Monday, 13 October 2014
George Harrison "Brainwashed" (2001)
Any Road/P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)/Pisces Fish/Looking For My Life/Rising Sun/Marwa Blues//Stuck Inside A Cloud/Run So Far/Never Get Over You/Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea/Rocking Chair In Hawaii/Brainwashed
"Music is not just music, it is love itself. Music does not just exist, it is existence itself. Music does not just know, it is knowledge itself. Reviews do not just review, it is writing itself. How to know Max The Singing Dog, page 130" (Alan's Album Archives Manual 40th edition printed 3002)
"They brainwash you while you in your childhood and throughout your lives, they brainwash you while you're reading reviews on Alan's Album Archives, They brainwashed Alan's Album Archives into calling this a job, they even got my grandma before she turned into Max The Dog" (Alan's Album Archives Expose: What Really Went On Under Max The Dog's Hat, printed 3502)
Give me plenty of that guitar...
'Brainwashed' will forever be associated with George Harrison's sad death at the age of 59 from throat cancer. Released a year to the day since his sad end, 'Brainwashed' became the second ever posthumous Beatles album (following John Lennon's 1982 album 'Milk and Honey'), by rights it should be the best-selling album in George's back catalogue - released to a big media blitz and co-inciding with a deeply moving tribute concert featuring Paul, Ringo and Eric Clapton, it seemed that George's time had come at last. Those who heard this album before rushing out and buying it though were largely surprised: while few reviews were bad or even indifferent to this album, it just doesn't seem to be what people were expecting it to be. Naturally, assumed by many fans to be a last will, testament and farewell from a musician and man who gave so much - especially after learning that George had been poorly for a couple of years and with media reports of the feverish work George put into making this album before he died still very recent. However George's more languid pace of work in the second half of his career meant that 'Brainwashed' is actually an album with one of the longest gestation periods of them all in the AAA (some 14 years from 1988 to 2002). By rights it's the album that should have come out after 'Cloud Nine' in 1987 had life, court cases, Beatle reunions and The Travelling Wilburys not got in the way (this is essentially the record George started mentioning as far back as 1989, when it was titled 'Portrait Of A Leg End' and came with a picture of a foot! He later joked in 2000 when pressed about his next LP that it would be called 'The World Is Doomed - Part One'!) Most of the people who bought 'Brainwashed' wanted this to be more than just another very-good-but-not-great George Harrison album; they wanted a record that would help soothe their tears and help them cope with life without George. After all, Harrison wrote about death more than perhaps anyone else in popular music (or at least natural death and what might happen next - I guess a few heavy metal rockers beat him in terms of describing murders and things!) and his 'All Things Must Pass' album - undergoing a renaissance in fortunes thanks to a timely CD re-issue in the Millennium - is one of the greatest song cycles about death and re-birth ever written (starting with the title track). People needed comfort. People needed hope. People needed to know George was at peace. People needed another 'All Things Must Pass'. Instead what they got was an album that finds George more troubled and unsure of himself than perhaps at any other time in his career: 'Wish I could have the answer but don't even have the cure' he sings apologetically at one stage, as if he knows how the impression this album is going to give.
While many of the songs do date from later when George was ill (the title track and 'Marwa Blues' for two), an awful lot of these songs date from the late 1980s and early 1990s when George was feeling a little lost. The surprise hit singles and hit album of 1987 had temporarily made George a superstar again, a situation he had fought tooth and nail to escape the first time and didn't want to return to. While many think of George as the most 'mystical' of The Beatles, he was in many ways also the most grounded (just listen to 'Taxman'!) and the one most likely to start doubting himself when told over and over again how popular he was. A hit album with The Travelling Wilburys only escalated things (unsure of how it would do Warner Brothers spent a lot of time publicising their first album as well, although second album 'volume three' was a far more understated affair). However, this time George didn't even get to enjoy the riches of his success: a long-standing court case against business partner and longterm friend Denis O'Brien over money that he had been taking from their company Handmade Films was finally settled in George's favour but exhausted him more than he perhaps let on to the media and the betrayal hit him hard. Reports vary, but George's acceptance of 'The Beatles Anthology' (a project he'd been veto-ing on and off since 1972) in the mid-1990s may only have been to recover the losses from this period and Harrison wasn't quite as enthusiastic over the project as Paul and Ringo (although George actually gives better interviews than either). The awful night at the end of 1999 when intruder Michael Abram broke into the Harrison's Friar Park house and stabbed George, aiming to kill him (he would have succeeded if wife Olivia hadn't hit him over the head with a table-lamp) was a violent end to a rather troubled decade (asked by the press if he was an intruder, George quipped 'Well, I don't think he was auditioning for the Travelling Wilburys!') Understandably, there are lots of lyrical references to things going wrong, to being in a 'mess', to being hoodwinked, to being 'brainwashed' : 'There's no way out, can only run so far' the album sighs as if trapped in from every side. Had George resurrected 'Not Guilty' (his song of betrayal and bitterness from the 'White Album' and released on 'Anthology Three') a third time I wouldn't have been surprised.
Religion was usually George's escape and source of inspiration in troubled times and there indeed more 'Gods' per line than any Harrison record since 'Extra Texture' (1975). However, this isn't the certain album of a devout believer the way that 'My Sweet Lord' and 'The Lord Loves The One That Loves The Lord' were - many of these songs have the narrator as lost and alone, 'stuck', crying out for direction and purpose and wondering perhaps for the first time if there really is anyone up there ('Vatican P2 Blues' is an attack on the Christian Church rather than religion per se, but it's the first song knocking any form of religion George had made and sounds oddly out of place in the context of all his other songs). Could it be that George also had the stabbing incident in the back of his mind (and, possibly, Lennon's 19 years earlier) when he wrote some of these songs, when - in a mirror of The Bible - he'd chanted and prayed to God to be saved only for his attacker to keep on coming. You would have thought, after all those wonderful sure songs, that George would face death happier than most other people, but till 1999 (shortly before the diagnosis) death was an abstract concept; you can forgive George for being more ruffled about his attitude to the next life when he came so close to ending up there before his time. However that makes for an interesting dialogue in his songs we've never heard before and one that would have been fascinating to hear work itself out across the next couple of albums: was this a temporary blip, forced upon George by circumstances that would have troubled anyone? Or would this have been the start of something deeper and more pressing? Compared back to back with the confident, almost aggressive 'Cloud Nine' or the Travelling Wilburys albums (admittedly made purely for fun rather than deep messages) the difference is one of the biggest across any two AAA albums, a man falling from 'Cloud Nine' to the depths of hell. While 'Brainwashed' noticeably ends in a prayer asking God to 'lead us from this mess' (suggesting that Harrison hasn't lost all his faith just yet), George also seems to point the finger that this mess could all have been solved easily in the first place and for the first time has doubts about a faith he's been promoting in song and in his actions for the better part of 35 years.
