Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Beatles: "Hey Bulldog"

Okay, we'll start with the truly embarrassing part: we'd never really given "Hey Bulldog" a listen. The reasoning is rather strange, and bit meandering. First, there's the fact that it's not on any of the "real" Beatles record: the song was only issued as part of the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. As such, it didn't get any play in our standard spins of Beatles wax. What's more (and this is the truly silly part), for some reason we thought it was a cover. It's hard to say why exactly; maybe it's all the covers the band was doing in the Let It Be era, or maybe it's just the silly title. Regardless, the fact remains that "Hey Bulldog" was waiting in the wings, and now that we've given it some attention, well, oh my.

Our attention returned to the track with the reissue of The Beatles' catalog back in September. Picking up the discs led to a summary listen (straight through) of the band's entire catalog, and that meant exposure to a lot of the band's music that we had perhaps considered "tier two". And frankly, we're glad that it did: listening to some of the band's older records that were perhaps less "innovative", you realize they were kicking ass from day one. Not that it's exactly a shock, but sometimes it's nice to have a little validation of the mainstream assumptions.

Fast forward to the end of our listening marathon, and the record Mono Masters 2. The second disc of the band's singles collections, the album is a virtual greatest hits record. But there's a catch: The Beatles put very few of their singles on actual records, so while Mono Masters is loaded with hits, none of them are on the actual records! When you realize how many Beatles tunes there are that aren't even on actual records, well, it's rather astounding.

But, back to our focus: "Hey Bulldog". The tune sits at the end of Mono Masters 2, and despite having blindly skipped it so many times, we were on a listening marathon, so we sat with open ears. And we were astounded. This was no cover, this was no cheesy 1950's ripoff, it was a sweet, sick, Beatles jam of the best kind. The informed among you (no doubt) will be shaking your heads, but we'll be frank: we could give a shit. Discovering this track was like discovering a long lost friend we never knew we had. It's The Beatles at their creative peak, and moreover at their silly, unencumbered best. In short, it's fantastic.

The track is driven by a classic piano riff and a duet of Lennon/McCartney vocals. Combined with a fantastic bluesy melody and guitar line, the tune simply exudes the best in carefree rock and roll. Even better is that as the track continues, it gradually becomes looser and looser, while still managing not to lose any of its rock solid structure. As the track draws to a close, McCartney and Lennon devolve into comedic barking, and then the band returns in full. In short, it's a sonic tour de force.

The track (apparently) was put in the can after recording, and only resurfaced a few years as the need for new material arose. As such, the record company put together an after-the-fact video of the band recording the song in studio (see above), and the rest, as they say, is history.

In general, we'd advise staying on top of your shit: pay attention, listen carefully, and don't make presumptions. But, sometimes, the reverse can be true. Sure, we could be bummed that we only just now came upon "Hey Bulldog", but the fact of the matter is that it's sort of a gift. The Beatles haven't been making music for almost forty years, and despite the fact that they keep leaking progressively more studio material, they're never going to record anything truly new. So, that being said, we'll take whatever chance we can get to stumble into a Lennon/McCartney composition with reckless abandon, even if it means having been in the dark for far too long.


Hanan said...

nice post! I love this track