9 Of My Favourite John Lennon Rhythm Guitar Performances

The aforementioned Beatle with the aforementioned instrument.

The aforementioned Beatle with the aforementioned instrument.

Hello (goodbye) all! Happy February, happy British Invasion anniversary (for the 9th) and happy Rooftop Concert anniversary (for the 30th of last month)! And so it’s back to school for tangerinetrees99. To paraphrase John, “Another school year, a new one just begun.” But anyway…

Today I thought I’d do a post around my favourite Beatle. (I think everyone who reads this blog knows which Beatle I’m talking about.) And something which not everyone immediately associates with that particular Beatle; his rhythm guitar skills!

Despite what a few people think, John was an incredibly good rhythm guitarist. (Rhythm guitar, by the way, is the rhythmic strumming of guitar chords, as opposed to lead guitar, which is fingering melodies.) In fact, he was an utter rhythm guitar genius. (And those who play rhythm guitar know that it is a lot harder than it looks.) Changing between dirty, bluesy sloppiness (a la ‘Revolution’) and incredibly precise, near-impossible perfection (a la ‘All My Loving’), with some stabbing proto-punk and tender fingerpicking in between, John helped Ringo make The Beatles drive.  John had a quirky yet strong sense of rhythm and timing, and often relied on the offbeats (beats 2 and 4 in a bar of 4 beats) to create his rhythm part. He also had a penchant for barre chords, also contributing to that distinctive Lennon sound. A deceptively simple concept to follow, John truly was one of the few who innovated rhythm guitar for generations to come. Here are nine of my Lennon rhythm favourites, in no particular order:

9. ‘She’s A Woman’

Despite one missed chord change, John’s barred, offbeat stabs of his Rickenbacker 325 practically sums up his style in one song. As much as I love Paul’s “Little Richard” vocals, my very favourite thing about this song is the rhythm part. Thanks Johnny!

8. ‘All My Loving’

A well-known example of John’s guitar skills, this song is practically impossible to play. Those nay-sayers need to be directed to this song. Just check out those super-fast triplets! Proves that The Beatles were always an incredibly good band, even before Rubber Soul!

7. ‘I’m Looking Through You’

This song is too overlooked. Not only is it one of Paul’s best songs (in my opinion), John’s acoustic guitar is damn groovy! Who can’t dig all those complicated finger movements and rhythms? Definitely one of my favourite songs to play. (George’s groovy distorted lead is cool, too!)

6. ‘Revolution’

As soon as that iconic distorted groove kicks off, John’s guitar work in ‘Revolution’ only goes up. John himself said that he found himself a better guitarist after working on this song! As you probably know by now, I have a penchant for distorted, dirty guitar work, of which John is the master. I seriously dig the sort of bluesy patterns John is beating out on his Casino. (Side note: Nicky Hopkins played keyboard on this track. He is probably the only guy ever to have played on the records of the Beatles, solo-Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Easybeats, Who…)

5. ‘Yer Blues’

Okay. This song was definitely going to be on the list. Again, deceptively simple. Actually near impossible. John’s quirky sense of timing certainly contributes to the absolutely groovy feel of this song! His rhythm part alternates between incredibly precise “frills” at the end of each line and sloppy swinging. I find the distinction between lead and rhythm very fine on this song, which is cool! The Rolling Stones Rock’n’Roll Circus performance of this song (with Eric Clapton on lead, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Keith Richards on bass) shows the distinction a little more, for those interested (also includes John and Mick Jagger doing incredibly bad US accents and being jokey…):

 

4. ‘Across The Universe’

John’s acoustic work here is just gorgeous! Especially the intro. It definitely isn’t as complicated as some of the stuff above. But it’s really beautiful to listen to. And isn’t that what true music is all about?

3. ‘Julia’

John used the fingerpicking technique that Donovan taught him in India on this absolutely heartbreaking track. John uses a few really obscure chords on this song. He really did have an impeccable knowledge of creative harmonies… Totally beautiful. Whilst he was a master of the dirty, sloppy rhythm, his tender fingerpicking is too underrated.

2. ‘Revolution 1’ (‘Kinfauns’ Demo Tapes version)

I know I included the single version of this song above, but I just had to include the ‘Kinfauns’ (George’s house at the time) Demo Tapes version! That guitar work at the beginning is something I love very much. I think John is also playing barre chords (or maybe with a capo), playing true to the “Lennon sound”. The Beatles all sound like they are enjoying themselves very much, which contributes to the fun sound of the demo!

