Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Girl

Argh, late today, as I should have guessed of myself. Kids, please allow me to ease back into my song-a-day blogging with a pleasantly fluffy little number from Help!, okay? And anyway, it's a fun song, right? Of course it is. Oh, just have a listen.

When I talk about the Help! album (as I recently did here, she said shamelessly) I tend to talk a lot about how John owns side A while Paul owns side B. I don't think there's another album that so clearly and neatly shows off the songwriting dichotomy, except for maybe Abbey Road (whose clearness and neatness is muddied quite a bit by the fact that George stakes his own gigantic claim to that album). But this supposition of mine means that I'm always maligning Paul's contributions to the actual soundtrack of Help! (the movie), which might be unfair. A slight Beatles song is frequently still a fun Beatles song, after all. (See here, here, and here, just off the top of my head.) And so we have "Another Girl," a nice little pop number that I quite enjoy despite myself. The video from the movie helps-- I love it, despite its very silly level of sexism. I can't even necessarily say why. It's just awesome for me. Maybe it's John's cute pink shirt.

"Another Girl" will also go down in my personal history as the first Beatles song that I'm listening to from my brand-spanking-new mono box set. Oh, kiddies, the packaging alone is making me emit squeals of joy! I can't even begin to tell you! Original record wrappers, even, ads for cleaning cloths to preserve my microgroove records!! SQUEE! Oh, kids, don't you miss packaging in this day and age of digital downloads?

Okay, so anyway, listening to "Another Girl" in original mono right now I'm most struck by something other commentators have mentioned about the catalog as a whole, which is the more discernible bass line. And this is good, because I never noticed what a sweet little bass line Paul's got here. I mean, okay, it's not one of his great bass masterpieces, maybe, but it has a pleasant little jumping-around quality that I admit to kind of missing previously. George's little guitar flourishes have never really stood out to me so much before, either. They sound a little richer, perhaps less like more punctuation and more overtly jocular. In fact, those guitar licks sound downright mocking and playful-- as if, yeah, the Beatles are breaking up with you, and are probably aware that they're being dicks, but they're kind of confident you're not going to get too pissed off about it. (Compare the mood here to, say, "You're Going to Lose that Girl," and you can really hear the adolescent unseriousness in this one.) George's moments lighten the tone of Paul's singing, which in the verses is weirdly low-range and kind of mumbly, as if slightly sheepish.

The one move toward a small bit of seriousness is in the bridge, which is totally the song's best moment. The element of the unexpected which Paul introduces here is neat, both in the way the lyrics of the chorus run right into this new musical material which nary a breath, and the way that there's a surprising modulation from A to C, which adds a nice richness. And then there's the fact that the singing in the bridge is so lovely. Not only are the three-part harmonies that John and George help Paul out with here as lush and heartfelt as can be, Paul's letting himself have that moment of wailing away at the top of his range on "through thick and thin," which is a nice change from the mumbly verses. This is a case in which the bridge is probably how "Another Girl" ended up in the movie soundtrack in the first place. What you've got otherwise is a sort of ordinary ditty that lacks meat. The bridge lifts "Another Girl" from such obscurity and gives it a bit more of the air of a classic. And, kiddies, let me assure you that never has this been clearer than right now as I listen to it in the digitally remastered mono.

The Help! mono album features the mono track as well as the original 1965 stereo remastered tracks, which I can now compare. Listening with headphones, as I'm doing, I have to admit that it feels a lot more normal to hear this in stereo-- one is used, in this day and age, to hearing different things in each ear, and the mono version took a very small bit of getting used to this way. Anyway, the studio version is still a fabulous improvement over what we had before. You can hear the bass possibly even better here, for instance, and I'm catching some good cymbal work from Ringo that I didn't expect to be there either.

You know, if you haven't listened to your new box sets yet, I think I have to recommend starting with a throwaway like "Another Girl." If I can hear the differences here, I'm beside myself to hear the rest. Work yourself up to the ones that you know are going to blow your mind, and maybe save all of Sgt. Pepper for last just to draw out the fun. It's probably what I'll do, anyway...

"Another Girl," released in the U.K. side A track 5 of Help!, August 6, 1965; in the U.S., side B track 1 of Capitol's Help!, August 13, 1965.


  1. Hey Meg, I'm still waiting on my mono box set to arrive. Head winds appear to be delaying it! I hadn't thought about what to actually listen to first. Hmmm .... I may very well just take the albums in order.

    Good to have you back. From your post above, it doesn't appear you have gotten rusty!

  2. Yay Meg!

    Like Frank, I was late to order mono, so I'm listening to the stereo set, in order. Weirdly, the bass is very low on everything so far. (I'm through Revolver and four tracks into Past Masters II.) I'm working on a theory where bass and, say, drums got recorded on one channel, and so in the stereo mix, either the bass has to be low or the drums would be too loud, but then wouldn't the mono suffer similar problems? Confusing. The stereo's kind of a disappointment so far. It's good for two things: hearing details you've never heard before especially some of the shythm guitar lines (also, I somehow failed to hear that John actually yawns in I'm Only Sleeping) and the high mix of harsh instruments. I always felt the guitar was too abrasive on I'm Looking Through You, the same way I felt about the keyboard not meshing with the guitar in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but I can tell you that both sound way better on the stereo set. I don't regret buying it, because I'd always have regretted not buying it, but I can't wait to hear mono. The mono tracks on Past Masters have been underwhelming.

  3. My finances forced me to go begging to my mom for the stereo box set as a Christmas present, so I'll be in the dark until December, sadly. (Hi, Mom! And thanks again!) But I'm sorry it's so disappointing. Hope you like the mono more. I'm kind of drawing out the process of listening to the whole thing, but Help! didn't disappoint at all. I think (hope) you guys will both dig it.

  4. So, I admit, at least part of the reason I love "Another Girl" is definitely the video. On a shamelessly superficial level, I have to say, all four of them were at their most gorgeous during "Help" (no matter what John said about this being his "fat Elvis period".) Seeing them all so goofy switching instruments is a kick.

    That said, I love the song, too. I love how it bounces. I love the "sheepish" quality you mention. So maybe it'll never be in my top-10 Beatles tracks (or top 20 ...). But it's definitely high up on my list of "less than serious" Beatles tracks.

    I have both the mono and stereo sets and have been awed by both. My daughter prefers the stereo: she thinks it sounds louder, heftier. I'm leaning toward the mono. But the bass sounds sharper and clearer in both (to me) than in any of my old Beatles CDs. And I"m with you on the packaging. I must be a marketer's dream because I fell for the whole thing. I even bought the "Box of Vison" -- simply to get the big, album-sized book. And the book is AWESOME. No regrets.

  5. Hello fellow Beatles fan! I wanted to share this video with you. Its been geeting allot of attention on the internet and I think u might like it! enjoy!


  6. Ooh, Anon, I did have mild Box of Vision envy! Glad you like it. I am a complete marketer's dream on this one, trust me. I might have to save up for that one for sure....

    And YES, they were at their most gorgeous in Help!. Particularly John, in my opinion. Siiiigh. He might be right about Fat Elvis or whatever, but he looks much more natural in Help! than in his post-heroin phase in the later '60s, I think.