Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Can't Buy Me Love" / The Beatles

On these lazy days of summer, I've cleared off the dining room table and laid out a jigsaw puzzle -- there's something very satisfying to me about getting all those pieces in the right places (if only I could do the same with my life!). The puzzle I'm working on? A copy of the Beatles' Anthology 2 cover, a wonderfully detailed work of art hand-drawn by the amazing Klaus Voorman. Of course this has set off all sorts of Beatle bells in my head, so by the time this snappy number came up on my shuffle, I was ready to forget that puzzle and get up to dance.

I don't know about you, but I take the Beatles for granted too much of the time. We all know they were a great band, that they changed music history, blah blah blah. But then a tune like this comes blasting out of the speakers and I remember all over again why I will never outgrow this first musical love of mine. This is a relatively early track, from 1964's Hard Day's Night, so it's still packed with cheery upbeat energy, perfect to ensure lots of AM radio play. As they used to say on American Bandstand, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

The sentiment is simple, almost laughable -- "I don't care too much for money / Money can't buy me love." (Are these the same guys who snarled through a cover of the cynical Motown hit "Money" a year earlier?) But it is, after all, a Paul McCartney song, winsome and loveable . . . if you don't listen too closely to its list of demands. "Say you don't need no diamond rings / And I'll be satisfied / Tell me that you want the kind of things / That money just can't buy" -- so, hmm, he didn't really mean it in the first verse when he promised to buy her a diamond ring. But hey, love is always a negotiation, isn't it?

Anyhoo, I'm willing to overlook all this as I groove on Paul's vocals (that little flutter he throws in now and then -- heavenly). It's an irresistible melody, and Ringo's solid drumming is equally irresistible, full of high-hats and cymbals and BEAT. By 1964 the Beatles had acquired plenty of show-biz polish, but the savage rawness that first propelled them into the spotlight is still percolating under the surface. Listen to it break loose in that wild howl after the second chorus, followed by George's twanging guitar solo.

None of us really believe that Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison didn't care too much for money. Just listen to "I Me Mine," Harrison's description of their financial wrangling on Let It Be; these guys were as greedy and ambitious as anybody. Even nowadays, with millions of pounds in the bank, I'll bet Paul McCartney counts every penny. But all that is beside the point. This is a happy-go-lucky love song from the standpoint of an ordinary bloke ("I may not have a lot to give / But what I've got I'll give to you"). Totally fiction -- and I love it. On some plane, we girls can still believe that the Beatles were those cute young guys hanging on the street corner, the ones you hoped would notice your new dress when you walked by. The ones you hoped would fall in love with you and make you feel like this all the time.


Julie said...

A wonderfully exhuberant song. I'd still like a ring, though. :-)

Holly A Hughes said...

Depends on what it comes attached to, sister. ;)