No Reply:

“Now You’re Gone” - The SpongeTones
Torn Apart; 1984

Now we enter the Beatles' great "acoustic" period, and the songs which anticipate the famous folkie leanings of the next couple of albums. There were still electric songs scattered here and there, but the sound from this period was defined more by the big acoustic rhythm guitars underneath the harmonies, as opposed to the more pop and rock sound that came before and after.

A transitional record, this might be the most neglected Beatles album, if there is such a thing. Beatles For Sale (or Beatles '65 or Beatles VI or whatever else it was that Capitol put out) tends to get dismissed while Rubber Soul and Revolver get all the glory. I’m guessing it’s all the cover songs on it -- reverting to the same pattern as their first two albums, but the time for that was past. The originals are all pretty great -- or at least have greatness in them. If they'd been able to fill this album with originals, it might have been a mini-Rubber Soul. Or at least a Help! Oh well; coulda shoulda woulda. Didn't.

So, with that ado: On “Now You’re Gone,” the SpongeTones zero right in on the acoustic sound, and “No Reply” in particular. The big energetic chorus, the heavy piano bassline anchoring the guitars, the way it launches right into the vocal -- plus a nifty George Martin-style harpsichord solo. And one must always remember to say “gull” for “girl."

 

"Nobody Knows" - Scott McCarl
Yellow Pills Vol. 3; 1995
Of course, this is the Raspberries song (Fresh Raspberries; 1972), but in this solo verison, Scott McCarl's Lennon-esque voice underlines the clear melodic and dynamic similarities between this song and “No Reply.” Everybody knows, really.

 

I’m a Loser:

“A Clown’s No Good” - The Merry Go Round
You're A Very Lovely Woman/Live; 1967

God Bless You, Emitt Rhodes. This song nails perfectly the country-inflected sound typical of this Beatles period, including the volume-control lead guitar they were getting into around then. In addition to the obvious parallels in the title and lyric.

 

Baby’s In Black:

“Gonna Fight The War” - The Merry Go Round
You're A Very Lovely Woman/Live; 1967

I wouldn't guess that “Baby’s In Black” ranks at the top of most people’s lists of Beatles favorites -- or “Dig A Pony,” to which "Baby’s in Black" is something of a precursor. But even if this wasn’t their greatest effort, it still achieves liftoff in the bridge. Nobody else sounded like those voices singing together. I guess the Beatles can only be so bad.

The characteristics of "Baby’s In Black" are pretty easy to spot - waltz time, big twangy lead guitars. Lyrically though, Emitt Rhodes brings a social comment to this that the Beatles themselves would feel constrained from doing for a few more years. (Of course, the issue was more pressing for Emitt, since presumably he was actually facing the draft and Vietnam -- John wasn’t.)

 

“I Am On My Own” - The Dave Clark 5
I Like It Like That; Nov. 15, 1965
Same general description musically: 3/4 time, and the same big twangy guitar lines. It’s also interesting to note that often, a song that sounds like a Beatles song musically will take a similar lyrical theme as well, as this song does -- although it’s not so morbid. According to Mark Lewisohn’s book, on the session tapes for “Baby’s in Black,” George Martin makes the comment, “You want the beginning like that, do you?” The DC5 do the beginning like that, and the ending too, with the heavy, slightly off-kilter guitar line. But even without it, it’s pretty hard to disguise "Baby’s in Black."

 

“Suzette” - Foster & Lloyd
Faster & Llouder; 1989
Unless you’re Bill Lloyd! “Suzette” was the first thing I ever heard of his, when I saw Foster & Lloyd performing it on TV, and it struck me that it was “Baby’s in Black” disguised as a country song. That made me sit up and take notice, especially since (of all Beatles songs) the source was so obscure. It’s the melody in the chorus here that makes me think of the “She thinks of him, and so she dresses in black” part. It might seem a little tenuous, but given Bill Lloyd's proclivity to bring pop elements to the country music he did with his partner, it actually begins to make sense.

