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Thread: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

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    Yes, there is a Santa Claus! YesNY's Avatar
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    Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    No song prior to "Birthday" was done in the fashion this song was written and recorded.

    Paul McCartney shows up at the studio early playing around on the piano. He comes up with a riff. The rest of the Beatles shuffle in around 5pm, rather than the normal 7pm, so they can leave the session to go to Paul's place nearby catch a movie on the BBC that featured some of their 1950's rock heroes, and then after the movie go back to the studio to resume the session. By 5am in a single session (interrupted only by the break to go watch the movie) the song was complete.

    Even in the early days when the Beatles cranked out a song, or multiple songs, in a single session, prior to the session they always had the songs already written, with just some tweaks to a lyric here or there done during the session. But with "Birthday", the song was entirely written and recorded in one session.

    The song is probably not on any critics Top 25 or 50 Beatles songs lists. John Lennon regarded the song, which he called a Paul song but Paul said was a 50-50 collaboration, as "garbage". But John said that about a lot of Beatles songs. My own personal take on the song is this: Is it groundbreaking Beatles song like so many prior, and even after? The answer is no.

    But is it a fun song that sounds great, and is a absolute feat in how it was created from nothing, not even a single lyric, to a completed song all in one session. Absolutely yes!

    I am sure others will disagree, but I think this one great little song that gets unfairly looked over when people consider the Beatles great musical achievements. There is nothing wrong with a song being just plain fun that happened to be written and recorded all in one session. Paul's vocals are great (love the "Aaargh!" part), and that crazy keyboard sound that pops up in the song is great icing on the "Birthday" cake.
    Last edited by YesNY; 2 Weeks Ago at 05:46 AM.





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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    The studio version of the song is not on the internet. This will have to substitute:


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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    I think John was right. I appreciate that a song may have been fun to create, but that doesn't necessarily make for great listening.

    It's 12-bar, and I guess people who enjoy 12-bar will enjoy the song. Personally I hate 12-bar.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by bob_32_116 View Post
    I think John was right. I appreciate that a song may have been fun to create, but that doesn't necessarily make for great listening.

    It's 12-bar, and I guess people who enjoy 12-bar will enjoy the song. Personally I hate 12-bar.
    Sure, it is twelve bar, but with the tempo changes, key changes, variations in vocals (Paul on lead, John on lead, the Yoko Ono and Patti Boyd harmony bit), the crazy sound they got of a piano through an amplifier, to call it a mere twelve bar song is doing it an injustice, IMHO.

    Here is Paul McCartney from 1968, about the song:

    “The film 'The Girl Can't Help It' was on television, an old rock film, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran were in it, and we wanted to see it, so we started at 5 o'clock and just did a backing track, a very simple 12-bar blues thing with a few bits here and there. We had no idea what it was going to be. We'd just say, '12 bars in A,' and then we'd change to D, then we'd do a few beats in C. Just like that. Then we went back to my house, watched the film and then went back to the studio and made up some words to go with it all. This song was just made up in an evening. We hadn't ever thought of it before then. It's one of my favorites, because it was instantaneous. Also, it's a good one to dance to. As for the big long drum break, normally we might have four bars of drums, but, with this, we thought, 'No, let's keep it going,' We all like to hear drums plodding on.”

    Can't forget that drum break. So simple but so appropriate for the song!

    The Beatles could take simple twelve bar and make something unique out of it. It's like what they did on Rubber Soul with the folk sound. Take an existing song structure and put their own special stamp on it.

    Last edited by YesNY; 2 Weeks Ago at 01:34 PM.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNY View Post

    The Beatles could take simple twelve bar and make something unique out of it. It's like what they did on Rubber Soul with the folk sound. Take an existing song structure and put their own special stamp on it.

    Granted. But I like the folk sound. With "Birthday" they put their own special stamp on a genre that I never liked in the first place. Mind you, I don't mind hearing the occasional Chuck Berry, and I think most of his songs were much better than "Birthday".

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by bob_32_116 View Post
    I think John was right. I appreciate that a song may have been fun to create, but that doesn't necessarily make for great listening.

    It's 12-bar, and I guess people who enjoy 12-bar will enjoy the song. Personally I hate 12-bar.
    Agree, even if they did pimp it up a bit.
    There’s only one Beatles twelve bar song I like even less: For You Blue.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    From Paul in 2008:

    "We didn't know what song to do so we decided to make one up. We did what Roy Orbison had done with 'Pretty Woman' and Little Richard had started with 'Lucille,' do-do do-do do-do do-do; Roy Orbison goes, do-do do-do DO-DO DO-DO- he just changes the end a little bit. We changed basically the same riff of Lucille and Pretty Woman into Birthday- do-do do-do do-do do-do…'You say it's your birthday.'"

