“Please Please Me” Review And Ranking (number 1 in a series of 13)

Album: Please Please Me
Release: 1963. (1st album released)
Summary: As the first album released by the Beatles, “Please Please Me” is widely considered to be one of the most influential albums in music history. Here you had members of a band that actually wrote most of the songs, and played all of the instruments as well. This was notable at the time because almost all albums in the pop/rock genre were crafted with the use of hired songwriters and studio musicians. It’s here where they introduce themselves as serious songwriters and extremely worthy performers.

Note: After each song description, there is a link to the song on youtube. All songs are actual album versions except “Please Please Me,” and “Baby, It’s You” which are not available on Youtube because of copywrite infringement laws. Live versions of these two songs have been used instead.

Song rankings:
1. I Saw Her Standing There (McCartney) – This is the kind of high energy rock that would be one of the elements that defined the Beatles. This first track off of their first album gives the world a taste of what will be considered one of the greatest voices in rock history. McCartney took the standard “I-IV-V” blues-based chord change, changed them up and turbo charged them with energetic dominant 7 harmonic voicings and hand claps. This is my pick for best song on the album.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoaRFFsfQW0&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

2. Twist And Shout (cover) – Though some might find it blasphemous to rank a cover song as the second best song on the album, Lennon’s vocals cannot be ignored as one of the most notable performances in rock history. Beatle’s producer George Martin made sure that this was recorded last as he correctly thought that it would shred Lennon’s vocal cords. They ended up capturing the performance on the first take, as a second take was attempted but John’s voice had nothing left. As a result of this raunchy vocal style, The Beatles always made sure that this was the last song Lennon sang when the Beatles performed live. Regardless, Lennon had created one of rocks most memorable moments in a single take.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmxpZzhkOno&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

3. Please Please Me (Lennon) – The title track of the album, Lennon says this was a result of him trying to write an “Roy Orbison” song. It opens with the memorable harmonica line which serves a precursor to the songs melody in the verse. A top notch Lennon composition comparable to the pre-mentioned “ISHST” in quality, but with a little more emphasis on “pop” rather than a “rock” sound. Though Lennon was the songs composer, it was definitely a “team effort” to make this one sound the way it did: Ringo fills the track with some of the most active and energetic drumming he’s ever played. Paul’s ability to sing higher harmonizing lines which adds life to the song cannot be discounted. And simple guitar riffs can add a lot to a song, as proven here when George adds those five catchy notes that are fit in right before the chorus when Lennon sings “C-mon”. This was also a great pick for the albums second single, which effectively contrasts the innocence and simplicity of their first single “Love Me Do,” leaving the listener intrigued.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdOWWt7Uboo

4. Anna (Go To Him) (cover) – I cannot say enough about the strength and authenticity of his voice in these early years. We hear Lennon’s vocals intensify and cool off at just the right moments to create the powerful varying dynamics. And again, the lyrical content is one beautifully ridden in sadness and self-pity. But what really separates this song from the others is the George Harrison guitar riff played repeatedly throughout the verse. The excellent original written and recorded by Arthur Alexander actually has the is part played on piano. But George translates the part seamlessly onto guitar, making it the driving force of the verse. This is the first song on a Beatles album that has a specific guitar riff as a center point, rather than guitar chords. This type of riff-based songwriting can be seen soon after in the Beatles own compositions such as “Day Tripper” and “Paperback Writer”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRc2mENeBDk&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

5. Baby It’s You (cover) – “Baby..” is the third cover song sang by Lennon that makes this albums top 5. This is a quintessential Lennon performance that maybe best represents who he was, and where he wanted to go as a songwriter. Though this is a cover of a Bacharach/David/Williams composition, it represents a more interpersonal lyrical style that is stemmed from places of insecurity and heartbreak. These themes can be heard time and time again in most of Lennon’s future compositions, making this his signature style. Lennon certainly related to songs such as these, as his early life had plenty of unfortunate turns involving abandonment which surely implanted some deep seeded feelings of insecurity. Thus, the song itself is authentic, probably because it’s being sung by someone who understands exactly what he’s singing about. Listen to how the song slowly builds up intensity until it’s at its pinnacle in the chorus when he sings “Can’t Help Myself” or “Don’t Want Nobody..Nobody”. Another incredible Lennon vocal performance backed up nicely by the others.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEPQc8qmq9w

