Monday, May 18, 2009


Yeah, I don't know-- I feel like I've been giving Ringo short shrift lately, though by no means on purpose. Or maybe I'm feeling bizarrely captivated by 12-bar blues songs. At any rate, here's a cool cover that might count as a rarity, since it was never released on a studio album. Instead, it went out (in the Parlophone universe, anyway) on the Long Tall Sally EP, the first EP the Beatles put out that contained new material that you couldn't also get on an LP. These days "Matchbox" can be found easily enough on Past Masters, but I can't help but feel that its original EP status has relegated it a bit too far back on the back burner. Which is a shame, because it's a pretty solid Carl Perkins cover, and Ringo sings it as soulfully as you'd hope.

"Matchbox" had been in the Beatles' repertoire for a while. In fact, back when they were playing Liverpool clubs with previous drummer Pete Best, they had given it to him to sing, so there's clearly some weird connection between this song and drummers. John took over lead vocals after they sacked Pete, but at some point handed it over to Ringo. I believe they figured that this could be Ringo's song for the A Hard Day's Night album-- they had just finished shooting the film, and were back in the studio working on the album's B-side. As it happened, it went out on the EP ahead of the album, and Ringo ended up without any lead vocals on A Hard Day's Night. Oh well. Didn't matter, though, as fans in those days were sure to pick up the EP as well.

Though we would be tempted to once again call out George's worshipful interpretation of Carl Perkins's guitarwork on the solo, that's actually John on the solo. Although John always acknowledged that George was the better guitarist, John occasionally liked to play something other than rhythm, so in some cases he insisted on covering the lead. And it's good enough, in that raggedy jangly rockabilly way. Meanwhile, George uses his by-then-ubiquitous 12-string Rickenbacker on the rhythm line. Ringo's drums are produced, to my ear, to sound way out front, which is fine because he's rocking this very tight cymbal-heavy sound that I totally enjoy. If there's a problem here, it's the gigantic amount of reverb, which is actually kind of distracting-- but this is a sound that they must have liked at the time, as it's all over A Hard Day's Night too, so, whatever.

Carl Perkins was hanging out in London in 1964 and actually attended this recording session, and considering he was a hero to all of them, I think he probably made the Beatles kind of nervous-- I don't think they're really as into the spirit of this song as they could be, you know? They seem a little stiff, or something. It's hardly fatal, but there's something in the spirit of the music that's usually there that's missing. There's something a little workmanlike about "Matchbox." Later on, Ringo performed it again with Carl Perkins in a 1985 TV special (along with Eric Clapton, who, it seems, always turns up for these things), and he was clearly much, much less nervous. Because by then he was also a legend. I mean, I guess. Or maybe they'd just hung out more in the intervening years and gotten friendly.

One last note: though made famous in the world of rock and roll by Carl Perkins in 1957, "Matchbox" was originally recorded, at least in some vaguely related form, by someone named Blind Lemon Jefferson, all the way back in 1927. I don't know who that is, or anything about the recording, but I think it's important to acknowledge anyone cool enough to be named Blind Lemon Jefferson.

"Matchbox," released in the U.K. side B track 2 of Long Tall Sally, June 19, 1964; in the U.S. side A track 6 of Something New, July 20, 1964.


  1. What's better than Ringo singing "Let me be your little dog 'til your big dog comes"?

  2. I guess I disagree slightly, in that I really like the performance (although that's a very cool detail, that Carl Perkins was in the studio for this recording). I *think* I remember (one can never be too sure about childhood musical memories) hearing this during a long, otherwise boring car ride, having this song come on (a period when WABC (W-A-Beatle-C!)-AM/NYC) would play every Beatles song they could get their hands on)...and going WHAT was THAT?? And then spending weeks dying to hear it again because I thought it was SO COOL. I love that piano/guitar accompaniment (so mechanical-sounding; kind of a precursor for me to the 80's version of "Money--That's What I Want"). And of course Ringo's double-tracked vocals are so great, and kind of eerie because of the double-tracking. The guy was born to sing C&W. Because of what I perceive to be the wonderful creepiness of this one, and the great childhood memory, this one goes in my top 5 (of which there are probably actually 20 or 30!) Tom R.

  3. Meg,
    I'm surprised you missed this but "Matchbox" was released by the Beatles in the U.S. as a 45 in September of 64 with "Slow Down", a great cover of a Larry Williams tune as the B-Side. It reached # 17 on Billboard's U.S. singles chart in October of 64 and stayed on the chart a total of 8 weeks. With a NM sleeve it could be worth over $200. The boys did "Matchbox" on their BBC radio show POP GO THE BEATLES (oooh, I like that name) on 7/30/63 and on a show called "From Us To You" on 5/18/64.

    You can read more about the songs the boys covered on the BBC @

  4. Rock on. The first recording of "Matchbox" is on Live at the BBC, I know, and it might be an even better versio.... I should have included it. "Slow Down" is a song that I probably prefer, to be honest. I almost wrote about that one (also on Long Tall Sally in the UK of course), but I did think it'd been a while since I'd had much to say about Ringo. And I freely admit that I'm much more familiar with the British discography, since I grew up when they were common currency in the U.S. as well. Sometimes I really hate being my age....

    Tom, your top 5? I love "Matchbox" and all, but I think our top 5s would look pretty different.... :)

  5. Childhood musical cravings warp the mind -- and taste...TR