“Any Time At All”

September 30, 2013 • 3:58 am

My taste in Beatles music runs towards the later (but not the last) albums. This one, from “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) is one of my favorites among the “earlier” Beatles. It’s hard to realize that only two years elapsed between this album and “Revolver.”

“Any Time At All” has the drive of early Beatles songs, but, to me, shows a musical inventiveness beyond the song that, said Lennon, was its model—”It Won’t Be Long.”

This song ranks #95 on Rolling Stones’ list of the hundred greatest Beatles songs.

“Any Time at All” shows how much the Beatles learned from their hero Buddy Holly. The song has all the Holly trademarks — the jangling guitars, the openhearted generosity of the lyric, the urgent emotion in the voices. It’s a pledge of 24-hour devotion to a girl, with Lennon speaking his mind in a brash way (“Call me tonight, and I’ll come to you”) that would have made Holly proud — even though Lennon himself wasn’t thrilled with the results. (He dismissed the song as my “effort at [re]writing ‘It Won’t Be Long.'”)

It’s mostly a Lennon composition, but the middle break is by McCartney.

Well, listen to “It Won’t Be Long,” which Rolling Stone ranks far higher (#53), and see if you think it’s better than the above.  IWBL was a damn good song, and R.S. touts it for its “muscular aggression. But that’s something that’s present in many early Beatles songs; what’s new is the lovely transition between the third and fourth lines of each stanza, which is better for being a bit rushed, e.g.:

If you need somebody to love,
Just look into my eyes,
I’ll be there to make you feel right. // 
If you’re feeling sorry and sad,
I’d really sympathize. Don’t you be sad, just call me tonight.

Wikipedia gives a bit more on its composition; listen for the piano/guitar synchrony between McCartney and Harrison in the middle eight:

Incomplete when first brought into Abbey Road Studios on Tuesday 2 June 1964, Paul McCartney suggested an idea for the middle eight section based solely on chords, which was recorded with the intention of adding lyrics later. But by the time it was needed to be mixed, the middle eight was still without words and that is how it appears on the LP. These few notes were influential in sections of “Xanadu”, “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Tonight I’m Yours”. McCartney sings the second “Anytime at all” in each chorus because Lennon couldn’t reach the notes. “Any Time at All” reprises a George Martin trick from “A Hard Day’s Night” by using a piano solo echoed lightly note-for-note on guitar by George Harrison.

By the way, the Beatles also rank, properly, as #1 in Rolling Stone‘s “Greatest [Rock] Artists of all time. Read the wonderful mini-essay on them by Elvis Costello (each artist or group is evaluated by another rocker), which includes this bit:

They were pretty much the first group to mess with the aural perspective of their recordings and have it be more than just a gimmick. Before the Beatles, you had guys in lab coats doing recording experiments in the Fifties, but you didn’t have rockers deliberately putting things out of balance, like a quiet vocal in front of a loud track on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” You can’t exaggerate the license that this gave to everyone from Motown to Jimi Hendrix.

My absolute favorite albums are Rubber Soul and Revolver. When you picked up Revolver, you knew it was something different. Heck, they are wearing sunglasses indoors in the picture on the back of the cover and not even looking at the camera … and the music was so strange and yet so vivid. If I had to pick a favorite song from those albums, it would be “And Your Bird Can Sing” … no, “Girl” … no, “For No One” … and so on, and so on….

Indeed. Or “Nowhere Man,” or “In My Life,” or “Eleanor Rigby,” or “I Want to Tell You,” or “Here, There, and Everywhere,” or . . .

9 thoughts on ““Any Time At All”

  1. It’s hard to realize that only two years elapsed between this album and “Revolver.”

    I’m reading McCartney’s (~auto)biography Many Years from Now and this is just the time that the lads starting experimenting with drugs, which, they say/said, had a strong influence on the writing. I think that this, at least in part (along with their growing maturity and confidence as men and as performers/writers/etc.) that wrought the changes that show up in “Revolver” and subsequent albums.

  2. The title didn’t ring a bell and I thought for a moment this was a Beatles song I hadn’t heard before. But, nope, recognized it right away once I started playing it.

    I clicked over to the Rolling Stone “Greatest Artists of All Time” article and looked aroung a bit. The Led Zeppelin(ranked 14) essay was by Dave Grohl, front man for the Foo Fighters, formerly with Nirvana, and had this interesting bit in it.

    “To me, Zeppelin were spiritually inspirational. I was going to Catholic school and questioning God, but I believed in Led Zeppelin. I wasn’t really buying into this Christianity thing, but I had faith in Led Zeppelin as a spiritual entity.

