Battle of the Bands, Part 4, Beatles & Stones, For No One vs. She Smiled Sweetly

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 27th, 2012 by Willie

I love these two songs.  It’s practically a crime to have the two fight for glory, but fight they must.  “For No One,” from Revolver, is one of Paul McCartney’s most brilliant break up songs, and “She Smiled Sweetly,” from Between the Buttons is perhaps Mick and Keith’s most beautiful and mature love song.  Let’s pull the curtain up first on Paul McCartney’s “For No One.”  Whoosh.

A lot of great Beatle footage in there, even though the song is practically a solo Paul effort.  Ok, now onto “She Smiled Sweetly.”

And after watching that, I do believe that she did indeed smile sweetly.  Ok, lets check out the battlefield, count the bloody remains, and see who won this competition of the damned.

BEST DRUMMING:  Charlie Watts.  Ringo is probably the second greatest contributor to “For No One,” but his drumming is purposefully mixed low underneath the driving piano and French horn courtesy of Alan Civil.  Charlie, who hasn’t had a good showing thus far in the Battle of the Bands finally scores over Ringo.  His drumming is upfront, beautiful, and intimate, boldly displaying an unadorned emotionality in every beat.

BEST BASS PLAYING:  Bill Wyman.  Paul’s bass is limited, and kinda gimmicky in its attempt to mimic a classical arrangement.  It works, but I really prefer Bill’s work on “She Smiled Sweetly.”  His bass just vibrates and soars with a fat resonance.  It’s actually rather gorgeous and provides about 50% of the songs somber atmosphere.

BEST RHYTHM PLAYING:  Paul.  There isn’t really any guitar work on these songs, so we’ll compare pianos.  Both are expertly performed, but Paul McCartney’s piano riffs and arrangements are very creative and singular.  “She Smiles Sweetly” has a beautiful and lumbering shuffle, but it’s not what makes the song special.

BEST LEAD PLAYING:  Paul.  Well, Alan Civil to be precise.  The French Horn solo is actually the only solo in either song, and it’s pretty great, creating a sort of mundane English matter of factness.  The feeling it is evokes is one that says, ‘you might have just had your heart destroyed, but life is going on all around you, and nobody cares.’  It was a masterstroke of production common of George Martin and Paul McCartney by 1966.

BEST LEAD SINGING:  Mick.  We are passing the group singing for this contest, as there isn’t really any.  What we have though is Mick’s insanely vulnerable and atmospheric vocal performance, a testament to his range, and evidence of him being one of the world’s greatest rock singers, if not the greatest.  Mick just encapsulates coolness, sadness, beauty, and mystique all at once in this gorgeous love ode.  Paul is equally incredible, but his performance is a bit restrained and distant.  He performs a more emotional and rendition of the song on acoustic guitar in this video, which I’ve highlighted before.

BEST SONGWRITING:  TIE!  Both songs represent the best of mid 60s British chamber pop.  Both songs were written by songwriting masters.  Both songs are performed with the utmost emotionality and genuineness.  Both songs are works of genius.  It’s a tie.

WINNER:  The Rolling Stones!  “She Smiled Sweetly” just takes me to that special place no matter what mood I’m in.  “For No One,” is most effective after a breakup, as its particularly devastating, but when that’s not the case its merely just a great song.  “She Smiled Sweetly,” is the stuff dreams are made of.  Stay tuned tomorrow as we wrap up this Battle of the Bands in a thrilling and unexpected conclusion.  Don’t miss it!

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Battle of the Bands, Part 3, Beatles & Stones, Girl vs. Ruby Tuesday

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 25th, 2012 by Willie

Welcome back to part 3 of my live reporting at 85th annual “Battle of the Bands!  We have the Rolling Stones and the Beatles continuing their quest to impress the judges with their finest music, and after a short break, the bands are ready to hop back on the stage to meet at loggerheads once again…But before we do, we’d just like to point out today’s sponsor; George Martin’s ridiculously pimped out album cover for his rare LP, “George Martin Instrumentally Salutes: The Beatle Girls.”  Just absorb that image of the dapper producer knee deep in London’s finest ladies.  My God, that’s amazing, and so on that note, lets get back to the show.  First up we have the Rolling Stones with “Ruby Tuesday” from Between the Buttons.

