Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues

It's like I've been thinking for a while: I've got to hit these Anthology demos eventually, given the arbitrary rules I've set for myself. So today, a day when it's raining AGAIN and I'm in a bad mood and I have a day full of meetings, let's listen to "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," because it's a song that I happen to be feeling right now.

I'm feeling the blues today, kids, man, it's like, I don't even know what's wrong with me, maybe the weather, maybe a more generalized malaise, but it's a bad scene. I gotta try to rally to write this for real-- forgive me if I'm brief. Luckily, John seems to be feeling my mood on this track. He and the band are actually performing this one much slower and in a much more melancholy way than Buddy Holly originally did it on his 1957 recording, which made the B-side to "Words of Love." Check out the original below: it's probably stronger, considering it was actually produced for release, whereas the Beatles was a circa-Get Back kind of demo thing.

I mean, Buddy Holly's is sweet and swinging and almost, like, lilting or something, isn't it? Whereas the Beatles do it in a way that makes you feel like they don't believe the mailman is going to actually bring them anything but misery from here on out. Holly manages to put together some kind of a chipper guitar solo, but the Beatles drift in and out of their guitar work in this much more chill, kind of soporific way. It sounds sort of cool, but weirdly, it doesn't sound much like the Beatles. If we may make a crass generalization about their covers for a moment, I think it's mostly safe to say that they are more manic and more rollicking than their predecessors. Sometimes they're also less tight, but that seems par for the course, and I for one never miss the tightness or the perfect musicianship that the Beatles sometimes don't entirely nail. Of course, most of the covers I have in mind in making these generalizations date to the early days, circa Live at the BBC and earlier. You can hear the difference here, because seriously, in "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," talk about less than perfect musicianship-- it sounds like John can barely be bothered to sing vaguely in tune. Then again, he's also trying to do a Buddy Holly impression, and that reedy tone is always a little out of tune anyway.

It might have been the nature of the Get Back sessions that contributed to this, of course. I've spoken about it a little before before, and a zillion historians have written about it too, but in a nutshell, the Beatles' attempt to make a back-to-basics classic rock and roll album in January of 1969 came to nothing, because at the time they hated each other for various reasons involving management disputes and money and so forth. Still and all, a bunch of recordings of classic rock covers survive from those sessions, most of which have been made into bootlegs, and a few of which found their way onto Anthology 3 in 1996. I don't feel that any of these tracks match the verve from their previous covers. You know what else is a little depressing? That 1975 John Lennon album Rock 'n' Roll, which is all covers. You can just TELL he had to do that album because he lost a lawsuit-- his heart's not in it at all. Sad.

Anyway, sorry for not having energy for more than this today. Now I'll slump in my desk chair, work, and enjoy these blues. More and better from me tomorrow, I swear...

"Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 2 track 38 of Anthology 3, October 28, 1996.


  1. I feel your pain, Meg. I am quite mercurial myself, and on rainy days, esp in winter, i can really bottom out. Even if the Beatles song was not up to snuff today, you still wrote an interesting column. I hate to mention that it is sunny, blue skies, and on its way to 92 degrees down here in Atlanta. Good Day Sunshine, comes to mind ...

  2. Not incidentally, this song sounds like it was recorded and maybe even written while on heroin. Hell, I feel like I'm on heroin listening to it. Not that I've ever done heroin.

  3. Aw, it's OK, Frank. As a New Englander, I'm completely used to everyone gloating about their more pleasant weather to me-- even my parents do it. (I mostly grew up in the south.) And now that I got tickets to see Paul, the sun seems to finally be coming out. Tra la!

    Was Buddy Holly into heroin, I wonder? That never seemed like his thing, but, hell, it's not like I'm any kind of expert. John totally sounds like he's lolling in a corner high on the stuff on the cover, though. Not their best. You know, in all their hours of bootlegged tracks from these sessions, I wonder why this one made it onto an Anthology? I've definitely heard better ones, you know? (Though none of them are great.)