Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dizzy Miss Lizzie

The day of the first Shea Stadium concert was apparently, like today, an extremely hot day. Just look at John sweating through his rendition of "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" in his Nehru jacket. Although he seems to be having a good enough time, he doesn't look super comfortable either. It's no wonder he mangles the words a bit. The heat tends to melt a person's brain.

Although "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" had long been a part of the Beatles' early setlists, they had only recently dug it out again to record-- these American screaming, fainting girls would have recognized the song from Beatles VI, one of the mutant Capitol albums. Interestingly, "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" was recorded specifically for American audiences in a special recording session in May of 1965. Capitol's habit of chopping Beatles albums into little pieces to try to get more albums (and thus more money) out of the same set of songs had resulted in a situation in which Capitol found itself two songs short for another album. And thus the Beatles were dragged by the masters at EMI into the studio to quickly knock out two more songs-- which is why "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" and "Bad Boy" exist. (That "Bad Boy" link explains a little more, by the way, about why the hell Capitol pulled this crap in the first place.) The whole situation with the American record market made the Beatles kind of sick, but there was nothing they could do about it, and no doubt being forced into the studio after a long day of filming Help! to better serve the American jerkwads who maintained this system was quite the indignity.

Still and all, "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" is a pretty good song-- good enough that the Beatles went ahead and put their recording onto the U.K. Help! album, which came out later that year. You can hear the Larry Williams original version here (I'm not going to embed the video, because it's, um, weird). Williams, one of rock and roll's more dodgy and, sadly, more forgotten old schoolers, originally released this in 1958 with "Slow Down" as the B-side.

I don't know if it's knowing too much about the background of "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," or the song's position as the last cover the Beatles ever released, or what, but on this one I think the Beatles actually sound tired. Here's the album version-- I mean, is this just me?

You know, no, it's John, specifically, who sounds tired. Not to be picky or whatever, but he's done better vocals than this-- and it's only because I know this that I can hear the fatigue here. Poor John. Meanwhile, George is rallying gamely on the repetitive guitar riff the whole thing is based on, though I swear sometimes he's playing it just a hair too slowly. Ringo, though, is rallying perhaps even more gamely. And it all comes together into a song that totally works, and is a totally solid album track, but just can't be called their best cover ever, in my opinion. That's okay, though. I'll listen to it anyway. And if it weren't so hot, I'd even dance. Frankly, this is one where I prefer the Shea Stadium version, which I don't say that frequently.

As we saw at Shea Stadium, the Beatles made "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" a part of the setlist on their 1965 American tour. Here's a slideshow video set to a recording of their gig in Houston-- and you get some bonus "Ticket to Ride" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" too!

See, I love hearing the Beatles live, but this "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" makes John sound even MORE tired. He might actually be coming down with something, though he seems to perk up a bit for "Ticket to Ride." But see, I'm going to write off this fatigue to the excesses of Beatlemania, because some years later in 1969-- when John was no longer sick of playing ridiculous live gigs, when he was in fact kind of excited at the prospect of playing live gigs again-- he played "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" with the Plastic Ono Band, which for this gig consisted of Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, and Andy White. And this, you guys, is probably my favorite version of the song up here. This one genuinely rocks. Enjoy!

"Dizzy Miss Lizzie," released in the U.K. side B track 7 of Help!, August 6, 1965; in the U.S. side B track 3 of Beatles VI, June 14, 1965.


  1. I think the riff kills it for me. Not an awful riff, but I don't need to hear it 72 times in two minutes. But if we had to have this to get Bad Boy, I'll deal.

  2. I'm with you, Meg, the Plastic Ono Band version rocks!