Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Day Tripper

OK, there's the riff. Yes. It is freaking genius. But forget the riff for one second. Can we please also talk about one of the greatest uses of tambourine on a Beatles record? For real. When it enters in the fifth bar, and then that drum roll follow close on its heels-- BLISS. And then there's that sexy tambourine shimmy at 0:45 (I'd stopped counting bars at this point). I really don't want to belabor this point, but it is PERFECT tambourine use, which just goes to show once again that the Beatles didn't skimp on any detail.

I made the mistake, when I was too young to know better, of reading Albert Goldman's The Lives of John Lennon (which I'm not going to link to because I sincerely don't think anyone should read it, full as it is of distortions and BS). Goldman claims that on verse 2 here, they're singing "She's a prick teaser." They're not, though John did apparently suggest it, tongue only partially in cheek. Goldman misses the point, though. They don't NEED to sing "prick," because whether or not they actually cuss, there is sex all over this song. The words have nothing to do with it.

So let's return to the guitar lick that gets it all going. The Beatles didn't usually write on licks this way, but this one apparently really stuck in their heads. But as is frequently the case (in my opinion), it's the vocals that really push the song to the realms of the amazing. Paul rollicks with vim through the verse, his voice tumbling down the line like it's meandering down a hot chick's lower back. John joins him, but it's at the chorus that John really takes over, Paul's voice moving up into a descant figure. John growls the chorus awesomely. And then, rather then write a middle eight, they just change the key and sing a bunch of "ah"s going up the scale in a giant buildup of energy. That's one of my favorite moments, the thick singing with the excitement growing and growing, and the drums crashing and the guitar actually breaking free of the riff and soloing as if it can't help but sing a little something on its own. Then, back to the beginning for one more go. Ecstasy.

This song is usually attributed to John (though he seems not to have loved it for some reason), and I don't disbelieve it per se-- but the Beatles have often misremembered things like who wrote what, and I, for one, think this sounds equally John and Paul. Perhaps it's one of their last true collaborations. It's not just that they share the vocal-- the song seems to share both their sensibilities. Am I crazy? Ah well. Whoever wrote it, it sounds like they had a great time playing it.

Isn't listening to Beatles songs fun? See, I'm about to have a crappy and annoying day at work today for a number of boring reasons, but listening to "Day Tripper" for the zillionth time just makes me happy to be alive. Hopefully this is working out for you too. Anyway, on this day in 1966, the "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" double A-side single was certified gold in the U.S. This was their first double-A side, and rightly so-- who could ever decide which of those two songs rocks more? Thanks very much to DM's Beatles Site for the historial tidbit that prompted me to pick up "Day Tripper" today.

"Day Tripper," released in U.K. December 3, 1965; in U.S. December 6, 1965. Double A-side with "We Can Work It Out."
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.

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