Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Should Have Known Better, I'll Be Back, The Beatles (1964)

A youtube commenter writes, "I wonder what it would be like living when the Beatles were around. I'd love to have lived back then, even if it would make me 60 years old today ... "

Ouch! I am both amused and not amused by that comment. But the harsh reality is that those of us who were fortunate enough to be participants in Beatlemania are now middle-aged. All things considered, I wouldn't have it any other way.

For today's selection, I've decided to pair another set of Beatles songs - there are so many and not enough time in life to discuss them all. A Hard Day's Night was the first of their albums comprised entirely of Lennon-McCartney compositions. I go through stages where I listen obsessively to the old stuff, and it became apparent to me with this one (the British release, not the U.S. version, which has a slightly different track list) that these two songs are the ones to which I've had the most consistent reaction and attachment for, God forbid, 44 years.

From a yin-yang perspective, I Should Have Known Better and I'll Be Back are the perfect pair - Idealism vs. Realism on parade. In the first, our subject is gobsmacked with euphoria, awash in the happiness of infatuation. In the second, the blush is well off the rose, it's all gone terribly wrong and our subject is overcome with such despond that he's resorted to threatening his love object.

John's opening harmonica strains in I Should Have Known Better set the stage for what I consider to be the quintessential early Beatles song - one just brimming with exuberance lyrically, melodically, rhythmically. It's the gleeful kind of song that I associate with the endorphin rush - probably because I get one every time I hear and sing along with it. At the same time, it can make me sad if I really think about it, because John's natural edginess soon played itself out in songs that, for most of the rest of his life, were largely darker and more cynical, and for me, not as beloved.

I'll Be Back is startling in its wretchedness. Its alternating major and minor keys make it distinctively different from the rest of the album. Immediately, anyone who knows what it's like to be unable to let go of a love gone bad is transported to that miserable place. When they blurt You / Could find better things to do / Than to break my heart again, it's almost like being punched in the stomach. I've felt like that more times than I can count. Well, I can count that high, but I don't want to.


karmasartre said...

Wendy, what an original concept you had in pairing those songs...the juxtaposition startles. I know what you mean about "John's natural edginess", and it was only 2 albums later when he wrote "I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man". This from the same man who wrote "Imagine". That proves Evolution right there!

Speaking of exuberance, I can't even think about this album, in spite of its heavy-hitters, without getting "Tell Me Why" on the brain. The broken-hearted lyrics are belied by the rhythm, excitement, ridiculous falsetto, and the sheer joy!

And then there are the movie associations: "Can't Buy Me Love" and the fire escape, "I Should Have Known Better" and the train car scene. Great stuff. Thanks for reminding me. Who's the clean old man?

wendy said...

Ah Paul's "grandfather" ... wasn't Wilfred Brambell just perfection in that inspired role?

Mombi said...

Excellent, excellent. I was wondering when/where The Beatles would come into play.

I go through my Beatles phases; I'm strung out on "Across the Universe" right now.

I sent mum and Harv the link to your blog, hopefully they'll be by shortly.

Linda G said...

Oh, Wendy, you touched my sweet spot with this one. I love all things Beatles. And your insight is nothing short of amazing.

Karmasartre was right on with the comment about Evolution. When John changed over, George became (for the rest of my life) my favorite Beatle.