Friday, October 20, 2006

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Most Overrated: “And I Love Her.” This is supposed to be an early McCartney masterpiece, because of the melody and the complex harmonic structure. Yeah. Well, that’s all fine, but the lyrics suck. They suck so hard. People want to overlook this because a bunch of the early Beatles hits have simple/repetitive lyrics, but take note: there’s a difference between simple and bad.

“From Me to You” = simple

“And I Love Her” = defective

The faux-bossa thing does not help, and the crappiness of the lyrics make the song more boring than it should be given the harmonic interest. It’s actually a pretty boring song. Siegfried Baboon (aka Robert Anwood) of The Truck Drivers Gear Change suggests that the Beatles added that bizarre modulation for the guitar solo in order to make sure that George would definitely be awake to play it.

[By the way, The Truck Drivers Gear Change is an excellent website about songs that use the cliché of half/whole step key changes to keep them interesting. Lots of Barry Manilow, but don’t worry, no audio clips so it’s worksafe]

Most underrated: This is something of a toss-up, because “If I Fell” has all the harmonic and melodic complexity of “And I Love Her” with actually great lyrics, plus it’s underplayed, no question. But I guess “underplayed” is different from “underrated.” So the most underrated award goes to “I Should Have Known Better.” A better title for this song would be: “I Should Have Been Released as a Single.” Three things I want to say about this song:

1) The dissonance between the harmonica line (w/F-natural) and the D-F#-A dominant chord gives an unmistakable edge to the song. It gets even better when John uses F# to get to the end of the first verse, and just barely avoids superimposing it over the harmonica F-natural at the beginning of the second (“Oh-Oh I…never realized what a kiss could be”).

2) The bridge is perfect. Unlike the verse, which stays pinned securely to one note, it jumps all over the place harmonically (including the huge jump into falsetto in the middle). Even better, and this is something you only notice subconsciously (or at least, I only notice subconsciously – I didn’t realize it before reading Alan Pollock’s notes) – the second time through John’s vocal isn’t double-tracked. So, on repetition, it sounds both more intimate and more insistent.

3) Best scene in Hard Day’s Night, hands down.


Anonymous said...

I already have abbey road, revolver, and the white album figured out, but please continue

alek said...

hmmm. Okay, as a bonus, when I get to those albums I'll also try to guess your picks.

I'm tempted to turn it into a separate post covering the most under/overrated Beatles songs IN THE STYLE OF ZSW, complete with an analysis of "Bungalow Bill" in the context of imperialism and hegemony, but I'll refrain.

Anonymous said...

Heh. But i only use "hegemony" in the Gramscian sense of the term.

alek said...

Sadly, I already knew that, and had factored it into my plan.

Tim said...

I have to nominate 'I'll Be Back' as the most underrated song on Hard Day's Night - it's possibly theall-time most underrated Beatles song. Such great harmonic movement, and the perfect demouement to the A Hard Day's Night album's subconscious 'concept'. There's a full article in this one, but in essence it's this: the album is an essay on major-mionor duality, from the opening chord of the title track (which contains no 3rd), to the major-minor dualities and ambiguities of If I Fell, Things We Said Today, and many more). I'll Be Back summarises this beautifully with some stunning modulations, one of Lennon's most ambitious harmonic journeys (that E melody over B minor chord is an emotional high point), and the unresolved Amajor-Aminor chord undulations that finish the album and leave you feeling that nothing has been resolved but that much has been learned.