Birthday Wkd

7 06 2010

This weekend was a birthday blowout for both Lady GG and myself. It probably comes as no surprise but my favorite B-Day tune is from the one and only Beatles. “Birthday” is part of a short list of nontraditional birthday songs out there. It’s a great tune and the background story behind it’s composition and the studio session are pretty cool.

In a 2008 interview, McCartney said, “Birthday was 50/50 me and John”. The song was largely written during a recording session at the EMI Abbey Road Studios on September 18th, 1968 with McCartney coming up with the main riff. During the session, The Beatles and the recording crew made a short trip around the corner to McCartney’s house to watch the 1956 rock & roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It which was being shown on British television for the first time. After the movie they returned to the studio to record. George Martin was away so his assistant Chris Thomas produced the “Birthday” session. His memory is that the song was mostly Paul’s: “Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the birthday riff. Eventually the others arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio.” Everyone in the studio (including Yoko Ono & Patti Harrison) sang in the chorus and it was 5 am by the time the final mono mix was completed.

John Lennon said in his 1980 Playboy interview: “‘Birthday’ was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul wanted to write a song like ‘Happy Birthday Baby,’ the old fifties hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage.” As much as I love John, what’s his deal? Why must he always be such a curmudgeon?!?! The song is great, despite the impromptu origin. I may even argue that off-the-cuff composing like this usually yields some of the most accessible material.

Just look at him in the picture below… not exactly the most enthusiastic cheers I’ve ever seen, but then again you must consider the source.

The song’s style, form and even subject matter are not exactly unique but as a composition it captures a side of the band that exudes the raw passion of their earlier years. “Birthday” begins with an intro drum fill, then moves directly into a blues progression in A which features a catchy guitar riff doubled by the bass, with McCartney singing at the top of his chest voice (think classic Paul screaming vocals) with Lennon on a lower harmony. After this section, a drum break lasting eight measures brings the song into the middle section, which rests entirely on the dominant chord. A repeat of the blues progression/guitar riff instrumental section, augmented by piano brings the song into a bridge before returning to a repeat of the first vocal section. The song is among McCartney’s most intense vocal performances given the range in which he sings during the blues run. This song is the only track on The Beatles (aka The White Album) in which Lennon and McCartney share lead vocal duties. It’s also one of the few songs on that album that is a throwback to their earlier years of pure rock n roll. It’s a refreshingly straightforward piece amongst a much more complex catalog… and one of my favorites.

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One response

9 06 2010
BKoowa

Happy belated Birthday! A real friend does something more than honor your bday on a blog post so I will head on over to FB and write on your wall… cause that’s so much more personal… sh*t…

/crawls back into hole of obscurity.

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