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Covers on "With The Beatles"

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Previous page: Notes on "Little Child" Next page: Notes on "Hold Me Tight"

This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song

Notes On The Cover Songs Appearing On The 'With The Beatles' Album

General Points Of Interest

Both the "Please Please Me" and "With The Beatles" albums contain six cover songs and eight originals. While there are some parallels between the covers on both albums, there are equally interesting differences as well.

The parallels:

  • Given the decidely male image of the group, both sets of covers contain a surprisingly strong showing of material first popularized by so-called Girl Groups; three out of six on the first album, and two out of six on the second.
  • Although The Boys would seem in some respects to rather slavishly copy the original versions of the songs in both sets of covers, they almost always, by the same token, appear to include their own subtle stylistic touches. This appears with increasing liberty on the second album, where for example three of the covers whose originals feature a fadeout ending are given a complete one by the Beatles.

The differences:

  • Overall, the set of covers on "With The Beatles" is more heavily weighted toward driving R&B. Either that or perhaps it is in sympathetic vibration, as it were, with the heavier set of originals on this album that one hears the covers this way. Though a highly subjective call, I dare say that WTB packs a harder punch as an album than does PPM partly because of the type of covers it contains.
  • Less subjective is the fact that the WTB covers represent, in part, an older layer of the Beatles repertoire than the ones on PPM. Of the six covers on WTB two ("Till There Was You" and "Money") go back at least as far as the Decca audition, and "Roll Over Beethoven" goes back even further. According to Lewisohn, there was even a time when the proto-Beatles played ROB with John singing lead! The PPM covers, in contrast, were mostly recent hits at the time the Beatles recorded them; only "Baby It's You" predates the 1962 season which immediately preceded the recording of PPM.

Song-By-Song Walkthrough

Till There Was You

KEY F Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> Verse (guitar solo) -> Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (complete ending)

COMPOSER Willson

INFLUENTIAL VERSION Peggy Lee (1961)

The Beatles acoustic arrangement with its Latin beat and bongos is certainly a far cry from the smoothly flowing schmaltz of the original version heard in "The Music Man" Broadway show. Perhaps this bouncier treatment was inspired by Peggy Lee (unforunately this is the one original cover version I did not have on hand for this article), or perhaps, they took their own cue for it from the likes of "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why".

A couple of details betray the Beatles own fingerprints; e.g. the flat VI chord (D flat Major) in the coda and the final F Major chord with the added Major 7th are definitely *not* part of the original. Despite this, the musical essence of this song, with its chromatic winding that pervades both vocal melody and bassline (and which indirectly affects the choice and progression of chords) is something quite off the Beatles track.

No matter how much you think he deserves to be ragged on for playing it apparently from such rote practice, George's acoustic solo work on this track is tastefully conceived and executed with great nuance. Granted, it's simultaneously both impressive and depressing to hear the identical solo, note for note just about, on the Decca tape.

Please Mister Postman

KEY A Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Refrain -> Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Refrain (fadeout)

COMPOSERS Dobbin/Garrett/Garman/Brianbert

INFLUENTIAL VERSION The Marvelletes (1961)

Every section of this song is based on the same I -> vi -> IV -> V chord progression, one of *the* most popular cliches of early Rock and Roll, yet one which for some reason the Beatles generally eschewed.

The monotony of the harmonic plan tends to blur somewhat the distinction between what is "refrain" and "verse", but it should be noted how the former utiltizes dramatic antiphonal counterpoint between the backing and lead vocals, while the latter features the lead up front with the backers softly oooh-ing. One of the other covers here features similarly conspicuous antiphony (see "Devil In Her Heart") and this sort of device would eventually become a major trademark of the Beatles original work; think of the likes of "You Can't Do That" and "You're Going To Lose That Girl." In "Postman" the vocal antiphony starts, bang!, right in the intro, and I for one can't avoid hearing a direct resonance between those opening shouts of "Wait!" and the Boys own "Help!"

John is double tracked while the Marvellete's lead is *not*. Otherwise the arrangement of both versions is essentially the same, allowing of course for the large change of key required to accomodate the different vocal ranges of the two groups.

Incidentally, you'll find that there is some confusion over the authorship of this song if you compare various sources. Current CD pressings of WTB credit the team listed above. However the older LP copies of the "Second Album" list just "Holland" and this is supported by the Parlophone company-memo originally defining the running order for WTB as reproduced in Lewisohn's "Recording Sessions." Note though that Lewisohn's "Live" book lists it as "Holland/Bateman/Gordy." Does anybody out there know what I sense must be an interesting story behind this ?

Roll Over Beethoven

KEY D Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain(3X)-> Bridge -> Guitar Solo -> Verse/Refrain(2X)-> Refrain (complete ending)

COMPOSER Berry

INFLUENTIAL VERSION Chuck Berry (1956)

As with many other, if not quite literally *all*, of Chuck Berry's songs, every section of this one is in the 12-bar blues form -- eight of them all in a row! I only call the fourth section a bridge ("Well if you feel it") because of the subtle change in the melody and backbeat.

There's a minor variation here on the standard blues formula in the way that the chord progression of the last four measures of the 12-bar pattern is played as IV->V->I instead of V->IV->I. This is actually much easier to hear on the Beatles version than the original, though I believe they both play it the same way.

Formalistically, each 12-bar section is internally sub-divided so that the first eight measures provide verse-like exposition, and the final four measures deliver a refrain-like hook. Note how the text of the hook/refrain itself is varied from section to section. Also, note the subtle way in which formal plan here contrasts from of that of "Money" below.

