Monday, August 15, 2011

I Feel Fine by The Beatles

I’m so glad that she’s my little girl,
She’s so glad she’s telling all the world.

Reading a book in an internet café in Lauterbrunnen Switzerland I started singing the bridge to “I Feel Fine” as the song played in the background. As I sang I noticed that someone else was singing along and as I looked up from my book and made eye contact with a German lady who was also singing along.

Instead of being embarrassed, we shared an approving nod and just continued to sing along through one of the most joyous Beatles songs.

Released in 1964, “I Feel Fine” is most often talked about because its use of feedback. You know that annoying high-pitched screeching sound you hear when people use microphones incorrectly? Yeah, John Lennon decided to make that sound on purpose at the very beginning of the song. Recording feedback became something that band like The Who and artist like Jimi Hendrix. However Lennon’s use of it in a recording is cited as the first instance of deliberate use of feedback in a pop song.

While this is an interesting technical note and an important part of the evolution of recording, those couple seconds in the beginning of the song aren’t the reason that people love this song so much.

“I Feel Fine” displayed the Beatles evolving musicianship. Ringo got away from doing a straight rock beat and added more of a calypso-flavored beat based in the toms and the cymbals. This is a riff-based song which means that John created a pattern on the guitar that the song was written around. Other song the Beatles did were built songs around a melody like “Yesterday.” This riff-based composition builds from blues and soul music and evolved into other great riff-based songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”

What is truly astounding about this song is the contrast between the verses and the bridge. The melody goes from being jumpy and rhythmic to being smooth and sustained. The two sections could not feel more different but they somehow work seamlessly together.

When the bridge happens it’s like the sun has come out. The harmony opens up and there’s the sweet doo-wop back-up singing. When you sing along with these lines you can’t help but smile and feel the joy the Beatles are expressing.

There’s something special about two people who live across the world from each other loving the same song and singing it together. If you want evidence of how great the Beatles are, it’s right there.

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