Friday, May 22, 2009

Baby It's You

I was thinking about my favorite Beatles covers last night. Not original Beatles songs covered by other people, which are almost without exception a huge waste of time (I could add a diplomatic "in my opinion" here, but I'm not really moved to do so), but songs that the Beatles themselves covered. As a live band, they had a tremendous repertoire of rock standards and rarities, and only a few of those ended up on studio recordings, which is kind of a shame, though it's a problem that Live at the BBC and the Anthologies attempt to fix, to say nothing of a zillion bootlegs.

Anyway, "Baby It's You" is one of my favorite of the covers, partly because it's just one of my favorite songs anyway, and partly because John is so awesome on it.

Composed by Burt Bacharach and originally released by the fabulous Shirelles in 1961, "Baby It's You" is, unsurprisingly, awesome. And the Beatles perform it awesomely as well. As with a lot of the songs on Please Please Me, John sang this with a bad cold, and though he performs admirably, there's a very cute nasal quality to his singing that, particularly on "Baby It's You," lends his voice a certain vulnerability and angst that can send stronger fans than myself into conniptions of lovey-doveyness. (See also: "Anna [Go to Him].") This isn't to say that the song requires John being sick to rock-- the version on Live at the BBC sung by a healthy John captures a lot of that angst too and just sounds, vocally at least, a lot smoother.

"Baby It's You" was a girl group song originally, so of course the backup vocals provided by Paul and George are a key part of the texture. Sometimes I hear Beatley backup lines as contributing something to the meanings of the lyrics, as in "Help!" just yesterday, in which they sound almost like voices in John's head, amping up the overall stress level of the song. But in "Baby It's You" the "sha la la"s seem to be functioning more like instrumental lines. It's a nice motif, and Paul and George do some key harmonic work, especially on the tenser "ah" bits when John is wailing on "don't want nobody" and so forth. A few other nice touches: In a rare-for-this-album embellishment to the Beatles' typical live performance lineup, George Martin doubles George Harrison's guitar solo on the celesta, which gives the song even more of a bell-like girl-group sound. And Paul is particularly good and thumpy on his bass here-- the line is a great standard-issue pop song one, but it's all about what Paul's putting into it.

I love songs like this. It's sweet and kind of sad but quite danceable anyway, and it has heaps of amazing singing, and it's handled with just the right light touch all around. Plus it gets me all girlish and silly, but not in a way that makes me feel lame. This is a ballad that one can feel cool about loving.

"Baby It's You," released in the U.K. side B track 3 of Please Please Me, March 22, 1963; in the U.S. side B track 2 of Vee-Jay's Introducing the Beatles, January 10, 1964.


  1. I would just put in a quick (favorable) word for two covers of Beatles songs: Yesterday by Ray Charles (very moving; catch it on Youtube) and Across the Universe by Rufus Wainwright. Tom R.

  2. Actually, Tom, you're right. I'm trying to become more open-minded about covers of Beatles songs... and I appreciate the recs! I'll definitely check those out...