The lyric is wordy to an extreme bordering on the "talkin' blues" style, and is quite wrily irreverant. Seen in this perspective, Chuck's performance scans the words against the beat more freely than does George, in a way that anticipates the style of Dylan in some respects.

The original features a drumming style that is less splashy than the Beatles cover while the Beatles double track the lead vocal and add their hand-claps to the rhythm track. But these are small details and otherwise, the Beatles just about rip the whole thing off from Chuck right down to the opening riff and "middle twelve" break.

You Really Got A Hold On Me

KEY A Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Closing -> Bridge/Re-Intro -> Verse -> Refrain -> Closing -> Refrain -> Outro (complete ending)

COMPOSER Robinson

INFLUENTIAL VERSION (Smokey Robinson and) The Miracles (1962)

There's an unusually complex form at play in this song; note, that I define my terms used above as follows:

  • Verse == "I don't like you ..."
  • Refrain == "You really got a hold on me ..."
  • Closing == "I love you and all I want you do ..."
  • Bridge/Re-intro == instrumental followed by "Tighter!"

The vocal arrangement is equally complex with the relationship between the lead and backers frequently alternating between trio, solo, and some antiphonal singing.

Harmonically, the song features an emphasis on the I- vi progression that is rather Beatles-like in an coincidentally ironic way.

Smokey does it in the higher key of C with (just like Chuck) a different scanning of the words. The original arrangment also features saxes and notably, a fadeout ending. John has the good sense here to sing it single tracked, but while his performance has an obvious intensely raw sincerity to it, Smokey's own smoothness is rather hard to beat.

Devil In Her Heart

KEY G Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Refrain/Verse(3X) -> Refrain -> Outro (complete ending)

COMPOSER Drapkin

INFLUENTIAL VERSION The Donays (1962)

The lyrics and arrangement of this song present an argument betwen the backers who warn the lead of his lover's cruel dishonesty, and the lead who point-by-point protests their sad prophecies as false and refuses to be swayed by their counsel; it's a regular little Greek Chorus Drama in miniature.

The form of the song though is surprisingly flat in spite of the dramatic scenario, with a mechanical succession of Refrain and Verse pairs. Defining my terms again:

  • Refrain == "She's got a devil in her heart ..." -- I'll still peg these sections as refrains in spite of the fact that the lyrics which follow the hook line keep changing in each reiteration.
  • Verse == "He'll never hurt me or desert me ..."

Both formal sections of the song have a convergent harmonic shape, which is unusual. The refrains start off with ii->V->I (shades of "Don't Let Me Down") and the verses start off with the IV->iv->I (Major IV to minor iv) cliche.

The transfer of this song from a female to male group obviously necessitated changing the words a bit as well as a transposition of key (the Donay's did it in E.) The original has a large-ish sounding band behind it and a fadeout ending. The Beatles include maracas, and not only make the ending a complete one, but adorn it with one of their beloved Major ninth/seventh chords on I.

Money

KEY E Major

METER 4/4

FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain(3X) -> Break -> Verse/Refrain -> Refrain -> One Last Refrain (complete ending)

COMPOSER Bradford/Gordy

INFLUENTIAL VERSION Barret Strong (1959)

This is yet another song in which (virtually) every section is in 12-bar blues form, but it bears an interesting comparison with "Roll Over Beethoven." Here, the 12-bar frame is divided so that only four measures are verse-like exposition with the remaining eight devoted to a raving refrain. The proportions in ROB are a reversed eight-to-four. And the difference is more than just a mathematical curiosity to the extent that the longer refrain section in "Money" is as much a factor in making it a "screamer" of a song as is the performance of the lead singer. If you're looking for other examples with which to test this theory, look back to the first album where you find the verse of "Chains" which corresponds to the ROB 8+4 pattern as well as "Boys" which matches the 4+8 pattern of "Money."

One additional parallel between "Money" and ROB is the way they both have final sections in which the hook-phrase takes over the lyrics completely.

The Beatles cover presents the intro and solo as an eight-measure compression of the 12-bar frame. The original keeps both those sections at the full twelve bar count. Note however that the original has only two instead of three verse/refrain pairs before the break.

The vocal line of this is very bluesy with lots of juxtaposed Major/minor thirds and flat 7ths and the arrangement yet again features a large amount of antiphonal singing. The Beatles throw a hard edged piano in the mix and of course John's blistering vocal now *single tracked*. The use of the E Major key nicely supports Tony Barrow's suggestion that you can flip the disk over for a second play from the beginning since the first track, "It Won't Be Long", is also in E.

The selection of this particularly raving number for the final track of the album and the modification of it to include a big-finish complete ending sounds to me like they were striving hard to repeat the immense success of "Twist And Shout" on the first album, and I'd dare say they come pretty darn close. If you want to get picky here, perhaps you might deduct a few points either because the spin-off of the earlier TAS triumph is a bit too obvious or because the message of the lyrics is kind of crass and rough, for all its tongue-in-cheek posturing, in a way which doesn't entirely become the image of the group at this point with their collarless suits and little boots. If I don't watch it, though, I'm going to starting sound too much like Eppie.

Regards,
Alan (awp@bitstream.com)

---
"Have you no natural resources of your own ?" 121791#42 ---

Copyright (c) 1991 by Alan W. Pollack

All Rights Reserved

This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group rec.music.beatles. The content from this newsgroup is archived at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/awp.html

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

If you want to learn more about the musical side of song writing, chord progressions, harmony and theory through The Beatles songs (and/or The Beatles in particular), I recommend the following book:

Artist: Dominic Pedler

Arranged by The Beatles


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