Saturday, June 6, 2009

Soldier of Love

Today I'm in the mood to revisit the work of the awesome Arthur Alexander, whose "Anna (Go to Him)" might be my favorite Beatles cover ever. That was the only Alexander song the Beatles released commercially, but a performance of "Soldier of Love" made it onto Live at the BBC, and thank God, too, because it's stellar.

Originally released as "Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)" on the B-side of Alexander's "Where Have You Been" in 1962, this song wouldn't have been in the Beatles' live act for very long by the time they recorded it for the BBC in June of 1963. But they're clearly nailing it anyway-- and maybe it sounds even fresher for it, or something, I don't know. That intro in particular is so catchy, isn't it? George and Paul begin in octaves and then Ringo comes in with this light shuffly figure as John starts hitting a few off-beats-- it's just cool, and it's good detail. Not to mention that it's a pretty spot-on imitation-on-guitars of the piano and brass opening in the original. That opening line is the song's skeleton, by the way, so it gets modified somewhat into the lines that George and Paul carry on with under John's vocal. It's all just so well-crafted.

But of course the best part is the way John's singing-- he's singing brightly and earnestly here, with less of the extremes of brazenness or vulnerability you can hear with some of John's other vocals. It sounds just fun. Which makes sense for lyrics that are a little funny, with the tortured military metaphors and so on. I do love, though, that the melody on the refrain dips way into the lower parts of his range, because it's just sexy, I don't care who you are. I think I need to do a playlist for the best of John's vocals, because, I don't know, they DO something to me.

For the hell of it, let's also listen to Alexander's original. Speaking of guys who can sing-- um, yow. I'm officially on a mission now to find more of this guy's music, because with a voice like this there's probably not a song in his catalog that wouldn't make me swoon a little. (If anyone has recommendations, please feel free to share.)

So now that I've slow-danced around my living room a bit, it's time to start cleaning. I'm having a party in a couple weeks, and it will actually take the full two weeks to clean everything in this stupid public health hazard I call an apartment. Off I go!

"Soldier of Love," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 17 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.


  1. Megan ... looks like Amazon has several Arthur Alexander CDs available including a "greatest" songs. I say songs rather that hits because it appears that he had only one top 40 --- the tender "You Better Move On" in 1962. I agree, he has a great voice. As usual with Beatles covers, they find ways to make the song fresh and their own. Thanks for including the Alexander version. Great fun to listen to both versions. Oh, and happy cleaning!

  2. Thanks, Frank! See, this is my problem-- I went straight to iTunes, didn't find much, and then basically gave up. I'm at the point where I forget you can actually buy CDs. I'll be putting in an Amazon order today for sure. Thanks again!