Wednesday, 15 July 2015

7 inch singles collection: The Beatles - Something

Inevitably it's...


A-Side: Something
AA-Side: Come Together
(Capitol 1969)      

It's not easy to write about The Beatles - I'm guessing that everything that can be written about them has probably already been written, and any attempt that I make will be a poor rehash of thoughts and ideas better expressed elsewhere. They are the very cornerstone of modern rock and pop, and as such the cornerstone of modern pop and rock criticism. They were there because they were good (a lot of the time - there are many mediocre Beatles songs and several poor ones), they were there because the were early (they weren't the first doing this kind of thing, but they had the attention worldwide). They were an ultimate affirmation of right place, right time with a huge lump of right talent thrown in.

For me there are two choices when looking at The Beatles records that fall under the auspices of this blog. Firstly I can take all the received wisdom as read, and then go on and have a look at historical context and that kind of stuff, or secondly I could just pretend the records aren't significant and aren't by The Beatles and attempt to judge them on their own merits. Ideally I'd like to do the latter, but the former will have to happen sometimes, and having said that that's the way this entry will largely play. This is because this is one of the later Beatles singles and there's something (pun not intended) extra around context that we need to delve into when looking at this record.

It was apparently Frank Sinatra, who when covering this song at a concert, introduced it as the best song that Lennon & McCartney ever wrote. He is of course mistaken because this song was written by George Harrison. However it may well be the best song that Lennon & McCartney never wrote. This is end stage Beatles career - they were (according to legend) falling apart, not agreeing on stuff and generally not happy being Beatles - however accurate the details on this kind of thing are, one thing we can be sure of is that Something is the very first Beatles single with a George Harrison song as the a-side. It's a bit late in the game too - from their final album to be recorded (if not released) - it seems like George never had the chance before. He had done songs on previous albums - many of which were good and the equal of songs that were the a-sides of singles, so why had they not been released as such before. Was there a sinister plot to keep George (always the quiet one remember) in the sidelines and to make sure that John and Paul were the faces and voices of the group, was there a worry that maybe songs by George wouldn't sell? Maybe they thought things are going south anyway and let George have a go as a sop to ease tensions in the group. I don't know and I'm not sure that I care particularly either. What is important is that George stepped up and delivered - not just here, but in these later years also providing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on The White Album and "Here Comes The Sun" from "Abbey Road" (as was Something). These three songs could easily make top 10 Beatles song lists for many fans, and indeed I'm sure there's plenty of people that would have these in their top 3 Beatles songs list. The greatest of these songs though is Something.

"There's something in the way she moves that attracts me like no other" - a great line in and of itself, but also because it's descriptive of the song it's from. There is something about this song that attracts, it has a coy charisma that charms and seduces whilst the music is dizzying and mellifluous, twisting and turning, longing and yearning. Something is George Harrison, in his own quiet way, saying to John and Paul, "don't worry about breaking up the band, lads, I can manage on my own", and then deftly pulling out this song - equal to anything, if not better than anything, in the whole Lennon/McCartney songbook. The real tragedy is that here, in England, it didn't get to number on in the charts.

Of course George doesn't get his own way completely on this record because there on the other side is Come Together - they can't relegate John to the B-side of a George record, so this song shares top billing as a double a-side.There are plenty of people who think that John Lennon can do no wrong, and I'd be the first to say that he made many many wonderful records in his lifetime. Come Together isn't one of them. I'm not saying it's really bad, it's just not that great. It feels to me that Lennon is experimenting with form, sound, and style in this song - that's great; Lennon experimenting is better than Lennon on autopilot. The shapes that the sounds and rhythms of this song make in you're head are great, they're fresh and different. The lyrics however are a stream of consciousness gibberish that really don't cut the mustard. I'm sure that they're deep and meaningful if your on an altered plane of consciousness (or really pretentious), but otherwise they do do it for me. Good songs can be made from random word put together where the sound and rhythms of the words make their own music - I don't think that they do that in Come Together, instead they're just riding atop the melody like a barnacle stuck to a whale.

I didn't mean to write that much on this record - I'm sure I'll have less and less to say about The Beatles each time one of their records come up. One final thing that I want to point out about my copy of the record is that it's not a 70's/80's/90's re-release, it's an original  issue, and not only that as you can see from the picture it's a US import too, the reason I want to point this out is so that I can feel smug and self-satisfied for buying this from a charity shop for 30p.

Next time a song about a sacred bovine...

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