Lest you think I’ve forgotten my Beatles songs, I haven’t: there are nine favorites to go. Revolver (1966), my favorite Beatles album, contains this gem: a lovely ballad that comes in at #25 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs. It’s pure McCartney (with his voice multi-tracked), though of course the writing credits go to Lennon/McCartney. The tune is surprisingly melancholy for a love song. Another surprise is its melodic complexity: tons of diverse parts that interlock seamlessly.
I share the composers’ sentiments, and by that I include Lennon, who isn’t known for his fondness of non-edgy ballads:
McCartney has repeatedly identified it as one of his best compositions, a sentiment echoed by his songwriting partner: Lennon told Playboy in 1980 that it was “one of my favorite songs of the Beatles.”
It still amazes me that someone can produce such a beautiful song in a matter of an hour or so: minutes, really, if you count the framework. No matter how hard I try, and if I had a lifetime to write one song, I couldn’t come close to this one.
Rolling Stone explains the genesis:
McCartney wrote it at Lennon’s house in Weybridge while waiting for Lennon to wake up. “I sat out by the pool on one of the sun chairs with my guitar and started strumming in E,” McCartney recalled. “And soon [I] had a few chords, and I think by the time he’d woken up, I had pretty much written the song, so we took it indoors and finished it up.” McCartney has cited the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as his primary influence for “Here, There and Everywhere.” McCartney had heard the album before it was released, at a listening party in London in May 1966, and was blown away.
The tune’s chord sequence bears Brian Wilson’s influence, ambling through three related keys without ever fully settling into one, and the modulations — particularly the one on the line “changing my life with a wave of her hand” — deftly underscore the lyrics, inspired by McCartney’s girlfriend, actress Jane Asher. (The couple, whose careers often led to prolonged separations, would split in July 1968.) When George Martin heard the tune, he persuaded the musicians to hum together, barbershop-quartet style, behind the lead vocal. “The harmonies on that are very simple,” Martin recalled. “There’s nothing very clever, no counterpoint, just moving block harmonies. Very simple . . . but very effective.”
The recording below is apparently a bootleg cut (perhaps a practice run?) and I have no idea where it’s from. But it’s nice to listen to these un-tricked-out versions.
And a bit more history:
The group spent three days in the studio working on the song, an unusually long time for a single track during this period. After agreeing on a satisfactory rhythm track, the band did backing vocals, then McCartney recorded his lead vocal — which had a surprising inspiration. “When I sang it in the studio, I remember thinking, ‘I’ll sing it like Marianne Faithfull’ — something no one would ever know,” he said. “I used an almost falsetto voice and double-tracked it. My Marianne Faithfull impression.”