1964 concludes with the December release, “Beatles for Sale”, the next step forward for the Fab Four. I consider this the Beatles somewhat caught between their past and their future. You can hear progressive signs of evolution blended in with easy-to-like cover versions of 1950s classics.
As with “A Hard Day’s Night”, John Lennon remains the most prominent voice of the band, but we do see more of Paul as well as one lead vocal each allotted to George and Ringo. Two of my favorite songs on this album are on side one. “I’ll Follow the Sun” is a beautiful, mellow piece Paul originally wrote as a teen. In contrast, Lennon delivers another masterpiece cover version with Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music”. As much as I like previous covers like “Twist and Shout” and “Money (That’s What I Want)”, “Rock and Roll Music” is my absolute favorite of them all. John just absolutely nails that slightly ragged edge rocker vocal; I could listen to this over and over. Paul takes his turn as a Little Richard clone rocker on “Kansas City / Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey (Medley)”.
Side two starts with “Eight Days a Week”, yet another simple but highly contagious track from the Lennon-McCartney hit factory. Next up is “Words of Love”, my all-time favorite Buddy Holly song that just melts with the John-Paul harmony vocal. The rest of side two doesn’t really pop that much for me, including Ringo leading “Honey Don’t” and George on “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”, both written by Carl Perkins. This is probably the last hurrah of cover songs for the Beatles before John, Paul, and George all dig in as full-time songwriters. The single “I Feel Fine”, which to me is one of the greatest early Beatles tracks ever, was recorded during this time and released off-album as a standalone single. Even their best covers rarely stand up as well as their unprecedented original catalog.
As we head into 1965, the Beatles and their many peers and contemporaries are operating at peak production. The hits just keep coming, the music just keeps getting better and more complex, and the one-upmanship is only getting started. Enjoy the ride…