 

"Child of the Universe” - The Byrds
Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde; 1969
This song is a bit further removed from the others in its musical structure, but I wanted to mention it because it’s another big noisy rock’n’roll waltz whose sound is kind of raucous (and rollous) in a way that "Baby’s In Black" might be responsible for. The huge kettle drums and rough vocal mix always sounded a little offputting to me, and I was surprised to see that, given its lack of user-friendliness, it made it onto the Candy movie soundtrack, while the Byrds song “Candy” itself, which was written specifically for the film -- and which sounded a lot catchier -- didn’t. According to John York (newly arrived as the Byrds' new bass player), the film’s producers didn’t like the fact that he, an unknown, was one of the writers of the song “Candy,” so they had Roger McGuinn work with Dave Grusin instead, giving us “Child of the Universe.” But I digress.

 

"Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass" - Buck Owens
Single; 1969
To the uninitiated, the late, great Buck Owens might only mean “Hee Haw,” but there was much more to Buck than just a Red, White and Blue guitar. He and the Beatles were big mutual fans, and their effect on each other was evident in the brand of Country-Pop that they each created, be it Country-Pop or Pop-Country. Buck’s “Bakersfield Sound” brought a lot of pop elements to country music, and the harpsichord in this song would not exactly be your standard “Western” element. But it’s the stinging lead guitar and waltz time that really tie it to “Baby’s In Black.”

 

Rock And Roll Music:

“Here I Go Again” - The SpongeTones
Beat Music; 1982
Another "cover of a cover," and one which actually out-Beatles the Beatles. But how do they get that whirling helicopter/UFO sound? With an electric jug, like the 13th Floor Elevators?

 

I’ll Follow The Sun:

“So Long” - The Kinks
Kinda Kinks; Recorded Feb. 15-17, 1965
Take a soft acoustic guitar, add a wistful lyric about being a lonesome rover, and there you are. It even uses the lyric "I’ll be on my way” in the verse.

 

“This Time Tomorrow” - The Move
B-side to Curly; 1969
Same general description as “I’ll Follow the Sun,” but coming a few years afterward, it adds some later influences, like the backwards guitar coda.

 

Mr. Moonlight:

“Forever” - The Mojos
Single; Aug. 8, 1963
This one was another real find, (from a See For Miles compilation that is -- yikes! -- 20 years old now); I never would have expected to come up with a match for this. And it improves on the "original," as it were. (Make that “vastly improves”: “Mr. Moonlight” often ranks among fans as the #2 worst Beatles song ever, behind only “Revolution #9” -- which would make "Mr. Moonlight" the #1 worst, if you’re talking about songs.)

This song was written by one of the band members, which is always a good sign: When you’ve got a pop band from the ‘60s who aren’t experienced songwriters, the songs they do write are especially fertile ground for finding Beatles influences -- as opposed to “real” songwriters, who hide their influences better. The verse in “Forever” uses the same melody from the “And from your beam, you made my dream” bit and makes a pretty good song out of it. Perhaps the Mojos' might have gone down in rock history if only they'd thought to incorporate a Roller-Rink organ into their song as the Beatles did with "Mr. Moonlight." That separates the men from the boys.

However: This was released more than a year before the Beatles even recorded "Mr. Moonlight" (even the Hollies put a version out first) so inferring a Beatles connection here is...a little more difficult. "Mr. Moonlight" was originally a b-side by Roy lee Johnson (recording as "Dr. Feelgood & The Interns") from 1962 -- presumably one of those R&B "imports" to which the Liverpool bands were privy at that time. And the Beatles weren't the only Northern beat group who did the song. But here's my thought: The Beatles had been playing "Mr. Moonlight" live at least since their Star Club days -- where the Mojos, another Liverpool band, also "apprenticed" at the time. So they might well have been the source from whom the Mojos learned it. It could also be significant that the Mojos didn't record this song until after Beatlemania hit. Could be.