Doubt is the album's big theme, but there are others. Remember when we said that George was the most 'mystical' and yet the most 'grounded' of the Beatles? That could apply to any of George's albums (even 'The White Album' damned us to hell with 'Piggies' and saved our souls in 'Long Long Long' a mere 12 songs apart), but especially to this one. 'Duality' is a big theme for George, something which he explores head on in 'Pisces Fish' for the first time. One of several rather good AAA songs covering astrology (Stephen Stills' 'Fishes and Scorpions' and The Beach Boys' 'Funky Pretty' are two others), it deals with the fact that Pisceans tend to be the most varied sign in the zodiac: split between great poets painters and musicians and murderers and politicians, most people who have this sign say they are 'pulled in two', 'one half going where the other half's just been' as George puts in the song (Johnny Cash is the perfect embodiment of a Piscean, singing about murder, taking drugs and genuinely saving people's souls with spirituals his whole life through). First wife Patti Boyd's book (titled 'Wonderful Today' after a song Eric Clapton wrote for her) was published in 2007 six years after George's death (and five after this album) but the book's most illuminating passage sheds a lot of light on this. 'Where is George's hand today?' friends would ask when they popped round to Friar Park. 'Is it in the prayer bag? Or the cocaine bag?' Or, as the song's jolly cover song puts, forever trapped 'Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'. However at least this time the album ends with the best closure possible: George's harsh dismissive political side sits side by side with his loving, giving spiritual one on the title track, which is like a biblical fight between God and the Devil transformed into song, ending in a spiritual prayer. Even without George's death this would have been a key song: for the first time since 'All Things Must Pass' he's found out how to combine the two halves of his soul on the same song - the sky should have been the limit for his writing from here-on in if only that had been meant to be.
One other, lesser theme across this album is one of water. We've already discussed 'The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'. 'Any Road' adds the fact the narrator has been 'travelling deep beneath the waves' in his quest to get answers. 'Pisces Fish' has George physically in the water as all life carries on past him, the 'river running through my soul'. Even 'Marwa Blue' sounds like a stretch of water somewhere (although its actually the name of a fragrant plant!) What does the water signify then? Is it the 'spiritual path' of enlightenment, a holy river George has been trying to get people to 'jump into' if you will? (It might not be coincidence that the 'fish' sign for Pisces is also that for Christianity - or then again maybe not given the lyrics to 'Vatican Blues'!) Is it a sign of George wanting spiritual via baptism (if so has he been listening to too many Pete Townshend records?!) Or does the water represent the unknowable, the life force that flows within and without us all and takes us to the next level? Or had George recently bought a fish tank and had water on the brain for a while?! Either way, it's there, sort of.
So far we haven't talked much about the recording or the actual 'sound' of this album. George is in good voice throughout - something that isn't always true of his other solo albums. While some tracks give away their disparate production values ('Any Road' was written in 1987 during breaks in the making of the music video for 'This Is Love'; 'Devil' was taped in 1992 and 'Run So Far' started out life as a song gifted to Clapton in 1989 -it's only speculation but I'd hazard a guess that 'Never Get Over You' is 1980s too: its sound very like the slide-guitar-with-harmonised-choir sound of 'Gone Troppo'), most of this album hangs together surprisingly well. George left copious notes for what he wanted on the album and in what order, luckily finishing at least a guide vocal and guitar part for each song he wanted on the record. Dhani and Jeff still had a lot to do though: a lot of overdubbing and instrument adding which they mainly did between themselves (Dhani is a fine guitarist, like his dad) or with a few of George's old friends like drummer Jim Keltner (who'd work with George since 1970), percussionist Ray Cooper (ditto 1973), Herbie Flowers (1979), guitarist Joe Brown (1983), and vocalist Sam Brown (also 1983), resisting the temptation to make this some big grand superstar statement and surrounding George with all the sounds that suited him best (although it's a shame that Bob Dylan and Tom Petty aren't here somewhere). By the way, is it just my ears or can I hear Ringo on the chorus of the title track? If so then he's un-credited - and it seems odd that his name would be left off the long list of people who did appear on the song. I'm convinced that's him though. (If not it seems odd that he isn't here among this cast of friends, especially as one of the last things George did have published before his death was gift the guitar part on Ringo's 'The King Of Broken Hearts' ('Vertical Man' 1998), although then again Ringo's last appearance on a George album was Lennon tribute 'All Those Years Ago' in 1981 (on the album 'Somewhere In England'). The same goes for Eric Clapton, who plays a huge role in forming the 'Concert For George' tribute the same week this album was out (a very successful and moving event it is too - far better than all the Yoko-sponsored Lennon tributes down the years that somehow missed the point). The temptation to embellish 'Brainwashed' with extra bits and pieces it didn't need must have been huge with record company pressure breathing down the necks of Jeff and Dhani, who had to stay professional despite being in mourning. To be honest I was very worried when I heard that this album still had to be 'finished' in George's absence: Jeff Lynne's productions have been a bit hit and miss down the years (even the Travelling Wilburys records are gloss over substance a lot of the time) and Dhani was then an unknown and untested 24-year-old with the weight of expectation of his family as well as Beatle fans around the world weighing on his shoulders. I needn't have worried: the best thing about 'Brainwashed' is that, despite the bitty recording dates and the unfinished state George's legacy was left in, both men did a fabulous song: from the first note to the last 'Brainwashed' sounds utterly like a 'George Harrison' album - maybe even the archetypal George Harrison album in terms of vocals, guitar and textures - and a fitting tribute to their father and friend. You can tell how close the trio must have been in how well everything fits together just the way George 'would' have done it.
However, one factor not quite playing ball was EMI. Back on the label after years at Warner Brothers for what, sadly, turned into a one-off album deal George's old pay-masters seem to have treated this album badly from the start. Even after the album came out, with the packaging that George insisted on, they decided it wasn't selling as many copies as they expected and pulled it from the shops, issuing a 'replacement' cover of a happy smiling George Harrison that didn't fit the album mood at all. The cover that George wanted - a bunch of mannequins sat round a television - is very much in keeping with the album (especially the title track) and a much more interesting idea than any Harrison cover since 'Somewhere In England'. One last case of 'brainwashing' people into buying Beatle product, it shows how much had shifted in the world's perceptions of The Beatles since their second heyday with 'Anthology' five odd years before (and who hadn't been this badly packaged since the awful compilation albums of the 1970s and 80s). By replacing something that told the 'truth' about modern society (as George saw it - no, heck - scratch that, I caught the end of 'The Voice' last night and it was awful, make that simply 'the truth', television does brainwash people pure and simple) with something 'fake' that meant nothing and simply wanted people to part from their cash under false pretences, EMI unwittingly fell into the trap George pleads with us all to avoid on this record. As the song says, nothing is worse than ignorance. After eleven similarly troubled years with Warner Brothers, George really did deserve better from the label who made billions out of his early work on the last product he could ever have given them.