1. ‘I Found Out’ 

Yes, I know this is in fact a song off John’s first solo album. Not a Beatles song (though Ringo does play drums on it). But I had to include it somewhere! That rumbling, dirty distortion is not something you hear every day… Some people even count it as proto punk! A really rockin’ song.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: ‘I’m So Tired’, ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me and My Monkey’, ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’, pretty much anything on A Hard Day’s Night, ‘Help!’, ‘She Said, She Said’, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, many other songs…

And there we go! Exposing another exceptionally talented side of John, for which he isn’t always known for… Have you got a favourite Lennon rhythm part? Please tell me in the comments!

Oh, and yesterday, I played my first gig! It was really wonderful! Once I put the videos somewhere, I will post about the experience here, so keep an eye out… But until then, good day sunshine! 🙂

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Nine Underrated Beatles Songs

The sun is up, the sky is blue... (It looks a little cold, though!)

The sun is up, the sky is blue… (It looks a little cold, though!)

Today I thought I’d do a bit of an essential post for a Beatles blog; my list of what I think are the most underrated Beatles songs! Many people who know me (either in real life or online) will know that my favourite Beatles songs are the slightly less known ones. (And yes, I do realise that’s a very hipster-ish thing to say. I don’t mean it that way.) And I chose the number nine ‘cos, well… And as with the post I did on my favourite Beatles songs nearly seven months ago, this is only a small selection of my opinion. And it’s only my opinion. But alas, here is the list, in no particular order!

‘I Call Your Name’ (Long Tall Sally/Past Masters — 1964)

This song was only released on a now relatively obscure EP, which saddens me. (Apparently it was kept from A Hard Day’s Night because it sounded too similar to ‘You Can’t Do That’. Which I also love.) It’s such a rockin’ little groover that’s too often not recognised. I especially love the rhythm guitar (it’s almost a kind of ska beat! John really was a genius…), that riff that kicks off the song and John’s vocals. I feel it kind of shows the direction in which The Beatles were headed (i.e. slightly harder rock than, say, the poppy Merseybeat of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’), and I find it a really good song to rock out to. Ahh, the joys of being a Beatles fanatic…you get to know really awesome songs like this! (The Mamas and Papas also did a fine cover of this song, which I really like.)

‘Yes It Is’ (B-side to ‘Ticket To Ride’/Past Masters — 1965)

Gosh, those harmonies! As much as I love the ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ B-side ‘This Boy’ which is somewhat similar (John claimed in 1980 that the former was meant to be a rewrite of the latter), I prefer ‘Yes It Is’. (And ‘This Boy’ isn’t actually all that underrated compared to other Beatles songs, which defeats the point of this list.) There are some quite interesting chord progressions (especially near the end), and I also especially love that volume pedal that George is using on his guitar — ‘Yes It Is’ (and ‘I Need You’, from Help!) were two of the first examples of pedal usage, in fact! But those gorgeous John/Paul/George harmonies always take the cake, for me — those three could sing like angels!

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The Beatles — a.k.a. The White Album — 1968)

 

Okay, so I admit this song is far from underrated within the Beatlemaniac community, but the general public are somewhat deprived of this masterpiece. As someone online once pointed out, it’s a cult classic. So we shall refer to it as that. But anyway, this song is an utter masterpiece. To quote some YouTube comment contributor, the structure covers the history of rock’n’roll, to an extent. John’s vocal range is on full show, here, with him reaching from a G2 to a C5. And we all know about my great love of the guitar solo at 0:44! The time signatures are absolutely incredible, also — especially for someone with no formal musical training. I got Hunter Davies’ new book for Christmas, and the manuscript of this song has the times written next to the appropriate lyrics; I found this particularly interesting. Something that makes this song even more interesting, though, is the rumour that Jim Morrison supposedly met John at Abbey Road during the recording of this song, and sang on the ‘Mother Superior jumped the gun…’ bit. I’m not sure as to whether there is any truth to this rumour, but it would be very cool if there was…

‘Long, Long, Long’ (see above)

Buried deep in The White Album — just after the cacophonic, proto-metal ‘Helter Skelter’ and ending Side 3, if you’re listening on vinyl — ‘Long, Long, Long’ isn’t all that well-known. I think it’s beautiful. From the gentle strum of the guitar to the slightly weird (in a very, very good way!) ending, I declare it one of my fave White Album tunes. I reckon George is one of the most underrated songwriters of all time.