Well, that was just charming and dandy.  Let’s see how the Beatles respond…ahh, I can tell by the first few notes that they are launching into “Girl” from Rubber Soul.

Wonderful, I can tell the judges are going to have a hard time determining the victor here, let’s see the results.

BEST DRUMMING:  Ringo, and it’s not really close.  Mr. Starr lays down a gorgeous shuffling beat, filled with elegant cymbal play, accentuating the slurping post “girl” passages.  The song is incredibly atmospheric and intimate, and I think Ringo’s restrained and careful style has a lot to do with it.  Charlie does a fine job, but the percussion on “Ruby Tuesday” doesn’t envelop me the same way Ringo’s does.  Next!

BEST BASS PLAYING:  Paul, but it’s not fair.  “Ruby Tuesday” doesn’t really feature Bill Wyman’s electric bass so much as it does him hand playing a double bass, which is cool, but boring.  Paul is clearly heard on “Girl,” and as expected, he delivers a subtle and melodic performance, playfully bouncing around the outer edges of the song and giving it an enriching atmosphere.

BEST RHYTHM PLAYING:  John, and again it’s not so fair as “Ruby Tuesday’s” rhythm is mostly piano based.  But even comparing the piano rhythm on “Ruby Tuesday” to the guitar rhythm on “Girl,” the Beatles still come out on top.  What can I say, I’m just lifted away on the gentle cloud of John and George’s beautiful Martin guitars, maybe because its a cloudy cool day.

BEST LEAD PLAYING:  Brian Jones.  I love the Beatles Greek style guitar picking on “Girl,” but Brian Jones plays that lead solo line a frigging recorder!  You know, the thing from elementary school they give to all kids?  He sounds masterly on it, gleefully sharing the spotlight with Mick’s vocals.

BEST GROUP SINGING:  TIE!  It was too close, I was instinctively going to give it to the Beatles for their gorgeous and intricate “tit-tit-tit” backing vocals (yes they are saying tit,) but I can’t deny the charming and often underrated harmonies that Keith and Mick produce. While Keith’s voice doesn’t stick out as much as Mick’s in the mix in the way that John and Paul’s do, he just sounds like the coolest friend ever, and his presence just always makes the affair much happier.

BEST LEAD SINGING:  John.  Mick is amazing as ever singing Ruby Tuesday, but there is something very singular and unique about John’s performance on “Girl.”  I can’t really think of another Beatle or solo John song that comes close to matching the style or the energy of “Girl.”

BEST SONGWRITING:  TIE!  My reasoning for this is that I truly think “Girl” is the better song, but I can’t ignore that “Ruby Tuesday” was a smash hit.  Also, the Stones tie the Beatles in the area because there is legitimate confusion as to who was responsible for “Girl.”  John insists he wrote the whole thing, probably because he was proud of how it turned out, but Paul humbly differs.  In fact, it might not just be the music, but a bunch of the Lennon-esque lyrics might have belonged to Paul as well.  Such details don’t detract from the song, but sort of muddy up the history of a really interesting and important breakthrough Beatle song.

WINNER:  Well, the Beatles win this round 3-1, not counting the ties, and why not?  “Ruby Tuesday” might be catchier and more known by the public at large, but “Girl” has a cool philosophical mystique that is really stunning.  Even though the Beatles seemed to win this contest easily, it was really much closer than that, illustrating yet again the knock down, dragged out fight for glory this contest has become.  Reporting live from Wimbledon, I’m Willie Simpson saying, see you tomorrow for the second to last installment of our battle royale between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

 

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