After miraculously finding a vehicle with a working cassette player in the year 2019, I grabbed some cassettes from two massive boxes I have stored in a closet, and drove off to listen. You might think these 80s styled items would have 80s styled music on them, but you’d be dead wrong. In addition to Chuck Berry and The Kinks, I found myself listening to “With The Beatles” — the Fab Four’s second album released in the U.K. — not to be confused with Capitol Records U.S. release entitled “The Beatles Second Album.” (What A & R marketing genius came up with that one?)
I tend to think of “With The Beatles” as “The Beatles’ Motown Album.” My favorite cut on it is their version of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
Fantastic harmony and a tight arrangement. You can tell John Lennon was a Smokey fan listening to this one. Even the Lennon-McCartney composition, “All I’ve Got to Do” on WTB has a big Smokey Robinson/Motown influence. It’s not the greatest thing Lennon ever wrote or recorded, but it’s worth a listen. You can hear the same soulful style vocals on “Not a Second Time.”
Lennon also handles lead vocals on two other Motown tracks: The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” and Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want).” I wasn’t crazy about either one of these at first, but they’ve grown on me. Both songs took on new lives for me when I learned how to play them on guitar. There are some interesting live versions of Mr. Postman out there, too.
I don’t think The Beatles’ version of “Money” eclipses the original, but the guitar riff is inspiring to me. So what about the rest of the album?
It’s an interesting mix. “Don’t Bother Me” was the first George Harrison solo songwriting composition to date. It’s got a different sound (minor key for one thing), but it also has Harrison’s independent stamp on it. (Nothing else on the album sounds like this song.) Harrison also handles lead vocals on two covers: Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Devil in Her Heart” by Detroit-area girl group The Donays.
A friend of mine thinks their version of “Beethoven” actually eclipses Chuck Berry’s original recording. While that’s close to blasphemy, Harrison’s guitar does sound pretty great. What about McCartney’s contributions to the record? His Little Richard-inspired whoops can be heard through out it, but the one song most familiar to casual music fans is McCartney’s “All My Loving.” If nothing else, McCartney delivers on this one. It also features a country-western guitar solo from Harrison. There are other songs on WTB including a Ringo vocal, a ballad from “The Music Man”, an interesting “yeah-yeah” song called “It Won’t Be Long” and a would-be single entitled “Hold Me Tight.”
Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!