|Beatles for Sale|
|Studio album by The Beatles|
|Released||4 December 1964|
|Recorded||11 August – 26 October 1964|
|Studio||EMI Studios, London|
|Genre||Folk rock, rock and roll|
|The Beatles chronology|
Beatles for Sale is the fourth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 4 December 1964 in the United Kingdom on EMI's Parlophone label. Eight of the album's fourteen tracks appeared on Capitol Records' concurrent release, Beatles '65, issued in North America only. The album marked a departure from the ebullient tone that had characterised the Beatles' previous work, partly due to the band's exhaustion after a series of tours that had established them as a worldwide phenomenon in 1964. The songs introduced darker musical moods and more introspective lyrics, with John Lennon adopting an autobiographical perspective in compositions such as "I'm a Loser" and "No Reply". The album also reflected the twin influences of country music and Bob Dylan, whom the Beatles met in New York in August 1964.
The Beatles recorded the album at EMI Studios in London in between their touring and radio engagements. Partly as a result of the group's hectic schedule, only eight of the tracks are original compositions, with cover versions of songs by artists such as Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Little Richard being used to complete the album. The sessions also produced a non-album single, "I Feel Fine" backed by "She's a Woman".
In Britain, Beatles for Sale held the number 1 spot for eleven of the 46 weeks that it spent in the top twenty. The album was similarly successful in Australia, where the band's cover of Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" also topped the singles chart. One of the songs omitted from the US version of the album, "Eight Days a Week", became the Beatles' seventh number 1 in the United States when issued as a single there in February 1965. Beatles for Sale was not an official album in the US until 1987, when the Beatles' catalogue was standardised for release on CD.
When Beatles for Sale was being recorded, Beatlemania was at its peak. In early 1964, the Beatles had made waves with their television appearances in the United States, sparking unprecedented demand for their records there. Over June and July, the band played concerts in Denmark, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, toured Australia and New Zealand, and then returned to Britain for a series of radio and television engagements and to promote their first feature film, A Hard Day's Night. After performing further concerts in Sweden, they began recording the new album in London in mid August, only to then depart for a month-long tour of North America.
Beatles for Sale was the Beatles' fourth album release in the space of 21 months. Neil Aspinall, the band's road manager, later reflected: "No band today would come off a long US tour at the end of September, go into the studio and start a new album, still writing songs, and then go on a UK tour, finish the album in five weeks, still touring, and have the album out in time for Christmas. But that's what the Beatles did at the end of 1964. A lot of it was down to naiveté, thinking that this was the way things were done. If the record company needs another album, you go and make one." Noting the subdued and melancholy tone of much of the album, producer George Martin recalled: "They were rather war weary during Beatles for Sale. One must remember that they'd been battered like mad throughout 1964, and much of 1963. Success is a wonderful thing but it is very, very tiring."
Although prolific, the Lennon–McCartney songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was unable to keep up with the demand for new material. To make up for the shortfall in output, the Beatles resorted to including several cover versions on the album. This had been their approach for their first two albums – Please Please Me and With the Beatles – but had been abandoned for A Hard Day's Night. McCartney said of the combination on Beatles for Sale: "Basically it was our stage show, with some new [original] songs."[nb 1]
The album features eight Lennon–McCartney compositions. In addition, the pair wrote both sides of the non-album single, "I Feel Fine" backed with "She's a Woman", which accompanied the LP's release. At this stage in their partnership, Lennon and McCartney rarely wrote together as before, but each would often contribute key parts to songs for which the other was the primary author. Nevertheless, Lennon's level of contribution to Beatles for Sale outweighed McCartney's, a situation that, as on A Hard Day's Night, author Ian MacDonald attributes to McCartney's commitment being temporarily sidetracked by his relationship with English actress Jane Asher.
At the time, Lennon said of the album: "You could call our new one a Beatles country and western LP." Music critic Tim Riley views the album as a "country excursion", while MacDonald describes it as being "dominated by the [country-and-western] idiom". The impetus for this new direction came partly from the band's exposure to US country radio stations while on tour; in addition, it was a genre that Ringo Starr had long championed. Lennon's "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" was an early example of country rock, anticipating the Byrds' work in that style. "I'm a Loser" was the first Beatles song to directly reflect the influence of Bob Dylan, and served as a precursor to the folk-rock explosion of 1965. Author Jonathan Gould highlights the influence of blues and country-derived rockabilly in both the album's original compositions and the inclusion of songs by Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly; he also comments that Dylan's acoustic folk sound was a style that the Beatles tended to identify as country music. McCartney considered that Beatles for Sale introduced a more mature phase for the band, marking a progression whereby "We got more and more free to get into ourselves. Our student selves rather than 'we must please the girls and make money' …"
The sessions for Beatles for Sale began at EMI Studios on 11 August, one month after the release of A Hard Day's Night. The majority of the recording sessions took place during a three-week period beginning on 29 September, following the band's return from the US tour. Much of the production was done on "days off" from performances in the UK, and most of the songwriting was completed in the studio.
