Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sure to Fall (In Love with You)

I happened to be reading about the late great Carl Perkins the other day, and I realized his birthday was coming up, which seemed as good a reason as any to feature a Beatles' Perkins cover here. Happy birthday, Carl! Here's "Sure to Fall (In Love with You)," which was never released on a commercial Beatles album, but is now available thanks to the gold mine that is Live at the BBC.

Carl Perkins, who has been called by those who name people kings of things the King of Rockabilly, was George Harrison's idol-- so much so that on an early tour when all of the Beatles adopted stage names, George named himself Carl Harrison, after the (other) King. I don't know too much about Perkins, other than that he grew up in a sharecropper's family in Tennessee, deeply poor-- the stories of him scraping by for every musical opportunity are heartbreaking-- but that he was eventually signed by Sam Phillips to Sun Records, wrote "Blue Suede Shoes," and could play a guitar so amazingly it'd make you cry.

The Beatles covered several Carl Perkins songs, including "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," "Matchbox," and "Honey Don't." George sang the former, and Ringo sang the latter two, and I believe that the two of them were particular fans of Perkins-- Ringo, remember, had a thing for country music and a dream of one day being a cowboy if the whole music thing didn't work out, so clearly he dug the country sound. But "Sure to Fall (In Love with You)" features Paul and John on the vocals. So they were obviously all big fans. I'm almost positive that the Beatles did "Blue Suede Shoes" live as well, though no legally sanctioned recordings exist of them doing so. (Check Purple Chick if you're curious.)

This song probably sounds pretty country-fried on the Beatles' version, and it is. George's guitar solo has this brilliant vibrato-rich sound that's all Perkins, and Paul and John are singing in these angelically angst-ridden thirds that just make you want to make sad goo-goo eyes at your loved one. Still, though, it's not as country-fried as Perkins' original. Perkins is known for rockabilly, but his original of this song sounds 100% country to me. (This is a completely blank video, but it's all I can find, and the track is really good-- don't be dissuaded.)

The Beatles at least speed up the tempo just enough to put a pop sheen on the song, and make more of the drums and bass for the same reason. I particularly love how Paul takes over the vocal solo at the bridge in his totally pure, clean, choirboy voice. He sounds like he's going for that soulful purity that the Perkins version achieves, and that the best old country music has, but he can't help but just be Paul. He sounds like he's selling it a little more. I hate to say that Paul makes the vocal sound a tad more inauthentic, but I do think so-- I just don't mean that in a bad way at all. Paul tends to just ratchet up the level of "performance" in some of his performances, is all, if that makes sense. To be honest, I like the Beatles' version better, and Paul is one of the reasons why. But listen to George's affectionate guitar work and you can't help but love it for that too.

Just because I happened to find this in my YouTube searching, and because I like it, I'm also posting a clip of Carl Perkins performing with George Harrison and Dave Edmunds on a 1986 TV special. This isn't our song of the day, or even a song I'd ever heard before: "Your True Love." Seriously, dig this-- in his typically understated way, George is having a freaking blast playing this.

"Sure to Fall (In Love with You)," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 10 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting history lesson. Thanks Megan. I particularly enjoyed the clip of Your True Love.