So, then, 'Brainwashed' is a troubled record from a troubled period. The good news is that, unlike the last times George found himself low and lacking in inspiration ('Dark Horse' 1974 through to 'Thirty Three and A Third' in 1976 and 'Gone Troppo' in 1983), the gap between albums and the sensitive handling of the project after his death by son Dhani and friend Jeff Lynne means that there are less 'filler' songs here: only 'The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', rescued from a 1998 TV appearance with a typically twinkly artificial piano part from host Jools Holland, sounds like it doesn't deserve a place on the album (what's wrong with reviving 'Horse To The Water' - also taped for a Jools Holland project, this time a various artists album in 2000 that's much better and more suitable than this), everything else is at least trying to offer something new. Indeed, had George lived to complete it (and not fallen ill) While not every song is an out and out classic ('Rocking Chair In Hawaii' is an old song sensibly left off 'Cloud Nine'), there's a lot of thought going into these songs both before and after George died. Few Harrison songs are as instantly powerful as 'Stuck Inside A Cloud', few as joyous as 'Any Road' and few tracks reflect the essence of George quite as successfully as the gorgeous 'Pisces Fish' or the delightful closing title track. Even 'Marwa Blues', a guitar-based instrumental, is one of the most perfect tracks Harrison ever recorded rather than the usual 'filler' of George's instrumentals (like 'Greece' and 'Wilbury Twist'), the one moment on this album that sounds like someone who knows his time is up. Like every George album, there is always something to love and there's more to love here than there's been for a while I actually prefer it, song for song, to the all-singing, all-dancing, high-charting 'Cloud Nine' as 'Brainwashed' contains much more George and far less identikit pop and - thank goodness - the 1980s synthesisers are long gone despite the dating of some of these songs and the fact that many of the same people worked on it. I'm intrigued, actually, where 'Brainwashed' might have sat in George's canon had his untimely death not overshadowed it: my guess is it would have been a fan favourite, selling ok but not well five years on from Anthology and getting respectably if slightly disinterested reviews. 'Brainwashed' deserves to be one of those albums you forget about after buying but re-discover a few years down the line when you 'need' to find it: when you too are as troubled and anguished as the narrator. As an album greeted with the fanfare of 'his last work ever' and 'a worthy tribute' , the unconfident 'Brainwashed' was always going to shrink away from such a spotlight. Hard as they tried to 'brainwash' us into thinking this was George's final, glorious farewell, 'Brainwashed' is another mixed but generally impressive record about life, not death: one that in typical George style is sometimes painful to hear but always told the truth as he saw it whenever and wherever he could. 'Brainwashed' is important for so many other reasons than just being the last words of the 'quiet Beatle': it may well be the record that got closest to the 'real' George in all his self-doubting, mistake-making, contradictory and very human greatness. There'll never be his like again.
Who'd have thought, when George was busy filming his video to 'This Is Love' in 1987, that the song he kept hurriedly writing on scraps of paper wouldn't appear for another 15 years - or that he wouldn't be around to see it? 'Any Road' is a song that had taken almost mythological status amongst fans by that time: he even performed during what turned out to be his last major interview, for VH-1 in 1997, on a ukulele! (Harrison plays it on a banjolele on the album, which as the name suggests is a hybrid between a ukulele and a four-string banjo). The song may not be the greatest George ever wrote but it serves as a fine upbeat opening and is very much in keeping with all of George's past works - much so than the later songs on this album. Basically, this is a song about fate: even when you're lost and struggling you'll somehow end up where you're supposed to be. George adds in a few lines about 'paying the price with the spin of a wheel and roll of a dice' but this is still the song of a devout believer: every minor key verse comfortably lands on the cushion of a major key chorus that seems to bring realisation and the repeated line 'any road will take you there' flies off into the distance like some beacon of hope. Note too George's hint at 'future lives' in the last verse - that he'll 'just keep travelling round the bend because there is no beginning and is no end', the one reference to death on an album many fans expected to be full of it, actually written when the composer had never been in better health. The lyrics also make for a neat, upbeat contrast to Paul's 'The Long and Winding Road' - that no matter how many wrong paths we walk down in our live any road eventually takes you to enlightenment and learning that's the main concern of life on Earth. Only a slightly too short riff to base the song on and a slightly artificial feel in the performance (the one recording on this album that sounds like overdubs made by people not in the same room at the same time) prevent this one from being a 100% classic - even so, it's rather good.
'P2 Vatican Blues' is a very unusual song. In the past George's targets have included tax collectors, ignorance and the other Beatles - this is the only time he attacks organised religion. Things had moved on so quickly since Lennon had made his misquoted 'Beatles are bigger than Jesus' remark in 1966 that the press barely batted an eye lid, but its fascinating to hear the song of a 35-year-convert to Hinduism and Buddhism taking the Catholic religion he grew up with (while not strong believers Harrison did go to a Liverpool Catholic school) to task, basically for being false. At the time the Catholic church seemed like an easy target: an institution with falling numbers and influence. However events since 2002 have suggested that George was paying close attention to the 'sex' scandals and tales of abuse that have rocked the institution during the past 15 years closer than any of the papers were ('It's quite suspicious, to say the least - even mentioned it to my local priest'). You sense we haven't quite got to the bottom of how wide-ranging the abuse scandals were yet either, what with Pope Benedict's sudden announcement that he was leaving (I like Pope Francis, though, whose done as much as he can to be transparent and heal warring factions and if ever the church is going to rise up again it's via the work he's doing now - and voting 'Revolver' as the Papacy's favourite album does him no harm at all in my eyes!) What in, say, Lennon's hands would have been scathing screaming song of outrageousness is treated with just a wry grin here though: George thinks the church should be inspiring great works of art, like the Michelangelo painting on the Sistine Chapel he wakes up underneath - but instead in his eyes the Church has become a mere spectacle that stands for nothing. George tells us that it's 'all a show', with the puffs of smoke telling the world that a new Pope has been chosen now spectacle rather than just tradition. The repeated chorus line 'last Saturday night' also has the effect of turning this fast-paced blues into a party: something frivolous on the level of a rock concert, where priests breaking the law can repent after such a series of 'hail Marys'. However, clever as much of the result is, there isn't much of a song to go with George's observations - this song kind of slides by without you noticing.
'Pisces Fish', on the other-hand, is gorgeous. A tale of the world carrying on as normal, without the enlightenment George has just been granted, 'Pisces Fish' is one of Harrison's greatest songs about being a 'believer'. The song might cut even deeper than that, though. The reference to mad cow disease ('The farmer stands around complaining that his mad cows are being put to sleep') pins at least this final draft of the song to no earlier than 2000, when George was already very poorly: is this 'Brainwashed's one attempt at a last eulogy? The song is very George, dealing with the two halves of his nature where the religious aspects of life drive him on but he still has a very earthy sense of humour, watching the very human exploits of the people around him and experiencing it himself when his bicycle breaks down. The last verse, especially, feels like an 'ending': 'Sometimes my life feels like fiction, some of the days it's really quite serene, I'm a living proof of life's contradictions, one half going where the other half's just been'. Along the way there's yet another sig at the Catholic Church, with 'smoke signals' from a brewery' announcing the 'latest Pope' and a cast of priests who sound like extras from one of those 1960s series with Derek Nimmo as a slapstick vicar. George's narrator, however, knows that the truth doesn't lie there but in the people themselves who don't 'see' it: 'One unbounded ocean of bliss that's flowing through your parents, sons and daughters', passed on from one generation to the next. As a result 'Pisces Fish' isn't really a full 'end' either, but a recognition that life goes on in some other body next time around. 'Pisces Fish' is still moving, though, in the same way that every actor's final 'goodbye' as the timelord in Dr Who is moving even though we know that the story will carry on in a few months. One of George's most moving songs, this sensitive lyric is accompanied by a sweet melody that seems to be wearily shrugging its shoulders throughout before finally taking the plunge into the next part of the song. Only a vocal that's clearly here merely as a 'guide' one (was this the last song George got ready for the album?) prevents a flood of tears. The quiet highlight of 'Brainwashed', 'Pisces Fish' is the 'real' George - sombre, stately, but with twinges of humour to lighten everything and put a smile on your face.
