Unbutchered

THE BEATLES UNBUTCHERED

The Beatle’s albums are often divided into early period Beatlemania and late period mature artists. Their run of classic albums is universally seen as beginning with Rubber Soul. Difficult for me to disagree with that as Rubber Soul was the first album that I bought and, from Sgt Pepper onwards, each new Beatles Album was BOTH a media event and a musical event, as well as being a coherent artwork. From the perspective of the twenty first century it seems obvious that an album is an album, but at the time Beatles albums were thrown together as they rushed around the world, burning up records. However my own interest in the Beatles is because they created new forms; they imagined new futures. Perhaps they didn’t realise they had invented the rock album until Brian Wilson released Pet Sounds; his response to Rubber Soul. Despite the coherence of Rubber Soul and Revolver my guess is that Sgt Pepper was the first album that they consciously planned as an art work. What we mostly got in the sixties was the “outlier genius” of the Beatles, accidentally creating new possibilities.

As we look back at Rock’s rich tapestry, the Beatles are seen as a corner stone; actually no, they are the foundations, they created its lineaments, one of which is the album as art form. For me their only pre-cursor in popular music is Frank Sinatra’s 1954 (!) “In The Wee Small Hours” a concept album shot through with coherent brilliance. I am going to leave aside that classic quartet of jazz albums recorded in 1959, as jazz’s relationship with the album is different, and argue that Beatles invented the album in it’s modern creative form. And, secondly I am going to argue that they achieved this with Hard Days Night. The reason we didn’t recognise this at the time is that Hard Days Night was (just!) a soundtrack, Beatles for Sale was weak and HELP! was also a soundtrack; leaving Rubber Soul to be revealed as their first stand alone album work of genius.

Now I disagree with George, and others, who see Rubber Soul and Revolver as a dyptich. For me the great divide in Beatles albums is between Rubber Soul and Revolver. Why? Because they went from being great songwriters playing their songs well to being the first great musicians of the recording studio, Pet Sounds notwithstanding. Rubber Soul is both the last album of the glorious Beatles Band and the last of the mid-period Beatles. For me the “mid-period Beatles” released three classic albums.

1) Hard Days Night, a stumble upon multi-media classic

2) Unbutchered; Digg It! The one they put together as their first bite of the Apple

3) Rubber Soul; the delicious flowering up of their genius

And the stone classic five-star album Unbutchered, as we all know, starts with Eight Days a Week. Here’s the cartoon version;

Like all Beatles album they deal us the opening three card trick of irresistable tracks so that we get sucked in right away. This time, unlike Beatles for Sale, they didn’t put the three strongest tracks up first, they were building a coherent album. Tell Me What You See keeps the opening sequence nicely uptempo.

And that opening hat-trick is achieved by Paul’s skiffle-inspired classic, I’ve Just Seen A Face, which curiously was held back from Unbutchered by Capitol to be the opening track on the US version of Rubber Soul. But here it is back in its rightful place as the third track on the album. As you can see the video is from HELP! so it’s proper place is here on Unbutchered.

And just to clear up the confusion about the fourth track on Unbutchered. The rushed release of “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” by Capitol in the US meant they replaced Going To with Gonna in the title. Honestly just because John sings it that way! If only they had released Unbutchered in accordance with his wishes we wouldn’t have this transatlantic tomato problem. Anyway here it is in its HELP! version.

Then they work a nice sequencing trick with I’m A Loser, not just in the obvious Lennon pun, but in the fact that they have taken the mood down almost without the listener realising it. I’m A Loser was also considered as a single, and might have forced an earlier revaluation of the new depth of the mid-period Beatles. Luckily for us it was kept back to add to the quality of Unbutchered. I love the way it is used to set up the classic yin/yang trilogy closing side one. Enjoy!

Although the album mood is deepening it takes Baby’s in Black to set the right tone for the climax to the first side. It’s a waltz, still with those Beatley harmonies but something unusual after all the rattle and hum of 1964, and it is part of the reason why Unbutchered is such a turning point in the Beatles career. This performance is taken from the legendary show at Budokan Japan; the only time the Beatles performed Unbutchered Live in its entirety; not for nothing were they known as the Sushi boys.

So here is the nub of Unbutchered; Fat Lennon is giving birth to the boy genius McCartney. Lennon’s lyrics are getting real, reflective and revolutionary, but McCartney’s music is becoming broader, deeper and narrower. Through his musical craftsmanship he is setting up a wider range of options for all future Beatles tracks. This time it Paul’s turn to be the game changer with Yesterday. Pepper was created out of Yesterday and today we are still celebrating his solo work. This solo Paul performance was set up by George as he masterminded that Unbutchered Live performance in Japan

Phew! The Beatles have a lot to live up after that big wedge of quality, and their albums usually take a dip on side two, before building to a big finish. Well they plead no contest with No Reply a cracking opening track. They would never start the second side of an album as strongly as this until Good Day Sunshine on Revolver, as John almost says “this happened nonce before”. The official Unbutchered video for No Reply was not officially released at the time, but we have an extended mix for you relectation, awesome song.  Enjoy!

Side Two actually works best on iTunes where the sequencing allows these tracks to overlap and reveal their complementary musicality. George’s I Need You sets up the rest of side two as his playground, full of his thoughtful guitar fills, starting with his use of the volume pedal on this. The tone of John’s reflective rejection in the side opener is nicely captured in George’s use of the volume pedal, but his own song isn’t as bitter suggesting a possibly happier future. I Need You;

Then Paul comes along again and cheers us all up with The Night Before, much stronger than the tracks we usually get at this point in a Beatles album. It’s interesting to note how these two tracks are set as a visual dyptich in the film. The notorious jazz fanatic Lester filmed them back to back quickly to save time and money on HELP! Paul however noticed how well they complemented each other musically and then sequenced them like this! Apparently it is Salisbury Plain Forever when it is this cold. Brilliant! 

Paul keeps the cheerful mood going with Another Girl and the optimism building again with George as his finger-picking side-kick. The nicest aspect of all the songs on side two is the band quality, they sound like they are all contributing and that they have taken some time over the arrangements; George almost soloing on this one. Almost!

And then it’s John again with his reply to dealing with the vicissitudes of Women’s Lib in 1965. Apparently he was given De Beauvoir on the rive gauche the second time they played Olympia just before they left for the US in 1964. Thanks to the ups and down of Beatle life after that he was far too busy to read it, until their downtime in the Bahamas filming HELP! He obviously agreed and Every Little Thing helps. George is in the mood with nicely constructed guitar fills, whilst Ringo sounds like he was taking lessons in destruction from McGuinn and McGuire. Cracking stuff!

George gets to celebrates all things Patti on You Like Me Too Much whilst Ringo is back to acting naturally on those Ludwigs, and who the hell is that on electric piano? Sounds like George was only halfway through De Beauvoir when he wrote this one as the lyrics don’t really resolve. Nevermind, it is really there as a great set up to the classic closer, and also serves to draw to a close George’s sterling work throughout Side Two of Unbutchered.

Finally the album ends with a real mid-period classic, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away. You want to play Norwegian Wood straight after it don’t you? Did John know that Rubber Soul was next? Sounds like it; Genius!

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11 Responses to “Unbutchered”

  1. […] When The Beatles had sung Please Please Me they were actually trying to please us. However, with Unbutchered remaining unreleased,  Rubber Soul was the first album that said, hey we are different and we have […]

  2. […] A Beatles YouTube Album The Beatles YouTube Archive « Unbutchered […]

  3. Fascinating stuff, though i am still a little uncertain as to the provenance of this ‘Unbutchered’ LP.

    Interesting to see the Baby’s In Black video there too… the Japanese shows (from one of which this video is taken) of 1966 were infamously poor quality. Anyone interested can read my post about them here 🙂

    http://oldrope.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/beatles-budo-cant-rockin-in-japan/

    great to see these videos in one place though, keep up the good stuff!

    • Hi oldrope! thanks for comment, will read your post and link. I find the Budokan shows fascinating. Sounds like great performances but with that poor sound and screaming that sadly drove the Beatles away from live shows. Did you check the live performance of Revolution? Filmed for TV but never aired in England at the time it is as powerful as the Dirty Mac performance by Lennon, Clapton and Keith Richards (!) of Yer Blues.
      Oh Unbutchered? Look at the wordpress tags for the truth…

  4. Yeah, I’ve seen the Revolution video, though I did not know it had not actually aired at the time.

    I wondered if perhaps Unbutchered was a foreign compilation or variation of a UK / US LP! Perhaps drawing inspiration from the infamous ‘butcher’ cover for the American ‘Yesterday…’ LP

  5. Hi oldrope,
    yeah I have a story about seeing the David Frost show at the time on 9 after 909, but we only saw Hey Jude on ITV and they cut to ads straight away. I understand that the show was an independent production which was then sold on to US stations. More Than A Feeling says Revolution was recorded after the audience left and was live singing over a pre-recorded backing track and was subsequently used on Top of the Pops.
    http://fred6368.wordpress.com/hey-jude/
    So unbutchered, unplugged, butchers cover, spoof, post-modernism, what seeded the Apple? I wrote Unbutchered whilst writing this when I realised that what seemed like a dip in output quality at the time was just work overload. If you ripped the best bits of Beatles for Sale and Help! together you had the creative link between Hard Days Night and Rubber Soul. I used the Budokan link creatively and I now have the Unbutchered sequence in iTunes where it works coherently – try it 😉

  6. Jolly good, I’m all for reworking Beatles LPs to make new ones. If it’s good enough for Capitol… 😉

    I have never bothered to ‘recreate’ (or buy) the Capitol LPs, but I would be interested in hearing their efforts to create a Beatles folk LP in the wake of the US revival.

  7. The Capitol Remasters were of the master tapes they held in the States and which had added reverb. Apple couldn’t stop them playing with those tapes. The reverb on I Feel Fine is so massive it sounds like was recorded through a tunnel from Australia.
    BTW in Perfecting Sound Forever we find out that we got master tapes coz Bing Crosby wanted to play golf and not do all his shows live. Ampex received a cheque from him just before they would have gone bust…

  8. […] you enjoyed this post you might like Unbutchered. View This […]

  9. […] album was outstanding, and the Long Tall Sally EP really rocked. I’ve suggested in my post Unbutchered that if they weren’t forced to deliver so much product we would see an unbroken run of classic […]

  10. […] Don’t forget to read the review of the Beatles unreleased album Unbutchered […]

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