Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You're Going to Lose That Girl

I admit to kind of liking Angry John. Whether it's "Not a Second Time" or "You Can't Do That" or the terrifying "Run For Your Life," John's songs sometimes betray-- and "betray" frankly makes it sound too subtle-- a tendency toward aggression borne of deep insecurity. Before I think he was actually aware of doing so, John revealed so much of himself in his songs, even stuff he surely wasn't proud of, which is why I like him in these moods. It's an unabashed darkness translated into catchy pop songs, always mildly ironic, but with that hint of real fear of abandonment.

See, OK, I'm getting into the trap of psychoanalyzing John, which everyone seems to do, because his troubled family history is so well known and because his songs just open themselves up to listeners so easily that way. But I really don't want to do this-- I certainly could, but it always makes me feel like I'm oversimplifying the songs and getting my hands dirty in the process. If you're interested in this kind of stuff, there is a wealth of it out there. (See Ray Coleman's Lennon and pretty much every single other Lennon biography as well.) 

But anyway, yeah, I like the honesty that Angry John puts out there for us in songs like today's, "You're Going to Love That Girl." Though he usually gets Angry at women in his songs, "You're Going to Lose That Girl" goes straight to the guy who doesn't deserve the girl he's got. Appropriately (I guess) for a man-to-man discussion, we hear not the blind rage of some other songs, but a steely, measured, straight-talking threat. Paul and George sing a relentless backup line, as if they're standing behind John casually pounding their fists into their hands. They have totally got his back. Even Ringo's frenzied yet friendly bongo part seems just on the verge of real violence. (By the way: Ringo's best bongo-ing ever? I think perhaps...?)

The measured tone comes not just from the relatively restrained lyrics and the mid-tempo grooviness of the melody, but the acoustic feel too. "You're Going to Lose That Girl" is on the Help! soundtrack, which feels kind of acoustic from front to back, and on this track there's John on acoustic guitar, Paul on piano, and of course Ringo on bongos. It all contributes to the casual breeziness of the threat.

Here's the scene from the film, which happens early on and gets the zaniness off to a good start. John's songwriting is particularly introspective and mature on this soundtrack-- witness "Help!," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and "Ticket to Ride" (if each album is a Lennon vs. McCartney showdown, Lennon wins the Help! A side in a landslide). Compared to those three, "You're Going to Lose That Girl" might seem quite slight at first. And that may be why it was chosen for this scene, if the filmmakers figured they could leave the heavier stuff for later on in the plot. But there's more to this song. It's subtler than it is in "Help!," but you can definitely hear John struggling to express his own vulnerability. Don't you think?

"You're Going to Lose That Girl," released in the U.K. side A track 6 of Help!, August 6, 1965; in the U.S. side B track 5 of Help!, August 13, 1965.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.

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