Friday, June 26, 2009

From Me to You

I guess I was feeling like something that was sort of the opposite of yesterday's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"-- something a bit glib where the former is gut-wrenchingly earnest; something hip and swinging where the former is like the musical equivalent of an open sore. Ah! "From Me to You!" Oh, kids, I love this song. And it must be said that I particularly love the studio version, because it's got harmonica, which the Beatles were apt to leave out in live performances. So here it is.

"From Me to You" was written on the bus during the Beatles' 1963 tour with Helen Shapiro, whom they were playing as the opening band for based mostly on the strength of their first two singles, "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me," the latter of which had gone to #1 on all but one of the British charts. It's always been described as being totally co-written by John and Paul, and both of them knew pretty much right away that it was good enough to release as their third single. So they knocked the single they had planned on releasing, "Thank You Girl," to the B-side, and put the thing out. And "From Me to You" was destined to actually go to #1 in all the British charts. So rock on. In fact, measured in terms of weeks at #1, "From Me to You" was to remain their most successful British single of all time. (Though "Hello Goodbye" tied it.) So it's no wonder they performed it live all the time. For instance, for the Royal Variety Performance in November of 1963. As you can see, they lose the harmonica and throw George a very small solo in its place.

Of course, like all the Beatles' singles in 1963, their first year of gigantic fame in the U.K., "From Me to You" was initially ignored in the States. But even after Beatlemania hit the States, I don't think American fans have ever loved this one quite as much as British fans do. Just my unscientific observation, of course. I don't know-- it came out in between "Please Please Me" and "She Loves You," both of which are more rocking and manic. "From Me to You" has a pleasant poppy swing, but maybe hasn't aged as well-- or maybe just sounds more old-fashioned.

Not that that makes it unsophisticated. Paul has cited this one as an early favorite because of its interesting harmonic structure, which he's called a turning point in their songwriting. And it is interesting, because it actually goes into a different key for the bridge-- which, though it would be more common in Lennon-McCartney songs later, was still pretty far out this early on. The modulation from C major into F major happens so seamlessly you almost don't notice it-- in fact, it's a modulation on a common chord, handled exactly like a zillion classical composers before them would have also handled it, which is why it feels so pleasant and neat, even if it is a little unusual in a pop song. Of course, since they play the bridge twice, they're doing this modulation thing back and forth pretty frequently in a song that's barely two minutes, so I'd go so far as to call it kind of daring. But it works, doesn't it? I'm also a huge fan of the chord they end the song on-- I love the unfinished sound of it. It's just cool as hell.

Anyway, I didn't mean to malign "From Me to You"-- I quite like it, as I like any song in which John and Paul sing in unison, and John plays harmonica, and Ringo gets in some good drum flourishes, as he does on the end here. It just makes me feel all sunny and awesome. Hopefully it will do the same for you.

"From Me to You," released in the U.K. as a single c/w "Thank You Girl," April 11, 1963; in the U.S. as a Vee Jay single c/w "Thank You Girl," May 27, 1963.


  1. NIce article, Meg. How much of an influence was George Martin when it came to writing a song like this with the unusual modulation from C major into F major? Was this something that John and Paul did on their own, kinda because, well, "they liked it" or was GM involved? Do you know? Just curious.

  2. This is a case where it was all John and Paul themselves, actually. Interestingly, it was George Martin who suggested the harmonica. Maybe because it had been such a hit on the previous two singles. For whatever reason, they hadn't thought of this as a harmonica song.

  3. Glad he suggested the harmonica instead of strings!