Sunday, August 9, 2009

For No One, Beatles (1966)

And in her eyes you see nothing
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one
A love that should have lasted years

It was this past week in 1966 that an event many felt was a seminal one in the evolution of Beatles musicology occurred - the release of their album, Revolver.

I wasn't one of those people. I was underwhelmed, disappointed, even, in the tracks on Revolver. The fact that it marked a new phase in the Beatles' development as studio musicians just didn't resonate with me, because the majority of songs didn't resonate with me.

But lurking amidst the various ditties about taxes and yellow submarines was a gem called For No One. It was a song that Emmylou Harris once described as being about "love hurting real bad." It was notable for being such a stark departure from what surrounded it. And it was notable on its own merits, for nailing what it feels like when the look in your former love's eyes has gone dark and cold - even if tears are flowing from those same eyes.

Several things about this song made it interesting apart from its naked emotion. At first blush it appears to be outlining the all-too-familiar perspective of the one suffering - "Your day breaks, your mind aches" ... But we switch back and forth between hearing his anguish and watching her movements, presumably separate from his. A well done juxtaposition that made the song even more harrowing. Such power Paul McCartney packed into such a small space.

For No One also featured a haunting instrumental solo by Alan Civil, a French horn player of international renown who was asked by George Martin to become part of the recording session, because McCartney wanted a horn break.

Some say the song was so perfect because McCartney was writing about the demise of his relationship with the beautiful actress Jane Asher who, it must be said, I wanted to be for a full five years of my teenybopper life. (To her credit, Asher, who continues to act and is a much sought-after cake baker, has never sunk to a tell-all about their romance. If she hasn't by now, she probably never will. A true class act.) But unless they broke up at some point before the relationship ended completely (1968), the chronology is off. Regardless, it is McCartney at his best and purest.

As to Revolver, I will say that I also love everything about And Your Bird Can Sing. Everything. And Eleanor Rigby was a masterpiece in its own right. But because it was released simultaneously with Revolver as a single, I have always thought of it independently of the album because that is how I experienced it.


Wade said...

Same here about not quite getting "Revolver." I mean, it's the Beatles, so it's great, but as an album it doesn't really seem like an album to me--unlike "Abbey Road," say, which is my favorite of the albums (40th anniversary of the album photo shoot was yesterday, I heard on the radio.) There are songs I love on it (it's the Beatles, after all), and as usual in my case, they're Paul's songs. I'm a Paul guy all the way. "For No One" is just perfect right down the line, the song on its own and that production of it especially. "Here, There and Everywhere" is probably my favorite of the pretty songs on that album, and "Good Day Sunshine" is sublime as far as the rockers go.

cornbread hell said...

i agree. 'for no one' is wonderful, revolver is just ok.

listening to for no one again, i found myself wanting to hear a leonard cohen cover of it. alas. he hasn't. but ricki lee jones has one? i'd sure like to hear that version.

i didn't care for emmy lou's version, but the song still tears me up big time.

thanks for the write-up. you rock, estivator. i hope you find time to update often.

Snooty Primadona said...

I might have been self medicated the year this album came out (wasn't everyone?) but I still know all the words to 'For No One'. It was like the quintessential broken hearts song of the time (whether you had one or not).

However, Revolver was released when the Beatles found their way into drugs, which is clearly evident in the lyrics of many of the tracks. I was a freshman in high school so I was only exposed to the more coherent songs by way of the AM radio. Back then, we were protected from outside evils (or so they thought).

By the time Sgt. Pepper came out, the Beatles had been to India in search of Nirvana & were no longer doing as many drugs, which was reflected in their music. Or I think that's what I mean. By the time my generation was all doing drugs & listening to Sgt. Pepper & Abbey Road, the Beatles had already begun to move on.

So, Yeah! You are *right on* in your take on the Revolver album but the song 'For No One' is still poignant & still perfect. I think I do remember it being written about his relationship with Jane Asher, but who knows? So many stories went around back then....

I refuse to be held responsible for anything stoooopid that I say regarding anything. ;-)