This is the first post in a new segment Musical Musings. I'm not sure how it will evolve, but the idea that started it was to explore alternate versions of songs. When you know a song well and you hear a different version for the first time, it always makes you really take notice. I want to look at demos, at alternate takes in the studio as well as outtakes, at live versions, and at remixes. Sometimes it's gonna ask which version you think is better, so we'll have a bit of a battle and other times it will be more about just getting neat information out there and listening to great music.
The first song I want to look at is "I'm Down" by the Beatles. This is a song I probably heard on the oldies station when I was growing up, but for whatever reason it didn’t stick.
So, years later, I'm in High School, it's the late 90s, and I'm really getting into the Beatles and I'm playing all their albums and listening to all their songs. And I got this book for Christmas from my dad, "A Hard Day's Write" by Steve Turner. This is a really cool book, it has the story behind all the Beatles songs. So you can find out what inspired everything from "Paperback Writer" to "Lovely Rita." But, one of the entries that really stuck with me was a caption that appeared under a picture on the entry for Helter Skelter, "Although Paul was regarded as the ballad writer of the Beatles, he was responsible for three of the group's dirtiest rock numbers- 'I'm Down,' 'Why Don't We Do It In the Road' and 'Helter Skelter.'"
I remember reading that and thinking, "Whoa! there's another Beatles song that rocks as hard as 'Helter Skelter' and 'Why Don't We Do It In the Road?'” And I raided my dad's collection of Beatles CDs even more than I already had, but he didn't have it. So it wasn't until I got my hands on the Past Masters that I actually heard the track. And here it is: (Isn’t life so much easier with Youtube?)
Now what do you think? Does that rock as hard as “Helter Skelter”? (Would that track drive Charles Mason insane?) I know it’s practically sacrilegious to criticize the Beatles, it's not a bad song, really the only part that kills it is John and George doing an impression of girl back-up singers. Hard rock doesn’t have back-up singers.
But fortunately there is redemption for “I’m Down” via the Beatles Anthology 2, because on it there is a version of “I’m Down” without the back up singing. When I first heard this I thought, “this is the version of the song I’ve always wanted.” I like this version much better, but you can decide for yourself: