Beatles in Black

BEATLES FOR SALE

After the peak of Hard Days Night recording their fourth album in just 20 months almost cracked The Beatles productive creativity, so they filled Beatles for Sale with covers and some unremarkable performances and songs. Not even the 10,000 hours of hard graft in learning their craft could save them. Malcolm Gladwell’s claim that they had “outlier” genius looked like it was on hold. They may have had nothing to declare but their genius, but they were clearly knackered. Mind you it being 1964 and Beatles for Sale being a Christmas release it was still, the best selling album of 1964. However singles were outselling albums by 4 to 1 and I had finally saved up the money to buy I Feel Fine on the day it came out, December 5th. Broke after buying that a bike for Christmas seemed more exciting to me than the glumsome foursome displayed on the album sleeve. For a year we had thought John, Paul George and Ringo were glib cheeky chappies cheering up our black and white Britain, but now they had gone monochrome; Beatles in Black. The opening “Lennon trilogy” points the way to Rubber Soul and actually their outlier genius is readily apparent on some of the songs, such as the opener No Reply.

Opening with that “I’m Down” trilogy of No Reply, I’m A Loser, and Baby’s in Black you wouldn’t have thought that they had just released the rockingly wonderful I Feel Fine; nor celebrated all things compliantly dolly bird in She’s A Woman. Actually that is a quite wonderfully miserable opening trilogy. In retrospect now they really do sound like a band, and an intelligent and sensitive one, but at the time they didn’t seem like the Fab Four we had grown up with over the previous two years, or twenty months in my case. My favourite track is Baby’s in Black, coz I heard it by surprise on the radio at the time and it did that early Beatles trick of hooking you in before you could even think about it. Here is The Beatles playing it live in sixty-five; notice how Lennon has no idea which ragbag American album it comes from. 

Each side of Beatles for Sale starts off well then loses steam, there is half of a great album there. Full track listing on Wikipedia here and an interesting discussion of the album on Allmusic who are definitely of the view that the best tracks are pointing towards a new Beatles. Track three on Beatles For Sale is I’m A Loser, which was intended to be the single until Lennon wrote I Feel Fine overnight; again! Based on this live video, rather than what got to me at the time, I would have picked this as the best track; notice any Dylan influences? 

So, gorgeously crafted misery and just perfect for teenage angst, but not as positive as we had become accustomed to. Wait, oh yeah, is that a fade-in I hear? Well indeed it is, and this time the boys are in the happy zone. This was the track that got all my friends saying, “hey, have you heard that track off the new Beatles album? Do you think it will be the next single?” Well, yes US, no UK. Eight Days A Week of hard days nights; magic.

It’s a bit unfair to say that they were back to the product-filler with covers and show tunes again given that they were writing everything. The down side of being the worlds first “self-contained band” is that no one is working for you when you are out working as The Beatles. No Xenomania team writing and prepping backing tracks for you. Self-contained and overworked, who was their manager? Still, I love their version of Buddy Holly’s Words of Love; now that was a worthy, and properly crafted, tribute.

There are some other originals and covers but I am not really a great fan of them. Ringo’s Honey Don’t is OK, George’s Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby is weak and Mr Moonlight is probably the worse thing the Beatles every recorded. I think What You’re Doing works on Love because it is a mash-up. But of the remaining original tracks on Beatles for Sale I think Every Little Thing works best.

In fact this is probably the only Beatles album where you were better off buying the EPs. Both Beatles for Sale and Beatles for Sale Volume 2 were great value for money and a lot of my friends bought the first one, which is terrific. This also featured Rock And Roll Music and a pretty good rock n’roll performance. This video must be from the States and George gets the US album right in the intro. Once again Lennon is in his larynx-eating singing redolent of their rockingest performances. Pretty strong performance overall but has some of the live sound problems that drove the Beatles off the road in the end.

I never bought Beatles for Sale, nor have I ever heard it all the way through from beginning to end. I had bought I Feel Fine, which was the first Beatles single I bought on the day of release. I didn’t feel I had to buy the album to identify with my heroes as fandom was more about buying singles in 1964. So here is a blast of I Feel Fine, recorded at the same time but not on the album.

Dont miss my Christmas release the Beatles/2009 MashUp. If you enjoyed this post you might like “My Top Ten Beatles Videos” or Rubber Soul on this blog which covers all the Beatles albums. I have also written a Beatles for Sale story from 1965 on 9 after 909.

The View from 9/9/9 Beatles for Sale has some great tracks on it but is a Beatles album at a time when they are in transition and feels like product. At the time I didn’t notice because I Feel Fine was such a brilliant single, but checking the track listing now it looks disappointing. I will review it in Remastered form once I finish reviewing the entire catalogue, but the opening “Lennon Trilogy” sounds miserably excellent. 62%

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4 Responses to “Beatles in Black”

  1. […] A YouTube version of this post exists on A Beatles YouTube Album. […]

  2. Robert Nabozny Says:

    I really enjoyed this time with the Beatles. I’m 56 and it took me back to a great time in my life. Sometimes I wish I never heard the Beatles so I can do it all over again.

  3. Hi Robert, glad you enjoyed the post. Did you read the story about I Feel Fine? It is on my story blog 9 after 909;
    http://fred6368.wordpress.com/beatles-for-sale/
    I am listening to all the albums again and I am finding that it is mostly the tracks I didn’t really know that well, like No Reply, that I am appreciating the most. I have a question you might be able to answer. Beatles in Black is the post that people read the most, which surprises me. Why do you think that is?
    Thanks, fred

  4. […] From memory I rated Beatles for Sale the weakest of the Beatles album, but my post about it Beatles in Black gets the most hits on this blog. In doing the research I found that the opening Lennon Trilogy is […]

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