Beatles – Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

This song made me look for a sitar to buy for a time…unfortunately I never could find one in Nashville at the time. You just don’t see them hanging up in pawn shops.

This was the first pop song to use a sitar…George Harrison played it. Harrison was new to the sitar and attempted many takes until it was right. He bought a cheap sitar and and taught himself to play. Later on Harrison studied the instrument with the Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped Harrison explore Eastern music and religion.

The song was on the Rubber Soul album released in 1965. The album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts, Canada, and the UK. The song was not released as a single in America.

John Lennon: “I was trying to write about an affair without letting my wife know I was having one. I was sort of writing from my experiences – girl’s flats, things like that. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn’t want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside of the household. I’d always had some kind of affairs going on, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, but in such a smoke-screen way that you couldn’t tell. But I can’t remember any specific woman it had to do with.” 

John Lennon: “I think it was at the studio. George had just got the sitar and I said ‘Could you play this piece?’ We went through many different sort of versions of the song, it was never right and I was getting very angry about it, it wasn’t coming out like I said. They said, ‘Well just do it how you want to do it’ and I said, ‘Well I just want to do it like this.’ They let me go and I did the guitar very loudly into the mike and sang it at the same time and then George had the sitar and I asked him could he play the piece that I’d written, you know, dee diddley dee diddley dee, that bit, and he was not sure whether he could play it yet because he hadn’t done much on the sitar but he was willing to have a go, as is his wont, and he learned the bit and dubbed it on after. I think we did it in sections.”

From Songfacts

There are not many lyrics in this song, but they tell the story of a man who gets invited to a girl’s house. When she won’t let him into her bed, he sleeps in the tub. When she leaves the next morning, he sets the place on fire. It was one of the first songs Lennon wrote that told a complete story.

Norwegian Wood is a fake wood that was used to make cheap furniture. John Lennon claimed he had no idea where the title came from, but Paul McCartney said he came up with it, inspired by the Norwegian Wood in the Asher household, where he was staying. McCartney was dating Jane Asher, and was good friends with her brother, Peter Asher from the duo Peter & Gordon.

The Beatles recorded this on October 12, 1965, the first day of the Rubber Soul sessions. The first take of the song, which is included on the Anthology 2 CD and includes George’s sitar much more prominently, was originally going to be put on Rubber Soul until a remake was made a week or two later. The notes in the Anthology 2 album verify this. 

Ringo played the finger cymbals on this track.

Bob Dylan wrote a parody of sorts to this song called “Fourth Time Around,” which appears on his 1966 album Blonde On Blonde. His song uses a similar melody; it also tells a story about a strange encounter with a girl.

It was Paul McCartney who came up with the album title Rubber Soul. Lennon told Rolling Stone that he supposed it was a pun meaning English Soul. He added: “There is no great mysterious meaning behind all of this, it was just four boys working out what to call a new album.”

Some of the many artists to cover this song include José Feliciano, Herbie Hancock and Buddy Rich. The mellow rap group P.M. Dawn also did a version on their 1993 The Bliss Album, and Cornershop covered it on their 1997 album When I Was Born for the 7th Time – the one with their #1 UK hit “Brimful Of Asha.”

Norwegian Wood

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair

I sat on a rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

Beatles – Drive My Car

Beep beep’m beep beep yeah

The song was on their album Rubber Soul released in 1965. What stands out is the Motown type bass line being played by Paul while George doubled him on guitar. Paul played lead with slide guitar.

George Harrison suggested the R&B arrangement and it  was implemented as the rhythmic style of the song. The introduction to the song is confusing to some though.

This is another song by Lennon/McCartney but with Lennon saying it was mostly Paul’s song. Lennon though did write a lot of the lyrics as Paul’s original lyrics were pretty bad…per Paul. It was not released as a single.

According to McCartney, “‘Drive my car’ was an old blues euphemism for sex”.This expression was more common in the pre-automatic shift era of automobiles.

The opening two measures of “Drive My Car” still leave studied “musicologists” scratching their heads to this day. Producer Mark Hudson, who had worked with Ringo on his solo career for ten years, has related how he asked the drummer about the song’s introduction, saying that “he could never figure it out.” Ringo couldn’t even explain it.

The Beatles seem to do that a lot… A Hard Days Night intro and the beginning to I Want To Hold Your Hand have musicologist debating how something was done…and how it worked.

Paul McCartney: “The lyrics were disastrous and I knew it. Often you just block songs out and words just come into your mind and when they do it’s hard to get rid of them. You often quote other songs too and you know you’ve got to get rid of them, but sometimes it’s very difficult to find a more suitable phrase than the one that has insinuated itself into your consciousness.” Other songs he used as a template in this case most likely include “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Feel Fine,” both of which include lines about buying a “diamond ring” for someone.

