Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/11/10.
1964 was a huge year for the Beatles. They were big all over the world and playing to thousands and thousands of fans, notably screaming young girls. They had numerous number one hits while in the U.S., they at one point secured the top 5 singles to themselves. In the summer of the year, the Beatles released the film A Hard Day's Night which was a critical and commercial smash. With British rock and pop music becoming the new thing in America. It seems like the Beatles were the top band of the moment as they were unstoppable.
Yet, not everything was going great for the band on a creative level. Constant touring and appearances only troubled things as the band went back in the studio briefly in August of that year only to return more than a month later for a month's work in the studio. The newfound sense of fatigue and weariness started to take a toll on the band, notably John Lennon and Paul McCartney as they were having a hard time creating new songs. Lennon's frustration also became evident in his own world as he found inspiration in the music of Bob Dylan who band met in late August as he introduced the band to marijuana. The newfound influence of Dylan as well as the fatigue of being on the road would impact the band's fourth studio album entitled Beatles for Sale.
Produced by George Martin, Beatles for Sale marks a turning point in the band's creativity. With eight original songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney reflecting on new lyrical themes. The album also features six cover songs as the record marked a new period of transition for the band as they were moving away from conventional pop tunes to newer musical directions. At the same time, the album marked a new development in production with the use of four-tracks and overdubbing that would become more prominent in later recordings. While it is considered to be one of their weaker moments in their recording career. Beatles for Sale marks the beginning of a transitional period for the band.
The album opens with No Reply, a mid-tempo ballad that is led by Lennon's somber, rough vocals with angry, resentful lyrics as he's accompanied by a smooth, thumping rhythm from Ringo Starr's drums and McCartney's bouncy bass line. The song's tempo picks up a bit during a part of the song with washy acoustic guitars as the song's bridge includes a flourishing piano accompaniment from George Martin. I'm A Loser is a folk-inspired track where Lennon joined by McCartney and George Harrison sing the chorus as the song's mid-tempo rhythm with soft, bouncy rhythms and folk-inspired guitar licks by Harrison complement Lennon's dark lyrics of rejection. The song is one of the band's high points as it reflects a new lyrical and musical maturity as Lennon also plays a Dylan-inspired harmonica solo.
Baby's In Black is a somber, country-inspired track with lyrics of grief which is German photographer Astrid Kirchherr, the girlfriend of late, former Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe who died of a brain hemorrhage in early 1962. With a washy, acoustic accompaniment from Lennon as he and McCartney sing the song with Starr's simple, steady drum fills and Harrison's blazing country-flavored guitar licks, it is a song that reflects a part of the Beatles' past with a sense of regret and bitterness that seems very new in the world of pop. Next is a raucous cover of Chuck Berry's Rock And Roll Music, an upbeat, bouncy song led by driving guitars with twangy spurts from Harrison with Starr's fast-paced drums and McCartney's thumping bass line. Featuring George Martin on piano, the song is sung by Lennon with his rough, blazing vocals that is very upbeat.
Next is the ballad I'll Follow The Sun, a melancholic love ballad with somber lyrics as it accompanied mostly by plaintive acoustic guitar tracks by Lennon and McCartney, the latter sings the song with his cool, high-tenor vocal with Lennon joining him on harmony. With Starr's soft, tapping percussion and Harrison playing a ringing guitar solo, it's one of the band's best love ballads that also shows a new lyrical depth from McCartney. A cover of Roy Lee Johnson's Mr. Moonlight led by Lennon's rough, wailing vocals with Starr's shaking percussion and Harrison's thumping pound on the African drum that is accompanied by McCartney's wailing organ. The song's blues-inspired lyrics is a strange cover that features one of Lennon's best vocals while McCartney plays an organ solo in the track that is very weird.
