Friday, July 17, 2009

Eight Days a Week

Wouldn't the world have been a lot crappier without Ringo's malapropisms about overwork? We wouldn't have had "A Hard Day's Night," for one. And we also wouldn't have "Eight Days a Week"-- Ringo used this odd little phrase to grumble about the frequency with which the boys were working. Of course, the Beatles turned the phrase into something quite happy-go-lucky.

"Eight Days a Week" seems to have been composed more jointly than some other songs of the time. It was begun by Paul, who, as I recall this, brought it into the studio unfinished so that he and John could tinker with it some more. The idea was that it was to be the next single-- they'd been having problems coming up with a single, but this one seemed promising, until John brought in "I Feel Fine," which had "single" written all over it, and "Eight Days a Week" ended up on the Beatles for Sale album. Honestly, the other evidence that John had a lot more input on "Eight Days a Week" than on some others of Paul's songs is that he's singing lead. I know it's weird to think about now, but at this point, almost all of their singles so far had been sung either by John and Paul in duet or else by John as a clear lead, which probably dates back a little to old times when John was more of a clear leader. But the relatively recent "Can't Buy Me Love" single was 100% pure Paul and made it clear, in case anyone doubted it, that Paul could sell a single as well as anyone. So I think John singing lead is a good indication that he wrote a lot more of this song than he later cared to admit. (He later said the song basically sucked, and tried to pin the whole thing on Paul. I'm not buying it.)

At any rate, I'm quite pleased that John takes the lead vocal, because he sounds just adorable up there at the top of his range. (Also, it sounds like during the recording process he was liking the song quite a bit, actually. So there's that.) John is double-tracked through most of this-- though, when the "hold me, love me" bits are sung in unison, I literally can't hear whether that's still just John double-tracked or whether Paul is singing with him. Point is, there is something about John's voice being double-tracked that makes me all giddy. It just does something to the resonance of his voice. Sigh. One of my favorite parts of the whole song is the way he moans going into the third "hold me, love me phrase"-- isn't that awesome? Like hell he didn't dig this song.

Paul's harmony parts are particularly smart in "Eight Days a Week" as well. The song is just a good example of the Beatles' expertly judicious use of vocal harmonies, isn't it? Paul's in on all the title lines, alternating on the "hold me, love me" phrase, and then in for both bridges. By the way, on the bridge you might hear that Paul and John are harmonizing on open fifths and fourths, which is HIGHLY unorthodox and CRAZY cool. Listen to that part and you'll hear that their voices just sound-- more open. I don't know how else to say it. An open fifth can almost sound droney and mystical, which is not quite the effect here, but I swear that that moment just adds a whole different color to this song. (It helps that the bridge is also visiting some chords that haven't appeared in the song yet, and effectively giving the whole thing a different feel.)

So obviously, we've got a vocal tour de force in "Eight Days a Week," at least in my opinion, and as someone who's a prodigious singer-along to songs, I can vouch for this being super-singable in, say, one's shower. Not that the instruments are necessarily slouches. Listen to the intro again. For one thing, we're fading into a pop song instead of out of it, which might not seem like that big a deal now, but at the time was fairly cutting-edge. More to the point, listen to Paul's bass on the opening. He's just hitting the one note, but have you ever noticed how fast he's playing, how much like a nervous adolescent heartbeat it sounds? What a cool effect-- and the fade-in only makes it that much more exciting. I've become so obsessed with his bass there that I have to admit, I barely hear George's catchy guitar licks in the intro anymore, as lovely as they are. I will say, though, that with no guitar solo, the return of George's guitar in the coda is a pleasant surprise-- but it's because I almost forgot George was there. Similarly, the effect of the large dose of hand-clapping here actually obscures (to my ear) what Ringo's doing on the drums. The hand claps seem to be much more crucial the final texture of the thing, you know? You might not even notice hand claps in some of their other songs, but "Eight Days a Week" seems dependent on them somehow.