George Harrison recalled that the band had become more sophisticated about recording techniques: "Our records were progressing. We'd started out like anyone spending their first time in a studio – nervous and naive and looking for success. By this time we'd had loads of hits and were becoming more relaxed with ourselves, and more comfortable in the studio ... We were beginning to do a little overdubbing, too, probably a four-track." The sessions resulted in the first use of a fade-in on a pop song, at the start of "Eight Days a Week", and the first time that guitar feedback had been incorporated in a pop recording, on "I Feel Fine".
The band also introduced new instrumentation into their basic sound, as a way to illustrate the more nuanced style adopted by Lennon in his lyric writing. This was especially evident in the range of percussion instruments, which, mainly played by Starr, included the band's first use of timpani, African hand drums and chocalho. According to MacDonald, the Beatles adopted a "less-is-more" approach in their arrangements; he cites "No Reply" as an example of the group beginning to "master the studio", whereby doubling basic parts and the use of reverb lent the performance "depth and space". As he had done since With the Beatles, Harrison continued to vary his guitar sounds, favouring a Gretsch Tennessean guitar for the first time, in addition to using his twelve-string Rickenbacker 360/12.
Recording was completed on 26 October, partway through the band's four-week tour of the UK. On 18 October, the Beatles had rushed back to London from Hull, to record the A-side of their forthcoming single, "I Feel Fine", and three of the album's cover tunes (in a total of five takes). The band participated in several mixing and editing sessions before completing the project on 4 November.
According to Lennon in 1972, Beatles music publisher Dick James was complimentary about "No Reply", saying that Lennon had provided "a complete story" whereas "before that, he thought my songs wandered off." Reviewer David Rowley said that its lyrics "read like a picture story from a girl's comic" and evoked a picture "of walking down a street and seeing a girl silhouetted in a window, not answering the telephone". Sequenced as the first track on Beatles for Sale, the song served as an uncharacteristic album opener, given its dramatic and resentful mood.
MacDonald recognises the effectiveness of the acoustic guitar backing and the treatment given to Martin's piano part, which is rendered as "a darkly reverbed presence" rather than a distinct instrument. Over this foundation, he continues, the vocals on the song are "massively haloed in echo", contributing to a middle-sixteen section that increases in intensity and is "among the most exciting thirty seconds" of all the Beatles' recordings.
Unterberger singles out "I'm a Loser" as "one of the very first Beatles compositions with lyrics addressing more serious points than young love". Rowley considered it to be an "obvious copy of Bob Dylan", as where Lennon refers to the listener as a "friend", Dylan does the same on "Blowin' in the Wind". He also said its intention was to "openly subvert the simple true love themes of their earlier work". In Riley's view, "I'm a Loser" inaugurates a theme in Lennon's writing, in which his songs serve as "personal responses to fame".[nb 2]
As the third track on the album, "Baby's in Black" conveys the same sad and resentful outlook of the two preceding songs. Music critic Richie Unterberger views it as "a love lament for a grieving girl that was perhaps more morose than any previous Beatles song". It was the first song recorded for the album and features a two-part harmony sung by Lennon and McCartney. McCartney recalled: "'Baby's in Black' we did because we liked waltz-time ... And I think also John and I wanted to do something bluesy, a bit darker, more grown-up, rather than just straight pop." Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn cites the band's dedication to achieving a discordant twanging sound for Harrison's lead guitar part, and Martin's objection to the song opening with this sound, as an example of the Beatles breaking free of their producer's control for the first time. To achieve the desired swelling effect, Lennon knelt on the studio floor and altered the volume control on Harrison's Gretsch as he played.[nb 3]
"I'll Follow the Sun" was a reworking of an old song. McCartney recalled in a 1988 interview: "I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16 ... We had this R&B image in Liverpool, a rock and roll/R&B/hardish image with the leather. So I think songs like 'I'll Follow the Sun', ballads like that, got pushed back to later." Author Mark Hertsgaard cites its inclusion as a reflection of the paucity of original material available to the band, since McCartney acknowledged that the song "wouldn't have been considered good enough" for their previous releases. Martin nevertheless later named it as his favourite song on Beatles for Sale.
