A riddle for you, Trebek, a conundrum, if you will. What does a weary band do after a hard day’s night but before crying for help? They sell themselves short, you silly ponce.
Perhaps it’s too harsh to characterize Beatles for Sale as the Fab Four’s album that doesn’t quite make it. Given, it’s covered with covers rather than all original material and there is an air of bleakness on some of the band’s own songs (most notably the opening three tracks dubbed the “Lennon Trilogy”). Even as uneven as some consider Beatles for Sale, it exhibits flashes of pop brilliance with songs like McCartney’s “Eight Days a Week” and “What You’re Doing” or Lennon’s “Every Little Thing”; it pulses with intelligent, mopey, mop-topped songwriting on the previously mentioned “Lennon Trilogy”; and its covers are collectively catchy and distinctly belong at once to the Beatles as they do to their original artists who wrote them.
The “Lennon Trilogy” – comprised of “No Reply,” “I’m a Loser” and “Baby’s in Black” – follows a love gone bad, tracing unreturned phone calls, chronicling a cuckold’s self-loathing, ending at the jilted’s undying despair. “No Reply” opens innocently enough before punctuated vocals and distraught strumming reveal the infidelity and subsequent ignoring that broke the singer’s heart. The deceptively happy, poppy sounding “I’m a Loser” is fitting as the lyrics in the song point out that while the narrator may act like a wacky clown on the surface, he’s really actually not doing so hot. “Baby’s in Black” sounds like the type of song you’d hum to yourself in a local watering hole as it’s about to close. Pockets emptied and belly full of boiling hooch, you can almost see several sad-faced rummies swaying pints together as they sing the chorus in unison.
The dark, loveless Liverpool clouds of the “Lennon Trilogy” immediately give way to an uplifting cover of “Rock and Roll Music” and the quiet “I’ll Follow the Sun.” The medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” bridges the album to the pop masterwork that is “Eight Days a Week.” Like many Beatles hits, it’s a song I fondly remember my mom humming while cooking or cleaning, though at that time I had no inclination that the Beatles wrote it. If the “Lennon Trilogy” is a relationship gone sour, “Eight Days a Week” is a crush in full bloom or a clear-skied romance.
In between the handclaps of the Buddy Holly cover “Words of Love” and the two songs in which the band walks in Carl Perkins’ shoes, there’s another moment of pop goodness on “Every Little Thing,” a blend of hopeful words and resounding chorus. Yet a vestige of the “Lennon Trilogy” returns in the form of “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and “What You’re Doing,” that latter led by an infectious guitar melody and pleading vocals.
It would be about year before Rubber Soul, but already on Beatles for Sale you can hear the buds of stellar songwriting that would spring forth. For that alone, the album is something like a crisp mid-Autumn day: moody but something glorious nonetheless.
Similar Albums/Albums Influenced:
Kinks – Kinda Kinks
Rolling Stones – England’s Newest Hitmakers
Beatles – Hard Day’s Night