Considering that I hear the song as mainly a celebration of singing and clapping (with a bit of bass to ground you), it's no wonder I hear it as so happy. This is almost one of the most winningly exuberant songs the Beatles ever did, in a way. Sometimes it's not what I'm in the mood for-- sometimes I want to curl up under my covers and listen to "Yer Blues" or something. But even if you find "Eight Days a Week" a bit too cheery for your tastes, don't make the mistake of finding it unsophisticated. It rules. And for a sunny summer Friday spent with out-of-town friends, it's just what I was looking for. Thanks, boys!

"Eight Days a Week," released in the U.K. side B track 1 of Beatles for Sale, December 4, 1964; in the U.S. as a single c/w "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," February 15, 1965.


  1. Have you thought of writing a Beatles encyclopedia? Maybe collecting these pieces in a book of some sort?

  2. Meg, I wish i could sit with you for a long day or two and listen to all the Beatles songs, and have you point out things to me. Some things you write i can follow quite easily, but some of the music theory stuff escapes me. I need to be able to have someone say, hear that change? They're doing such and such. Like you mention open fifths. I thought that was when the seal was broken on a bottle of Jack Daniels. (Just joking ... sorta)

    Back to the song. Some songs make you want to tap your foot. Some make you want to move --- even while sitting in a chair listening. This song requires both. What an upbeat classic.

    I've never totally understand why John dissed so much of his/their work. Part of me thinks it is some form of reverse ego stroking. Like, you think that's good? It's nothing, just a toss off. I'm sorry i wrote it. The flip of this, is lots of artists grow and think some of their earlier work doesn't stand up to what they are currently producing. They sees the flaws that no one else does. So, who knows?

    I'm with you, Meg, on the little moan John does going into the third "hold me, love me." Those things don't happen unless the singer is really into it, seems to me.

    Great pick for today, Meg! I'm going to listen to the song for the fifth time. That's a guarantee that I'll be humming it the rest of the day ...

  3. I feel like starting around maybe 1969, John got into the business of myth busting. He was tired of the Beatles, and that meant the trappings (e.g., the fame) as much as the other three guys. You can see from photos at the time that he smiled a good deal in the studio, especially with Paul. But he wanted to make it clear that this was just a band, not a way of life. George was doing it too, or at least talked that way after the fact.

    John was also evolving musically, especially in terms of style. He was going to dismiss anything 'produced,' even Mean Mr. Mustard, because he was going in the direction of Yer Blues. I think you can play a game where you imagine which songs he liked from the period and which he didn't. Helter Skelter and Blackbird? Check. Maxwell's Silver Hammer? Well, we all know the answer to that. And then he played revisionist historian. Another musician might have thought Run for Your Life was not the greatest song he had ever written, but at least appreciated the sound they got on it, and thought fondly of it. John thought it was 'rubbish.' Even the masterpieces, John would complain of overproduction, or that they didn't do what he wanted (Tomorrow Never Knows). He wanted more stuff like Across the Universe, and he wanted it without the tamboura.

    I like to think he would have mellowed by now. Maybe he wouldn't be playing Eight Days a Week live, but he wouldn't trash it. All his interviews came within 10 years after the Beatles' dissolution; he maybe was still rebelling and trying to say that they weren't all that.

  4. Oh, Cullen, as fun as a book would be to do, there are lots of books out there that have already done this much better than me. I've been meaning to do a bibliography to post here. In fact, this blog is pretty reductive-- if I'm adding anything at all to what's already out there, it's just the song-of-the-day thing, the very dailiness of it or whatever. Well, that and my fangirlness. The OMG factor, etc.

    Oh, and Troy, everything you said is dead on. Although what John said could never be called uninteresting exactly, he can't be trusted. In that one 1980 Playboy interview where he said that songs like this were crap, let's all remember that he was in the process of promoting fucking Double Fantasy. Which is not a BAD album, exactly, but, um.... you see what I mean.