Friday, February 27, 2009

When I Get Home

Did you ever have a day when the act of getting home from work seems almost heroic? When the commute, normally only annoying, becomes actually torturous? When every stupid slow-walking person in your way becomes the object of your thunderous internal rage? When the T suddenly decides it wants to become an express train, which means you get dumped somewhere random and end up walking two miles in the oh-so-euphemistic "wintry-mix" and getting salt stains all over your formerly awesome boots?

Kids, John Lennon feels your pain. Actually, I don't think this is exactly what "When I Get Home" is about, but it's close. Like most Beatles songs from the A Hard Day's Night era, it's basically a love song, but couched in the language of an irritated commuter-- which I kind of love.

I like the above video mainly because I'm a sucker for A Hard Day's Night footage-- it all just seems so magical and happy and out of control, and like it was just an awesome movie to make. Of course, "When I Get Home" didn't appear in the film. It appeared on the B-side of the LP-- or at least the British version of the LP, since tedious film soundtrack rights issues that I'm too tired to go into (and would bore you anyway) meant that once again, Americans got weirdo versions of this album.

"When I Get Home" is in many ways typical of John's songwriting style at the time-- you can hear the Motown influence, particularly in those tight, exuberant vocal harmonies. But there's a lot of other stuff that's kind of unique here in this seeming throwaway. For one thing, there's John's crazy lyrics-- "I've got no time for trivialities" is one of the weirder lines to appear in an early Beatles song for sure, and then that bit "I'm gonna love her til the cows come home"?? Hilarious. Or, you know, perhaps just lazy, if you hear them that way-- but I prefer to think these lyrics are quite purposefully funny.

Harmonically, though, the song is strangely sophisticated, transitioning several times with ease between A minor and C major and going into a neato little deceptive cadence at the end. And then there's John's vocal, which he's absolutely throwing himself into. You can practically hear him grinning on this song. Paul and George are just as into it on their lines, particularly on the falsetto bits. Also, dig that aggressive guitar twang and Ringo's uncharacteristically messy playing, both of which make the rhythm seem practically out of control. It all adds up to a song that might not be the greatest work of genius the Beatles ever put out, but must have been fun as hell to play. Definitely a song to make me smile when it comes up on my iPod during even the most dreadful commute.

"When I Get Home," released in the U.K. side B track 4 of A Hard Day's Night, July 10, 1964; in the U.S. side A track 4 of Something New, July 20, 1964.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous

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