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Fab Four Face-Off: What's Your Favorite Song from 'Beatles For Sale'?

September 9, 2009 |  6:10 am


In anticipation of the official release of the Beatles' remastered catalog this week, Pop & Hiss asks the musical question -- what would go on your Beatles mix tape?

Fourth in my picks for the best song from each of the Fabs' 13 remastered albums, this entry considers "Beatles for Sale," the fourth album in the series.

Leave your comments after the jump. Laud me or rip me apart for selecting....

"I'll Follow the Sun"

Exhaustion is the underlying theme of "Beatles for Sale," in the heavy-lidded cover photograph and the hard mood expressed in Lennon-led songs including "I'm a Loser" and the great "No Reply." Even "Eight Days a Week," a favorite for many, expresses devotion in language more suited to a minimum-wage worker than to a lover. (Paul McCartney has credited both an anonymous driver and an addled Ringo for the title phrase.)

"I'll Follow the Sun" would seem to be different -- a relaxed little stroll through the kind of green fields normally occupied by preppy vocal groups like the Kingston Trio. But as usual with the early to mid-Beatles, the subtext is more tangled than the surface.

McCartney, who wrote a version of the song at 16, sings in a tone that's somehow both open and clipped about wandering away from a girl who doesn't care enough; there's a serious wound beneath his jaunty hobo's overcoat. John Lennon's harmony line on the verse creeps down into the mulch. Ringo is way in the background, banging on his knee; no snare pushes this existential drift forward, just chiming guitars and anomie.

And there's George's little guitar solo, a tight-lipped kiss off that perfectly expresses the reticence of a young man who's leaving someone he loves more than his pride will let him admit, and who will one day regret it.

It's almost French, the mood of this one. And it's also Dylanesque. Others have smelled the influence of Bobby Z on Lennon's "I'm a Loser," but I think it's here, in this single-song folk revival. Don't think twice, boys, it's all right.

-- Ann Powers

Photo credit: Apple Corps