#571: The Beatles – I Feel Fine

Despite the positive connotations of the song title, there have been two distinct occasions in my life when ‘I Feel Fine’ was in my head and I was struck by a sudden unlucky situation. The first was on a beautiful day; the sun was shining, I was walking out of McDonald’s and it was about the third week into sixth form after successful GCSE results. Things were great. I was feeling fine. I was humming it along the road. It all suddenly dawned on me that my YouTube account that I had used for about three years up to that point may have been terminated whilst I was at school.

You probably laugh, though I was miserable. In fact, I probably spent most of my time for the next two years trying to get it back instead of revising for my A-levels but to no avail. It was like a whole part of my life had just vanished. To be fair, I probably shouldn’t have uploaded official BBC footage on there. But damn, it hit me hard. So two years of sixth form passed, I wasn’t very happy at school – it dawned on me that I had been studying subjects that I didn’t necessarily want to do…. It all affected my performance in my exams.

So on the way to school on A-Level results day, I began to sing ‘I Feel Fine’ again. Just with the hope that my results wouldn’t be too bad. They weren’t fortunately. They coulda been a lot better….. though had they been I probably wouldn’t have got to know the great people I’ve met in the last four years. Funny how things work out.

You don’t wanna know all that though, I’m sure. It’s all about the song. ‘I Feel Fine’ was recorded by The Beatles during the making of their fourth album Beatles for Sale, an LP made during a hectic time where the lives of the four guys were basically small amounts of studio time and large bouts of live performances and touring. It didn’t make it on the album, and was instead released as the precedent single with fellow track ‘She’s a Woman’ as its B-side. It is notable for being one of the first pop songs to include guitar feedback, in this case produced by John Lennon’s guitar as it leaned against Paul McCartney’s bass amp. Lennon was very much proud of this feat. There’s a video which has him talking about it out there somewhere….

For me, I think it’s one of their best singles. It only lasts for two and a bit minutes as a lot of their early ‘moptop’ period singles did…. it’s all about the lyrical melody really. Lennon’s voice sounds fantastic – double tracked with a bit of grit to it. George Harrison and McCartney’s vocal harmonies are on point… I always feel good listening to this one. And that’s what you want from any good song with good vibes.

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#570: Ween – I Don’t Want It

I was about 18 when I listened to The Mollusk for the first time when looking for new music to get into. That album was released in 1997 so it’s not new by any means, but you know looking out for stuff that I’d just never heard before. I got to love that album but then I never thought about really digging into the rest of the band’s discography.

Fast forward to 2015. Twenty years old, just started a new job for my placement year. Things are going good. I was at home just chilling in the evening as you do before going to work again the next day and out of curiosity I decided to listen to GodWeenSatan: The Oneness on Spotify…… There was no turning back. I dove deeper into the hole that had opened beyond my ears. I’ve been properly listening to Ween for just over two years now, and I am convinced that they might be the greatest band on this planet. No one really knows it though.

And so, the first Ween song I’m able to cover is ‘I Don’t Want It’, the tenth song on the group’s 2003 album Quebec. The album arrived at the end of a dark period during the band’s original run in which drummer Claude Coleman almost died in a severe car accident and lead vocalist Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) going through a crummy divorce. ‘I Don’t Want It’ is the song about that crummy divorce and depicts Freeman’s feelings about the whole situation. It’s a sad song, to put it straight, perfectly capturing the moment of realisation when a breaking relationship has come to an end. It’s obviously for the best, though the love is still there that you don’t want to let go.

For the most part the track is played straight. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Things slow down afterwards, a short break occurs, and then suddenly a burst of guitar feedback kicks in leading into one of the most glorious guitar solos I’ve heard, drowning out almost every other instrument, echoing into the abyss and backed by some heavenly ‘aah’ vocals. For a time I did think it was lead guitarist Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) doing this solo. Why not? If there’s a solo in any other Ween song, it’s usually him who pulls them off. Then it dawned on me that it could possibly be Freeman himself… Turned out that it was, which made it all the more powerful and heartbreaking to me. It’s perfect.

