Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Wanna Be Your Man

Here's a song that's kind of the opposite of yesterday's "The Fool on the Hill"-- whereas it seems like everyone in the world thinks too highly of that song, it seems like I think far too highly of "I Wanna Be Your Man." Not that this song is particularly loathed or anything, but it does seem to be a bit of a throwaway. Rather than sing it themselves, John and Paul gave it first to the Rolling Stones and then to Ringo. Clearly even they didn't think very highly of it.

But even so-- don't you wanna just dance? Just listen to them rock it live at Washington Coliseum in February of 1964.

I mean, the song is clearly incredibly simple-- it's virtually on one chord, at least through the verse, and the lyrics are as simplistic as your average jump rope rhyme, repeating the song title about 8,000 times just in case you were unclear on the meaning.

But something about this song is just so lovable. Maybe it's Ringo's unparalleled gift for making pretty much everything lovable, and not just in the vocals either-- on drums here he is brutal without ever completely losing control, and on the studio version from With the Beatles he is rocking some epic maracas, which I miss in the live versions, to be honest. Though I do also love George's guitar bits. The lick at the beginning sucks you into the crazed relentless beat of the song with no warning, and his solo is quite cool-- it's so all over the place, just lots more of little licks kind of stuck together for maximum craziness. I don't know. Something about the simplicity makes it almost primal to me. Something about the relentless beat makes me want to dance like one of the more wacked-out girls you see in footage of Beatles concerts.

If it sounds like John and Paul wrote this in about 10 minutes, though, it's because they did. The Rolling Stones, whom they'd already become friendly with in 1963, begged them for a song to help them break out. So John and Paul literally went off to a corner of the room, worked out "I Wanna Be Your Man," and were basically like, here you go. Which left Mick and Keith so amazed that they decided to start writing their own songs too. After all, John and Paul made it look so easy. So "I Wanna Be Your Man" was, I think, the Stones' first big hit, making it to #12 on British charts. I like their version OK, but it lacks that manic spirit of the Beatles' version-- it sounds, well, more like a Stones song.

Of course, the Beatles had better songs to use as singles, so they just made it an album track on With the Beatles. But it must have been popular, as they seem to have performed it live a bunch of times-- after all, it gave the ever-popular Ringo a good chance to rock out for the girls. There are excellent live versions on Live at the BBC and Anthology 1, plus YouTube videos galore. I like this one from Paris.

"I Wanna Be Your Man," released in the U.K. side B track 4 of With the Beatles, November 22, 1963; in the U.S. side B track 5 of Meet the Beatles!, January 20, 1964.

1 comment:

  1. It's the energy that makes it work for me. The live Washington performance you posted is great. Did you notice that they're playing in the round, and that after I Want To Be Your Man they spun the drum platform ninety degrees so they could face a different group of fans for their next number?