'Looking For My Life' is the saddest song on the album. Sounding not unlike the great 'Wake Up My Love' from 'Gone Troppo' (Jim Keltner even plays a similar drum lick), this is George the impatient believer wanting a 'sign' and wanting it now. 'Oh Lord, won't you listen to me now?' the song starts, but this time around George 'learns' patience as the song goes on. 'I never knew that things exploded' Harrison sings, shocked at the sudden down turn of events in his life, declaring that for all his songs and experiences he only found out about life 'when I was down upon my knees, looking for my life'. There's a twist in the second verse: the fault is George's, not God's: 'I had no idea I was heading to a state of emergency, I had no fear where I was treading' - but God had different plans and, a humble servant, George feels he should have guessed that instead of becoming 'content'. Chances are George had written this somewhere in the 1990s, a decade of turbulence for him and family as we've seen, but his moving vocal suggests that this recording, at least, was made after his diagnosis when he knew he was dying. George being George he can't resist a joke at his own expense - laughing that he should have known better and to expect the unexpected he adds 'I never got any GCEs'. The really sad thing about this song, though, isn't the words but the melody: crushed by the weight of circumstances it really does sound as if George is 'down upon his knees' and the chorus literally forces his head to the floor, the line 'looking for my life' sung in such a deep descending growl that he has problems getting there. It's as if he's fallen further than even he thought he'd ever fall, way out of his comfort zone, and the fact that the vocal yearns throughout to rise to Heaven throughout makes it even sadder.
'Rising Sun' is happier, but blander. This one of George's 'outward' looking songs (which sounds rather out of place on an album of high autobiography): the world is a messed up place, he sings, 'crippled by boundaries, programmed into guilt, till your nervous system starts to tilt' and a 'room of mirrors' that pretend to 'see' far in the distance but really show nothing. However the 'rising sun' (the traditional symbol of The East, although more normally meaning Japan not George's beloved India) offers answers, the idea that we've all been here before and that there's a 'universe at play - you're a billion years old today!' Although not released as the single, this song appeared heavily in promotion for the record and was one of this album's two selections (along with 'Any Road' and 'Marwa Blues') to appear on the Olivia-sanctioned 'Songs By George Harrison') suggesting that its author was rather proud or fond of it. Certainly 'Rising Sun' has a clever lyric that manages to say quite eloquently what George had been thinking for a while and there simply had to be a song like this on the album - a re-write of a theme George has been using most of his career - but alas this is no 'Living In The Material World', never mind 'Within You, Without You'. There's no real melody to work with here (George speaks rather than sing for most of the recording) and Jeff Lynne succumbs too often to the temptation of making it 'sound' busy: adding the sort of ELO strings that worked on 'When We Was Fab' but detract from this little song that should be small and understated, rather than an epic. The result is a song that's clever but not very emotional and filled with sounds that are off-putting rather than enticing.
The delicious 'Marwa Blues' is all emotion though: a long slow guitar blues using George's favourite slide guitar part, this one scored highly on our 'best ever AAA instrumentals' article (back in News, Views and Music Issue 124) and features a moving series of chords that really do feel like a 'progression' from first to last. There's a superb orchestral arrangement from Marc Mahn (it seems odd that Lynne didn't do this) that provides a delicate orchestral accompaniment that ebbs and flows alongside George's part as if playing a different tune but one that's perfectly in sympathy, caught halfway between 'Something' and 'I Am The Walrus'. We've been rude about Lynne a couple of times on this site already but his keyboard parts are spot on too, adding atmosphere without detracting from the song. No one seems to be quite in agreement what 'Marwa Blues' means as a title, but as a keen gardener I'm willing to bet George at least knew about the Indian flower of the same name; he may also have known that the phrase 'Marwa' means fragrant and full of life - in some readings it even means 'pregnant'! That's an apt name for an instrumental that seems to be teeming with life: a beautiful soundscape where George's slide guitar sounds terribly at home, with this track interestingly pulling at the heart strings more than any of the actual 'songs' on this LP. Unlike many instrumentals, 'Marwa Blues' doesn't need any words though: the emotion, sadness and fragility on the one hand and hope and awe on the other are there for all to hear.
My favourite song on the album, though, is 'Stuck Inside A Cloud'. Another of George's more timid songs, it depicts just what a sad and lonely time the years before this album were sometimes for him: 'Lost my concentration, I could even lose my touch' he sighs, but no matter how much he talks to himself or 'cries out aloud' he can't get his message through in song or thought. Interestingly the chorus reads differently in the lyric booklet compared to the way George sings it. The song says: 'Only I can hear me and I'm stuck inside a cloud', suggesting isolation, but the way George sings the word 'me' it sounds like 'you' - thus making this another song about God and trying to pass his message on when George seems to be a lone voice in an ugly material world. A gorgeous melody that's awash with synthesisers and really does sound like being 'stuck inside a cloud', a storming guitar solo and George's best vocal on the album make for a highly memorable recording as well as just a song. However it's the last verse, possibly added later, that really hits you: 'Just talking to myself, crying out aloud, knowing as you leave me I also lose my heart'. Even after all his years believing in another life after this one and of recording the ultimate accepting song about death ('All Things Must Pass') George is still afraid of what comes next. An extraordinary, moving song, 'Cloud' is a tremendous achievement and would be a highlight of any Harrison record, never mind the one where he says goodbye. Released as the first single from the album (as a 'download only' gimmick that George would have hated) this song deserved to do better; most fans seem to be oddly negative towards it, perhaps because it doesn't offer that hope and serenity we were expecting from George's last works. However I'd much rather George ended the way he started, by telling it like it is and he was rarely braver than on this moving song. As an interesting footnote I've only just learnt, George was as interested in numerology as Lennon, but instead of '9' his favourite number was '7' and he would often start albums from the 'seventh' track when buying something new. It was Dhani, wanting to keep as close to his father's wishes as he could, asked for this song - also his favourite and one he considered to be the 'heart' of the album - who pushed for this song to be track seven on the album where it works rather well.
From hereon-in 'Brainwashed' dips a little. '(Can Only) Run So Far' (as it's listed in the booklet - the back of the sleeve drops the part in brackets completely) is a song George had already given away once to Eric Clapton for his 'Journeyman' album in 1989. Eric's version is slower and less urgent than George's and the pair duel on the guitar parts rather than Harrison playing solo. The lyrics are identical though: a very Harrison reflection on how you can travel to the ends of the Earth ('You fly out as your smile runs thin') and buck your responsibilities but some day they'll always catch up with you. The song suits George's gravelly voice much better (Eric's features both men singing at once and while compatible harmonically in every other sense their vocals were not designed to go together!) Considering what a sad song it really is (basically, it says we're all doomed for every mistakes we make) the mood is decidedly more upbeat on George's version, more accepting that things will turn out fine in the end. Possibly inspired by the Handmade Films business problems, it might have been written for Denis O'Brien trying to wriggle out of court appearances - or might have been written to gee Harrison up for his own part in the proceedings.
'Never Get Over You' is a love song for Olivia that uses many of the sounds 'associated' with her - the kind of exotic Hawaiian guitar that filled up all of George's albums between 1979 and 1983. In fact so similar is the sound this sounds like a 'Gone Troppo' outtake - the song even has the same dreamy, sleepy feel as much of that 'holiday' album, together with lyrics that sounds like a re-write of 1979's 'Dark Sweet Lady' and a slightly uncomfortabler poppy middle eight straight out of 'Somewhere In England'. George's last love song, it doesn't quite have the majesty or the thoughtfulness of 'Something' or the cuteness of 'I Need You' but it does at least sound warm and content and emotionally honest, which puts it a notch above anything on 'Cloud Nine' for a start. George admits that he isn't the best or warmest of human beings occasionally, but Olivia has a way of defrosting his iciest mood and of 'warming the coldest feet' whenever he goes 'off' one of the projects he's working on. Compared to other songs for Olivia ('My Dark Sweet Lady' especially), this song sounds notably ethereal rather than earth-bound, up in the stars rather than taking place on Earth. Does this song reflect George's hope that the pair will meet again in the 'sky' one day?
