Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Me Mine

HarriSunday dawns cloudy and sticky today. And I'm feeling a little grouchy, probably because after a week of relaxing furlough (furlough sucks when you get your check, but the whole not-working thing was kind of nice), I need to go back to work tomorrow-- and things at work are going to be epically, epically busy. So I'm sulking in my study listening to Beatles songs, and I'm feeling particularly drawn to George's sulky little number, "I Me Mine." Yes, George is probably chastising us again for our materialism and worldliness and gigantic selfishness. But, whatever. The song's okay. Let's listen.

This is one of the album's heavily Spector-ized songs-- which is to say, last-minute producer Phil Spector smothered it with horns and strings and a backup chorus of treble singers and God knows what else. Spector's production is notorious for having ruined several songs on the album that became Let It Be, like "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe" and so on, and here we have another excellent example. In this case, the horns and strings that are climbing that scale underneath the "frightened of leaving it, everyone's weaving it" part make the already lugubrious waltz sound that much more lugubrious, and not in a good way. What with George indulging in a bit of histrionics in the lyrics already, the orchestral instruments add this extra layer of high drama that makes the whole thing sound kind of ridiculous. What the hell was Spector thinking? At least the song's best part, which when it moves out of the waltz and into the 4/4 time of the bridge (chorus? meh, I dunno), seems to have been wisely kept orchestra-free, which lets us hear the guitar-heavy texture that should have driven this track. Thanks, Phil, for that nice bit of restraint.

I have mixed feelings about Let It Be... Naked, mostly because I feel like this kind of attempt to rewrite history is inevitably doomed, no matter how much Paul McCartney might wish it otherwise. But "I Me Mine" offers a clear cut case of a song being better served by its alternate, orchestra-free version. Listen for yourself.

In this version, the waltz sections are kept much more acoustic, which considerably lightens the almost unwieldy beat of the thing. And then those guitars, which George is really playing the hell out of, come back, and we get a 4/4 bridge section that is at least as awesome as the one from Let It Be. So it's a win-win.

Of course, for the sake of comparison, we can check out the scene from Let It Be where they play this one. Unlike some tracks that made it onto the album, this one actually gets played almost completely through in the film, which is nice. And John and Yoko waltzing through it are providing some humor, which is something else the song can desperately use.

I mean, the more I listen to "I Me Mine" in its various versions, the more I can appreciate it. It's not even close to being the best Beatles song-- though it was the last one to be recorded, which is a depressing little nugget of trivia for you-- and it's not even the best George Harrison song as a Beatle. I get that "Piggies"-esque sense of being judged if I listen to it for too long. But in this case, it was Phil Spector who was keeping me from liking it more. There's more to this than just the album version-- George had something here. It's a shame that by this point in the Beatles' career, no one cared enough about it to do more with it.

"I Me Mine," released in the U.K. side A track 4 of Let It Be, May 8, 1970; in the U.S. May 18, 1970.


  1. I think this album was a bad idea. I go through the track listing and say "That song's OK ... I like that one ... these two are classics ..." but listening to the record is a dreary experience, and the drearier songs on it (and clearly I mean that this is one of them) color the others; no one doesn't love Let It Be the song, but when it comes on, it takes some moments for me to escape the lesser quality of what's preceded it and be in the right frame of mind. I wonder if anyone else experiences it that way.

    What got me on the topic was that I was listening to this the other day, and the little guy was all but falling asleep (although in fairness, we were driving in the rain), and it occurred to me that that stretch of songs doesn't really engage you. So then I went to look at the track listing before commenting as much here, and it was a bit of a shocker: Two of Us, which I like a lot, and Across the Universe ... and yet the kid was falling asleep, there's no arguing with that. Both Two of Us and Across the Universe are subdued in their arrangement, and Dig a Pony isn't very engaging, and then this is so dreary ... I don't think Specter had the best material in the world to work with, but his sequencing is egregious. Naked, too, suffers from the material; as little as I ever want to hear The Long and Winding Road, you can be sure I don't want to hear it fourth, and I could do without Don't Let Me Down, too. But I think the guys made better choices overall; opening with Get Back is just 100 percent no-brainer, and the record survives this song in part for the arrangement reasons Meg mentioned and in part because it's followed by the opening notes of Across the Universe -- which are incorruptible -- and the transition from that into Let It Be frames the latter song much, much better.

    In a related story, it's raining here and I'm waiting for the cable guy, so look out for my 10,000-word comment on the different timbres produced by each of John's guitars sometime around 4:00 p.m. ... Or we could talk about the pieces appearing online lately where John is pitted against Paul as a songwriter, and John is found wanting. I think it was spurred by a lastfm piece where they assigned point values to the writer of each of the 50 most-played Beatle songs, and Paul won handily. When I did my postgame wrapup ...

    ... I found that Paul and John each wrote three of my favorite six songs, but that after that, John started running away with it. Maybe lastfm was better sourced on authorship, but I (ironically) struggled with their point that lots of 'John fans' actually liked Paul's stuff better and just didn't know it.