6. Do You Want To Know A Secret (McCartney) – What’s rare about this one is it is a McCartney composition that is sung by George. “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” is the only other Lennon/McCartney composition that George would sing lead on. From this point on, Harrison would only sing covers or his own compositions. But this is a melodic McCartney gem that is saturated with lyrics of child-like innocence that might come from an elementary school student’s first expression of love. Even the “do,da,do” background vocals emphasize the songs catchy simplicity.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3BN05-x24E&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

7. P.S. I Love You (McCartney) – A well done ballad with romanticized lyrics McCartney would become well known for. I love the background vocals emphasis on each first word on, or slightly before the “one” beat of each measure in the chorus. At the 1:22 mark, the ballad subtly climaxes where those same background vocals now sing every word, and McCartney gets a little soulful with the lead vocals.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZoC9P-OGho&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

8. Misery (Lennon/McCartney) – The first Beatles song to ever be covered by another artist (Kenny Lynch), this is one of those few songs that were actually a collaborative effort by Lennon and McCartney. In fact the verse is sung mostly in unison with a lead vocalist not easily discernible, which supports the general Lennon/McCartney “whoever sung the lead vocals wrote it” rule-of-thumb. Another extremely simply melodic line which emphasizes what I’ve come to believe personally – a simple melody is the key to catchiness and memorability.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mig5xt9v274&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

9. Ask Me Why (Lennon) – Another strong Lennon song with a solid vocal performance, this begins with George setting the table with an extremely simple four note guitar motif that is repeated several times. John’s one and only attempt at a pop ballad on this album shows that McCartney isn’t the only one who could write in this style.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_tUkyknja8&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

10. Love Me Do (McCartney) – Maybe the most recognizable harmonica part in the history of pop music, this also was the first single released from the album. Everything about this track is bare-bones simple in nature, from the three chord changes, to the basic drumming and lyrics. This was basically the starting point from which McCartney would launch his legacy as one of the greatest songwriters of all-time.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P0t9u3YU1Y&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

11. A Taste Of Honey (cover) – A smooth and laid back waltz cover sung by McCartney, this one is the least demanding on his vocal chords. A great element of the song is the middle eight, when “I will return” triggers a double time feel with a change to a 4/4 time signature. A nice “trickling” arpeggio sequence played by George during the verse.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTc6F-ItWFQ&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

12. There’s A Place (Lennon) – One of the least spectacular of all Beatles compositions, this is the closest thing to album “filler” as we had heard from them in their early years. Despite the slightly loose feeling to the meshing of the instruments, the vocal lines are fairly solid with an interesting bridge.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGJPkByGSjU&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

13. Boys (cover) – This is the first cover ever sang by Ringo, and maybe his best vocal performance as a Beatle. At about the 1:45 mark, listen to his full-voice vocals begin and continue throughout the rest of the song. Ringo and Paul have both remarked that at the time the Beatles were performing and recording this, they didn’t even take into account that the song was originally written for a girl-group to sing (The Shirelles) and was really about “boys” as the title would indicate. Paul’s quote: “Ringo would do ‘Boys’, which was a fan favorite with the crowd. And it was great — though if you think about it, here’s us doing a song and it was really a girls’ song. ‘I talk about boys now!’ Or it was a gay song. But we never even listened. It’s just a great song.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRXdko-51zo&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

14. Chains (cover) – George sings the lead vocals with help from the others on this Buddy Holly cover – one of their greatest influences. Early on you can hear that George’s vocals were not quite as refined as those of Lennon and McCartney, but later it’s a more experienced George Harrison vocal that would go on to sing some of the most memorable Beatle’s numbers.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-blRs6Cjlo&list=PLC554ABC6225ABE9C

Notable Moments:
John Lennon’s vocals on covers – John’s best vocal performances may have been in the early years, beginning with this album. “Twist And Shout,” “Anna,” and “Baby It’s You”.