'Devil and the Deep Blue Sea' is the joker in the pack. Taped during a Jools Holland appearance in 1992 (the pair's friendship was one of the reason Holland got the interviewing job on 'Anthology'), George instantly sounds ten years younger and the live vocal and lack of overdubs gives a twinkling feel to this inter-war song first recorded by Cab Calloway. A music hall novelty, it fits Jools Holland's plunckity-plunk playing to a tee but is more of a stretch for George despite the chance it gives him to play a ukulele on national television. A rather silly song about being forced between two bad things, it really doesn't fit this album tonally, musically or texturally and might perhaps have been better left as a one-off rarity. However I can see where Jeff and Dhani were going by adding this song: George has a twinkle in the voice that 'Brainwashed' could have done with more of and the theme of the song (the duality, the water themes, the dealing with pressure from both sides so that you don't know whether action or inaction is worse) is spot-on for this troubled album, even if the oompah-ing brass and tickled ivories aren't.
Hidden away near the end, 'Rocking Chair In Hawaii' is a curious song that gets easily overlooked. A sleepy blues that sounds naggingly familiar (although I can't quite place where the sing-songy riff comes from - any ideas?!), it's actually an outtake that dates all the way back to 'All Things Must Pass'. It seems odd that George should revive it now (his peak days for reviving old days was in the late 70s and early 80s) as it's hardly a classic and runs out of ideas long before the three minutes are up (he should have revived the fun 'Window Window' or the sweet 'Cosmic Empire' instead). George presumably 'returned' to this song when he did because he wrote it as an imaginary version of when he got old when he was all of 27 (just as Paul wrote 'When I'm 64' when he was 15), imagining himself in a rocking chair by a river. In a neat mirror of 'Any Road' and 'Pisces Fish', though, he adds that 'you may be going where you've just been', a neat combination of the two songs that might have jogged his memory of this 'lost' song (especially if he really was sitting by a river in a rocking chair as his 'new' title set in his favourite holiday destination 'Hawaii' suggests. However really this isn't so much a song as a chance to sound like a blues guitarist and singer for a few minutes: a sound that doesn't suit George all that well, while the riff that darts in and out of the song doesn't really fit.
Thankfully 'Brainwashed' ends powerfully, George choosing to make his final message to the world an update of 'Living In The Material World', telling us the truth now that there's nobody out there to silence him. Very much like that track (and in keeping with the duality of the album) 'Brainwashed' sounds like its hopping from foot to foot, based on a turbulent minor key verse that never goes where you expect and the serene, gorgeous major key certainty of the 'spiritual' part. I'd love to know whether it was deliberate, but George's song is both very similar and very different to Lennon's 'God' ('Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' 1970), a 'denial' of every single belief system used by the human race as mere fiction: that our leaders, Governments, even 'God' and ultimately even The Beatles are a 'fake' that no longer means everything. George comes close to saying the same thing in his own clever quick-stepping lyrics, telling us how we're brainwashed from childhood by teachers, by Kings and Queens and politicians and the military when we're older and that life could be so much more if only we'd look! The only people preventing human beings from fulfilling themselves in the eyes of God are rules and regulations made by other human beings and most of us don't even realise it. George builds up to a froth of indignation that's great to hear after a comparatively laidback album and some of the lines are his cleverest in years, caught midway between a joke and a rant. However the moment where George disagrees with John is by offering an answer and hope. Over a peaceful backing - and one last outing for an Indian instrument (the tabla) Isabela Borzymowska reads out passages from 'How To Know God', a philosophical tome by The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjaki (thus completing a circle that began with George taking the lyric from 'The Inner Light' from a similar book 35 years earlier). Refusing to turn his back on the human race, even in death, George screams 'I just won't accept defeat!' and enrols a choir of his friends and family to chant 'God God God' like a mantra, imploring the messiah to rise then and there and save the world from itself. Like 'God' (suggesting George did know the song), George cycles back round the song again, growing up another head of steam until the sing finally crash lands at around the four minute mark. At first we think that's it, that George has left us with those crashing chords and silence. But no, one single organ note shines through, like a tiny light from the darkness that gradually takes over the whole song while George chants about the greatness of God and tries to save our soul one last time. Debate has raged about these words ever since 'Brainwashed' came out and many fans assume that George made them up (it's not in a very well known language. But no: one enterprising fan got in touch with the American Hindu Association and asked for a translation of the closing mantra. The words, it turns out, mean this: Sing the name of the Goddess Parvati, the remover of all afflictions, Sing praises to the Divine, Praise, Praise be to Shiva the Great God' And with that George is finally gone, the organ note not stopping so much as disappearing down a dark hole that swallows it up, perhaps hinting at it reconverging during our next life where if we're lucky we get to hear the 'rest' of the song - and every other 'George' song to come. It's a magical moment on one of George's most important epics and is typically Harrison, making us both happy and sad, outraged and contented, upset and hopeful all at the same time. 'Brainwashed' isn't always a great album and doesn't always offer us what we know George was capable of, but this one song (and 'Stuck Inside A Cloud') pretty much rescue the album singlehandedly, with all the emotional weight we were expecting.
In truth, though, not as much of 'Brainwashed' offers that emotional balance we were expecting. There was a lot riding on this album which it simply couldn't cope with and in many ways George turns in his most 'lightweight' album those two great masterpieces aside (the same is true, of course, for Lennon's lightweight 'Double Fantasy', although he had less idea that his time was coming to an end) Don't come to this record expecting some grand statement on the lines of 'All Things Must Pass' - by George's high standards it's not even that good an LP. However parts of 'Brainwashed' get Harrison's spirit, humour, occasional rage and humanity spot on and for the third of the album that works best ('Cloud' 'Brainwashed' 'Marwa Blues' 'Pisces Fish') 'Brainwashed' is still an essential purchase every Harrison fan should love. It's the rest of the album that's a bit lower in quality than we were expecting (especially after so many years of work spent on it). A successful musical elaboration on this album's main theme of 'a voice crying out in the wilderness', it's a shame for this record's sake that it wasn't finished earlier and that there was never a chance for the follow-up. Removed from it's sad job as George's goodbye it's actually a promising album that's grown up nicely since 'Cloud Nine'; as George's last goodbye, however, it seems fragile and incomplete, a commiseration rather than a celebration of why we loved George quite so much. No matter: despite a late surge of doubt across this album, George still offers the hope that one day we will meet again - and until that day 'Brainwashed' is the next best thing, full of everything George wanted to say by and large told in the right way.
You Can Buy The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Beatles By Clicking Here!
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The AAA Youtube playlist for these cartoons is now up and running at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlzWxNlf9POQ9CB_ZbXhyVFKfi5VvXKGy Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!
The general line down the years was that The Beatles' Cartoons was a bit of a mistake, especially on the part of Brian Epstein who sold over the fab four's likenesses far too easily and the band barely made a penny out of them. However somebody must have liked it: the series ran for a straight three years, with 39 cartoons made in total (each one featuring two distinct 'cartoons' and two increasingly surreal 'singalongs' by the time the series reaches 1966) and was still scoring well on repeat figures right up until the 1970s, long after the band was dead (two of the series' most outspoken critics, John and George, hated this album when they were cool trendy twenty-somethings with an image to maintain but felt quite differently about the series by the time they had children of their own- Harrison calling it 'rather sweet' and John admitting that he often sat down to watch them with Sean and often found himself laughing along during his house-husband days; oddly Paul and Ringo have never spoken about them much despite coming off worst in terms of character development) Actually, I rate this as one of Brian's cannier moves: these cartoons have a charm not that far removed from the Beatles’ selves in press conferences and for younger fans not old enough to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or ‘Help!’ at the cinema or the band in concert yet they’re a welcome opportunity to do more than just play records and stare at posters.