 

Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey:

“Leave” - The Buffalo Springfield
Buffalo Springfield; Recorded August 1966
Well, Stephen Stills gave us the title for this project, and this is the band that was his vehicle for trying to realize the dream. And, naturally, this would be one of his songs, since he was more the Beatles wannabe than Neil or Richie. And, once again, it ups the energy level and outdoes the "original," as it were. That’s where Neil’s contribution comes in - nobody else played manic solos quite like that, especially back then when his vocabulary of guitar licks wasn’t as extensive.

 

Eight Days A Week:

“That’s Not Right” - Utopia
Deface The Music; 1980
Okay, this is overt, so nothing much to say here. About the only thing they didn’t do was the trademark fadeup intro. But that’s easliy fixed when putting it cassette.

 

“I’m Free” - The Rolling Stones
December's Children; December 1965
‘Bout time the Stones showed up. Featuring the Andrew Loog Oldham tambourine. (Baby baby baby, it’s out of time.) Anyway, the connection here is the bridge: “Hold me, love me.” No, wait -- theirs goes, “Love me, hold me.” I stand corrected.

 

Words Of Love:

“Too Much” - The Easybeats
Single; August 1966
For some reason it seems like there were a lot of cover songs on Beatles For Sale, but really, there were just as many on their first two albums: Six. Maybe it's that we had come to expect better from the Beatles by this point, or maybe that the covers weren't as consistently good as they had been previously, but the strain on the group was really starting to show, as they had to lean on their old live repertoire to fill out the album. Capitol's idea for a live album from the Beatles around this time didn't work out; if John, Paul and George hadn't managed to pick up the songwriting pace after this, maybe the next step would have been to take a page from Brian Wilson's book and do Beatles Party! in order to come up with more product on schedule.

Anyway. “Words of Love” is for my money the best of the covers here, and “Too Much” sounds about as close as someone could come to doing the Beatles-doing-Buddy Holly without using any actual “Ah-haow-haow” vocals. But one can only wonder how good this would sound if George and Harry had sung in tune.

 

"A Summer Song" - Chad & Jeremy
Single; Autumn 1964
Chad & Jeremy, purveyors of the “Oxford Sound.” (Sole purveyors, one would imagine.)

There’s a distinctive melody line in the wordless humming part in “Words of Love,” a 1-2-3-1-2 pattern of notes, if you will. You can find that pattern in several songs from this period, so it definitely wore well. I don’t put "A Summer Song" forward as being derived from the Beatles’ version of “Words of Love” -- they didn’t even record it until the time this was being released -- but it certainly seems to owe something to the original, and it’s interesting that it did come from almost exactly the same time period as the Beatles' version. Perhaps the Beatles had been kicking “Words of Love” around and that had an influence on the writing of this song, or perhaps they heard this, recognized the Buddy Holly connection and were inspired to do the original -- or perhaps there’s no Beatles connection at all. The writers were David Stuart, Clive Metcalf and Keith Noble, authors of other Chad & Jeremy material from this period, and in the English scene, who knows who knew who and what everybody else was up to. Great illustration of the melodic hook, anyway.

 

"Love Unreturned" - The Redcoats
Meet The Redcoats...Finally!; Recorded 1965

“Aow, aow, aow.” Anything that sounds like Beatles doing Buddy Holly gets slotted here.

 

"Cherry Red" - The Bee Gees
Single; Recorded February 1966
As “And I Love Her” was to “Yesterday,” so "Cherry Red" was to “I Started A Joke.” There’s the key "Words of Love" melody pattern again.

 

“Your Number or Your Name” - The Knack
Get The Knack; 1979
A bit uptempo to be "Words of Love," perhaps, but anything that sounds like the Beatles doing Buddy Holly...

 

Honey Don’t:

“Goin’ Nowhere Tonight” - The Raspberries
Raspberries; 1972
"Goin’ Nowhere Tonight" combines elements from a couple of Beatles songs; it has the easygoing pace of “Honey Don’t” (as well as Dave Smalley’s Ringo-like vocal), whereas the bridge is “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party."

