Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Beatles - "Please Please Me"

AK: Dude, how do you feel about the usage of harmonica on Please Please Me (the album)?
SC: Hmm, it wouldn't be the same without it.
AK: I think I hate it. I'm not sure. It just seems like some gimmick they were overusing, instead of just using more lead guitar or something.
SC: I don't hear it that way. I actually think without the harmonica the songs would sound like any other British invasion band. I think I've actually heard "Please Please Me" (the song) without harmonica and it sounds like it's missing something.
AK: I think I hate the harmonica sound in general, but compare to Hard Day's Night songs. Same arrangement. You don't need harmonica.
SC: "I Should've Known Better"? That song needs the harmonica.
AK: Okay, I knew that was going to come up. I like the harmonica on that song, but it's played differently somehow. It's not just a flat tone like the harmonica parts on Please Please Me and they're using it almost as a rhythm instrument. It's not doing some big obvious melody line like for example "There's A Place." It just sounds like they were trying to channel some folk rock.
SC: The "Please Please Me" harmonica is used in the hook, isn't it? Like right at the very beginning, too.
AK: Yeah
SC: It sounds to me like a horn section. At least it's serving that purpose. It's like a fanfare.
AK: Right, but I hate Beatles horn sections, too. Reminds me of fish and finger pie and I want to puke.
SC: There is one Beatles song I don't like the harmonica on----"Thank You Girl." There's a much better version (without harmonica) on Live At The BBC. I think, a concert version. I think the harmonica on "Please Please Me" is rather dramatic sounding, too, with the reverb.
AK: Yeah, man. The harmonica is a really blunt instrument.
SC: I don't think you can achieve the same effect on the lead guitar. It'll just sound jangly.
AK: Or even a piano or organ or something. Harmonica is just so campfirey.
SC: It's so distinctive, though. No one else used the harmonica, except Bob Dylan, but in a different context.
AK: In rock, but the folk fuckers loved it. And blues.
SC: But the Beatles took that folk instrument and forced it to play pop, which I think is great.
AK: Barely.
SC: It's kind of like what I did with "Picture Yourself."
AK: I'm pretty conservative when it comes to arrangement. I don't like funky instruments that draw attention to themselves. Electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic pianos, drums, bass. What the hell else do you need?
SC: It would be a boring world if that's all you have. Maybe some strings, and horn tastefully.
AK: Nah, are the Ronettes boring? The human voice will always be unmatched in timbre.
SC: There are exotic percussion in "Be My Baby" and who knows what else.
AK: Why put some gross frog-sounding thing like a harmonica out in front of that. Okay, exotic percussion is fine.
SC: You really hate the harmonica.
AK: Yeah, I have no idea why. It just chills me to the bone.
SC: Maybe the way it sounds metallic?
AK: Yeah. It's like the Darth Vader video. That's how I feel about the harmonica. It does sound like an iron lung or something, some medical apparatus.
SC: So how do you feel about other reed instruments? Like the accordion?
AK: I don't mind the accordion. I don't think it belongs in rock, but it's great for that French folk stuff. It's hard not to make it sound ethnic is the problem.
SC: You can make it drone.
AK: Like using Indian instruments in rock.
SC: Like the harmonium in "We Can Work It Out." Yeah, okay, Indian instruments do stand out like a sore thumb.
AK: Yeah, man. Like I said, I'm all for standard orchestration. Look at Beethoven or Mozart. They didn't do any funky shit. It was the same boring old orchestra, unlike Mahler with his prog experimentation. But who's better?
SC: Some people would find Mahler more exciting.
AK: Those people are bastards.
SC: People like [John Doe, prog rock fan], maybe. Note: that shouldn't be published.
AK: Oh, don't worry, all names would be changed to protect the innocent.

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