Yes the series would have been better had it been done today: for a start there's no way such fake voices would have been used so readily (George even sounds Scottish, which is a surprise, although Lance Percival, working overtime as both Paul and Ringo, is always a star whatever he tries his hand at). Some of the mannerisms though are spot on (John’s stance and habit of pointing as well as his soppy smile whenever he's getting too 'big-headed'; Paul’s cheesy grin, George’s slouching and Ringo’s downbeat smile and Charlie Chaplin-esque shoulder-hunched walk) and show that some of the animators had done their homework. Some of the plots are a bit vague too, as we'll be seeing with this week's run down but the animators at least try to link up to the songs and interestingly don't just go for the hits or the 'easy fits' - by the last series the cartoons are even opening with a psychedelic montage set to 'And Your Bird Can Sing' and feature plots based on 'Penny Lane' and 'Tomorrow Never Knows' - neither exactly kiddie fare (!) Yes we can sneer at this sort of thing now, when the true Beatles story is as well known as our own and interwoven into history like no other - but in 1964 especially, with the paint still dry on who The Beatles are and what they might become, I find them rather sweet. Those who enjoyed 'Yellow Submarine' (made later by the same company, with belatedly more enthusiastic backing from The Beatles by the end of the project) will find much to admire. This series really should be better known and treasured than it is, warts and all and we really need the cartoons back on the shelves: so how about it Apple?!
To jig your memory we're going to give you a brief run down of each and every plot, along with which song was a 'sing-along' in a particular week, how suitable the song is to the plot (I'll never watch 'I'm Happy Just To dance With You' without seeing Paul in the grip of a grizzly bear!) and the worst groan-out-loud pun of the episode (of which there are many!) So drop in, turn off and celebrate The Beatles when they were young and we were too. Oh and of course it goes without saying that this series has one of the best soundtracks of any TV series ever:
1) i) 'A Hard Day's Night' : In the closest mirror to 'The Monkees' in the whole series, the band are surrounded by so many (notably young) fans that they look for somewhere new to rehearse. They find a spooky house on a mountain-top and sing for the ghosts and ghoulies. Does the music fit? Not really, but then The Beatles never did many Hammer Horror songs. Best gag of the episode: Ringo: 'I know the perfect place - it's big and it's empty!' Paul: 'That's fine, but how do we fit inside your head?!'
ii) Singalong: 'Not A Second Time'. Paul asks Ringo the 'propman' for a prop to go with a 'romantic ballad'. Ringo dresses as cupid and fires an arrow which flies around the studio (the song choice is clearly random - by Beatle 1964 standards the complex 'Second Time' is not a typical love song!).
iii) Singalong: Paul tells us all to sing 'yeah yeah yeah with gusto' before asking for a 'torch song'. Ringo, as the statue of liberty, creates mayhem. Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah! The singalong this week is 'Devil In her Heart', in which George falls in love with a witch.
iv) 'I Want To Hold Your Hand': The Beatles are still trying to hide from their fans and embark on a cruise, but even here they keep being recognised (with Ringo usually letting the game away!) Hiding in a deep-sea diving bell the band are accidentally sent to the ocean floor where they meet a giant octopus (who wants to hold their hand hand hand hand hand hand hand hand!') Does the music fit? It does for the purposes of that joke! Best gag of the episode: A postmodern joke where the band interrupt the narrator who keeps 'giving them away' and his laidback 'oh, I'm most terribly sorry' in reply!
2) i) 'Do You Want To Know A Secret?' : The Beatles, currently touring Dublin, travel to their (surprisingly run-down) holiday cottage where they meet a Leprechaun. Does the music fit? Yep, leprechauns are good at keeping secrets, but the accents and stereotypes certainly don't - this is one of the weaker cartoons of the bunch. Best gag of the episode: George 'Aah that air! I'm feeling stronger already!' John: 'Good - then you can take the bags in!'
ii) Singalong: John asks propman Ringo for a suitable decoration for a song with 'a lot of punch'. In walks Bertha the Kangaroo who gives John a black eye ('Oh that Ringo!') The song, 'A Hard Day's Night', does indeed have a lot of 'punch'!
iii) Singalong: John announces a 'romantic ballad' - Ringo, who clearly needs his ears testing, brings out a 'ballot box' and a 'ballet' costume. Oddly, though, 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' isn't my idea of a ballad!
iv) 'If I Fell' : A mad female scientist Dora Florahyde (who sounds oddly like John) wants 'the brains of the Beatles' and her slave Igor is intelligent enough to bring her John. Does the music fit? Kinda, although the meaning of John 'falling' is taken rather literally the lines 'don't run and hide' do fit rather well! Best gag of the episode: John talking himself to being caught again when he admits he's got rather a good brain for science ('When will I learn to keep my blinking mouth shut'?!)
3) i 'Please Mister Postman' : In one of the finest episodes of the series, Ringo has spent all the band's money on 15 rings, stolen by autograph collectors ('You mean ring collectors'?!) The band get word back to Brian Epstein via jungle telegraph for more funds and everyone waits for the postman, who finally shows up while the band happen to be singing the title song. Alas the telegram turns out to be a 'last demand' from the Liverpool Electric Company and all the lights go out! Does the music fit? Perfectly! Best gag of the episode: Ringo has a go at calling the operator but 'she says all the logs are busy at the moment!'
ii) Singalong: John again tells Ringo they're about to sing a 'jump tune' - inevitably Ringo turns up as a paratrooper whose parachute goes upwards ('Wouldn't you know it, I had me blinking parachute on upside down!') The jump tune? Erm, 'If I Fell'.
iii) Singalong: John wants everyone to 'join in'. Ringo mishears and get them to 'join up' instead with a full army 'we want you' sign. John then kindly shows Ringo 'up' down' and 'out'. And that, as they say, was ridikkerlas! The song is 'Do You Want To Know A Secret?'
iv) 'Devil In Her Heart': The Beatles are on tour in Transylvania, with George and Ringo exploring the neighbourhood (with a 'picnic casket' packed especially for them) A witch invites Ringo in 'for a spot of soup' and tries to marry him, first by showing off ('I can do inside loop-the-loops!') and then by use of a potion. Alas it works too well and she turns into a beautiful girl who is then chased by Ringo (George's droll comment: 'Teenagers - I'll never understand them!) Does the song fit? Yes, loosely, but it would have made more sense for George to be doing the escaping seeing as he's singing the song. Best gag of the episode: Headless Horseman: 'Sorry friend, but I never did have a head for directions. Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah!'
4) i 'Not A Second Time' : The only time The Beatles are in Liverpool, where we see them arriving at Liverpool Airport (now Lennon Airport of course!) Alas the fans have sneaked on board the plane and the Beatles have to evacuate - by parachute! They land in a jungle (which is odd, because they've only been up in the air for five minutes and there aren't any jungles near Liverpool I know of!) However the fans are hiding inside the crocodile outfits! Running away the band spot more of them an, admitting defeat, decide to play anyway. Inevitably, these crocodiles turn out to be real. Does the song fit? Yes, but by rights it should be 'Not a Fourth Time'! Best gag of the episode: there's a pair of crocodiles in the vicinity. Jungle guide: 'Oh don't worry about them, they're music lovers'. Ringo: 'Well, I just hope they are't critics! Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
ii) Singalong: Paul and cupid again in an early repeat, but this time to the tune of 'Baby's In Black'
iii) Singalong: Paul's 'torch song' in another repeat, but this time to the tune of 'Misery' (which is a torch song because?...)
iv) 'Slow Down': The Beatles are on tour in a small town in the state of Texas which for the day is renamed 'Ringo Ravine' (sadly they must have changed the name back again because I've had a look and can't find it on the map!) This naturally goes to Ringo's head, as does a local horse named 'gold-nose' who can smell gold from anywhere (handy when he accidentally sits on some gold records and essential when he ends up trapped on a horse miles from anywhere and leaves one of his rings for 'Gold Nose' to find. Does the music fit? All too literally. Best gag of the episode: Paul on buying a horse for Ringo to ride: 'We'll give you two bucks!' John: 'And if the horse bucks you can have another two bucks!'
