Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Got to Get You Into My Life

There's something about summertime that just makes you think of brass music, isn't there? Maybe it's some vestigial memory of the brass bands that used to play in summertime parades and so forth in some mythical yesteryear. Or maybe it's the brassiness of the unrelenting sunshine. And you know what else? There's something about summertime that seems to make people want to sit back on the porch with a glass of tea and smoke a bowl. I guess maybe it's the laziness, the stupor that the heat has already put you into-- a stupor that one really may as well enhance chemically, seeing as how it's too hot to do anything anyway. Not that any such activities are on my agenda today, of course. No, I'm working, like the good upstanding citizen that I am.

But nevertheless, it seems like a good day to get this song into my life. And yes, kids, "Got to Get You Into My Life" is about pot-- it's been revealed by Paul himself. Of all the songs of the Beatles that people have assumed to be about drugs, I think this might be the only one (except for "Doctor Robert" from the same album, I guess) that unequivocably is about drugs-- or at least the only one a Beatle admitted to. (As usual, someone pipe up if you can think of another, but I'm blanking. And I'm not counting songs that were influenced by drug use, of course, just songs that are totally about getting high.)

Oh, clever Paul. While John gets all angry about the BBC banning "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" because of its acronym, Paul casually whistles and makes his charming goo-goo eyes at the world with "Got to Get You Into My Life," which to my knowledge was never banned anywhere. It's just kind of funny, is my point.

But it's also a kickass song, no matter what it's meant to be about. And you just can't imagine it without all that great brass (which is why the version on Anthology 2 sounds so weird). The timbre is completely dominated by the ensemble of trumpets and saxes, which are being played brilliantly by a bunch of freelance jazz musicians. Paul wanted a really soulful, Motown kind of sound on this one, and he totally got it. He actually scored the brass himself, by playing what he wanted on the piano for the instruments (since, of course, Paul doesn't read or write music). I believe he also oversaw the production of their sound, which I think is particularly distinctive. During the verses in particular, the brass sounds nicely fuzzy, perhaps even a bit dirty. I think they mucked about with the brass sound in the studio, perhaps putting on some weird reverb to make it buzz a bit more-- which I think it does. I tend to think of this song as an early example (this was only the second song recorded for Revolver) of Paul really taking charge in the studio in a way that he hadn't necessarily before-- he and George Martin really almost shared the duties here.

The result is a song that just seems so big. There's a retro appeal to the jazzy instrumentation, sure, but "Got to Get You Into My Life" somehow seems forward-looking at the same time, just for its sheer heft. (This could only have been followed on the album by "Tomorrow Never Knows," don't you think? It's the one song that's indisputably even bigger.) And it's not just coming from the brass, no matter how they dominate. Note the tambourine, which I presume Ringo is playing-- playing particularly incessantly, at that. I hear more tambourine than I hear drum on this, but when the drums do come in between the horn riffs at the refrains, they are some sweet little fills indeed. Paul has also worked out a particularly neat bass line for himself-- it's simplicity itself, frequently just a droned pitch on the beats, but super effective. It sounds to me like he amped up the bass a lot, but maybe that's just because it's all I can hear other than the brass and the tambourine for much for the song. If there are guitars-- and there apparently are, as the record seems to show John and George on this somewhere-- they're mixed way low. Which is fine. When the guitar does come in towards the end, it kind of sneaks in, coming in almost like a rhythm section above Paul's bass in the second-to-last refrain under the horns. Then all of a sudden we have this rich, rich guitar sound on one of the tiniest solos ever, before it starts in playing with Paul's bass again. It's so subtle, and so damned smart-- it's just a splash of color towards the end.

But I can't forget to mention Paul's vocal. In a song that's so artful in terms of its instrumentation, Paul also sings like his life depends on it-- it's one of my favorite Paul vocals. Every time he goes up the 7th to that super high note on lines like "find... THERE" it is awesome. And his voice on that short little refrain makes me nuts. (It's almost a shame that bit is so short before the brass comes a-blazing back in, but I guess that also makes it better.) Actually, the song is written such that Paul just spits out words in this bullet-like way that's totally appealing, and sounds passionate and fun as hell. But for all its spitfire, it's a pretty straightforward G major melody up until the refrain, when all of a sudden Paul is hitting that high B-flat on "got to get you into my life" against all the B-naturals in the chords. It's so good, you don't even need to be high, in my opinion. The song amps me up plenty on its own.

"Got to Get You Into My Life" is so awesome that it's kind of unsurprising that Paul has made it a regular part of his concert sets for years now. Wasn't it even one of the first Beatles songs he started playing with Wings, after sulkily refusing to play the songs that, duh, people totally wanted to hear? I think maybe it was, but my Wings history isn't good enough to swear it. But speaking of Wings, here they are doing it in what I feel to be a pretty killer version from the Concert for Kampuchea in 1979.

And of course he's also been doing it on his most recent American tour. Here's an amateur video of him at Citi Field just a few weeks ago.

You know, I sort of wish that for such a brass-heavy song, he'd have actually brought out some, you know, brass players. But whatever. It still rocked.

"Got to Get You Into My Life," released in the U.K. side B track 6 of Revolver, August 5, 1966; in the U.S. side B track 4 of Capitol's horrible version of Revolver, August 8, 1966.


  1. Thanks for the Kampuchea video. Now I know what Dana Carvey modeled his Paul McCartney impression on.

    Was this the first song (well, this and Tomorrow Never Knows) where Paul started just staying on the octave on bass -- in this case, Low G, high G -- instead of following the progression, which in both songs goes down a step (here, G-F)? Because that idea pretty much founded the power pop movement. Here I think he does it in part because it mirrors the vocal, which also goes to the high G, on "there."

  2. Well, Meg, if this song is about grass and getting stoned, then, well ... okay. I've heard that story before. And whether it's true or not doesn't change the fact that it's a cool song and i like it. I always thought it was about a girl. And, it works better for me that way.

  3. Honestly, Frank, I don't know why Paul would sing TO pot like it was a girl. It's a little... lame. But hell, I prefer to focus on the music anyway.

    You're welcome for Kampuchea, Troy. As far as the bass lines... I can see that, actually. Is that what "power pop" means? (I've never been clear.) But something tells me there might be earlier examples on Help or For Sale. Now I really want to not be at work anymore, so I can find them.

  4. It's not all power pop means, but it's something of a defining feature of the more distorted-guitar brand that I like. Jason Falkner is excellent at it, and the song at the URL below is a great example of how effectively the technique can set up the moment when the bass joins the guitars:

    But yeah, a lot of that kind of guitar-based power pop is "from" the Beatles, like that bass method and sixteenth notes on the tambourine at strategic times and the harmonies.