Today's Best pre-1967 Beatles Song That Isn't "She Loves You" or "I Want to Hold Your Hand":
"I Feel Fine."
Thank you very much.
(Don't feel bad about streaming it; I'll count the hits on the logs and send a check to Paulie, Rings, Yoko and Olivia.)
First feedback on a record, sez Holy Saint Lennon Martyr, although Pete Townsend, who in late '64 was already blasting audience eardrums with it in the clubs (clubs, it needn't be pointed out, that Dr. O'Boogie attended avidly), might clear his throat and quietly point t0 "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere." We'll let Winston have this one. He's dead and Pete mostly isn't.
There's actually two sounds going on in there, first Paul plunks an A on the bass, then Johnny follows up with the feedback. It's a slightly tricky thing, you have to mute all the strings with your picking palm except the one you want to vibrate, and you don't get it right every time. And it's a cute little 1964 stereo trick George Martin pulls off, panning bass & drums left and guitars right so that the bonggg happens over here and the nyyyaaaaaww comes in over there, and vocals center. Boy knew what he was doing.
And that riff! That riff! This one'll separate the men from the boys. As BeatleSongs go, it's not a particularly sophisticated thing theoretically -- just fist-chords at D, C and G -- but the pinkie work turns it into a real wrist-melter, along about the 1:30 mark. You'll know you're a warrior, my son, a rock-and-roll patriot, when you can keep that sucker up for the duration. Thing you've got to listen for is George, who plays some amazingly subtle stuff. Compare the first phrase of the opening riff to the third phrase. George isn't there at the start, but he comes in shortly afterward, playing on the low strings. By the last phrase, just before the vocal starts, they're doubling. George's supporting playing becomes easier to hear in the fade. Listen carefully to the interplay between the two all the way through, and especially during the solo. It's some of the best guitar playing on a Beatles record.
(D'you know, I could swear I saw a bit of the Anthology where John was playing "I Feel Fine" live with a plugged-in acoustic? Do any of the rest of you remember that? I might have to go home and dig it up... If so, that'd explain the feedback!)
So, yeah, killer guitar work, sure, that helps. But what really sends this one into the stratosphear is the chorus, the way the three Beatlevoices (George low, John middle, Paul high) mingle with that cruddy Sixties reverb on "I'm so glad/That she's my little girl!" while
Try this on for size: When Paul mentions "diamond rings" in a song, you don't want to fault him for being lazy because he's working his ass off selling the song. When Lennon does it, you know it's from pure, unalloyed laziness -- something he was always flirting with. Lennon's heart really isn't in this song, because we know he's about to start succumbing to the depression that always stalked him.
Released in late 1964, "I Feel Fine" is pretty much the last uncomplicated, sunny boy-girl song to come from Lennon for the rest of his Beatle career. On next year's Beatles for Sale we'll get anger ("No Reply"), self-hatred ("I'm a Loser"), self-pity ("I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"), an Edgar Allen Poe cop ("Yes It Is"), and on into "Help," "You've Got to Hide your Love Away," and so on. "Ticket to Ride"? Not really sunny, is it? And in the later periods, when the matter comes up at all, it trends into the creepily heroin-soaked and infantile: think "Julia," "Don't Let Me Down," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."
But sometimes you really, really need that Moptop Joy. And at that point you can do worse than to throw on "I Feel Fine."