5) 'Baby's In Black' : We're back in Transylvania,at Ringo's insistence, with another haunted house where Paul goes exploring and after entering a mummy's tomb with a secret passage, gets caught by Professor Psycho. He's just created 'Vampiress', half-girl half-bat and like Davy Jones in a million Monkees episodes to come falls in love with her. However it all turns out to be a Hollywood film set. Happens to me all the time. Does the song fit? Well, Vampiress is in black. but this isn't the best fit of the series. Best gag of the episode Ringo: 'I thought the travel agent said Pennsylvania. You know, where all the pencils come from! Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
ii) Singalong: George wants a song 'loaded with mood', so guess what Ringo brings? That's right, a cow. With lots of mooes. Uh-huh-huh-huh-no! ('You know the beast has more sense than Ringo!) The song? A rather appropriate 'I'll Get You'
iii) Singalong: George tells the kids in the audience 'don't let your mum and dad drown you out like that!' before asking for a 'swinger ringer dinger'. He really should know better as down falls a 10 foot bell and a cameo from Benjamin Franklin. And a one and a two, 'Chains' is up next.
iv) 'Misery' : It's a foggy night in London and The Beatles take shelter in Madam Tussaud's. Strangely enough their waxworks don't look anything like the on the cover of 'Sgt Peppers' a couple of years later, despite Paul's comments 'this would fool my own mother' - the illustrators clearly don't realise she died in 1952). Accidentally locked in while the 'horror section' come to life, the Beatles are forced to melt down their waxworks for light. Does the song fit? Well, they're not having a great time of it, true, but why does the vampire keep crying? Best gag of the episode: actually there's two. Passers by on seeing the 'real' Beatles posing as waxworks 'Whatever happened to Paul and John? They look like death warmed over!' 'Probably used a cheaper wax' Plus Paul's comment on George's waxwork going 'out' : 'You should have used me, George never was very bright! (A rare gag not at Ringo's expense!)
6) i 'You've Really Got A Hold On Me' : Here we are back on safari again, at Ringo's request once more (he wants to photograph an 'albino rhino') Their jeep gets a flat tyre, but luckily there's a jack - a Swahili guide named Jack ('slight mix up somewhere!') A snake somehow gets attracted to Ringo during the course of the song (so who, pray tell, is on the drums?!) Does the song fit: Again, a bit too literal, although then again without hands a snake can't 'hold' anybody. And yes, I am being pedantic! Best gag of the episode: John 'I can't think of anything worse than blowing out a rear tyre in the middle of the jungle'. [Burst] Ringo: 'I can, blowing out a front tyre in the middle of the jungle, uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
ii) Singalong: Paul once more, who ticks Ringo off for dropping his 'G's. One just happens to fall off the 'singalong' sign right there and then. Gee whilickers! The song is 'Slow Down'
iii) Singalong: Paul promises to help Ringo with his diction lessons but goes too far ('Cross my heart and hope to die, step on a cat and spit in his eye!') Ringo, appalled at such cruelty to animals, punches his friend and says 'how now' to a passing cow' (who replies 'can't complain, hows about you?!) The song - when we eventually get there - is 'Honey, Don't.
iv) 'Chains' : My personal favourite of the series, with Ringo increasingly becoming the stand-out role. The band go to see 'Mutiny On The Bounty' at the cinema and by the time they come out the drummer is convinced he's 'Ringo Bligh'. After he steps on a see-saw, the others send him up in the air and Ringo bangs his head. In his dream he imagine he really is a sea-captain with The Beatles as his crew. After they mutiny he slaps them in irons, but they escape. Does the song fit? Yes, clever choice. Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'Clap them in irons! Yes a number five iron I think!'
7) i 'I'll Get You'. he Beatles fly off for a three-week tour of Africa, but their love of peace and quiet is short-lived when another set of screaming fans meet them at the airport. The band then escape to the jungle, again, where Ringo ruins a game-keeper's tiger-head and accidentally shoots a poisonous dart at him. Does the music fit? Well 'The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill' would be better, but the Beatles haven't written that one yet, so this'll do. Best gag of the episode: 'Great white hunter at your service' Paul 'Good, that'll come in handy if we meet a great white!'
ii) Singalong: George asks for something that 'comes on like gangbusters'. He really should know better than that by now because here comes Ringo with a gun. The song is 'You Really Got A Hold On Me'.
iii) Singalong: George wants the crowd to 'sing up a storm', something Ringo interprets all too literally and finally loses his rag when Ringo pushes his luck too far. The song choice is, weirdly enough, the overly supportive 'Anytime At All'.
iv) 'Honey, Don't. How many bucking bulls do you know named Honey? Me neither. I don't know how to pronounce 'rodeo' either, another running gag of the episode. Somehow Ringo accidentally catches a bull and, full of his own importance, get talked into riding Honey. The bull won't wake up until The Beatles sing to it, though. Does the music fit? I've honestly never seen this song as one sung between a man and his bull, but I guess it works (sort of!) Best gag of the episode: Cowboy 'Looks like you boys can handle just about everything' Band: 'Everything except them!' (as thousands of screaming fans approach!)
8) i 'Any Time At All' : The Beatles imagine they are the musketeers Athos, Aramis, Porthos...and Ringo! Running to save a lady 'any time at all' they foil a highway robber. Meanwhile back in the real world, a shifty looking spy wakes them from their daydream and asks for their help but inevitably The Beatles help the crook not the criminal. However it all works out in the end. Does the music fit? Only because everyone keeps mentioning the song title! Best gag of the episode: Fifi Le Crook 'Mon Dieu! I ask them to rescue a lady in distress and they capture her instead. How times have changed!'
ii) Singalong: John and Bertha again with a soundtrack of 'I'll Be Back'
iii) Singalong: John mis-pronounces 'ballad' to the tune of 'Little Child'
iv) 'Twist and Shout' : One of the more inventive episodes of the series has The Beatles at a modern art gallery. Clearly not imagining he'll end up with Yoko Ono one day or have art exhibitions of his own, John makes a lot of fun of the exhibits, especially a plain white canvas titled 'a picture of a polar bear eating vanilla ice cream during a blizzard' Ringo, meanwhile, had found a set of drums masquerading as a piece of 'pop art' called 'father'(!) One poor artist can only draw pussy cats and is bullied for it, until Paul - ever the gentlemen - comes to her rescue. The Beatles kick up a storm and help her unleash her inner exhibitionist only, in a typical twist ending, the local art collector hates her work and buys her original painting of a pussy cat instead! Does the song fit? One of the best, as the artist 'twists' and 'shouts' her way to success! Best gag of the episode: The sign outside the Art Gallery 'Nobody allowed inside unless accompanied by a weirdo'
9) i 'Little Child' : The Beatles are on a Texan Indian reservation, where the Beatles patronise the Indians and the Indians patronise The Beatles as typical tourists. A young female Indian, teased by her brother, manages to capture the Beatles in a trap and the band have to ask her nicely to let them out by playing her a song. At least The Beatles get to buy a wonderful totem pole with some very familiar looking characters! Does the music fit? Just about, but goodness only knows how the writers got to Indians after hearing the song! Best gag of the episode: On meeting the Indian chief: 'How! 'How what?' 'Not how what, just how' 'How who?' 'How him?' 'Who him?' 'Who You?' 'Who how?' How you?' etc for half the cartoon!
