This is often considered a step back from the earlier Beatles albums. At the time, it must have seemed to be a sign that they had already hit their peak with “A Hardy Day’s Night” , and they were starting their ascension … which as everyone knew was a fate that would eventually plagues every rock band. As we’ve all come to know since then, that was hardly the case, and in fact “Beatles For Sale” marked yet another leap forward for them. This time, John started to write songs of a deeper caliber. He had that famed meeting with Bob Dylan, which according to legend, sent him down that path. (Also, something about smoking pot.)
Wonderful stuff, classic Beatles songs all from an often unregarded Beatles record. ‘No Reply’ sounds like a stronger song from ‘With The Beatles’, ‘I’m A Loser’ displays a country influence in the guitar picking, ‘I’m A Loser’ has a fresh sound and wonderful lyrics throughout. ‘Baby’s In Black’ is a weird semi-lilting song with strained sounding vocals perhaps reflecting the pressure these songs were recorded under. ‘Baby’s In Black’ also has a guitar solo that sounds all over the place and not in a good way. Still, it triumphs despite these problems, because the song itself is just that strong. George comes in with quite a number of excellent guitar lines there that provides some excellent counterpoints to that somewhat uneventful vocal melody. Another point where George does this is that surprisingly innovative cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love.” You can say anything you want about The Beatles, but nobody will ever deny that George was cool. And to further solidify my claims that this album had some subtle country influences, Rosanne Cash would later have a huge country hit with a cover of “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party.” I haven’t heard this version, but I’d imagine she didn’t have to do anything to change its essence.
The Beatles were always good at covers, so you an expect more of the same here. “Rock and Roll Music” with a passionate performance from John threatens to blow all the other covers they’ve ever done out of the water. And, I already mentioned the interesting rendition of “Words of Love.” However, the other covers are starting to seem a little less exciting… Though I do still have a fondness for them. Ringo takes the vocals for an enjoyable rendition of “Honey Don’t.” George gives a fine vocals in the album closer, “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby,” which also effectively served as a tribute to Carl Perkins to whom he was a great fan. Paul tries to one-up John Lennon’s boisterous performance in “Kansas City / Hey Hey Hey” and does admirably. Probably the worst song in the whole album is “Mr. Moonlight.” John’s vocals overdo it, and it doesn’t seem to give me that Beatles-fix, which I’ve gotten to crave so much!
Originals or Covers, ‘Beatles For Sale’ remains another great album in their discography, and you should get it immediately.