Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'll Be On My Way

When Live at the BBC was first being marketed in 1994 (when I was 15 and at the very pinnacle of my Beatles obsession; it was an exciting time), I seem to remember that quite a big deal was being made about how the album would include a never-before-heard Lennon-McCartney song. Sure, we were told, most of the album was going to be live recordings of old rock & roll covers and Lennon-McCartney songs that we've heard before, which was already exciting enough. But the promise of a new one written by our lads was AWESOME. I got the CD for Christmas that year (thank, Mom and Dad!), and I remember the gigantic sticker that came on it saying something like "Includes 'I'll Be On My Way'!!" like it was the primary reason I'd wanted it. And the record company people wisely put "I'll Be On My Way" near the beginning of the album. I clearly remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of my room with a speaker on either side of my head, listening to this for the first time, preparing myself for unspeakable wonder.

And I loved it! Oh, come on, I was 15. I really did like it, and I still do like it probably more than it merits. Don't you think it's kind of sweet? Especially considering Paul was maybe 15 himself when he wrote it? Well, maybe slightly older, but still.

Paul wrote "I'll Be On My Way" early on in the Beatles' career, and it formed a part of their live set in the early '60s, although by the time they were getting famous they definitely seem to not have played it for a while. In fact, they went ahead and let Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, another Liverpool band that Brian Epstein helped make (briefly) famous, record it. All of Epstein's artists seem to have gotten access to the Lennon-McCartney backlog of songs, so this was basically par for the course. (For the curious, this list of songs the Beatles gave away in the '60s features a lot of Epstein-managed acts.) So the Dakotas released their version of "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" as a single and made "I'll Be On My Way" the B-side-- and on the strength of the Lennon-McCartney pedigree, the single did quite well. Want to hear it? Check it out-- you get a bonus song here, too, one which I know nothing about. (Never mind the Mamas and the Papas-- these images are pretty random.)

Anyway, it was probably about the time that the Dakotas' version was coming out and climbing the charts that the Beatles decided to record "I'll Be On My Way" live on a BBC radio show-- at least I can't imagine why else they would have bothered. If they did pull it together quickly on a whim, they did so pretty well. John and Paul are singing mostly in unison (except for that two-part bit on the title line) for the whole song, and it's as spirited and lovely as could be hoped. George reaches way back into his memory to pull out a pleasant guitar solo that's quite singable, even if it seems to peter out. Through the rest of the song it sounds like he's doing lazy little rippling figures. The effect is very easy and sweet, making the kiss-off of the lyrics sound pretty darned casual-- which is fine since the adolescent poesy of the lyrics is almost adorably lame. The whole thing has the quiet, off-the-cuff appeal of a Buddy Holly song to my ear, which makes sense considering that in 1960 or '61 when Paul wrote this he would have still been finding his voice as a composer.

I can see why the marketing people might have tried to push this song-- it might have seemed more appealing to consumers than any other of the albums' tracks, and it made a good story for the media. But, (a), the song wasn't exactly never-heard-before-- the Dakotas' version had been out there, and it's quite similar, even if it had slipped into some obscurity, and (b), there are a ton of even better songs that just lacked the marketing handle. (Check out some of the other Live at the BBC tracks here.) Nevertheless, "I'll Be On My Way" is so inherently singalong-able that I find it a nice little track. Allow me to sing along dreamily once more before getting on with my day.

"I'll Be On My Way," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 7 of Live at the BBC, November 30, 1994.


  1. You know, don't take this the wrong way, but Beatle-wise, you're kind of easy.

  2. I like the song, too, Megan. But, let's be honest, it's because the Beatles are playing it, not for any intrinsic strength in the song itself.

    What a difference listening to the Beatles version and the Dakotas. I mean, the Dakotas is almost unlistenable (is that a word?), at least to my ears. The heavy reverb on the vocal. Yikes. I know that was trendy but a tad overkill here.

    I loved the studio footage of the lads. They sure wore coats and ties a lot.

  3. It's a fair point that I like this song more than it deserves. I am too kind to ALL songs like this, honestly-- cheery little tunes just appeal to me overmuch, no matter how woefully uncool. I also adore "World Without Love," and when my husband isn't home to make me stop, I play a lot of Neil Sedaka records.

    It's a weakness. I fully admit it. And any cred I've ever earned, I've lost by admitting to being a Neil Sedaka fan. This is a dark day.

    Oh, but Frank? The Dakotas DO kind of suck. Their bigger hit, "Bad To Me," is the one Lennon-McCartney tune that I objectively find awful in every single way. So I guess I'm not a complete pushover, maybe....

  4. Megan, I happen to mostly agree with all your pronouncements on all these songs, but I started listening to this one, and went, ugh, Buddy Holly ripoff...

    Tom R.

  5. Meg, you're right, you shoulda kept quiet about Neil Sedaka. (smile) i have to admit I have a couple NS records in the cabinet. Ahem, bought for my wife of course ... Hey, she also loved the Lettermen! What can i say?

  6. Frank nails it. There are album tracks, too, that we wouldn't like if someone else played them but we like OK on Beatle albums.