  2. I think the only reason they put out the album was because they needed something to come out alongside the movie. Which is funny, because no one likes the movie either. No argument that this stuff isn't their best material, but that's why I've never understood why they didn't just go with the Get Back albums that Glyn Johns proposed, which would have relied more heavily on old covers. I think it ultimately would have been more compelling. I think there was better material in there than what Specter dredged up, so ultimately, I blame him for this-- and I blame John for instigating it.

    Could we get some links to these John vs. Paul pieces? We're in a Paul-friendly period of history right now (it's a bit pendulum-like, how each one is favored, and Paul is so out there right now that Paul getting the edge is kind of predictable).

  3. Someday I hope to see Let It Be.

    Ah, Meg; giving me something excellently written about the Beatles to read every day means never having to ask for anything twice. (Note: Might not be true of all men.)

    Here's the first post that popped up in my RSS feed. A dude 'figured out' who wrote each of the 27 #1s:

    In it, he links to the lastfm piece, which it turns out is him using lastfm data:

    You'll see he also is doing this album by album ...

  4. Hi all. I must be a little different in my opinion here, and certainly no offense will be meant, after all, we all love The Beatles right? The album was released because of an obligation by contract that Allen Klein had arranged. So it was a contractual thing. At least that is how I read it.

    As for this song, it is terrific. I first heard it back in the early 70's when I was catching up on The Beatles' music as a young teenager. We didn't have computers and didn't even have videos yet so every exposure we had was via the TV or magazines or movies,,,and our precious LP's.

    I bought the Let It Be album at a KMART and took it home and played it and had no idea why the songs sounded so strange. The sleeve notes called it a "new phase" Beatle album, the apple was red,,not like my trusty green apples on the other albums. Then I saw the movie on TV and so much became clear. And it wasn't till years later when the general public became interested in Beatle history that I learned the specifics with Phil Spector.

    I think I Me Mine is a terrific song. It should have been polished and put on the A side of Abbey Road, it seriously could have carried it's own there. But that's just me.

    I think most of the songs on Let It Be should have, could have, been more polished and made into a decent album. But we know what was going on at that time now. Too bad for them, too bad for us. But at least we have what we have, I understand Paul's distaste for what Spector did with the album, but I think with what we have to work with a few of the songs came off better. If I could speak to Sir Paul myself I would say, "Hey, you guys had your chance with the songs, you slagged off".

    But thanx Megan for putting the song up today, I haven't given that one a listen in awhile, I think I will pull out my dvd of Let It Be and give it a watch.


  5. Bill, I'm with you, frankly-- "I Me Mine" sometimes gets short shrift, including from me. But, like some other songs by George, it get so darned SERIOUS and EARNEST. In the end, I prefer the comedy that John and Paul were both better at. George frequently had a message, which was okay, but he could kind of beat a person over the head with it. And then in this song Specter beats you over the head with the stupid strings scale, and then you just feel beaten. :)

    But the Let it Be Naked version makes me thing you're on to something about its potential on Abbey Road. (It should have replaced "Maxwell's Silver Hammer.") And I have the red apple LP too! :)

  6. Troy, thanks for those links. The singles list gives us no new information, but the Last FM popular songs list is interesting, in that it's based at least marginally on some kind of science. But the guy's analysis is off. I think he's not giving people enough credit in terms of knowing that Paul is awesome. Maybe that's just me, though...

    The John vs. Paul debate is never ending. Which is why it's best, and easiest, to say that neither of them did their best work apart from each other. :)

  7. No offense taken. I would just like to know where one gets a Let It Be DVD.

    It's all a matter of taste. I think some songs on this album were worthy of Abbey Road -- just not this one. I would never take offense if someone disagreed.

  8. I agree the album is not top of the heap, but i like most of the songs, including I Me Mine. I love when it kicks up a gear with that nasty little guitar riff. That makes the song for me. I don't let the lyrics bug me like they do you, Meg. I just roll with it.

    Troy, I know I am going to disappoint you, but i like Don't Let Me Down a lot. Sorry, man.

    Without a doubt, I prefer the Naked album over the Spector produced one. Get RID of the orchestation. Geez Louise. I will not even listen to The Long and Winding Road. Hate it.

    Those are my scrambled thoughts, late this Sunday night.

  9. I did type dvd didn't I. I come from a video age and indeed my copy is a vhs tape. I say dvd now instead of tape, I say cd now instead of record, I'm getting old, lol. I have Let It Be on a VHS tape, I actually had to put the tape into a new cassette, the plastic cassette that came with it broke. So I carefully transferred the tape to a new one. I really need to digitalize my tapes so they last. I believe you can watch most of the Let It Be movie on youtube, I showed my daughter Let It Be the first time on youtube. Bill

  10. Frank: Not that it matters, but I wouldn't be disappointed that you liked a song I don't. You might be stunned if I told you I hated Hey Jude (I don't), but I'm sure you're not disappointed that I don't much care for Don't Let Me Down.