15 Songs, 37 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

By the end of 1964, The Beatles were exhausted. In June, they took their first world tour, traveling from Denmark to the Netherlands, then to Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, often playing two shows a day to make good on the trip. Between mid-August and late September, they played more than 30 shows in two dozen US cities, getting an introduction to pot from Bob Dylan in New York and, a couple of weeks later, drunkenly confessing their mutual love for each other while waiting out a hurricane in Key West—a night later recalled by Paul McCartney on 1982’s John Lennon remembrance “Here Today.” Their fame was inarguable; their pace, unsupportable.

So while attributing any real cynicism to the title Beatles For Sale is probably a stretch, it’s not out of the ballpark—they were, on some level, a commodity, and finally feeling the squeeze of being trafficked like one. Here’s the first time you get to hear The Beatles really yell, not once (the snarling middle section of Lennon’s “No Reply”) but twice (McCartney’s “What You’re Doing”). Lennon’s songs in particular—“I’m a Loser,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (“I’ve had a drink or two and I don’t care”), the bleakly jealous “No Reply”—showed a writer giving himself over to his least marketable moods.

Unable to balance the demands of writing with touring and general fame, they fell back on covers: Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music,” Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” “Mr. Moonlight.” It was rock and R&B that stood in sharper contrast to their originals than on previous albums, but which—along with the album’s country inflections—helped extend the band's dialogue with distinctly American music. And they managed to brighten up enough to work in “Eight Days a Week.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

By the end of 1964, The Beatles were exhausted. In June, they took their first world tour, traveling from Denmark to the Netherlands, then to Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, often playing two shows a day to make good on the trip. Between mid-August and late September, they played more than 30 shows in two dozen US cities, getting an introduction to pot from Bob Dylan in New York and, a couple of weeks later, drunkenly confessing their mutual love for each other while waiting out a hurricane in Key West—a night later recalled by Paul McCartney on 1982’s John Lennon remembrance “Here Today.” Their fame was inarguable; their pace, unsupportable.

So while attributing any real cynicism to the title Beatles For Sale is probably a stretch, it’s not out of the ballpark—they were, on some level, a commodity, and finally feeling the squeeze of being trafficked like one. Here’s the first time you get to hear The Beatles really yell, not once (the snarling middle section of Lennon’s “No Reply”) but twice (McCartney’s “What You’re Doing”). Lennon’s songs in particular—“I’m a Loser,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (“I’ve had a drink or two and I don’t care”), the bleakly jealous “No Reply”—showed a writer giving himself over to his least marketable moods.

Unable to balance the demands of writing with touring and general fame, they fell back on covers: Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music,” Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” “Mr. Moonlight.” It was rock and R&B that stood in sharper contrast to their originals than on previous albums, but which—along with the album’s country inflections—helped extend the band's dialogue with distinctly American music. And they managed to brighten up enough to work in “Eight Days a Week.”

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