Ringo’s drumming on “Please Please Me” – Possibly his most energetic drumming ever…

Paul’s vocals on “I Saw Her Standing There” – Though John’s voice was especially showcased on the album, McCartney’s vocal range was made known with this song, demonstrating incredible dynamics mixing in full voice with high range falsetto-like moments that drew Little Richard comparisons.

George’s transcription of “Anna” – A perfect representative of the piano riff is played here by George who uses some hybrid picking to pull it off.

Beatle with the greatest contribution: John Lennon. Although the albums number one song is all McCartney, and I’d give him the edge in songwriting on this album, I just can’t ignore the dynamics of Lennon’s vocals on the covers. These rank as some of my favorite vocal performances ever.

“Please Please Me” album ranking: 6th best (out of 13 albums)

Rating The Songwriting Contributions By Members Of The Beatles On An Album-By-Album Basis

Through most of the Beatles unparalleled time at the top, there was little dispute who the band’s most talented songwriters were. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were often times at odds with each other by their own admission, but it was this relentless competition that produced some of the greatest songs ever written.

Lennon has been said to have been the bands leader early on, being the one who started the legendary band that were first know as “The Quarrymen,“ “Johnny And The Moondogs,“ “The Silver Beetles,“ “The Beetles,” until finally becoming “The Beatles.”

But starting around the times of “Sgt. Pepper“ and “The Magical Mystery Tour,” McCartney took hold of the reins. He was the glue that held the band together during very tumultuous times and became the motivational force for the Beatles to not only carry on, but to expand their horizons.

This quote by John Lennon paints a picture of McCartney’s emerging leadership role:

“I was still under a false impression. I still felt every now and then that Brian (referring to Brian Epstein – The Beatles manager) would come in and say, ‘It’s time to record,’ or, ‘Time to do this.’ And Paul started doing that: ‘Now we’re going to make a movie. Now we’re going to make a record.’ And he assumed that if he didn’t call us, nobody would ever make a record. Paul would say, well, now he felt like it – and suddenly I’d have to whip out twenty songs. He’d come in with about twenty good songs and say, ‘We’re recording.’ And I suddenly had to write a fucking stack of songs”.

During the early years when Lennon and McCartney songs would rapidly fill up each album, George Harrison was occasionally able to get in a song of his own, using the few precious minutes of record time to showcase his songwriting ability. Though there is no doubt that his contributions early on were far less substantial than those of Lennon/McCartney, one may struggle to argue that this was still the case on their final albums. In fact, I contend that George was not born with the natural songwriting skills that Lennon/McCartney had. But by being constantly exposed to the songwriting processes of a John Lennon and Paul McCartney, he not only learned from them, his songwriting became arguably on par with them (this will be a subject in a future blog). The name of George Harrison’s post-Beatles band “Dark Horse,” ironically serves as the perfect description of his years as a Beatle.

The Beatles were loaded with songwriting talent – a trio that would raise the standards for how a pop/rock album song should be written. With that being said, they didn’t need another songwriter. All they needed was a Ringo – a drummer who could keep a steady beat and offer some additional personality and charm to a band that already had everything.

Despite this, as a songwriter Ringo Starr did contribute a total 2 ¼ songs to the 13 Beatles studio albums (“Don’t Pass Me By,” “Octopus’ Garden,” and “Flying,” which is the only song credited to all four Beatles)

I must mention a noteworthy bit of information to consider about the Lennon/McCartney songwriting “team.” The fact is that they hardly ever collaborated. The instead made an agreement that any song written by either of them would be credited as being written by both Lennon and McCartney.

