Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Down

Like many people living in Boston, I am feeling DOWN, mainly because it's supposed to be about zero degrees for the next week, or something. I don't usually even mind cold weather, or at least not the cold weather typical of a Boston winter. I LIKE winter-- I like the way you warm up as you walk, and how nice it is to come inside and have a cup of tea, and I like wearing fuzzy sweaters. But honestly? It's been cold and icy here for way too long, and the low temperatures are, frankly, a bit more midwestern than we're used to. This kind of weather affects everything, so that no matter what else is going on, I tend to get all crabby.

That's why I'm listening to "I'm Down" today. I AM down, and I need to listen to something totally rocking and upbeat and kickass. Paul wrote this as an homage to the stylings of Little Richard, whom he'd already covered awesomely. From Paul's first unaccompanied wail, the song kicks right in and pretty much doesn't let up in its blowing-of-your-mind. John and George's backup vocals seem to be mocking Paul and cheering him on at the same time. Both George and Ringo are in amazing form, Ringo just barely holding the whole thing together with wild drumming, and George contributing one of his best guitar solos ever. What I love is that "I'm Down" is so much more than a Little Richard impersonation-- it truly belongs to all the Beatles, rocking as hard as they can in their own inimitable way. Though driven by Paul's vocal, this is a song that only a band (a good band) could to this well. That's why it's so weird that Paul actually recorded the first tracks by himself, in the same session as "Yesterday." Anthology offers an earlier version with just Paul that's absolutely worth a listen.

"I'm Down" replaced "Long Tall Sally" as the Beatles' usual final number in their stage show, and it's easy to see why. Just look at how much fun they had with it at the Shea Stadium concert.

John playing keyboard with his elbows is killer. I mean, part of why they're cracking up so much is that they know no one can even hear them. They're almost just doing it for themselves, and having a blast. I suddenly feel way, way better.

"I'm Down," released in the U.K. as side B of "Help!" single, July 23, 1965; in the U.S. as side B of "Help!" single, July 19, 1965.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous

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