"Eight Days a Week" is noteworthy as one of the first examples of the in-studio experimentation that the band would use extensively in the future. Over two recording sessions totalling nearly seven hours on 6 October devoted exclusively to this song, Lennon and McCartney tried one technique after another before settling on the eventual arrangement. Each of the first six takes featured a strikingly different approach to the beginning and end sections of the song; the eventual chiming guitar-based introduction was recorded during a different session and edited in later. The song's opening fade-in served as a counterpoint to pop songs that close with a fade out. Hertsgaard writes that the surprise provided by the fade-in was heightened for LP listeners due to the track being sequenced at the start of side two.
Lennon referred to "Eight Days a Week" in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine as "lousy". In 1972, Lennon recalled that "Eight Days a Week" might have been made with the goal of being the theme song for the film Help!: "I think we wrote this when we were trying to write the title song for 'Help!' because there was at one time the thought of calling the film Eight Arms To Hold You. I think that's the story. I'm not sure."
The dark theme of the album was balanced by "Every Little Thing", which Unterberger describes as a "celebration of what a wonderful girl the guy has". McCartney said of the song: "'Every Little Thing', like most of the stuff I did, was my attempt at the next single ... but it became an album filler rather than the great almighty single. It didn't have quite what was required." Musicologist Walter Everett says the chorus' incorporation of "leaden" parallel fifth harmonies, supported by Starr's timpani, was the inspiration for a proto-heavy metal version of the song recorded by the English progressive rock band Yes in 1969.
Lennon's "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" returns to the sombre mood established by the opening three tracks. MacDonald considers the performance to be the album's "most overt exercise in country-and-western", aided by the tight snare sound, Harrison's rockabilly-style guitar solo, and the despondent minor-third harmony part. MacDonald likens the effect to "I'm a Loser", in that Lennon's confessional tone is again couched in "a protective shell of pastiche".
The lyrics of "What You're Doing" concern McCartney's relationship with Jane Asher and demonstrate an aggrieved tone that was uncharacteristic of his writing.[nb 4] The song features a syncopated drum pattern and a jangly Rickenbacker guitar riff, as well as an instrumental coda that McCartney introduces by playing high up the neck of his Höfner bass. A satisfactory arrangement for the song proved elusive until the band remade the track on the final day of the Beatles for Sale sessions. While highlighting the studio techniques used to achieve the completed recording, MacDonald considers "What You're Doing" to be a possible rival to "I Feel Fine" as the Beatles' "first sound experiment". McCartney later dismissed the track as "a bit of filler ... Maybe it's a better recording than it is a song ..."
Several of the album's cover versions had been staples of the Beatles' live shows in Hamburg and at The Cavern in Liverpool during the early 1960s. These songs included Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music", Buddy Holly's "Words of Love", and two by Carl Perkins: "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", sung by Harrison, and "Honey Don't", sung by Starr.[nb 5] "Mr. Moonlight", which was originally recorded by Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, was Lennon's "beloved obscurity", according to Erlewine, and the subject of a remake towards the end of the Beatles for Sale sessions. A cover of Little Willie John's "Leave My Kitten Alone" was taped on 14 August, during the same session as the discarded version of "Mr. Moonlight", but was omitted from the album.[nb 6]
A medley of "Kansas City" and "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" was sequenced as the final song on side one of the LP. In McCartney's description, his performance on the track required "a great deal of nerve to just jump up and scream like an idiot"; his efforts were egged on by Lennon, who "would go, 'Come on! You can sing it better than that, man! Come on, come on! Really throw it!'" The medley was inspired by Little Richard, who similarly combined Leiber and Stoller's "Kansas City" with his own composition, "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!"[nb 7] Riley considers that, although McCartney's presence on Beatles for Sale appears relatively slight next to Lennon's, his performance of "Kansas City" goes some way to readdressing the balance. Hertsgaard says that the irony evident in Harrison's delivery of "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" "allows the Beatles to close the album with a not-so-veiled comment on the oddities of living inside Beatlemania".
The downbeat mood of Beatles for Sale was reflected in the album cover, which shows the unsmiling, weary-looking Beatles in an autumn scene in London's Hyde Park. The cover photograph was taken by Robert Freeman, who recalled that the concept was briefly discussed with Brian Epstein and the Beatles beforehand, namely that he produce a colour image of the group shot at "an outside location towards sunset". Music journalist Lois Wilson describes the result as "the very antithesis of the early-'60s pop star". The cover carried no band logo or artist credit, and the album title was rendered in minuscule type compared with standard LP artwork of the time.
