My taste in Beatles music runs towards the later (but not the last) albums. This one, from “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) is one of my favorites among the “earlier” Beatles. It’s hard to realize that only two years elapsed between this album and “Revolver.”
“Any Time At All” has the drive of early Beatles songs, but, to me, shows a musical inventiveness beyond the song that, said Lennon, was its model—”It Won’t Be Long.”
This song ranks #95 on Rolling Stones’ list of the hundred greatest Beatles songs.
“Any Time at All” shows how much the Beatles learned from their hero Buddy Holly. The song has all the Holly trademarks — the jangling guitars, the openhearted generosity of the lyric, the urgent emotion in the voices. It’s a pledge of 24-hour devotion to a girl, with Lennon speaking his mind in a brash way (“Call me tonight, and I’ll come to you”) that would have made Holly proud — even though Lennon himself wasn’t thrilled with the results. (He dismissed the song as my “effort at [re]writing ‘It Won’t Be Long.’”)
It’s mostly a Lennon composition, but the middle break is by McCartney.
Well, listen to “It Won’t Be Long,” which Rolling Stone ranks far higher (#53), and see if you think it’s better than the above. IWBL was a damn good song, and R.S. touts it for its “muscular aggression. But that’s something that’s present in many early Beatles songs; what’s new is the lovely transition between the third and fourth lines of each stanza, which is better for being a bit rushed, e.g.:
If you need somebody to love,
Just look into my eyes,
I’ll be there to make you feel right. //
If you’re feeling sorry and sad,
I’d really sympathize. Don’t you be sad, just call me tonight.
Wikipedia gives a bit more on its composition; listen for the piano/guitar synchrony between McCartney and Harrison in the middle eight:
Incomplete when first brought into Abbey Road Studios on Tuesday 2 June 1964, Paul McCartney suggested an idea for the middle eight section based solely on chords, which was recorded with the intention of adding lyrics later. But by the time it was needed to be mixed, the middle eight was still without words and that is how it appears on the LP. These few notes were influential in sections of “Xanadu”, “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Tonight I’m Yours”. McCartney sings the second “Anytime at all” in each chorus because Lennon couldn’t reach the notes. ”Any Time at All” reprises a George Martin trick from “A Hard Day’s Night” by using a piano solo echoed lightly note-for-note on guitar by George Harrison.
By the way, the Beatles also rank, properly, as #1 in Rolling Stone‘s “Greatest [Rock] Artists of all time. Read the wonderful mini-essay on them by Elvis Costello (each artist or group is evaluated by another rocker), which includes this bit:
They were pretty much the first group to mess with the aural perspective of their recordings and have it be more than just a gimmick. Before the Beatles, you had guys in lab coats doing recording experiments in the Fifties, but you didn’t have rockers deliberately putting things out of balance, like a quiet vocal in front of a loud track on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” You can’t exaggerate the license that this gave to everyone from Motown to Jimi Hendrix.
My absolute favorite albums are Rubber Soul and Revolver. When you picked up Revolver, you knew it was something different. Heck, they are wearing sunglasses indoors in the picture on the back of the cover and not even looking at the camera … and the music was so strange and yet so vivid. If I had to pick a favorite song from those albums, it would be “And Your Bird Can Sing” … no, “Girl” … no, “For No One” … and so on, and so on….
Indeed. Or “Nowhere Man,” or “In My Life,” or “Eleanor Rigby,” or “I Want to Tell You,” or “Here, There, and Everywhere,” or . . .