Today delivers the second studio album by the “Fab Four”, “With The Beatles”. A similar version was released in the United States, titled “Meet The Beatles”, and it is this very album I spent years and years of my early youth listening to and beginning my lifelong appreciation for the band. My mom purchased this album during her brief indoctrination into Beatlemania in 1964. (Paul was her favorite, little did she know then that Paul and I would share the same birthday). Like the first album, this one has a healthy mix of covers to compliment the original compositions, but the band continues to progress and advance the overall performance once again. This album is rated #197 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
John Lennon remains the dominant voice in the band at this phase, and the album opens with two strong Lennon vocals on “It Won’t Be Long” and “All I’ve Got to Do”. “All My Loving” is one of the best and most famous McCartney songs, and probably the most durable hit from this album. George Harrison actually gets three songs to sing lead on, including his first original track, “Don’t Bother Me”. I was surprised to see George with as many lead tracks as Paul, and his version of “Roll Over Beethoven”, by Chuck Berry, was the first song the Beatles ever played at a live concert in America. Ringo sings lead on his standard one song per album, recording the Lennon-McCartney track “I Wanna Be Your Man”, which while a Beatles live standard, would also appear as performed by another emerging British sensation in the not-too-distant future. John and George take a rare duo lead (with those two, at least) on the Miracles’ “You Really Got a Hold on Me”, and like the first album, their ability to harmonize and deliver really hits home in this song. Not unlike “Twist and Shout” on the first album, this album ends with another rousing Lennon cover, this time rocking “Money (That’s What I Want)”.
It’s not hard to detect my enthusiasm for the Beatles, they are certainly one of my all-time favorite artists for many reasons. Even with that, like every act, they occasionally released something I just don’t quite get. Paul’s obsession with sappy ballads is a recurring theme, and for some reason, he latched on to “Till There Was You”, from the musical “The Music Man”. They frequently performed it live, they used it for successful and unsuccessful demos, and included it on this album as well… and I just don’t know why. I’m sure there are many (including the legend himself) who would disagree with my take here, but this song has puzzled me for as long as I have known it, especially considering their developing talents as master songwriters and much more appealing covers like “Please Mr. Postman”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Money”.
That’s one of the many merits of art in any form. What is spectacular to one may fall flat with another, and the next example just might completely reverse those opinions. Despite not fully embracing “Till There Was You”, I have listened to the American version of this album hundreds of times since my youth. The American version also includes “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy”, which to me is the Beatles version of “Surfer Girl”. I could listen to the respective harmonies and vocal performances on those two songs over, and over, and over. In fact, I probably have.
On February 9th, 1964, the Beatles made their debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. They played “All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” (really??), and “She Loves You”, with an encore performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. I do find it interesting how many “Paul” songs made the setlist that night compared to John, a notable contrast to the album mix. That aside, Beatlemania exploded across the country and around the world, and music fans would never be the same again.