 

Every Little Thing:

“Had To Run Around” - The Merry Go Round
You're A Very Lovely Woman/Live; Recorded May 7, 1967
Kind of slowed down and mellower compared to “Every Little Thing,” but the two seem to interleave very well, especially in their codas, with each song having its own call and response between the vocal and guitar.

 

“Take Your Time” - The Hollies
Would You Believe?; June 1966
No wait, this is a Buddy Holly song. But this is no Buddy Holly arrangement. Strictly Merseybeat. More to the point, the opening guitar lick is virtually a straight lift from “Every Little Thing” -- and wasn't in Buddy's original either. The overall sound is Beatles For Sale as well, which seems to be typical of the Hollies and the other British groups -- always an album or two behind the Beatles in terms of sound fidelity.

 

I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party:

“If She Finds Out” - The Twilights
Single; Early 1966
One of the very first Twilights songs, from 1966; self-written and self-produced -- and therefore a likely suspect. Certainly no question of what the Twilights were about, either; they were renowned for their spot-on Beatles imitation in concert. This has that real strong country-ish backbeat, similar chord changes, melody and group vocals of “Spoil The Party."

 

“Won’t You Please” - The Shakers
Break It All; February 1966
The same country feel, tempo and guitar solo; the same key, even. The chorus comes straight from “Help!” (the “Won’t you please” part, naturally) but overall the song has the bouncier feel of “Spoil the Party,” as opposed to the more prominent backbeat of "Help!" To tell the truth, the country-ish songs of the Beatles, (“I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party”; “I’m a Loser”; “I’ll Cry Instead”; “What Goes On”; even “I’m Looking Through You”) form another group of songs with similar musical elements, so the stylistic distinctions can get rather fine -- even more so when trying to differentiate between (alleged) copies of those songs -- but we shall persevere nonetheless.

 

What You’re Doing:

“What Am I Going To Do” - The Dovers
B-side to She's Gone ; September 1965
From the Nuggets Box Set. Another previously buried gem by an obscure band from Santa Barbara, and it fits right into the time frame, too, having come out 3 months after Beatles VI -- the American source for “What You’re Doing.”

The guitar riff is "What You're Doing" cut in half. Once more, it’s a song by a first time songwriter, which makes it etc. etc. The title and lyric are revealing, too.

 

“Where You Goin’” - Revolver
Radio Tokyo Tapes Vol. 3; Compilation album, PVC Records; 1985
Not a precise match musically, but this is definitely of the mid-period "flavor": Big acoustic sound, block harmonies, and a spot-on John vocal (“Hey, Gull.”) But the title gives me the excuse to put this here. Revolver were an L.A. Beatles-tribute band along the lines of the Pleasers or SpongeTones. They did a couple of obscure covers from the Beatles’ early days (“Some Other Guy”; “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You”) and a couple of originals. Since Revolver, bandmembers Jonathan Lea and Rolo Sandoval have gone on to Powerpoppers the Jigsaw Seen (www.jigsawseen.com) and the Fab Four (www.thefabfour.net) respectively, the Fab Four doing did a couple of great Beatles soundalike Christmas albums on LaserLight Records.

 

Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby:

“Glad All Over” - Liverpool
Me Gusta Que Te Guste; 1991
“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” seems like a redundant contribution to Beatles For Sale, since it’s another Carl Perkins song much like "Honey Don’t” (so any song that fits there might fit here too, I suppose.) Maybe they did it because it was such a fitting comment on Beatlemania, but I would contend that this song is one the major reasons why the album gets a bad rap. The perfect song to be drowned out at Shea Stadium.

I thought I’d really found something when I first heard this song -- a great Carl Perkins-style number that sounds just like "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby." (Hey, what are the chances?) But then I investigted and discovered the reason why; it is a Carl Perkins song. Bah. Oh well, at least these guys (from Madrid) had the good sense to pick one that the Beatles didn’t do. And as with the Shakers, their accents add to the charm, especially when they get to the “Hot dang dilly, it’s silly” part.