Paul McCartney:  “”It was wonderful because this nice tongue-in-cheek idea came and suddenly there was a girl there, the heroine of the story, and the story developed and had a little sting in the tail like ‘Norwegian Wood’ had, which was ‘I actually haven’t got a car, but when I get one you’ll be a terrific chauffeur.’ So to me it was LA chicks…and it also meant ‘you can be my lover.’ ‘Drive my car’ was an old blues euphemism for sex, so in the end all is revealed. Black humor crept in and saved the day. It wrote itself then. I find that very often, once you get the good idea, things write themselves.”

From Songfacts

Laden with sexual innuendo, this song is about a guy who meets an aspiring actress, who tells him he can “drive my car,” as she has a keen interest in him, and might even be in love.

She keeps trying to lure him in (“I can show you a better time”), but when he finally agrees to take the job, she admits that she doesn’t have a car, but still wants him to be her driver. It’s pretty clear that all this driving talk is leading to sex, but there’s no proof that it isn’t just a song about a guy, a girl, and a car – making it another radio-friendly Beatles track.

Originally, it was a very different song lyrically, with the chorus, “I can give you golden rings, I can give you anything, baby, I love you.” Knowing that storyline would lead them nowhere good, they hashed it out until they came up with “Drive My Car” for the title, and changed the song so it was the woman soliciting the man.

Paul McCartney played bass, piano and lead guitar on this one; George Harrison played guitar and did backing vocals. John Lennon sang lead with McCartney and also played tambourine.

The “beep beep” refrain is a take-off on The Beatles own “yeah, yeah yeah”s in “She Loves You” as well as a nod to The Playmates song “Beep Beep” (a #4 US novelty hit in 1958).

Paul McCartney played this at halftime of the 2005 Super Bowl. The year before, Janet Jackson exposed a breast on live TV, which caused a great deal of controversy. McCartney was a solid choice because he was unlikely to offend anyone.

At the 2005 Live 8 Concert in London, McCartney performed this in a duet with George Michael.

The title of the album comes from “plastic soul,” a derogatory phrase McCartney had overheard black musicians using about Mick Jagger. (“Plastic” in those days meant anything fake or processed.) Paul can be heard using the phrase in studio chatter on June 14, 1965, during recording of the “Help!” B-side “I’m Down.” Reliably, he put his own spin on the phrase.

Drive My Car

Asked a girl what she wanted to be
She said, “baby, can’t you see
I want to be famous, a star on the screen
But you can do something in between

Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby, you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you”

I told a girl that my prospects were good
And she said, “baby, it’s understood
Working for peanuts is all very fine
But I can show you a better time

Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby, you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you”

Beep beep’m beep beep yeah

Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby, you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you

I told a girl I can start right away
And she said, “listen, babe, I got something to say
I got no car and it’s breaking my heart
But I’ve found a driver and that’s a start

Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby, you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you”

Beep beep’m beep beep yeah
Beep beep’m beep beep yeah
Beep beep’m beep beep yeah
Beep beep’m beep beep yeah

Beatles – If I Needed Someone

This has that Rickenbacker sound. This song was written by George Harrison, who was influenced by The Byrds song “The Bells of Rhymney.” This one has always been a favorite of mine by George.

If I Needed Someone was one of four songs Capitol Records held off of the American release of Rubber Soul. US audiences hadn’t heard the song until June 20th, 1966, which was the date of release for the American album Yesterday…And Today.

If I Needed Someone was the only George Harrison composition to have been performed live by The Beatles. The other songs that featured George on vocals were covers but this was the only original song before they stopped touring.

The Hollies received an early recording of “If I Needed Someone.” They proceeded to quickly record their own rendition of the song and release it as their next British single on December 3rd, 1965, the exact day that The Beatles’ released Rubber Soul.

The Hollies took the song to #20 on the British charts, and it became the first George Harrison composition to make the charts.

Roger McGuinn: “George Harrison wrote that song after hearing the Byrds’ recording of “Bells of Rhymney.” He gave a copy of his new recording to Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes the Beatles.”

From Songfacts

 It was not Ravi Shankar that introduced George to the wonderment of sitar, but Byrd traveler David Crosby shortly after Shawn Phillips had shown him the basic steps. In 1965 The Beatles toured the US and visited Ravi at World Pacific Studios where The Byrds had permanent residency. It was also here that Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker jingle jangle influenced Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” In turn, The Byrds were influenced by Harrison’s 12-string guitar work. 

If I Needed Someone

If I needed someone to love
You’re the one that I’d be thinking of
If I needed someone

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah, ah, ah

If I had some more time to spend
Then I guess I’d be with you my friend
If I needed someone
Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love

Carve your number on my wall
And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone
Ah, ah