The Beatles regarded albums and singles as two separate entities, valuing the former above the latter, and even refusing to release individual sides from two of their most beloved albums (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles). As a result, some of the group’s most well-known tracks never made it onto any official album.
In 1987, the Beatles discography was made available on CD for the first time, and an additional treat was in store when a two-volume collection arrived not long after that compiled all these lonely hearts. Past Masters is, at the very least, a tidy history lesson. The band’s growth and progress is on display, from the hit factory that aspired nothing loftier than to break a sweat, to drugged-up pioneers of exceptional artistic bravery, to stubborn malcontents on the verge of collapse.
DISC ONE (October 1962 to July 1965)
“Love Me Do” (original single on Parlaphone Records)–The main difference between this and the version that appeared on Please Please Me is who’s playing drums–Ringo here, Andy White on the album. In their never-ending pissing match with the English, the Scots should never fail to at least once a week bring up how Andy White just killed Ringo Starr. Holy shit. But why stop there? Everything about the Andy White version sounds better. (And lest you believe I’m just throwing darts at Starkey, “Love Me Do” just isn’t “Love Me Do” without his tambourine part.) There’s a dearth of energy here that makes me wonder if the fellas had to do a show in Azkaban before hitting the studio.
“From Me To You” (A-side, released 4/11/1963)–The title was inspired by “From You to Us,” the name of the NME’s letters column. Irrefutable proof that once upon a time, said rag was not just tolerable, but influential as well.
Patrick and I get our fight caps on over two songs on Past Masters. “From Me to You” is one of them. I believe it started when he said that the song was the weakest one featured on the 1’s album. My forebrain could not process this fully.
“Weaker than ‘She Loves You’? ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’? Is this some sort of elaborate attempt to get my systolic blood pressure reading up to match my body weight? You can’t believe that.”
“Thank You Girl” (B-side, released 4/11/1963)–For defending “From Me To You”? No problem.
A brief missive of appreciation to the estrogen brigade, because frankly, they made the Beatles. Of all the things a group of young men could bestow upon a woman, a half-assed song beats gonorrhea any day.
Yeah, this one’s standard as a knock-knock joke, right down to the harmonica, but John and Paul find some more space here to show off their yelling ability. Girls, when a guy starts shouting platitudes, you are the recipient of a love most divine. “And eternally/I’ll always be/In love with you.” Really, you will never require panties again.
“She Loves You” (A-side, released 8/23/1963)–Sly to use the third person, ’cause hearing someone talk about what they’re feeling, doing or about to do can get trite.
One of several that John and Paul knocked out side by side, ear to ear, nose to nose, whilst cooped up in an artless hotel room, hurling ideas teeming with what they knew and what they thought they knew up against walls painted some horrid shade of impending death, over and over, till they either stuck or shattered.
The quality disparity from the verses to the chorus is jarring to me personally. The chord pattern is P to P for pied to piper, but that legendary refrain NO NO NO.
Well, love songs are like love affairs. They can’t all be winners. Some of them will result in the fabulous exchange of thoughts and fluids and make you dream of immortality. Still others will make you want to bludgeon your paramour with a cement block you left in the freezer overnight.
“I Want To Hold Your Hand” (A-side, released 11/29/1963)–Washing the brains of chickadees after conjuring up a mischievous lather, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was The One, the first Beatles song to hit number one in America, and as much as that chafes Brit crotch, said feat was and in many minds still is the barometer of true success for musical acts.
If I’d been a young lass in 1963, I would’ve been right there in love. I wouldn’t have been screaming myself hoarse, but still. How could I resist three cute English fellas (and the drummer) and their innocent yearnings. You wanna hold my hand, you wanna get some milk too and share it? Music to sensibly shake my modestly skirted booty to.
“This Boy” (B-side, released 11/29/1963)–While I was typing out “B-side,” I thought, Yeah, no shit. Really nothing else to say.
“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” and “Sie Liebt Dich“ (released 3/5/1964)–If you wonder why the Beatles would redo two of their early singles in the language of romance, I suggest you do the history. They got traces of black, red and gold in their collective DNA, baby. So when EMI’s West German branch called, the boys were like, “What the bloody hell is Odeon Records?” Then when they found out, they got to work creating songs that are funny to listen to once (much in the way it’s amusing to watch a video of yourself having sex, laughing to keep from screaming in horror) and then never again. Now, if they’d switched the yeah‘s for ja‘s, the replay value would be insane.
Certain facts about these novelty songs are far more interesting.
“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” actually translates to “Come Give Me Your Hand,” which is far more in the German spirit (although not as much as “Give Me Your Hand Or I’ll Rip It Off” would have been).
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was resung over the original track, but “She Loves You” had to be replayed, as the original two-track tape could not be located. Some listeners claim this is apocryphal, and both tracks are the original with new vocals, but just listen: “She Loves You” is played at a faster tempo while retaining the original key of the song. The key would have changed if it was just a matter of the tape being sped up.