A medley of the Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller song Kansas City and Little Richard's Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey shows the Beatles playing upbeat rock n' roll with driving riffs and bouncy rhythms as McCartney sings the song with his growling vocals on the song which includes a twangy guitar solo from George Harrison. The song would segue into the Little Richard song with McCartney leading the way with his wailing vocals into a party song with the band joining along in the chorus in this little rock jam. The single Eight Days A Week led by ringing, washy 12-string guitars from George Harrison with a momentum-building rhythm that turns into a mid-tempo, bouncy beat from Starr's crashing drums and McCartney's thumping bass. Featuring upbeat lyrics of love, it is one of the band's finest singles that Lennon sings with a calm vocal with McCartney and Harrison on harmony vocals for the chorus with the whole band doing rhythmic hand-claps.
A cover of Buddy Holly's Words Of Love is given a simple, jangly presentation with tapping rhythms from Ringo Starr who also taps on a suitcase with Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison singing Holly's somber yet tender lyrics of love. The amazing vocal harmonies of the three men are gorgeous while Harrison plays a washy, jangly guitar flourish that is really the highlight of the song. Honey Don't is the first of two cover songs written by Carl Perkins with its bouncy, rockabilly presentation that features McCartney's thumping bass line as Starr sings the song with his drawling vocals. With Lennon on a washy acoustic guitar, the song has playful lyrics that includes some amazing, spurting guitar work from George Harrison that is the highlight as Ringo calls on him to play the solo.
Every Little Thing is a mid-tempo song led by Harrison's jangly guitar washes as it is followed by Lennon's rough vocals with an acoustic guitar accompaniment with McCartney playing a soft, piano track. With Starr's bopping drums and a pounding timpani track in the chorus, the song's lyrics recall some of the depth of love as it is one of McCartney's best lyrical work though it's sung by Lennon with McCartney joining him on the chorus. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party is a country-inspired track with Harrison's twangy, spurting guitar licks and Starr's steady yet bopping drum track with McCartney's smooth bass work. The song's lyrics reflect elements of loneliness and disappointment as it is sung by Lennon and Harrison with McCartney joining them on harmony parts.
What You're Doing opens with a thumping drum fill by Starr as it is followed by Harrison's jangly, 12-string guitar track along with McCartney's thumping bass and Lennon's washy acoustic guitar accompaniment. McCartney's lyrics filled with resentment and disappointment is with his calm lyrics as it is a song that is unconventional in its structure as it includes a tumbling piano track from George Martin to play with Harrison's flourishing guitar track. The album closer is Carl Perkins' Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby is an upbeat song sung by Harrison who is the star of the song with his calm vocal and rockabilly-laden guitar work. Along with a smooth, bouncy rhythm from Starr and McCartney and Lennon's washy acoustic accompaniment, the song is a playful ditty about women as Harrison gives a fitting tribute to one of his idols.
Released on December 4, 1964, the album was another hit for the band though the album's cover showed a weary look in the band. Though it was well-received by fans and critics, the album did mark a turning point for the band as it would generally considered to be one of their weaker albums. The constant touring, appearances, and promotions to go from one city to another and all over the world and the start of making another film project was starting to take a toll on the band.
The 2009 remastered edition of the album does show a lot of the elements that went on the production. Notably some drum tracks and other arrangements are heard quite clearly in a broader state. The remastering works in showing the evolution of what the band was doing not just in terms of performance but also in George Martin's production.
Beatles for Sale is an excellent album by the Beatles with some amazing work production from George Martin. Yet, of the first five albums during the Beatlemania years from Please Please Me to Help!, it's their weakest record of that period. While on the one hand, the original songs show a newfound evolution in where the band was going lyrically and musically. The other hand shows the band taking a step back on what they were doings with albums as it is filled with six cover tunes. Though the cover songs are great, it makes the album seem a bit uneven as if they needed stuff to fill even though it wasn't really their fault. Despite its flaws, Beatles for Sale is still a fine album from the band that was just getting ready to make some new changes.
The Beatles Reviews: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be - (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (Let It Be... Naked) - (Love)
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