Friday, March 6, 2009

It Won't Be Long

The song that gets With the Beatles off to such a mind-blowing start just seems like a good one to kick off a much-needed weekend. In Boston, we have been promised a rare spot of weather that won't make us want to die, so here's to hoping, and of course it's the very last weekend (in the states at least) before Daylight Savings Time starts and hopefully improves the national mood with sunshine and stuff. Gad, it's been a rotten winter, hasn't it? Listening to a Beatles song every day this year has made for good bits in my otherwise lame days, so hopefully it has done something like that for you too.

Anyway, "It Won't Be Long" is a super album track, perhaps a bit overlooked but beloved by anyone who gives it a listen. I guess after yesterday's "I Got to Find My Baby" I just wanted to keep dancing, so here we are. In fact, let's see how the dancing teenagers on Ready Steady Go like it.

In March of 1964, freshly home from their American tour, the Beatles appeared on this British Bandstand-esque show and lipsynced a few songs with adorable laziness. I think this might be the only time they ever did this song "live," for some reason.

But for all the song's killer rock and roll feel, it's more complex than a lot of Beatles songs of the period, which maybe is why they didn't perform it more frequently. It doesn't really FEEL complex-- the different styles meld together in a way that seems to makes perfect sense-- but its structure is more interesting than your standard pop song. (I just checked to see if Alan W. Pollack is as delighted by this song as I would have predicted, and indeed he is-- this is one for the musicologists.) The song vacillates neatly between a straight-up rock-and-roll ditty on the verse, driven by screamed vocals and a short but infectious guitar riff, and a more mellow Motownish feel on the bridge, where the vocals go from crazy screams to fairly sophisticated falsetto backup singing, where Paul's bass drops out briefly and Ringo takes up a fun little shuffle figure.

"It Won't Be Long" has a really compelling urgency to it that just makes you want to bounce around in your chair, and I think that's largely because of the wicked vocals. The song kicks off with an unaccompanied vocal (I love it when they do that), and John is right there with his "tearing flesh" sound, and then there's Paul and George "yeah"s back and forth with him, which is SWEET-- just really exciting. Ever since "She Loves You," the "yeah yeah yeah" thing had become a bit of a trademark, not so much for the Beatles themselves as for all the square grownups who didn't get the band's appeal and mocked the seeming insipidness of the songs' lyrics. Here, John consciously wrote another "yeah yeah yeah" song, thinking it might become an actual signature of sorts-- besides, when all the kids loved it and all the parents hated it, he figured they were on to something. As in "She Loves You," so much of this song's energy lives in that simple "yeah" phrase. When Paul goes up to top of his range for a yeah on the last repeat, it's practically ecstatic. And then when they slow down in that melodramatic way to finish up the song (on that beautifully unresolved chord), it's like catching your breath after dancing all night like a madwoman.

Isn't "It Won't Be Long" killer? Won't our weekends be better now for having listened to it? Here's to hoping the answer is yes.

"It Won't Be Long," released in the U.K. side A track 1 of With the Beatles, November 22, 1963; in the U.S. side A track 4 of Meet the Beatles, January 20, 1964.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous


  1. It Won't Be Long is indeed a great rocker, Yeah ... Yeah ... Yeah. Megan, i have to tell you, your postings have been a highlight of each my past three days. I keep a half dozen or so (alternating) Beatles CDs in my wife's car so that when i am driving her Honda, with or without her, i know i will have some great music. One of the things i love about your site is the Surprise aspect of what song you will choose to discuss, Plus the added bonus of the old performance clip that you track down. Kudos. I know this is a labor of love and takes work. I appreciate it and will visit throughout the year. BTW, don't you love that little dance step John does near the end along with the mini Pete Townsend sweeping arm motion guitar strum?
    Cheers ... Frank

  2. I DO love that dance step! He is so adorable. And thanks very much to you for all kind words-- it's been fun to write this. I have many opinions about the Beatles that people tend not to want to hear in conversation (for SOME reason), so all that stuff just seemed like a blog waiting to happen. Thanks so much for reading!