Despite the lack of specificity in those songwriting credits, interviews with the Beatles over the years helped give a sense of who really did write what. A general rule of thumb is whoever sang lead vocals on the song is the one who wrote it. This works with almost all songs with such exceptions like “In My Life”. Both Lennon and McCartney claim to have written this one, though most believe it to be a Lennon song since he is singing the lead.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to break down all 13 studio albums in order to rate the songwriting contributions of each Beatle on each album. I’ll also be rating each song from top to bottom along with a overall ranking for the each album. I will then give my opinion on which songwriter was the one who made the greatest contribution to the album. I’ll start with “Please Please Me“, and end with “Let It Be”, analyzing one album per week chronologically. Notes about the albums and specific songs will also be included in my reasoning.

Expect analysis for The Beatles first album “Please Please Me” very soon.

60 Famous Songs In 6 Minutes

See how many artists/songs you can answer correctly out of the 60. But this has a word-puzzle quality to it – the artist/song is specifically linked to the song that is before it, and the artist that is after it by FIRST LETTER of the bands name/artist’s last name.

For example, this could be four songs in this order:

AC/DC – Back In Black
The Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
Bruce Springstein – Glory Days
The Grateful Dead – Truckin’

Back In Black links to The Bee Gees
Stayin’ Alive links to Bruce Springstein
Glory Days links to The Grateful Dead etc..

So if there’s a particular artist/song you don’t know, yet you know the song before it and/or the artist of the song after it, you’ll know the first letter of the artist/song that you’re struggling with.

Guidelines/Rules:

– The timeline of the songs range from the 1950’s to today’s music.

– The genres include rock, pop, country, dance, singer-songwriter, and rap.

– All songs were big hits by major artists, or else very recognizable one-hit wonders.

– Songs from a movie or TV show, you need the actual name of the song. (Ex. The actual name of the MASH theme song is “Suicide Is Painless”. Use that title, rather than “MASH. theme song”)

– The word “The” doesn’t count as a first letter (as you saw above: The Bee Gees = B).

– For individual artists, the first letter of their LAST NAME is used (as you saw above: Bruce Springstein = S).

– For an band name like “The Dave Matthews Band”, it technically is the name of a band, not an individual artist. So “D” would be the letter taken from that.

– There are no repeated artists/songs. With that being said, a band and a solo artist that emerged from that band may both be used. (ex. You may encounter an Eric Clapton song as a solo artist, as well as a song by his old band “Cream”)

HINT: You can already eliminate some answers – all of the artists/songs used in the above examples are NOT used in “60 Songs In Around 6 Minutes”.

See the correct answers by clicking on the “60 songs in 6 Minutes” from the menu at the top.

Miracle in Clarion, PA

I found this image at a restaurant in Clarion PA. It is a white railing that has rust marks which clearly shows the image of Jesus. His beard, crown of thorns, and the cross he’s carrying on his back is clearly visable. If you would like to visit the holy site, the image is on a rail that seperates the sidewalk from the outdoor eating area at Captain Loomis Inn / Mr. T’s Bar.

Bulls Game TV Appearance

National coverage on TNT spotted us in the crowd - twice.

This is a still from the TNT footage of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals (Bulls vs. Hawks) showing a shot of me, my brother-in-law Elliot, and friend Ray (from left to right). They also showed a close up of us again as soon as the game ended.

We had great seats right off the floor – Dominique Wilkins was sitting 5 seats to our left!

2011 Grammy Performances

Watched bits and pieces of the Grammys last night and caught quite a bit of the performances. Mick Jagger still has it. Bob Dylan still has it too, but for him I’m not sure what that “it” is.

I definitely see how a younger viewer who hasn’t been exposed to Dylan’s musical legacy could watch that performance of “Maggies Farm” and ask themselves, “What the hell was that?” In fact, I’d consider myself a pretty big fan, and I had to lightheartedly ask myself that same question. But I cannot help but love the guy even more during performances such as these. He is fully realizes that his legacy will always trump his age, and is determined to ride off into the sunset in the mannor of which he chooses.

Johnny Depp seemed to like it also – I never noticed how much he looks like John Mayer…

Rhianon on the radio is pretty good – but she didn’t do it for me last night. Eminem was definitely the standout and an perhaps put on the shows best performance.

I attempted to watch The Arcade Fire, but the strobe lighting gave me at least two seizures throughout the performance.

