Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stop. What You're Doing. 

The Beatles' song "What You're Doing" is totally ruling my world. I can't explain why, but it is the song in my head when I wake up in the morning, and all day long. It is mostly the drum break before the verse comes back in. Boom-Chak. Boom Chack-a Lack.

Click Here to Rock It Out

While "What You're Doing" is one of the Beatles' more obscure mid-1960s songs, in later years it would come to be appreciated by some as one of their more musically interesting early recordings. Like many of their other early ventures, it was almost ridiculously upbeat and cheering in melody, harmonized singing, and overall utopian glow, even though the lyrics are a complaint (a pretty mild one) about what a girl's doing to the singer. That might be the least interesting aspect of a song that fits a lot of varying sections into its running time, starting with an unusual unaccompanied rolling drum pattern. The drums are joined by a chiming 12-string guitar that sounds uncannily like the kind of sounds that became identified with the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, although "What You're Doing" was recorded in late 1964, about six months before the Byrds became famous with "Mr. Tambourine Man." The verses are unusual in how the group harmonizes -- chants, almost -- a single word at the beginning of lines, to be followed by conventional Paul McCartney singing to complete them. There are some very nice wistful harmonies supporting McCartney's voice in the latter sections of the verses, and at the end of the bridge the rest of the group comes to a stop as Paul elongates the word "me" for about seven syllables. The instrumental break has a sly raised-eyebrow quality, the guitar joined by almost jazzy, saloonish piano. To ride the song out, that unaccompanied rolling drum pattern is repeated, with a dramatic low descending bass run introducing the instrumental fadeout, where the guitar-piano combination takes the lead again. "What You're Doing" is likely one of the least frequently covered Beatles songs, but a fairly raw, straightforward version does appear on the sole album by the Fantastic Dee Jays, who were likely Pittsburgh's best mid-1960s garage band. - Richie Unterberger

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Thanks Dad

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