Monday, April 13, 2009

P.S. I Love You

Kids, I hate to say it, but I'm too swamped today to spend as much time listening to a Beatles song as most of them really demand. So let's have a quick listen to "P.S. I Love You," a sweet but slight early Paul ballad, and then go on with all the other ridiculous things we have to do. Shall we?

"P.S. I Love You" was the B-side to the Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do," so it's really quite early-- Paul wouldn't have been older than 20 when he wrote it. And it's quite sophisticated for a kid that age, isn't it? Though it doesn't live up to Paul's later ballads, it's still an accomplishment, and was apparently hugely popular among Paul's female fans during live performances. (There's a bootleg version of this recorded live for BBC show-- which, sadly, did not make it onto the legally sanctioned Live at the BBC album-- in which Paul is clearly playing to the ladies, with a lot of cutesy pursed-lips-sounding singing. You know what I'm talking about.)

I like the retro sound of "P.S. I Love You," and the jazz-inflected guitar chords, particularly on the chorus when Paul's singing the title in his lower register. Paul grew up in a much more musically inclined family than the other Beatles: his father had led a jazz band in Liverpool in the '30s, and played jazzy records in the house for Paul the young musical genius to absorb. And you can hear those influences working here, right down to the corny lyrics.

Listen to the drumming and you might note that the light tippy-tappy sound doesn't sound much like Ringo's more effusive banging-- which is because it isn't Ringo playing. For the recording of "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You," producer George Martin hired a session drummer named Andy White. Martin didn't love the sound of Pete Best, the Beatles' original drummer, and had told the band and their manager, Brian Epstein, that although he didn't care how they handled the situation in live shows, Pete was not to drum on studio recordings. This was the last straw in what had apparently been a long time coming, for Pete, to hear the others tell it, had never really fit in with the rest of the band anyway. Ringo, the drummer for another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, had sat in with the Beatles a bunch of times in Hamburg and elsewhere and fit in beautifully, so they lost no time in firing Pete and hiring Ringo. When they brought Ringo in for this recording, though, George Martin had no patience for the last-minute switch and didn't necessarily trust that Ringo would be any better, and since he'd already hired Andy White anyway, he wouldn't let Ringo do anything other than play maracas. (In every account of this I've read or heard, Martin acknowledges that he was a bit of an ass about it, and has apologized to poor Ringo many times.)

So anyway, the drumming doesn't sound that Beatley, but it DOES sound fairly appropriate to the retro dancey cha-cha-cha thing going on in "P.S. I Love You." And it IS a bit dancey,  isn't it? It kind of makes me want to take a turn around someone's living room to listen to it, I have to admit. But unfortunately I don't have the time today. Maybe tonight I'll have a chance to linger over Paul's sweet croon of a vocal, John and George punching single words on their backup vocals in that weird but cool way, and Paul's rollicking bass ostinato figure. But for now, onward!

"P.S. I Love You," released in the U.K. as B-side of "Love Me Do," October 5, 1962; in the U.S., side B track 1 of Vee Jay's Introducing the Beatles, January 10, 1964.


  1. Not sure I knew that about Ringo and this song. Wonder if I'd like it more had he been on it.

  2. I always liked this song. Simple lyrics, simple music. Nice clean vocal. It all works. P.S., Megan, even though you were rushed, you still wrote an interesting column. Talent always shines through --- just like on this song.