Friday, June 19, 2009

Ooh! My Soul

The Week of Paul hits day 5 today, so here comes a new Paul persona for us to explore, perhaps the most important one of all: Paul the Kid Who Freaking Loves Little Richard.

Unbelievably, there seems to be no video in the entire internet world of the Live at the BBC version of this song, which is the first time that's ever happened to me. I mean, I have seen some freaking random videos of crazy bootlegs and stuff all over the place, but for some reason this totally legit and also unbelievably awesome track goes ignored. It's just weird. Anyway, on the video above you can hear a bootleg version of "Ooh! My Soul" (I think it might actually be the same version on Live at the BBC-- it sounds similar, and a lot of those tracks were available on bootlegs before their official 1994 release), as well as a few bonus fun bootlegs that I'll leave it to you to check out. Unfortunately, the intro is cut off, but otherwise the track is there in all its glory.

You know, I'm a huge fan of Little Richard as well, and what I love about him is that his songs are not so much songs as they are bombastic exclamations. Lyrics have debatable import in a lot of early rock and roll anyway, but in the best Little Richard songs in particular they're totally just phonemes to scream on. If they have any meaning, it has something to do with let's-all-get-laid, and half the time that meaning is more in the delivery than in the words anyway. "Ooh! My Soul," a slightly lesser-known hit from the summer of 1958, is one of the best examples of that-- the words are a pastiche of rock and roll cliches delivered almost incoherently (I love you, give me money, yada yada) in between the good stuff, which is the "baby baby baby baby baby" sputtering and the whooping all over the place. And it is CRAZY awesome. Or at least Paul thought so.

Although the whole band dug Little Richard, Paul was particularly enamored, and he worked out a pretty solid Little Richard impression as a teenager-- it's part of what convinced John to accept him into the Quarrymen, the Beatles' earliest incarnation. (That, and knowing all the words to "Twenty Flight Rock.") He continued to go into Little Richard mode throughout his career, probably most famously in "Long Tall Sally," which actually got released commercially. But he definitely covered lots of others, including "Ooh! My Soul," which was recorded for the BBC in 1963. One of the more memorable touches in Little Richard's original is that he sings "ooh! my soul" in a weirdly quiet and totally girly way-- perhaps the voice of the female being sung to?-- which Paul just dispenses with completely in favor of a impassioned cry.

In fact, the Beatles' version, believe it or not, is faster and more manic and off the hook than the Little Richard version (which, by the way, there is ALSO not a functional video for, so I apologize). In addition to Paul tearing his vocal chords to shreds screaming all over the place, Ringo is banging the shit out of his drums (his normally steady beat is just on the verge of NOT being steady here-- he's totally on the verge of losing it), and George delivers not one but two fun and messy guitar solos. The Beatles always sound like they're having fun playing this stuff, but really, particularly here, it's just so striking. Doesn't it sound amazing? And that crash of sound on the final chord-- WOMP-- holy crap, it makes me nuts. Tracks like these make you kind of understand where people were coming from when they called this the devil's music, you know. I could completely lose control listening to this. As it is, I'll try to dance my way through the rest of my Friday...

"Ooh! My Soul," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 2 track 64 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.


  1. The little guy is fascinated when Paul and John scream. I don't think he quite gets why they're doing it.

  2. They do it because it's AWESOME. If he ever asks, this is the reason you need to give him. That way maybe he'll grow up talking like as much of an idiot as I do. (Every parent's dream!)

  3. One of my very favorite Paul songs. I think the BBC version is the only surviving recording of them performing the song. I am not aware of any other performances of the song at all.