Sunday, June 21, 2009

Young Blood

To cheer me up on this very rainy, foul HarriSunday, a day on which I may or may not have a gigantic hangover (my stomach spent all morning arguing with itself over whether or not to commit to the hangover, and still seems ambivalent on the issue), I'm going to listen to one of my favorite Live at the BBC tracks, "Young Blood."

I think it's one of my favorites because "Young Blood" allows George to get a little raunchy, a little snarly, which he doesn't do as often as he should. Early on, George tended to get the lead vocal on songs like "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You," which had this sort of shy adolescent vibe. And in general I think this worked, because his vocals, especially in the earlier years, sounded younger and (sorry, George) a little more out-of-tune than those of John and Paul, so they ended up translating well into the cuter songs. Paul would charm you with his dazzling star quality, John would hump your leg and yell in your ear, but George would sit quietly next to you and try to work up the courage to maintain eye contact, allowing the tension to build up such that each time his hand brushes against yours you just want to scream. At least that's the story their vocals tell.

But not so in "Young Blood," in which George sings us the slightly hilarious, slightly heartbreaking story of picking up a hot chick on the street only to have her father send him packing. This Leiber-Stoller song was originally released as the B-side to the Coasters' 1957 single "Searchin'" (which the Beatles also covered, by the way-- you can find the Decca auditions recording on Anthology 1), and the original recording is slower and bluesier and dare-I-say sleazier than the Beatles'. (I think that sleaze comes from the sax part, which sounds like the musical equivalent of feeling someone up.) It rules, actually.

But I like what the Beatles do with it too. This is a band that can certainly compete with the Coasters in both the raunchiness and the doing-silly-voices arenas. And I think the faster tempo gives it a better swingy feel or something. I deeply love George's guitar work here, which sounds downright jaunty-- definitely a little more country-fried than the guitar on the original. And I really, really love George's vocal. Is he intentionally playing up a Scouse accent here, or is it me? Whether or not he is, somehow the Englishness of George's particular brand of raunch totally appeals to me. And his snarls are swoon-worthy.

Anyway, the version of this on Live at the BBC is only one-- they also busted out "Young Blood" for the EMI audition, and that version is out there on bootlegs. They did a LOT of Coasters covers for that audition-- this one, plus "Searchin'," plus "Three Cool Cats"-- which I guess was because those songs give them ample opportunity to show off their vocals, their excellent group dynamic, and their affable goofiness. But I've said before (see the "Three Cool Cats" link above) that the Decca setlist never seems that well-rounded to me, which might be part of why they didn't get the contract there. I dunno. I wouldn't have cut "Young Blood," though, that's for sure. This is one I like to blast and sing along with when I'm trying to get the dishes done or something. It's just a freaking fun song. Enjoy!

"Young Blood," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 8 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.


  1. You know, I never thought about this until this post, but I think this song was a little bit of an influence on the Beatles' writing, specifically the bridge. It really goes somewhere different, in key, tempo, and feel, which reminds me of I Want to Hold Your Hand and maybe a few other songs in the catalog.

  2. Hmm. True that-- the verse is in minor, and the chorus is in major. And there's no doubt they were smart listeners-- they never covered a song they didn't learn something from, I'll reckon. Good call.