Published on September 26th, 2008 | by mark2
Beatles For Sale : In Stereo :: Review (Part 1 of 3)
“Beatles For Sale” never existed in the U.S. market when it was an official Beatles release for Xmas in England in 1964. Capitol Records USA parceled out the tracks onto two LPs, “Beatles 65” and “Beatles VI”. My first copy of the stereo LP was purchased at the now defunct Swallens store in 1976 in pristine EMI stereo gatefold sleeve LP format.
In 1964, The Beatles were pressed for material for the Xmas market and with a lot of reliance on cover material they delivered this gem. The cover is autumnal, perfect for the holiday season, and the songs within are a mix of originals and beloved Rock&Roll classics the Beatles played since their Hamburg days. One almost forgets that the Beatles were already performing artists when these Rock&Roll records were just released on fresh vinyl.
The opener is “No Reply” a precursor to a common John Lennon theme as “The Jealous Guy”. (see also “You Can’t Do That” and “Run For Your Life”.) The song has a Latin flair, demonstrating the developing eclecticism of the Beatles, and is enhanced by the piano of George Martin. George Martin’s piano work fattened up the sound of the early Beatles work- almost the phantom 5th Beatle in those vital; early recordings. The song reflects back to the 50s classic “Silhouettes” by the Rays (also done by the Diamonds) and John credits this song as part of the inspiration.
The stereo mix on the EMI LP is warmer and more natural than the harsh and loud CD version released in the mid-80s. It has a soft, mellow beat as the protagonist Lennon (double-tracked), his acoustic guitar on the left speaker, is in a contemplative mood, retelling his narrative of broken love. Paul joins John with the realization that his girlfriend is seeing someone else with a shouting, and angry ‘No reply’. George Martin joins with a piano chord along with John’s acoustic guitar, with Ringo’s cymbals for added effect.
The chorus of this realization echoes Elvis Presley’s shock of receiving returned mail in the earlier hit “Return to Sender” which is also joined by a chorus, a-la a Greek tragic play. Lennon has the unreturned phone call. Elvis has returned mail from his girlfriend. (Shades of the loathed G.I. Dear John letter.)
To intensify the chorus, handclaps are added for percussion; providing a more effective and dynamic sound than a meek tambourine rattle. John slyly points out that her parents collaborated on the deception and calls them on their lie. John-always the truth doctor; the one to point out the brutal truth. “No Reply” shows the Beatles subtly increasing their strength in song craft and musical dynamics.
I’m A Loser
One of the great Beatle songs, “I’m A Loser” opens with a stunning a cappella vocal, followed with a simple guitar strum, (the Beatles used this approach previously on “Misery”, and later opened “Nowhere Man” with a pure a cappella opening,) On this inspired track, Lennon reaches the depth of his vocal range at the end of each verse. George plays some mournful country licks on his Gretsch between each verse.
On the left speaker one can hear George’s mixed down guitar along with the louder George guitar on the right. To add excitement to the guitar solo section, Paul steps up with a walking bass line and high harmony voice, and a shimmering tambourine on the right track is added to the beat. John punctuates the song with some Dylan influenced rack harmonica playing, marking the last instance of Lennon using his harmonica as a major element in a Beatle song.
Baby’s in Black
Sounding everything like an Appalachian lament, George’s moaning Gretsch guitar emulates a groaning bagpipe in this 6/8 time song. Once again Paul and John demonstrate their tight Everly Brothers harmony style, with Paul hitting the amazing high harmony part on the bridge lament ‘Oh how long it will it take?’ The Beatles performed this number live as it was probably fun to sing this simple, undemanding number.
Rock and Roll Music
Once described by John as a song ‘that went on forever’ this actually clocks in at a mere 2 and ½ minutes. The song is enhanced by a doubling of piano lines on the right speaker. Apparently the Beatles shared a piano with Martin- there are the distinct lower keys playing the sound foundation of a boogie woogie piano riff, and on top the high key piano triplets. At mid-point the piano disappears completely before it reappears dramatically with a Jerry Lee Lewis glissando.
The piano becomes more pronounced in the middle of the mix as the song reaches its climatic end. A tight rhythm guitar by Lennon dominates the right speaker; also audible is George on acoustic guitar. On the left speaker is Paul’s bass and Ringo’s cymbals.
Lennon sings effortlessly in his rock and roll voice, becoming more excited and nuanced in each new verse. An exciting cover of a Chuck Berry song. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones excelled in great Chuck Berry cover versions.
I’ll Follow the Sun
A sunny acoustic number with Paul, on the left speaker, using his finger style playing utilized again later on the song “Yesterday”. Another melodic gem by Paul that clocks in at less than 2 minutes. A few years later Paul would repeat this with another short acoustic number “I Will”.
George’s guitar emulates a sound akin to an electric piano on the right track, and his solo is a precursor to his slide guitar sound he perfected by the time of 1970’s “All Things Must Pass.” John provides the lower harmony in the chorus. Ringo plays a drumhead or bongo with his hands to add a simple and muffled percussion accompaniment.
Sources: William Dowlding “Beatle Songs”
Check Out Part 2