#569: Chris Bell – I Don’t Know

You might remember that the title track of Chris Bell’s posthumous album I Am the Cosmos started of the ‘I’ section of this ongoing song series. Well, here is Mr. Bell again with another song from that album – the tenth one on there – entitled ‘I Don’t Know’.

Earlier this year I had a phase of listening to Big Star, after really enjoying the band’s first LP #1 Record and ended up reading about the band’s history and watching a documentary detailing the group’s career which is a good watch and one I would recommend to anybody interested. Just doing the general stuff you do when you really get into an artist you’ve properly listened to for the first time.

Making a long story short Chris Bell left Big Star after their first album release, disillusioned with the lack of its success and being in a band in general, and embarked on solo endeavours. His material wasn’t released in album form until 1992, over a decade after his tragic death. Listening to I Am the Cosmos and then hearing Radio City, the album Big Star made after Bell’s departure, it becomes apparent who may have been behind the band’s large, clean and anthemic sound that made #1 Record such a bold effort.

‘I Don’t Know’ explodes right out of the gate with a soaring intro of jangling guitars, crashing cymbals and powerful drums that segue into Bell’s vocals. The track sees the man in a state of confusion as to why he’s sticking around in a relationship that he doesn’t really want to be in, but still finds himself very much attracted to his lady. It’s a song of contradiction and inner conflict, themes that appear throughout the entire album, but it’s a blast to listen to – an energetic and cathartic three and a half minute wonder.

Another strange thing to note is that this song actually appears twice on the album, appearing with a slower tempo and completely different arrangement under the name ‘Get Away’. Now why Bell chose to do this no one will ever know. Isn’t that cheating in some kind of way? Then again… he wasn’t around to pick what songs went on his album. As a result, the deluxe version of the I Am the Cosmos album contains four takes of what are essentially the same song.

Obviously, the vibes are different between the two but maybe the lyrics are to be taken differently even though their completely the same in both songs. I don’t know. Just a guess.

#568: Fall Out Boy – I Don’t Care

A lot of Fall Out Boy’s stuff I don’t care for anymore, though there was a time (as I’m sure there were for many going through their teenage years) when I thought all of their songs were great. I had friends in secondary school and we would talk about their stuff, casual sing-alongs here and there when we should have been listening to the teacher. Now I can say that some songs of theirs have aged much better than others. ‘Dance, Dance‘, ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down‘, and ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race‘ are three in particular which I just can’t listen to anymore. The majority of From Under the Cork Tree and some of Infinity on High I haven’t listened to in years.

Folie à Deux, however…. Man. That album still holds up today. I think it’s the band’s best one, though fans seemed to hate it when it was released in 2008. I haven’t listened to it in full for ages either, but I feel as if it was the album that the band had always wanted to make at that point in time. It has great production, the songs just flow right into each other, Patrick Stump is singing melodies all over and Wentz’s lyrics aren’t so angsty. They are actually quite funny in some places. Unfortunately they burned themselves out creatively and personally, which resulted in a break-up the following year. They returned in 2013 with a new sound and single, but by then I was listening to other stuff. Though along with My Chemical Romance and Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy will always be a source of nostalgia.

Oh yeah, the song.

So ‘I Don’t Care’ is the second song on Folie à Deux, and was released as the album’s first single. Being a thirteen year-old then, I felt the video was amazing. The band members acting like pricks and cameos from Mark Hoppus and Pharrell? Get outta here. That stuff was funny. Doesn’t really match the song which is essentially about someone who shares no compassion for other people and thinks they’re the shit. But still, the band actually looked cool and sounded slick. It marked a somewhat darker era for the group which I kinda wish they could have gone further down, but hey those are the brokes.

One thing I have against the track is that the whole call-response ‘I Don’t Care’ bridge goes on for a bit too long, but it’s worth it just for that drop into that final chorus with the ending guitar solo.

#567: The Strokes – I Can’t Win

I am in that small group of people who prefer The Strokes’ sophomore album Room on Fire to their widely-loved debut Is This It. The latter gathers all the acclaim from fans and critics alike because it arrived at a time when the mainstream was dominated by boy bands and nu-metal, and ushered in a new wave of indie/garage-rock bands in the early 2000s. Also, it has the tunes to back it up. The title track? Great. ‘Hard to Explain’? Awesome. ‘Take It or Leave It’? Very nice, indeed.