In-between the seizures, I would re-gain focus only to observe a bunch of kids riding around on bikes, a guy yelling through a megaphone, and an incredibly strange high pitched shrill being sung by the keyboardist. Not sure if this was real or not. Not sure if it was good or not either.

I didn’t catch the Lady Gaga performace, but I heard it was pretty routine. Hatched from and egg or something…

-craiglutter.com

“Bear Down Chicago Bears” And A Brief History Of Wisconsin Cheese Currency

I encourage any Packer fan/Green Bay musician to post a music video in response to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUbc8E3r520

I can’t help but expect some Packer fan to submit a cover of the Wisconsin standard “Cheese, Wonderful Cheese (Glorious Cheese)”, which was written anonymously by an unknown dairy farmer during the Great Wisconsin Cheddar Famine of 1886.

The story is a good one, and I believe it’s history and relevance should be taught in every Wisconsin classroom.

Back in 1886, the once-thriving cheese production that Wisconsin had enjoyed came to a grinding halt. The state had requested federal government assistance, as many of the Wisconsin residents were starving due to cheese shortages. The federal government, concerned with other national issues, denied aid to the farmers. This is know as the Great Wisconsin Cheddar Famine of 1886.

Hardships were wide-spread throughout the state, and farmers no longer took cheese for granted. This is when an inspired anonymous dairy farmer penned the classic Wisconsin musical standard “Cheese, Wonderful Cheese (Glorious Cheese).” Cheese was now something every Wisconsin resident could get behind.

In only two years, Wisconsin cheese production made a complete comeback and was productive as ever despite no assistance from the federal government. This was largely due to inspired and more rigorous milking efforts by the farmers themselves as well as advancements in cheese-aging technology.

However, the farmers still held a large amount of animosity towards the federal government for not coming to their aid when they needed them the most. Acting on behalf of the distressed farmers, the state of Wisconsin declared their independence from the rest of the country.

State legislature met in Madison to discuss a new monetary system. Wishing to abandon the federal “silver backed” dollar, they opted instead to use what they had plenty of – cheese.

The act was swiftly passed by the state – dollar bill sized slices of cheese were now used as currency in the state of Wisconsin. The value of a cheese bill was actually determined by the actual value of the cheese itself.

Bills of muenster or colby was generally valued at 1 cent each. Swiss or parmesan were valued around 2 cents, while a bill of nicely aged cheddar or gouda was worth 3 cents and so on.

Unfortunately this system was repealed in only a matter of a few days. There were a couple big problems:

1) Because the values of the cheese bills were based on the actual value of the cheese itself, a cheese bill of even the most desirable cheese was hardly ever worth more than 5 cents.

Therefore, any large purchases of land or property paid for by “cash”, would constitute several wagons full of cheese to be delivered to the payee from the payer. This was obviously inconvenient.

2) Cheese had a tendency to easily become devalued. If kept in a your pocket, purse or billfold, it would become warm, very soft, and not as appetizing. Unlike paper currency, the more the cheese bills were handled, the more “undesirable” they became. Wisconsin residents also found that cheese bills were not as easy to fold as paper bills and as a result, had a hard time transferring them to and from their wallet.

Since a cheese bill became devalued the longer it remained in circulation, higher prices for virtually everything (except cheese) were set into place state-wide. With rampant inflation on the rise, Wisconsin had no choice but to rescind the act.

-craiglutter.com

Clutter Award Winner Announced!!!

The clutter award (clutter = C. Lutter) competing in the category “Crappiest Food With The Cutest Mascot” goes to….. PANDA EXPRESS!!!

How can a panda, so cute, huggable, and innocent wreak such havoc on my digestive system? That food was terrible, but everytime I felt the intestinal rumblings of a potential iceland-esque volcanic eruption, I would look down at this soy sauce packet and the adorable panda would melt my heart. I would not let him down. And though the slimy pieces of pepper chicken and the rubber chunks of beef were tough to stomach, I continued to consume in order to not hurt his feelings or give him any indication at all that his food sucked.