Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hold Me Tight

With The Beatles, 1963
When we were young teens, twelve to fourteen or so, we thought it was funny to stand in the corner facing the wall with your hands wrapped around yourself as if they were someone else's hands, as if you were in the corner hugging someone. It must have been something we'd seen on television or in a movie, and in retrospect the really funny part is that none of us had ever held anyone tight like that. Alas, we were boys and we had to pretend, I suppose.

The song that most triggered this kind of behavior was The Beatles's Hold Me Tight, track two on side two of their second album, With The Beatles.

With The Beatles was the group's second studio album,  released on 22 November 1963… the same day of Kennedy was assassinated. In England the album had pre-sold a half million copies and by 1965 sold another half million so that it was the second album up to that point in history to make the million mark. (The soundtrack for the film South Pacific was first, if you want to bone up on your trivia.)

The Beatles fame came about in part due to the stellar songwriting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but that was a subsequent chapter in their story. Initially, I'm sure it was the pretty boy look, the solid rock 'n roll sound they produced, the primo harmonies and tight pants. This second album, With The Beatles, was actually comprised of no less than seven songs by other writers including Meredith Wilson, Chuck Berry, Smoky Robinson and others. No song here is explicitly a Lennon/McCartney collaboration.

Hold Me Tight was, however, an original tune, penned by a teen-aged Paul McCartney in 1961. (Sir Paul turned 70 last month.)

The song is classic early Beatles, in the same vein as She Loves You, yeah yeah yeah. Here is the first verse. 

It feels so right now, hold me tight,
Tell me I'm the only one,
And then I might,
Never be the lonely one.
So hold me tight, to-night, to-night,
It's you, you you you, oh, oh, oh, oh.

Now contrast that with the lyrics from one of Dylan's 1963 albums, also his second album, released in May of that year..

Young Bob
How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly before they are forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

This is not to say The Beatles weren't doing something significant. They were an emerging force by virtue of the fact that they had learned how to connect with an audience. They had spit and polish now and were ready to sweep into American hearts in that famous wave called the British Invasion.

Phil Spector liked the song enough to produce a version of it with The Treasures, draped in his famous wall of sound style. But despite my appreciation for his production form, The Beatles have the superior version here, infusing the song with youth, energy, electricity and passion. What more should an audience expect beyond that?

Interestingly enough, Dylan made an impact on the content of Lennon and McCartney's music. After six straight albums of  love songs they began to explore the various themes that were emerging in the Sixties youth culture, from alienation to the generation gap. But the influence went both ways. Dylan, the folk singer, was soon to go electric, and with the new sound he'd found he electrified a generation.

With The Beatles was one of my first albums, and Hold Me Tight an early favorite. If you haven't heard it in a while, you can listen here on YouTube. Get up and dance!

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