Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Know Her Is to Love Her

Yesterday, I was listening to the Phil Spector news on NPR, and they played "To Know Him Is to Love Him," Spector's first hit with his first group, the Teddy Bears. It was stuck in my head the entire rest of the day, and it's still there. So consider today's Beatles cover of that song some kind of exorcism of this relentlessly catchy thing from my brain.

The Beatles seem to have liked this song a lot-- at least one alternate version that I know of exists on a bootleg, and John liked it enough to try recording it in the '70s in the chaotic sessions for his Rock 'n' Roll album, which was produced by Spector. (It didn't make it onto that album, though it was later released on the 1986 compilation Menlove Avenue.) This version from Live at the BBC is particularly effective, though, in my opinion.

The song has an abashed sweetness with an underlying dark element that only becomes darker when you learn that the title is based on Spector's father's epitaph. I don't know if John knew that when the Beatles first performed it, but I'm sure it would only have made him like it that much more. Though the whole song is performed kind of quietly and understatedly, John's vocal takes on some nice urgency in the bridge-- he might not be tearing flesh here, but he certainly puts some genuine heartbreak into this. Paul and George are well into the spirit of things, too, especially on the bridge when they seem to sound thicker somehow. But I also like the barbershoppy sound they achieve on the verses. And Ringo tatting out the unceasing triple time and driving the beat as they launch into the bridge is all super cool.

The whole thing amounts to a quite faithful cover of the Teddy Bears' original, which is below. I really like the Beatles' a lot better though-- that note of quiet desperation in John's vocal is something that you just don't hear anywhere else, really. Still, though, I could take a slow dance to either. What can I say? I have a soft spot for '50s pop weepers.

"To Know Her Is to Love Her," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 24 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.


  1. He really sings those verses tenderly, no?

  2. Another great example, Megan, of the Beatles covering another writer's song and making it their own.