Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Won't See Me

I wonder why it is that I gravitate toward Rubber Soul when I'm traveling? I'm sure the answer would say all kinds of weirdo things about my psyche. Anyway, today I'm in New York hanging out in my hotel room after a day spent talking about my non-Beatles life-- that is, my job, and how to do it-- to a bunch of people who came to be educated. Hopefully they were. Tomorrow it's my turn to listen to people like me talk, which I like better.

I'm listening to "You Won't See Me," a song I would have listened and blogged about earlier today if Amtrak's Acela trains had freaking wi-fi. But that's a rant for another day.

"You Won't See Me" is one of those songs that's probably one of my secret favorites, in that I forget about it half the time among the abundance of riches that Rubber Soul has to offer. Poor "You Won't See Me," sitting on the album in between "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "Nowhere Man," both more acknowledged masterpieces-- and probably suffering by comparison to "I'm Looking Through You," the other song on Rubber Soul that's about Paul fighting with girlfriend Jane Asher. But I really, really like it. Like a lot of tracks from this album, it has more to it than meets the ear.

You know what's standing out to me on this particular time around? All the percussion. I don't think I've ever noticed before how intense Ringo's drumming here is-- which I totally acknowledge to be a frequent failing of mine; I am less good at listening for drums than I am for other stuff-- but on the introduction this time it was suddenly ALL I heard. Don't you love the cymbal-heavy opening? Lord knows I do. Then keep listening to it as the song goes-- he is playing some seriously awesome fills, for instance, at the pauses during the verse, after a line like "your line's engaged." It's a much more complicated fill than I think of Ringo ever doing. Then I think he actually simplifies, or lightens the touch on just the hi-hat or something, at the beginning the next verse-- the fill after "should want to hide"-- before coming in with a wallop on the next one. What a killer little detail that is. And of course all the crash cymbal on the refrain is awesome, as is the tambourine in the same spot, banging along with the vocal parts to give them that extra shot of emphasis and venom. Ringo, I apologize, because I truly never realized how much you tore up this track before now.

Of course, lots of other good stuff is happening too. Nice catchy melody, right? Very singable, except for when Paul holds that crazy note out on the verses-- on the last verse especially, when he sustains the "ee" vowel on "feeeeeels like years," it sounds like something between agony and rage. In addition to singing and playing the rocking bass line we've come to expect from him, Paul's also playing the piano, which along with the drums really dominates the texture here to me. I love it in the bridge hitting the block chords on the beat, which also keeps up the angry feel for me. And actually, although a lot of stuff sounds angry, the backup line that George and John are singing in that sweet oo-la-la falsetto very interestingly adds a note of good humor that keeps the song from getting quite as nasty as it could have gotten. There's that bit of irony that I love so well from the Beatles.

Poor Jane Asher-- I can't imagine that Rubber Soul is her favorite album, what with the vitriol Paul apparently needed to get out of his system here, but what a shame, because "You Won't See Me" rocks SO hard.

"You Won't See Me," released in the U.K. side A track 3 of Rubber Soul, December 3, 1965; in the U.S. side A track 3 of the decidedly suckier American version of Rubber Soul, December 6, 1965.


  1. DON'T just sit in your hotel room! Go eat at Craftsteak! You are on an expense account, right?

    Paul's bassline is wicked fun to play, and I would like to know how he played it and sang songs like this at the same time, never mind actually coming up with both parts to begin with.

  2. He might never have played and sung at once-- they never, to my knowledge, did this song live, and the whole thing could be and probably is overdubs. But still and all, Paul is a genius.

    I didn't eat at Craftsteak-- the expense went to a reasonably priced burger establishment that had good beer on hand, which is a better use of the allotment, I feel. I usually try to eat at Papaya King, actually, but ended up without the energy to take the subway. Bedtime = now.

  3. Hey Megan ... I've been out of pocket for a while. Great to return to your site and hear this song. Always been a fave of mine, as is the entire album. Listening to the song here and reading your column, i heard the drumming --- i mean listened to it --- for the first time probably. The guitar and piano are what grab you. That and the great vocal track. What i enjoy about your column is you usually point out something that normally goes "over looked," some texture of the song. That's why i keep returning and reading. Thanks!

  4. Welcome back, Frank, and thanks for the kind words! As this project of mine keeps plugging along, they are certainly encouraging...