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The Beatles - '65 (1964)

The Beatles '65

Capitol Records

Released December 15, 1964

Recorded June 1, 1964 (“I’ll Be Back”) and August 11 - October 26, 1964

The Beatles '65 was actually released in 1964. The group’s early timeline for album releases is a puzzle. Let me try and help with the pieces. In the UK, the Beatles released Beatles For Sale (Parlophone); in America, they released The Beatles '65 (Capitol). Eight songs were the same on both albums. The album quickly went to #1.

Side 1

(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)

Track 1 - "No Reply" was a Beatles original meant to be used by an English rock singer named Tommy Quickly, also managed by Brian Epstein. When Quickly didn't use the number, the Beatles decided to record it for themselves because they were rushed to get out new material. Lennon's lyrics are about a boyfriend who can't get in touch with his girlfriend even though he knows she is home, and with another guy- they are a tad bit stalkerish. The groove moves from bossa-nova to rock. It's a solid opening track. Apparently, Lennon lost his voice after recording the tune. Although not a hit, it has been covered by bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Cheap Trick, and Wilco. (+)

Track 2 - "I'm A Loser" is a song about rejection. As revealed by Lennon, the song was influenced by Bob Dylan. Lennon states, "That's me in my Dylan period. Part of me suspects I'm a loser, and part thinks I'm god almighty.” He was neither. The tune is a departure thematically from the Beatles' earlier positive lyrics, and Lennon wrote the song after a breakup. Musically the melody and the chords are simple and catchy. Lennon plays some harmonica on this one, and Harrison's twangy guitar solo is notable. “I’m a Loser” hit #1 on the Canadian charts and #8 in the UK- So this song was not at all a loser. (+)

Track 3 - "Baby's In Black" is lyrically pretty dark for an early Beatles song. It's basically about a girl who is grieving. The song is a waltz with country elements. The recording is a hidden gem that remains locked inside the Beatles catalog. Take notice of the three-part harmonies and the sound of Harrison’s signature 12-string Rickenbaker guitar. (+)

Track 4 - "Rock and Roll Music" is an excellent cover of the 1957 Chuck Berry tune. It may be the Beatles' best cover, and the song reached #5 on the Billboard Charts. The band played the tune often as part of their set at the Cavern Club, and they nailed the basic track in just one take. Producer George Martin then overdubbed the piano parts.

Track 5 - "I'll Follow The Sun'' is a gorgeous ballad written by Paul McCartney, who claims he wrote it at 16 years old. The percussion you hear is Ringo Starr tapping his knees. The song offers fantastic harmonies, beautiful guitar work, and great lyrics. It's a shame it is not more well-known because it's pretty incredible. (+)

Track 6 - "Mr. Moonlight" comes after "I'll Follow the Sun." Astronomy is cool! This Latin-style tune is written by a lesser-known American R&B singer-songwriter and guitarist named Roy Lee Johnson. This was another song they used to cover. McCartney plays a good deal of organ on this track. It's not a fantastic track-kind of a dud. I’d rather “follow the sun” than Mr. Moonlight. They can’t all be great.

Side 2

Track 1 - "Honey Don't" is one of two Carl Perkins songs on the album. Musically the song reflects the influence of rockabilly on the Beatles' music. Rockabilly is often described as a unique blend of country music. The song's lyrics are about a man frustrated with his partner's behavior, as she keeps leaving him and coming back. Ringo sang this one and had been singing it with his old band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, before joining the Beatles. It was one of the few songs he sang lead on early on. When asked if he could sing it, someone should have told Ringo, "Honey Don't."

Track 2 - "I'll Be Back" is considered one of the Beatles' most technically impressive early compositions and shows the usage of more experimental chords than most pop vehicles from the time. It’s also a tune that reflects Lennon’s insecurities regarding relationships. The song was issued on the US release of Hard Days Night, so go back to my broadcast on that record and check out the comments. Then "I'll be back."

Track 3 - "She's a Woman" is a solid blues song written and sung by McCartney. Although it was a B side to "I Feel Fine," it charted #4 in the US. It's McCartney trying to write a song in the style of Little Richard. He even sings differently on this one. The lyrics speak to a woman's confidence and independence, which showed that the Beatles were aware and progressive regarding the shifting attitudes of the women's liberation movement. The lyric "turn me on" is likely a reference to smoking marijuana. The group's first song of many that references drugs. Harrison’s double-tracked guitar work is solid on this one. (*+)

Track 4 - "I Feel Fine" is the most recognizable hit from the album and the only #1. The song includes some of Lennon and Harrison's strongest early guitar work. "Watch Your Step" by Bobby Parker inspired the main guitar riff. Take notice of the guitar feedback in the opening; it was one of the first uses of feedback on a recording. Apparently, the feedback was a happy accident caused by interference from Lennon’s amp. Ringo plays a cool Latin-tinged drum beat and great vocals. McCartney's bass playing is simple but holds the entire tune together. Lyrically the song reflects optimism which was a break from much of the darker, more thought-provoking material released in 1964 by artists like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Nina Simone. It is a classic. (*+)

Track 5 - " Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is another Perkins original recorded in 1957. George Harrison sings this one, and his voice is processed by tape echo. The most notable part of the tune is Harrison's rockabilly guitar work. Harrison was a huge Perkins fan. It’s not a particularly memorable track but a pretty solid closer showcasing the talents of Harrison.

In Conclusion

The Beatles' album ‘65 capped off what is quite possibly the most magnificent year any band has ever experienced. Beginning in 1965, the Beatles began releasing some of their most magical albums, like Help (Parlophone) and Rubber Soul (Parlophone), which showed a shift in the Beatles' overall direction.

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