The Beatles released the EP Long Tall Sally in the UK in 1964. It had one Lennon-McCartney original, “I Call Your Name,” and three covers, Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” from 1956, Larry Williams’s “Slow Down” from 1958, and Carl Perkins’s “Matchbox” from 1957. Capitol Records, who was the distributor for Beatles music in the US and Canada, took “Long Tall Sally” and “I Call Your Name” and put them on The Beatles’ Second Album, then took “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” and put them on the album Something New with the songs from A Hard Day’s Night and a couple of other songs. Capitol issued “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” as a single in late August 1964.
The single didn’t do as well as most Beatles singles that year: “Matchbox” (which appeared as “Match Box” on the single and its sleeve) only reached #17 in the US and Canada, while “Slow Down” came in at #24. It’s really a lost single, issued when music from A Hard Day’s Night was on everyone’s mind. Naturally, it was my favorite record for a very long time.
“Match Box” was the A side of the record. The Beatles were great fans of Carl Perkins, particularly George Harrison, who learned many of Perkins’s solos while he learned the guitar, and Ringo Starr, who sang two of the three Perkins songs the Fab Four covered (“Honey Don’t” was the other). Coming in at just under two minutes, it was rock ‘n’ roll, Fab Four style.
What I especially like about this:
- That opening. You have two bars of George doing that figure around the A chord before everyone else comes in. That gets your toes tappin’ and your butt shakin’…
- The utter simplicity. Three chords: A7, D7, E7, all played in first position. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
- The solo. Like so many of George’s solos, simple and to the point, played on his Gretsch Country Gentleman.
- George Martin’s piano. Just enough that you know it’s there. He added it several days after The Beatles recorded the song, but it sounds like he was in the studio with them.
- Ringo’s vocal. Don’t ever tell me that Ringo can’t sing. He has a little trouble with the lyrics, but who cares?
- The end. That last chord, an A 6/9, wraps everything up perfectly.
The flip side, “Slow Down,” is just as noteworthy. Larry Williams was an R&B singer and pianist whose songs The Beatles often covered, including this song, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” and “Bad Boy.”
Could I say the same things about this song as I did about “Match Box”? Almost. John did the vocal on this track, but the opening of the song, highlighted by George Martin’s piano, is just as memorable, it’s another three-chord song, George’s solo is, again, to the point, and you have that same 6/9 chord ending this one. Two solid sides of rock ‘n’ roll, Fab Four style.
Maybe the most perfect thing about these sides is that they aren’t perfect. George’s pick hand gets ahead of his fret hand on both solos, and the double-tracked vocal by John on “Slow Down” seems to have a few extra voices in it. They don’t make the record a bad one. If anything, hearing them screw up just underlines how much they’re enjoying themselves. That’s what makes this such a great record.