However, it’s rough-around-the-edges style of production has always been something that’s stopped me from liking it as much as I probably could. On Room on Fire every track sounds slicker, more precise and tighter in execution; if Is This It had that sound I would probably like it a lot more. But what can you do? Also I just like more songs on Room than on their debut which would sway my stance on the matter.

And so the album closes with today’s song, ‘I Can’t Win’, a two and a half minute package of catchy guitar riffs, a steady rhythm section and signature crooning by Julian Casablancas. Very much like the rest of the songs on the album, his vocals are low in the mix allowing an emphasis on the instrumentation provided by the other four members. The song addresses the feeling when someone with low motivation attempts to try something out but often gives up or is told that they’re not good enough. Something relatable for many a person. I’ve also thought that it’s a sneaky self-conscious commentary by Casablancas on fans and critics who wouldn’t accept the music they were doing, and in that respect he couldn’t win.

“Yeah, I wait for something
Cool it, we won’t take that shit
Good try, we don’t like it
Hold on, yes, I’ll be right back”

The Strokes wouldn’t be back for two and a bit years. Then ‘Juicebox’ came around. That’s for another day.

#566: The La’s – I Can’t Sleep

The self-titled debut album by The La’s remains to be the band’s sole release almost thirty years later. Having been recorded over and over again for over two years with about four/five different producers due to songwriter Lee Maver’s relentless perfectionism, the final product produced by Steve Lilywhite arrived in 1990 and was immediately disowned by the band members before they parted ways in 1992. It has gone down as a fine album in history, a staple of the jangle pop genre. Mavers has gone to label it as a “piece of shit”. Make of it what you will.

‘I Can’t Sleep’ is the album’s second song and, after the light acoustic starter of ‘Son of a Gun’, provides the album’s first kick in the balls with its raw feel and punchy rhythm. The track has a prominent stop-starting groove that emphasises its downbeat with powerful chord blasts and an occasional strike on the floor drum that comes like an explosion. And with Mavers signature raspy vocal, it makes out for a very rough and rowdy affair.

When it comes to what it’s about, I can’t say anything for sure. I used to think it was about going out to parties due to mentions of big black cars (limos?) and the inability to sleep due to said party. Though I did see an interpretation involving being sad and taking drugs to get away from those feelings. It may be so. Let’s just enjoy the music, eh.

*You may have noticed that I’ve taken away the ‘My iPod’ from post titles.  I think you know what these posts are about by now. If you don’t…. I’m not sure I can help you.

#565: The Who – I Can’t Reach You

Just when one Who song has been done, another comes quickly around the corner. ‘I Can’t Reach You’ comes right after ‘I Can See for Miles’ on The Who Sell Out, and as I type this I’m slowly realising the contrast between the two. The latter expresses a narrator’s confidence in their ability to see all things, whereas the former witnesses one who’s trying their hardest to gain any sort of communication with a particular entity they want to get close to. Also, ‘I Can’t Reach You’ is one the daintiest compositions on the whole album which is a sudden change coming after the chaos of the preceding song. Clearly a lot of thought was put into the order of the tracklist. I’ve listened to this album for about seven years now and that’s just crept on me.

There’s a child-like innocence I sense when listening to this song, possibly aided by the foregrounded light piano that leads the melody and the fact that Pete Townshend sings here. At this point Roger Daltrey hadn’t fully developed his trademark howling vocals of the 70s so there’s not a large difference between the two’s vocal abilities on the album, but Townshend’s higher register lends this particular song a softer and vulnerable touch.

The song is the first on the album to use lyrics/music that would then be appear on the following album Tommy through the ‘see, feel, hear’ section of the chorus. ‘Sunrise’ does it. ‘Rael 1’ does it. ‘Glow Girl’ does it too, if you own the 1995 release. Other small, small things to look out for when listening is John Entwistle’s heavenly harmony vocal during the chorus, Keith Moon’s yet again going crazy on the drums – so much so that he lets out a scream before a drum roll around 2:32 – and the sneaky key change that occurs during the instrumental break which you won’t realise would have happened until Townshend brings in the final chorus. It’s all nicely tied together. One of my favourites on the album.