Monday 24 June 2024

The lifecycle of a song

Disclaimer: this post was written in December 2023, and scheduled for future posting. Its contents may no longer be accurate or appropriate.

I've had these three videos languishing in my YouTube Watch Later list for a few years now, so it's time I stopped prevaricating ("the enemy of achievement," after all) and did something with them. And what better day than Paul McCartney's birthday to highlight three markedly different versions of the same Beatles song.

First up, the original studio version of I'm Down, written by Sir Thumbs-aloft and released in July 1965 as the B-side to Help. It's a straight up-and-down rocker that really showcases Macca's vocal range and ability to wail. Amazing to think, if YouTube comments are to be believed, that the next song to be recorded after this was the couldn't-be-more-different Yesterday. Anyway, here's I'm Down after being given a sympathetic remaster in 2009.

Even without the remastering, this feels tight and orderly. Four lads that shook the world they may have been, but they knew how to behave in the studio too.

Compare this to a loose and limber live rendition as part of the Blackpool Night Out, filmed for TV on the 1st August 1965. The second track in a six song set, this is a little rawer, for sure, but still accomplished and utterly confident live, as only bands that have ground it out on stage together for years, and in all circumstances, can be. John's keyboard solo is a joy.

Next up, another live performance, this time at the Circus-Krone-Bau in Munich and recorded exactly 58 years ago on 24th June, 1966. Nearly a year has passed since Blackpool, and lots has changed. First, there's Paul's intro in German - clearly those years in Hamburg had a lasting effect. Then there's the start of the song - Paul cannot remember the lyrics, and gets them nearly all wrong or in the wrong order, despite John's attempts to remind him. Note Ringo's reaction about 59 seconds in as Paul fluffs another line. Then comes the guitar solo, for which John puts his hands behind his back so as not to crash George's moment. The band look visibly less ordered than in Blackpool, and you wonder whether they might have had a drink, or a smoke, before going on. They certainly look more "relaxed" and you couldn't blame them for this, surely, nor for forgetting the words - they were living in a whirlwind, the likes of which we cannot imagine. And yet, despite the "loosening" of the band, and the song, the performance still sounds great.

The Beatles tended to close their set with either this or Long Tall Sally for every live performance they gave from here on, continuing through Germany, Japan, the Philipines and the USA, right through to their last ever stadium gig at Candlestick Park on the 29th August that year (a Sally night, since you ask). I wonder if they got any better at remembering how to play it by the end of the tour? And has Paul solo ever played it live? Any Beatles obessives out there know?Tip the author

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