 

Singles:

I Feel Fine:
Single; Nov. 27, 1964

On a general note, "I Feel Fine" serves as an illustration of the somewhat esoteric aspect of our whole process of analysis and speculation: On Elliot Mintz's "The Lost Lennnon Tapes" radio program from the late 1980s, there’s a part where John tells us that he lifted the riff from Bobby Parker’s 1961 R&B hit “Watch Your Step” (which itself he aptly describes as “Son of ‘What’d I Say’”) and used it in one of his songs. Actually, he says that “the Beatles” used it in various forms. He didn't specify which of his songs he was talking about, but it’s obviously "I Feel Fine." In the program, though, they follow his comment by playing "Watch Your Step" so that you can hear the riff, and then segue into "Day Tripper." No, no, no. Now, there is a school of thought that "Day Tripper" fits too, but I disagree. I'll go into that more under "Day Tripper," but for now I'll just say that "Day Tripper" is not the example you'd use to illustrate the use of the "Watch Your Step" riff. Now, I know that in the intro to this site I said that the writings here reflect one man's opinion, but it isn't all just a matter of opinion. There is certainly room for interpretation in this kind of exercise, but hey, you gotta listen, too. Okay, end of rant.

 

I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better -- The Byrds
Mr. Tambourine Man; Recorded Apr. 14, 1965
The Beatles felt fine; the Byrds felt even better. Probably. Eventually.

The Byrds had plenty of highs, but many would say that this was their finest moment - certainly a heckofa way to start showcasing your band's songwriting abilities. Maybe the greatest “Number Two” track ever put on album, if that's a category that has any cache. They also distilled their own version of the 4/4 “Mersey” beat, perhaps, and it was the hallmark sound of virtually every song on their debut album. A kind of stately, staccato feel in the rhythm guitar, snare drum and ride cymbal, creating their chiming, “ting-ting-ting” sound. A rather dignified beat for rock’n’roll, befitting the Byrds’ folk roots. But still good for dancing the “Twistfrugwatusijerk” referred to in the album's liner notes, since it could be played sometimes as a folk anthem, sometimes a mashed potato, sometimes a surf beat.

Any resemblance to “I Feel Fine” isn’t exactly obvious, since there are so many other Byrds-y elements here, but there are a couple of things going on under the surface I can point to. First, there's the riff, which pretty clearly comes from "Needles and Pins," written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. In Jackie DeShannon's original, Spectorish version from May of 1963, the riff was a bit more subtle; it was the Searchers' guitar-based version in Feb. 1964 that really turned it into a riff.

Now as we mentioned, it's well documented that the "I Feel Fine" riff came from Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step," but that's not all there is to it -- it does start off that way, and follows its rhythm throughout, but the second half has the same little pattern of notes as "Needles and Pins." So that may have been in the mix, too, and if that was the case, then "Feel a Whole Lot Better" and "I Feel Fine" would have a bit of common ancestry, if no actual cause-and-effect relationship.

But more to the point, there's the chord progression of the Byrds song. Normally, a typical 3-chord, “1-4-5” rocker would start on to the "1" chord (G), move up to "4" (C) and turn around through "5" (D), but “I Feel Fine” went the other way around, going from G down to D, and turning around through C, i.e. 1-5-4. With a few minor elaborations chord-wise, “Feel A Whole Lot Better” did essentially the same thing; 1-5-4. Not the average move.

And this was recorded just a few months after “I Feel Fine” came out. It is also interesting to note that it was not part of the “Preflyte” material from mid-late 1964, so it would seem to have been written right in this time period, too.

* A few other examples from this school would be the Kinks’ “Ring The Bells” (which also quotes “I Feel Fine” lyrically); the opening to the Move’s “Fire Brigade”; and Sonny & Cher's “The Beat Goes On” -- which brings us back to Bono.