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceasar's Palace View Post
    Agree, even if they did pimp it up a bit.
    There’s only one Beatles twelve bar song I like even less: For You Blue.
    "For You Blue" was just straight 12 bar, and little else. I think on "Birthday" they did try to take those Little Richard and Roy Orbison grooves and expand it into something special with the benefits of advancement in what sounds one could achieve in the studio.

    The variey of vocals was also a plus. Paul is in top form. John sounds good. Even Yoko, with Patti Boyd, sounds good.
    Last edited by YesNY; 2 Weeks Ago at 02:18 PM.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    I love these isolated videos. (I wish there were one for that weird sound from a piano going through an amplifier.) Yes, the main singer is the same man who sung "Yesterday". :)


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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNY View Post
    The studio version of the song is not on the internet. This will have to substitute:

    Damn, an excellent live track. Paul was still fab.
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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    Damn, an excellent live track. Paul was still fab.
    Paul's growl was in top form. Joe Walsh on guitar was spot on with the guitar licks. And the drummer not named Ringo is looking like he is having the best day of his life. Love at the end how the stage guy scurries to grab Paul's Hofner when Paul is holding it up in the air.

    Ringo says "What a surprise!", but the banter before Paul takes the stage makes me think he knew what was going to happen. I dunno. Anyway, it is one of my favorite Beatle related YouTube videos.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    It's kind of cool in an Everybody's Got Something to Hide 'cept Me and My Monkey kind of way. I message it to people on their birthday, it's good for that.


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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    This recording from Paul Weller, of The Jam and The Style Council fame, was available for download on the amazon website for just just one day, June 18, 2012. Yes, that date was picked for a reason.


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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Always enjoyed "Birthday". I'm a sucker for a good riff & absolutely love the sound of the lead guitar & bass doubling the main riff & then the breakdown riff mid-song. I read that the wah-piano sound was courtesy of Ken Scott flipping the mid-range-boost toggle switch on the VOX amp the signal was routed through. Cool stuff!

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    ^^ Interesting the different ways people judge music. Even though I studied music for a time, when I listen to it I am only judging it on whether it sound good or not, rather than what clever techniques were used, Afterwards I might go back an analyse it, but by that time I have already liked it or disliked it. Analysing just makes it easier to discuss a song with other people, eg. "that part where the synth comes in over the top of the wah-wah effect".

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    I'm an analyst.

    When a song is playing my mind automatically goes to the arrangement and production.

    But, of course, I still hear the overall impression of a song. It's just not the first thing that happens when I hear music.
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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    I'm not a musician. Can't even read simple music very well. I just know what I like.

    And I like "Birthday", AND "For You Blue", so I guess that means I like "12 bar", whatever that is, not knowing music.

    It's just a fun, high-energy song that makes you happy, and is fun to sing at birthdays! I think that's good enough.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Paul and his phenomenally good band in the video below. Drummer, and the the background vocalist first in the pecking order, Abe Laboriel, Jr, sings one line solo, which is very rare. But Paul "Wix" Wickens, who is usually amazing in recapturing old Beatles and Wings keyboards and orchestral sounds, can't get that exact sound that was on the original, (but it is close enough, I guess). If he can't do it, it is probably impossible without using a recording, is my guess.

    Minor feedback alert! Someone screwed up. I am not a techy guy so you musicians will have to take a stab at guessing who was the culprit, be it a band member (Paul included) or the sound support guys.

    Last edited by YesNY; 2 Weeks Ago at 04:27 PM.

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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNY View Post
    Paul and his phenomenally good band in the video below. Drummer, and the the background vocalist first in the pecking order, Abe Laboriel, Jr, sings one line solo, which is very rare. But Paul "Wix" Wickens, who is usually amazing in recapturing old Beatles and Wings keyboards and orchestral sounds, can't get that exact sound that was on the original, (but it is close enough, I guess). If he can't do it, it is probably impossible without using a recording, is my guess.

    Minor feedback alert! Someone screwed up. I am not a techy guy so you musicians will have to take a stab at guessing who was the culprit, be it a band member (Paul included) or the sound support guys.
    Nah, I can get pretty damned close to that keyboard sound with my 15-year-old Roland XV-88.

    I think the keyboardist made a deliberate choice to use a different sound.
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    Re: Beatles Song Spotlight: Birthday

    Quote Originally Posted by bob_32_116 View Post
    ^^ Interesting the different ways people judge music. Even though I studied music for a time, when I listen to it I am only judging it on whether it sound good or not, rather than what clever techniques were used, Afterwards I might go back an analyse it, but by that time I have already liked it or disliked it. Analysing just makes it easier to discuss a song with other people, eg. "that part where the synth comes in over the top of the wah-wah effect".
    I studied mathematics & music at university and work professionally as an IT analyst. I can't help but listen in detail & try to discover all the harmonic & production details that make up a song, especially if it's a song or sound I want to learn how to play myself. And as you noted, usually I don't dig into the details unless I already like the song :-) On top of that I'm a huge Beatles fan and can't get enough reading & learning about their writing and recording processes - truly groundbreaking & unique in the history of rock music!

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