Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rain, The Beatles (1966)

I can't imagine being a bass player when this song hit the scene, It would've totally changed everything.- YouTube commenter

Well, look who's having a significant birthday today!  It's my friend Jim, and there's a party tonight so I told him I'd do a post in his honor, and I'm a woman of my word. 

First, a vignette about this day in musical history.  I can barely fathom this little item, and I certainly wouldn't have any way of knowing this without the internet, but something quite peculiar happened on James' birthday in 1964, when he was a teenager, let's just say.

On that day, if you happened to be in the Indianapolis area, you could have dropped in on the Indiana State Fair and seen the Beatles for $3, $4 and $5, depending on your budget, I guess. No, I didn't leave out a zero. There's a page where the old tickets are posted.  And another with concert footage.  And another, the set list.  I'm still scratching my head - the organizers knew they were dealing with the actual Beatles, didn't they?  And not a tribute band?  How, at the height of their fame, were the Beatles selling their wares for those prices?  It's a mystery. 

Anyway, Jim's favorite song wasn't on the playlist that day, but today it is and it's the legendary B-side to Paperback Writer that many consider to be the best B-side that anyone ever recorded - Rain

I remember Rain as one of the last 45s where the Beatles were playing as a powerful unified force of nature before it became all about the album and the artistic and/or personal splits began to be apparent.  Highly exotic, droning and masterful, Rain was especially notable for its prominent bassline - Paul McCartney is considered by some to be the greatest melodic bass player who ever lived, and his licks on this blew people away who understood such things.  Others point to the drumming as being exceptional in the Ringo canon, including Ringo himself.  

It was also the first song in which they used a backwards vocal track, which contributed to its psychedelic feel.  As described by Alan W. Pollack, the musicologist who analyzed every Beatles recording in his "Notes on ..." series,  the track was "the unprecedented (and in retrospect, historically significant) trailing vocal of John's, dubbed over the backing track by playing a tape of his earlier vocal in reverse.  The actual splicing and mixing in of this special effect was done very smoothly, especially by the standards of 1966 technology.  No pops, no clicks, no sudden change of ambiance, etc." 

The image above makes it appear as though Rain was the A-side of the record, but in fact the sleeve looked different on the two sides.  I remember finding that intriguing at the time, for no particular reason, but now it seems quite apt since history showed that Rain was probably as important a song as Paperback Writer, if not more so. 

Anyway, happy happy birthday Jimmy!  Have a delightful day, and I'll see ya later.


KarmaSartre said...

Great selection. PBWriter seemed so light in comparison. Or Lite. The bass and drums are perfect.

Drummer83 said...

Really interesting blog. I'm an old friend of Jimmy's from 1963(!). I just checked an inflation calculator and that $5 ticket would cost a whopping $34 today!
Thanks for the post. I'm going to subscribe to your blog!