Thursday, 15 August 2013

A further extract from Bizarre Beatles Coincidences (please help fund the book)

Another extract from my forthcoming book Bizarre Beatles Coincidences. Please consider contributing to my Kickstarter page as the American publishers withdrew their offer once they read the completed MS for some reason.


I'm sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair
You were in a car crash and you lost your hair

So runs the lyric of Ringo Starr's Don't Pass Me By, one of Ringo's most accomplished compositions, according to top Beatles authority Howard Goodall, who has singled out that couplet in particular for its "playfulness, originality and invention." He continues:
The unexpectedness of Starkey's vision, perhaps as a result of the Indian soujourn which had such a profound effect on him, enables us all to see the world afresh.
It is a bold, disturbing image, certainly. But original? I think not, Mr Goodall.

The Beach Boys' She's Goin' Bald was issued on their Smiley Smile album the previous year. It is well known that Brian Wilson felt crushed when he first heard the originality and invention in the album Beatles for Sale, but the "Fabs" can hardly be blamed for that - they were just too good at that moment.

But Starkey's hitherto unnoticed "borrowing" of Brian Wilson's ideas (perhaps egged on by Mike Love while in India in an effort to quell his cousin's wilder flights of fancy) is another matter.

Those ready to protest that all this is mere coincidence should consider this. She's Goin' Bald alludes musically to the doo wop song Get a Job by the Silhouettes ("Sha na na na ..."). Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded an answer record, Got a Job of which the Beatles would doubtless have been aware. And, spurred on by the Miracles' answer record, over the next few years their collective anntenae would have been on the alert for further musical responses to the doo wop classic.

Perhaps - who knows? - Happiness is a Warm Gun was originally intended as a continuation of Get a Job but on the advice of George Martin the lyrics were changed because of the Smiley Smile track, as the group wanted to shake off their old tag as Beach Boys copyists, and so the imagery resurfaced in Ringo's song.

No one can be sure at this date. The White Album was a time when all four Beatles were working closely and happily together, making and sharing ideas, resulting in what is, by general agreement, the most cohesive of all their "long players." Ideas were plucked out of the air, from each other, from records they owned, and there were no protests about who had originated a song: most of the compositions were jointly credited to all four. A playful tussle over a packet of biscuits gave George Harrison three song ideas in the space of an afternoon.

It is possible, then, that Ringo unconsciously borrowed from the Brian Wilson song, a bit like George did with the Chiffons' One Fine Day. Ringo has admitted that some days he woke up with a song in his head, convinced it was a new Starkey composition, only to discover that it was What Goes On. Again. I therefore make no pronouncement about the autograph-avoiding drummer's intentions. I, for one, shall not presume to judge him.

But one thing is for certain now you have read the above. When you listen to Don't Pass Me By your feelings cannot be those of unalloyed pleasure.

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