Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ain't She Sweet

As we wind down our not-quite-full-year of songs, let's take a few days to look back and remember where the Beatles came from. Bear with me as we work through a small round of early covers and once more hear the songs that made the lads want to be rock stars. As you guys might have noticed, I happen to love songs like these, and I hope I can strong-arm those of you who aren't quite with me on this into loving them too (or at least liking them).

So today, it's "Ain't She Sweet." This is an oldie for sure, one of those songs that was written in the '20s and performed by a ton of jazz bands at the time-- kind of like "The Sheik of Araby." In 1956 Gene Vincent released a version of the song, and that's most likely how the Beatles settled on putting it into their repertoire. For the hell of it, here's the Vincent version, though I for one can't stand it-- and I'm normally okay with Vincent as a rule. He's being a crooning pansy in this song, though.

So anyway, the Beatles played "Ain't She Sweet" as part of their regular set in Hamburg when they worked the nightclub circuit there in the early '60s. And when Tony Sheridan asked them to play as his backup band on the "My Bonnie" single for Polydor, they somehow worked it so that they'd also play a few songs by themselves, and "Ain't She Sweet" was one of them. That's the version we have here, recorded in 1961 in Hamburg, playing under the moniker The Beat Brothers, with Pete Best on drums. You can hear it nowadays on Anthology 1.

Thank the good Lord, they make this a lot more rocking than Gene Vincent ever did, very much in the way that they made "My Bonnie" and some of the other random old songs from these session more rocking. I love the way John is singing, as though he's just leering nastily at every bird who walks by. There are problems elsewhere, though-- George seems a little unprepared when it's time for this guitar solo, and he ends up kind of flubbing it. I think they would have probably rerecorded the solo if they could, but I'll bet this whole session was so rushed and halfassed in the manner of pop music at the time and that it wasn't really an option. There are also those who would say that Pete's drumming isn't great here, because there are people who always criticize Pete Best's drums compared to Ringo's (including the likes of George Martin, so, I mean, it's often people who know what they're talking about). I don't know-- the drum part sounds kind of non-demanding, and it sounds okay to me, but I thought I'd put it out there. But anyway, I still like "Ain't She Sweet" just fine. They make a '20s jazzy number into totally solid Merseyside beat music.

Ah, but there's another version of "Ain't She Sweet" we need to address. During the Get Back sessions, the Beatles played around with a lot of old songs from back when they were a live band, and they returned to "Ain't She Sweet" in the course of messing around. A version made its way onto Anthology 3.

Interestingly, here they make the song sound more like Gene Vincent's-- it's a lot more lolling. It's still better, though, largely because John eschews Vincent's nonthreatening vocal style and manages to sound adorably pervy instead, more like the way he sounds in the old Beatles version. But this time it's in a more laid-back way, like he's seen a lot of girls in his life and he'd like to do them all, but he's not going to scream and whoop about it like he used to either. (I'm not sure he could if he wanted to-- he sounds like he's coming down with something.) The playing is better too. You've just got a much more confident band at this point, towards the end of their career together rather than at its beginning, and you can hear it in George's chilled-out guitar solo moments, and in Paul's beautiful bass work, which he's having a ton of fun with (though he could probably play this kind of thing in his sleep).

Just in case you're craving a little more "Ain't She Sweet," I'll leave you with the very adorable ukelele version that made its way into the Anthology TV miniseries. Oh, Beatles, you are so cute even when you're old guys sitting around drinking tea in a park and reminiscing.

"Ain't She Sweet," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 11 of Anthology 1, November 20, 1995, and also disc 2 track 19 of Anthology 3, October 28, 1996.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah - i've always loved this one too !

    another thought about what to do after you run out of songs : continue with John's solo career . . . he's your fave fab anyway, correct ? Would love to hear your take on his Dr. Winston Plastic O'Boogie Years . . .