‘Old Brown Shoe’ (B-side to ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’/Past Masters — 1969)

As with ‘I Call Your Name’, it almost seems that nearly nobody knows this song. Many fanatic Beatlemaniacs know it, but you really can’t have been a casual fan to have heard it. Or is that so? Whilst I was still being introduced to The Beatles via a friend way before I even owned an album, she discovered this song on The Blue Album, so I suspect it might have been one of the first Fab songs I heard. But then, I only listened to it properly in July and had basically no recollection of it, so… But anyway, this is another George composition. A flat out rocker. That bassline must be one of the best in rock history (George played it, believe it or not), and that solo is stellar. The lyrics are quite interesting as well.

‘For You Blue’ (Let It Be — 1969/1970)

A groovy twelve-bar originating from the ill-fated Get Back Sessions, and yes, it’s written by George. The lyrics aren’t mind blowing but George sings them really well (the switching between normal singing and falsetto!). And I really, really love that slide solo done by John. A fun one to strum out to on guitar (and to jam over, as well).

‘The Night Before’ (Help! — 1965)

I still remember the first time I heard this. November 2013, the night after receiving the Help! DVD my mum had ordered. I remember dancing rather madly to it whilst trying to watch the screen. (Help! is my favourite Beatles film, by the way.) A week or so later, we had a fair at my school with a karaoke station. Guess what song I did? And that night, we bought my first collection of vinyls — The Beatles Box. I listened to Disc 3, Side 2 as soon as we got home, just so I could hear this song. One of Paul’s fine compositions, I think. I especially love John’s rockin’ electric piano (which I can play!) and the vocals — from all parties. Not to mention that I love the Salisbury Plains scene in the film mentioned above…

‘She’s A Woman’ (B-side to ‘I Feel Fine’/Past Masters — 1964)

Another B-side. Another amazing song. Okay, the lyrics are rubbish, but check out that rhythm guitar! It’s almost overdriven…and that rhythm (x2x4) is seriously cool. Not to mention Paul’s “Little Richard” vocals…!

‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ (Abbey Road)

As with ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ is a cult classic in that it is not completely unknown but it’s popularity pales in comparison to that of, say, ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘Let It Be’. (I will safely assume that this song would have been much like those mega-hit Beatles tunes if it had been released as a single.) ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ is could also be called Paul’s ‘Happiness Is…’ whilst referring to the fact that it, too, is made up of different sections (the almost-classical piano “concerto”, the boogie-woogie doo-wop, the heavier guitar solo/’one sweet dream’ and the ending guitar motif/’One, two, three, four, five, six, seven’). My favourite of these is definitely the guitar solo at 2:10, plus the ‘One sweet dream’ part it leads into. This song marks the beginning of the ‘Abbey Road Medley’ quite fittingly, as the song itself is almost a medley within itself.

And that’s my post for tonight! What do you think are The Beatles’ most underrated tunes? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments. Oh, and today is the last day of 2014 for me, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year and all the best for 2015. Good day sunshine for now! 🙂

My Favourite Beatles Live Performances

You might be finding a few gems from this gig today...

You might be finding a few gems from this gig today…

PLEASE NOTE: I meant to publish this post before I published ‘I Think I’m Gonna Be Sad…’, but I didn’t finish the draft in time. Sorry ’bout that. But as you can see, I have finished the draft — voila!

Yay! Finally finished school for the year — meaning nearly two whole months of holidays! I saw Ben Folds live last Friday, which was amazing. Very funny/clever man… Ben actually used to live in Adelaide, which is cool. But anyway…

Reading the title of this post, you might be thinking, ‘What? You can barely even hear The Beatles live on some of the recordings!’ Not strictly true… There are some really, really amazing versions of their songs played live. And you can actually hear them (sometimes)! I stay away from 1964 live recordings, though — the screams are slightly overpowering, then. A lot of my favourite recordings come from 1966, when you could actually hear them. (Some from mid-late ’65, as well.) But anyway, let the list begin…

Yesterday: Munich, 1966

BACKGROUND: ‘Yesterday’ was included in The Beatles ’66 set list, but it was not played live like it was in ’65 (i.e. Paul solo with his acoustic-electric guitar plus a pre-recorded string quartet). As can be heard in this video, The Beatles had clearly created a two-electric-guitars/bass/drums arrangement for live purposes. As far as I know, the song was played at each concert in the US, plus Munich (where this version originates).

WHY I LIKE IT: Call me sacrilegious, but I count ‘Yesterday’ as one of my least favourite Beatles songs. But I love this version! I think it sounds way better with the electric guitars and drums than it did with that string quartet. (The string makes the song too schmaltzy, in my opinion.) Not a live version, but my other favourite version of this song can be found on Anthology 2.