    Are all those god fearing “rock music is of the devil” types right? Does rock n roll encourage disbelief? I’ve always thought so. Believers have even attempted to infiltrate the genre with Christian Rock. And largely failed because the music is nearly uniformly awful. Which I find surprising given the history of wonderful religiously inspired and or themed music from gospel to classical.

  3. I’m 63, and listened to the Beatles (and many others) throughout my teen years. I will never tire of hearing their melodic, bright and happy pop music.

    Of course, I love their later material even more: Rubber Sole; Revolver; Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road being all-time favorites.

    Good to know I’m not the only “old fart” around here.

  4. “And Your Bird Can Sing” indeed is an AWESOME song, but here in America it was found on the “Yesterday and Today” album…

    So lol methinks someone’s nostalgia has been altered by modern repackaging of the Beatles catalog into to its original British form for release onto CD.

    Which is fine (and yes I myself tend to be an Anglophile on many things) but honestly I prefer the Capitol Records versions of the earlier songs (many with more reverb n base and usually offered in stereo) and especially the song order in which they were placed.

    So I was glad to see many of the early albums finally come onto CD in their proper order and American form. But sadly, I miss the above song with its original fake stereo sound placed in a different arrangement of songs.

    So hopefully Capitol will get “Yesterday and Today” out on Cd (along of course with “Hey Jude” and perhaps “Rarities” to round out the list of strays) and then folks can better recall just what their REAL youth was like. At least those of us on the left side of the Atlantic that is.

    This is I admit a matter of pure nostalgia (making no judgment about which versions are artistically better mind you) but honestly isn’t that a major factor when it comes to the Beatles anyway?.

    And in the above light lol I wonder what versions of “Anytime At All” and “It won’t Be Long” Jerry is referring to? Cause if he’s listing to the Brit CD versions (as perhaps may be suspected) he’s not hearing anything like what he would have heard here in America back in the day…

    1. You make a good general point, but Jerry didn’t mention “And Your Bird Can Sing” as being on Revolver. That was Elvis Costello, who is, of course, a Briton. The version of Revolver he is familiar is the British version, i.e., today’s CD version. All of the songs Jerry mentions were on the U.S. versions of Rubber Soul and Revolver.

      And I really can’t imagine anyone who really loves the Beatles and originally heard their songs on the original U.S. albums nostalgically remembering that a song – or songs – from one of those butchered (thus the original “Butcher” cover for “Yesterday and Today”) albums was on a different album. And I personally feel cheated by the fact that Capitol butchered the original Beatles albums to turn a profit. I would prefer that all of their albums had been released in the U.S. in the versions the Beatles and George Martin intended. Choosing which songs go on an album and what order they are in is something that many artists and/or their producers really take seriously and put a lot of time into. One thing that Capitol got right when it came to altering the British albums is Magical Mystery Tour. Adding the 1967 singles to the 6 MMT songs worked quite well.

      That said, I understand your point about nostalgia.

      1. Hi Pulseteresa, Maybe we should take another look at where Jerry discusses “And Your Bird Can Sing”:

        “My absolute favorite albums are Rubber Soul and Revolver. When you picked up Revolver, you knew it was something different. Heck, they are wearing sunglasses indoors in the picture on the back of the cover and not even looking at the camera … and the music was so strange and yet so vivid. If I had to pick a favorite song from those albums, it would be “And Your Bird Can Sing” ”

        And to be clear I made no claim which of the “those albums” Jerry himself attributed the song to, but instead pointed out that here in America it was on neither…

        My point was that the album he would have learned to love the song was “Yesterday and Today” (and yes lol I own a copy with the butcher cover) and so his sense of nostalgia offered was perhaps off.

        The American version of that song actually sounds very different with its manufactured stereo effect. So arguably if he’s now listening to the British version (as strongly implied by the albums he attributes above) it isn’t really the same song he grew up with. Nor is the song order surrounding the song the same such that the artistic impact overall is rather different.

        Likewise for the earlier tunes Jerry mentioned as these also had a different sound and context in which they were heard.

        And while I expressly made no judgment about which albums or song versions were artistically better, its worth noting that Capitol versions released so far have at least sold well.

        In any case I suspect many folks who enjoyed listening to say “I Should Have Known Better” from the “Hey Jude” album (which was a compilation of stray singles) likewise to myself misses the opening harmonica bars of their youth.

        And that is my main point, to remind folks that they may be listening with fond nostalgia to songs which are foreign to their ears…

  5. I too prefer the later Beatles, but I’ve always liked this song and “It Won’t Be Long,” but I agree that “Anytime At All” is better.

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