I believe it is a safe accusation to make that everybody, at least once in their life, has heard the term “Beatlemania” before. As almost everyone knows, the term Beatlemania was coined in the early 1960’s, just as the band was getting publicity from the media. Within a year or two, everything from Beatle wigs to Beatle lunchboxes painted the shelves of countless merchandise outlets across the globe. Beatlemania was peaking towards the end of 1963, the exact time that the fab four was getting ready to release their sophomore effort, With the Beatles.
From one of the most famous and recognizable album covers that eyes have ever laid on, one that greets the guaranteed satisfied customer when they purchase the album, to the release date, November 22nd, 1963, the day that the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was shot down by an assailant in Dallas, Texas, With The Beatles is truly an oddity within itself. The album is an elementary working from a band we’ve seen so many behemoth albums come from. The structure: a disorganized heap of eight originals and six covers, most of which trace us back to Motown, the very place that the roots of this heavily celebrated ensemble are implanted in. Keep in mind that this was all thrown together in about one hundred twenty-seven days, or for those of you who are to lazy to do the math, a smidgen over five months. And because John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr released the album in their most childish stage, you know you’re info a real treat, right?
Not exactly. With the Beatles is by far the most elementary working from the fab four. If there is an area that is to blame for, it would be the technicality department. The instrumentation/musicianship is so stiff. Tracks such as All I’ve Got To Do, Little Child, and Hold Me Tight perfectly fit the requirements of this ideology like none other. Each track showcases one of the following: mediocre drumming, guitar/bass playing that does not layer properly, or to take it to the most drastic of measures, a combo of both. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Ringo Starr a great deal. But in all honesty, With the Beatles was not his moment in the spotlight, that’s for sure. On most of the tracks, Ringo simply pounds away at the Hi-hat, the cymbals, and the snare drum as if he were a child who just received their first drum kit on Christmas morning. On most Beatles albums (most notably Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road) one couldn’t ask for a more perfect layering of guitar and bass. All I’ve Got To Do displays possibly one of the worst meshes (if we can even call it that) of bass and guitar a Beatles songs has ever seen before. (mainly because of the thick layer of fuzz that engulfs it) The vocals aren’t exempt from evaluation, either. It’s not that their bad or anything like that, nah. John sings a little over half of the songs on the album, and it gets a little to repetitive. If the guys split the songs up fairly between John, Paul, and George, (unfortunately our friend Ringo doesn’t get to sing any songs on this album), I’m sure we’d be in for a much more enjoyable listening experience.
But let us remember, this is a Beatles album, it cannot simply be referred to as a treacherous album. Wherever the instrumentation brings the album down, the covers sure gain With the Beatles major plus points. (Except for the corny Until There Was You, taken from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man
) Rollover Beethoven fairs as the best cover. The Beatles capture the incomparable mood of Chuck Berry as if it was nothing at all, with swift guitar riffs and all the other typical bru-ha-ha. With the opening guitar riff of the song, you can almost picture John reenacting the signature Berry move, otherwise known as the duckwalk. Money (That’s What I Want) ends the album on a fairly strong note. The vocals are a bit shabby, but for a song that is driven by both a piano and a guitar at the same time, it passes the usual standards with flying colors.
And let us not forget about their very own songs. It Won’t Be Long is an excellently crafted track. It starts the album so suddenly that the listener will be unsuspecting of the musical deities that await him or her. It Won’t Be Long is the
definition of an early Beatles song: full of flare, pop, and fun, attributing to the enjoyable aspect of the song. All My Loving could be referred to as an ancestor to Back In the U.S.S.R. With Paul’s slick vocals and presumptuous bass line, as well as the simple guitar line offered from the duo of Rickenbacker’s, All My Loving makes for an almost obvious observation sitting in the open, waiting to be meddled with. Don’t Bother Me is the only contribution George makes to With the Beatles. We’ve seen better contributions from the quiet Beatle, but keep in mind that this is his first ever contribution made towards the Beatles. Aside from the main guitar riff, which needs tweaking, Don’t Bother Me moves along swiftly.
The Beatles have always been infamous for the facsimile subjects they enjoy incorporating into the albums of their repertoire. And the subject that’s mustered into this particular album the most? Love. But of course, how could we have guessed any other subject? Until Rubber Soul, every Beatles album revolved around love and girls. Typical, really. And at points on With the Beatles, especially with All I’ve Got To Do, and Till There Was You, the love ballads can weaken a fairly robust album. But at the same time, you’ve got to enjoy them. Because of tracks such as, Hold Me Tight and I Wanna Be Your Man, the fab can churn what one would think as a fairly corny tune into a catchy Beatles ballad.
With the Beatles is a step down from the usual frenetic Beatles album. The album doesn’t mean to show us the poppy side of the band that has been dubbed the most phenomenal pop band the world has ever seen, but it rather means to gives us a taste of who and what the band was influenced by. And with a cd that’s run time is only thirty-two minutes long, one has to wonder if this cd really made a difference in the fabled career of the Beatles. Of course it did at the time of it’s release, but now, not so much, especially when compared to the likes of Revolver or The White Album. To put it in the best terms, With the Beatles is Beatlemania at its most bland point in existence. But hey, every band has to start somewhere, right?