing live on television, sending specially filmed “promtional films” (ie videos) instead. As song writers John and Paul were as productive as ever, but they largely kept their songs to The Beatles.
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The sessions for the “Help!” LP produced no less than 20 tracks. 14 were selected for the album, two became B sides, one a filler track on an American LP, one was left off for the next one while two were discarded altogether. John’s “If You’ve Got Trouble” certainly deserved this fate. A fast rocker with not much of a melody, a daft lyric plus a Ringo vocal, slightly reminiscent of earlier throwaways such as “Hold Me Tight” and “One And One Is Two” seems not to have been even offered to anyone. Which was nobody’s loss.

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Paul’s “ThatMeans A Lot” was a much more promising number, which the group had a hard time recording. A perfectly acceptable rendition, slightly reminiscent of “Tell Me What You See”, was cut in February, but not to The Beatles’ satisfaction. The group experimented with several new arrangement ideas in March, but finally gave up and decided to give the song to someone who could do it justice. Enter PJ Proby, a ponytailed(!) balladeer, known for his Elvis impersonations and a controversial stage show, which would climax with ripped velvet trousers! Proby says he was drinking in one of those fashionable London night clubs with John and asked for a song (Now, who wouldn’t?) John came back the following night with “That Means A Lot” and the delighted Proby asked if he could use George Martin as a producer. Apparently this was a bit too much for Lennon who exploded: “You got my song, now you want my producer! What next? My Life, my wife, my kid?” Martin did produce the record in the end in a somewhat bombastic orchestral arrangement and the result was a moderate top 40 hit in the UK. In my opinion the heavy handed orchestration merely makes it more clear that this isn’t one of Paul’s better ones. I much prefer The Beatles’ own version, finally released on Anthology 2. PJ’s version can be found on any number of compilations, such as “The Very Best of PJ Proby” on EMI.

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The big musical craze of 1965 was folk music. Brian Epstein tried to stay in tune with the times by signing the Silkie, a Peter Paul & Mary type of male/female folk group of university students. For their debut single they were given John Lennon’s lovely Bob Dylan influenced “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”. The Beatles’ version had been out for just three days, so this can be considered “exclusive”, especially since the record was advertised as being “produced by Lennon & McCartney”. Paul also reportedly played guitar on the record while George added a bit of percussion. All this hype made the record a minor (top 30) hit in the UK and a major one in the USA. To my ears their type of folk music sounds decidedly outdated and unimpressive so I have no idea what became of the group or if their other recordings are available. You find that out yourself:D YGTHYLA is available on the “Lennon/McCartney Songbook” CD mentioned several times before.

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And then there was “Yesterday.” No, don’t worry, I won’t you bore with the story of how Paul woke up one morning with the tune in his head, put some temporary lyrics about scrambled eggs on it and bugged everyone for months by asking if they’d heard the tune before. Ooops..what did I just do:D Considering how many thousands of cover versions of the tune exist, it’ s somewhat surprising to find out that it took two months for the first one to emerge. Marianne Faithful, the stunningly beautiful, frighteningly young pop star of the day (and girl friend of several Rolling Stones) wanted to record the song and Paul was all for it. Her innocent image and angelic voice did make an effective contrast to the song’s world weary lyrics. Apparently Paul co-produced the track (uncredited) which became a minor hit, losing the battle to a simultaneous version by the slimy balladeer Matt Monroe. Faithful’s version can be found on the same CD as the previous track – not to mention any of the numerous Marianne Faithful’s compilations. Her later work is also higly respected – and entirely different – but that’s another blog. 😉


Published in: on August 5, 2007 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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