Beatles for Sale was presented in a gatefold sleeve – a rare design feature for a contemporary pop LP, and the first Beatles album to be packaged in this way. Part of the inner gatefold spread showed the band members in front of a photo montage of celebrities, including film stars Victor Mature, Jayne Mansfield and Ian Carmichael, all of whom the Beatles had met during 1964. Wilson comments that the adventurousness of this inner gatefold image anticipated Peter Blake's revolutionary cover design for the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
According to music journalist Neil Spencer, the album's title was an apt comment on the band's unprecedented commercial value as entertainers, given the wealth of Beatles-related merchandise introduced over the previous year. The sleeve notes for Beatles for Sale were written by Derek Taylor, who, until a recent falling out with Epstein, had been the band's press officer throughout their rise to international stardom. In his text, Taylor focused on what the Beatles phenomenon would mean to people of the future:
There's priceless history between these covers. When, in a generation or so, a radioactive, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn, asks you what the Beatle affair was all about, don't try to explain all about the long hair and the screams! Just play them a few tracks from this album and he'll probably understand. The kids of AD2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today.
Beatles for Sale was released in the United Kingdom on EMI's Parlophone label on 4 December 1964. On 12 December, it began a 46-week run in the charts, and a week later displaced A Hard Day's Night from the top position. After seven weeks at number 1, the album's time at the top seemed over, but Beatles for Sale made a comeback on 27 February 1965, by dethroning The Rolling Stones No. 2 by the Rolling Stones and returning to the top spot for a week. After being again displaced by The Rolling Stones No. 2, Beatles for Sale would overtake it for a second time on 1 May, remaining there for another three weeks before being displaced by Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Eight of the album's tracks were later issued on two four-song EPs: Beatles for Sale and Beatles for Sale No. 2, released in April and June 1965, respectively.
The concurrent Beatles release in the United States, Beatles '65, included eight songs from Beatles for Sale, omitting the tracks "Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!", "Eight Days a Week" (a number one hit single in the US in early 1965),[nb 8] "What You're Doing", "Words of Love", "Every Little Thing" and "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party". In turn, it added the track "I'll Be Back" from the British release of A Hard Day's Night and the single "I Feel Fine"/"She's a Woman". The six omitted tracks finally got an LP release in America on Beatles VI in 1965. Beatles '65 was released eleven days after Beatles for Sale and became the fastest-selling album of the year in the United States.
The cover of the Australian release of the LP featured individual photographs of the Beatles taken at one of the group's Sydney concerts in June 1964.
On 26 February 1987, Beatles for Sale was officially released on compact disc (catalogue number CDP 7 46438 2), as were the band's first three albums. The following month, Beatles for Sale re-entered the UK albums charts, peaking at number 45. Having been available previously only as an import in the US, the album was also issued on LP and cassette there on 21 July 1987.
Even though Beatles for Sale was recorded on four-track tape, the first CD version was available only in mono. The album was digitally remastered and issued on CD in stereo for the first time on 9 September 2009.
|The A.V. Club||B|
|Consequence of Sound||A–|
|The Daily Telegraph|||
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album received favourable reviews in the UK musical press. Writing in the NME, Derek Johnson said that it was "worth every penny asked", adding: "It's rip-roaring, infectious stuff, with the accent on beat throughout." Chris Welch of Melody Maker found the music "honest" and inventive, and predicted: "Beatles For Sale is going to sell, sell, sell. It is easily up to standard and will knock out pop fans, rock fans, R&B and Beatles fans …"
In a more recent assessment, Q found the album title to hold a "hint of cynicism" in depicting the Beatles as a "product" to be sold. AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that "the weariness of Beatles for Sale comes as something of a shock" after "the joyous A Hard Day's Night". He also cited it as "the group's most uneven album" yet added felt that its best moments find them "moving from Merseybeat to the sophisticated pop/rock they developed in mid-career".
Tom Ewing of Pitchfork Media said, "Lennon's anger and the band's rediscovery of rock 'n' roll mean For Sale's reputation as the group's meanest album is deserved". Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph commented that "if this is a low point, they still sound fantastic", adding that "the Beatlemania pop songs are of a high standard, even if they are becoming slightly generic."
|All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.
According to Ian MacDonald:
BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.
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