I Saw Her Standing There: Drop In — Sweden, 1963

BACKGROUND: In October 1963, The Beatles semi-toured Sweden. (Beatlemania hadn’t quite hit Sweden, so it’s wonderful to actually be able to hear the songs minus any sort of scream.) One of the performances done on this tour was for a TV show called Drop In. The setlist for this night was ‘She Loves You’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’.

WHY I LIKE IT: Listen to that rhythm guitar. Need I say more?

I’m Down: Blackpool Night Out — Blackpool, 1965

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2rjt0 (the stupid Dailymotion embed code refuses to work)

BACKGROUND: In August 1965, The Beatles performed on another show, called Blackpool Night Out (thus we don’t know where the performance was situated AT ALL. Not.). The BNO performance is slightly better known than the above, though, due to inclusion of much of the show on Anthology 2. The set list was comprised of ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘I’m Down’ (obviously), ‘Act Naturally’, ‘Ticket To Ride’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Help!. (I highly recommend watching the entire performance on YouTube, by the way. There are some very funny quips from John, and the dancers that perform during the end credits made me laugh. The dancer weren’t actually provided for comic relief — as far as I know — though…)

WHY I LIKE IT: Interestingly, the organ in this performance is much more evident than in the studio version. And it’s amazing! I attempted to compare this version with Shea Stadium, but got irritated with the screams and gave up.

Day Tripper, Paperback Writer, She’s A Woman: Candlestick Park, 1966

BACKGROUND: As I assume most (if not all) of the people reading this know, The Beatles’ only performance at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park was their final live performance (sans the Apple Rooftop). The group (especially John and George) were fed up with the treatment they received on their tours, not to mention the screaming girls (attention which they enjoyed at first, but grew to dislike). Luckily for us obsessive Beatlemaniacs who will quite happily sit through hours of Beatles live tapes (or is that only me…), Paul asked Tony Barrow to record the entire concert on tape. Unfortunately the tape ran out halfway through ‘Long Tall Sally’ (the last song in the gig — excluding the opening bars of ‘In My Life’ that John played on his Casino as he walked offstage), but anyway… The Beatles also took photos onstage that would now be called ‘selfies’… (Haha — The Beatles were the first to use artificial double tracking, popularised longer haircuts for men and invented the selfie! 😉 ) Not coincidentally, Paul was the last person to play at Candlestick Park before its demolition.

WHY I LIKE IT: I’m not sure if it’s just the bad sound quality (I think not), but The Beatles’ guitars sound as if they’re on overdrive. And not just that — John/Paul are really screaming those rockers with passion! They seem to be having a rocking good time. Which I find very groovy! The Beatles really sound like they’re letting loose (someone in the YouTube comments compared the gig to those of The Who!) here, and they are rocking dead hard. Perhaps this is because they know that after that particular gig, they will not be performing together live in the near future… But anyway, really worth listening to. I will post the entire concert below — really, utterly and definitely worth listening to if you have a half an hour to spare.

 

(And of course…) The Rooftop Concert!

BACKGROUND: The Beatles hadn’t toured for nearly three years. In that time, the band created the masterpieces known by the general public as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles/White Album. (Not to mention Magical Mystery Tour — not that I’d exactly call the film a masterpiece… 😉 ) John had gotten together with Yoko, and Paul with Linda. And the infamous split-up of The Beatles had begun. By early 1969, Paul was desperate to save his band, as the members (especially him and John) began to drift further and further apart. His attempt to save the band — the Get Back Sessions! (Of course, we now know that his attempt wasn’t particularly successful…) The original intent of this project was to basically have a giant jam and end up holding a gig in some exotic location, but arguments between John and Paul led them to have the concert on the Apple Rooftop. This set up a trend still continuing today — rooftop concerts!

WHY I LIKE IT: C’mon… Late-era Beatles performing some fab yet-to-be-released songs — what’s not to like? If I could have been at any Beatles live performance, I would actually choose the rooftop concert. I think it would be utterly magical walking around in one’s lunchbreak, only to find The Beatles playing an impromptu gig. And you could probably hear them, too! Not to mention that ‘Get Back’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ are some of my favourite Beatles songs…

And there we go! My shortlist of The Beatles’ live versions! Hope you enjoy listening to the various versions of songs you (probably) already know.

Hope you’re having a fab day — wherever you are in the world — and good day sunshine until the weekend! 🙂

As mentioned above...

As mentioned above…