 

“You Said That” - The Easybeats
Volume 3; November 1966
"You Said That" is greatly speeded up compared to “I Feel Fine,” and really the only specific similarity that I can point to is the comparison of the “You said that” and the “She says so” lines. Definitely Beatlish, but it would be a stronger connection if it had that...what would you call it, a rhumba beat? Some kind of Afro-Carribean rhythm, with those offbeat tom toms.

 

“Looks Like Trouble” - The Allusions
Single; 1966
For the first five seconds, you wouldn't know this from “I Feel Fine” itself. That is, they figured out how to do the feedback thing. Then they based their whole song on it. Making a song out of one note is quite a trick. Actually, it kind of turns into “Taxman," but that's another story.

 

She’s a Woman:
B-side; Nov. 27, 1964

“Cool Hearted Girl” - The SpongeTones
Beat Music; 1982
“Buoy” meets “Gull.”

 

“She’s About a Mover” - The Sir Douglas Quintet
Single; March 1965
As we mentioned in the prologue, this one was overt: It was a specific attempt to recreate the “British Sound,” and it came out 4 months after “She’s a Woman.” So, voila! Pretty obvious, in retrospect. Interesting that these guys also tried to emulate the British image in other ways, (e.g. with their name and clothing style) because Doug Sahm didn’t sound the least bit British, so he wasn’t fooling anybody. But hey, they certainly had a hit, so who am I to argue?

 

“Salesman” - The Monkees
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.; Recorded June 19, 1967
I was thinking of how this reminded me of “She’s A Woman,” and then Iread in the liner notes of “Instant Replay” where Mike Nesmith says he was actually trying to get that Sir Douglas Quintet sound! So I guess we can’t just count anything that has a good backbeat as a match for “She’s a Woman.” But I will anyway. Then that would mean that we'd have to include "Star Collector"...and "Gonna Buy Me a Dog"...and “Grand Ennui.”

 

“A Room of Our Own” - Billy Joel
The Nylon Curtain; 1982
This is the album where Billy worked out his Beatles fantasies -- and not subconciously. This was his “Paul” song. (His “John” song will show up later.) "She's A Woman's backbeat, as well as Paul’s “One, Two, Three, Faaaa!” count in from “I Saw Her Standing There” -- although the chorus is more reminiscent of “Dr. Robert” (the “He’ll make you a better man” part.) If only these people would stick to one song. Frustrating. Incidentally, you can tell that this is one of Billy’s Real Rock Songs because he uses an electric piano, for added toughness.

 

Bad Boy:
Beatles VI; June 14, 1965

“I’m Gonna Have You” - The Swinging Blue Jeans
B-side to Sandy; June 1966
"Bad Boy" was another one of those pesky cover songs the Beatles did ( the original written and recorded by Larry Williams in 1959), so what we need here is a song that is arguably not only a rewrite of it, but also derived from (or at least influenced by) the Beatles' version.

What we've got with "I'm Gonna Have You" is a lot of "Hully Gully," but the guitar that answers each vocal line is right from the "Bad Boy" template. Whether it's related to the Beatles' version is an iffier question. All the Liverpool bands from the Cavern years were just as well-schooled as the Beatles were in R&B artists like Larry Williams, but maybe their doing "Bad Boy" put the song in the Blue Jeans' heads again a little bit when they came to write this. If they'd done it before the Beatles did "Bad Boy" I'd rule it out, but this was a year later, so, in my mind, still in play.

 

Yes It Is:
B-side to Ticket To Ride; April 9, 1965

“How Love Was True” - The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees Sing And Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs; Recorded Sept. 1965
It’s not a waltz, but so much else with this is right on target, particularly the feel and harmonies. Such a great song. Both of them. “Yes It Is” is my favorite Beatles song, so logically this must be my favorite Bee Gees song.

Australian rock historian Glenn A. Baker says that he hears the Beatles' version of "Devil In Her Heart" in "How Love Was True," and there is a resemblance in the way that the backing vocals come in during the second half of each verse. But that's also true of the bridge of "Yes It Is," so maybe we can fold that in here.