ii) Singalong: John is jumping again, this time to 'Long Tall Sally'
iii) Singalong: John 'joins up' to 'Twist and Shout'
iv) 'I'll Be Back' : Three criminals, clear prototypes for the ones who'll keep bothering The Monkees in a year or so, try to play 'Ticket To Ride' like the Beatles but they sound awful. So they try to pinch the Beatles' instruments and luckily for them, Ringo's just been given the present of a 'solid gold guitar' (wouldn't that be awfully heavy? Ringo's only little!) The band clearly have to get the guitar back, but their plan involved Ringo in a wagon smashing through the crook's hut and up a hill, only to fall back the other way. 'I'll Be Back' has never sounded more literal! Best gag of the episode: A visual one this time, as when the horses run of steam Ringo picks up The Beatles' carriage and runs with it himself!
10) i 'Long Tall Sally' : It's foggy, again, with The Beatles ending up at their third haunted house of the series. John admires a suit of armour with a lance named 'Long Tall Sally' (after the Lord of Salisbury) handed down through generations, but when any of them put the armour on something takes over them and the band get ratty with each other (clearly the band were wearing these suits during the 'Let It Be' film!) Does the music fit? This is a bit desperate, to be honest. Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'It's getting so you can't see the end of your nose. And if I can't see mine that's foggy. Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
ii) Singalong: George gets moo-dy to the sound of 'I'll Follow The Sun'
iii) Singalong: George drops a clanger, literally, to the tune of 'When I Get Home'
iv) 'I'll Cry Instead' : One of the weirdest cartoons, with George suddenly a judo expert who can't throw very well anymore because of 'autographitis' (his big swollen hand does look very painful!) Interesting that the illustrators should make George the Beatles interested in oriental arts but they got the setting wrong (Japan not India) and used karate not religion or music. I felt quite sorry for George in this one, actually, as he gets repeatedly beaten up various 'doctors' and ends up crying into his teddy bear rather a lot in a desperate attempt to link this song to the soundtrack. Best gag of the episode: Paul 'For the honour of The Beatles you must save face!' George 'Fair enough, but what about the rest of me?!'
11 i) 'I'll Follow The Sun' : Another flat tyre in the middle of nowhere is easy pickings for yet another highwayman. Only this one isn't very good and is about to retire before he discovers The Beatles. In an unusual move, he kidnaps them and takes them to his shack where they escape and split up. Luckily they later find out he's a mechanic and they fix his car! Does the music fit? West is apparently 'towards the sun', which is how The Beatles know to go the right way, but that sounds more than a little desperate to me. Best gag of the episode: John and Paul are under the car. George 'Gosh, I didn't know you could fix the motor!' Paul 'Whose fixing the motor? We're writing another song!' ('Drive My Car' maybe?!)
ii) Singalong: Paul never learns and is on at Ringo again about his pronunciation to the sound of 'I'll Cry Instead'
iii) Singalong: Paul's hurting animals again, while everybody tries to be George's baby
iv) 'When I Get Home' : The Beatles are in France, with an actually pretty amazing animated backdrop of Notre Dame. In this universe the Hunchback is real and for some reason has it in for the band. Only John doesn't believe in the hunch-back and pays the price for his smugness with a few trap-doors - or would if the hunch-back wasn't so bad at his job (he should be singing 'I'm A Loser' instead!) The Beatles get him a job as their warm-up act though: 'Quasimodo and his Bell Ringers!' Does the music fit? Well, they do want to get home, but this song would have fitted in pretty much all the other episodes too! Best gag of the episode: None, this episode is rather low on laughs.
12) i 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby'. Who on earth left Ringo in charge of navigating? No wonder The Beatles are lost. A full year before The Beatles end their touring career there the band are in Japan and, lost, need shelter for the night. They spy a local temple where the band are acclaimed by young local girls as their 'ancestors' and not allowed to leave. The Beatles escape by calling up the 'real' ancestors, who luckily all seem to be Beatle fans who love their music! Does the music fit? Well, only if the working title of this song is 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Ancestor'! Best gag of the episode: Paul 'Have you found Tokyo yet, Ringo?' 'Tokyo? I can't even find Japan!'
ii) Singalong: George has a shooting time while 'I'm A Loser' plays
iii) Singalong: Ringo cooks up a storm for George to the tune of 'I Wanna Be Your Man'
iv) 'I Should Have Known Better' : Wow, Ringo admits he's an arsonist, burning down the Italian theatre where the band should be playing after fancying a 'toasted marshmallow on a drumstick'. However all the alternatives are less than suitable: a horrendous opera singer causes one ruin to fall down, another features a rather large ballerina practicing and another is ruined by rather comprehensive 'storm' stage effects. The band eventually play in Pompeii's ampitheatre (a full eight years before Pink Floyd do the same in 'real life!') and there's some great animation as the blocks fall down, revealing bit by bit of each Beatle. Does the music fit? Sort of, but 'Don't Bother Me' would have been an even better fit (the Beatles even use the phrase in the cartoon!) Best gag of the episode: not so much a gag as a catchphrase: 'Nobody a-gonna bother you here....ah, mama mia!' (repeated every few seconds)
13) i 'I'm A Loser' : Ringo's got a head as big as his nose and is off to Hollywood to become a famous actor. Luckily the studio is hiring - but only stuntmen. Poor Ringo's career doesn't go as well as he thinks it will and he soon ends up in hospital. ' Does the song fit? And how! Did The Monkees have this episode in mind for their film 'Head', which famously features the 'biggest bunch of losers in movie history'? Best gag of the episode: The end joke: Ringo finally meets the film's star Rocky Rock 'who wasn't even in the picture! Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-oh no!'
ii) Singalong: Paul meets Kupid, with a 'K', followed by 'No Reply' (for some reason accompanied by animation of a tortoise!)
iii) Sinaglong: Ringo and Paul have a 'torch' for 'I'm So Happy Just To Dance With You'
iv) 'I Wanna Be Your Man' : The Beatles are in Rome where they get mixed up with a bunch of crooks who have melted down a load of gold into the shape of the Goddess 'musica'. Ringo just happens to buy it as a gift for the British Museum and the crooks want it back! Does the music fit? No - unless Ringo has been singing 'I Wanna Be Your Goddess' all these years and I've never noticed! Best gag of the episode: The Roman Emperor statue who looks an awful lot like a certain drummer...
14) i 'Don't Bother Me' : Two more crooks straight out of The Monkees slip into The Beatle's hotel room and - shudder - steal their book of songs. Only Ringo notices anything odd, as the crooks pursue the band all the way back to England. Of course, if this song had a modern setting it would no doubt be Michael Jackson stealing the Lennon-McCartney songbook! Does the music fit? Yes, George's first song fits like a glove! Best gag of the episode: The crooks pretend to be the tannoy 'The train is cancelled. Someone stole the tracks!' Paul 'Isn't that awful?' Crook: 'Well, it's a-notta too good!'
ii) Singalong: The Kangaroo is back and 'It Won't Be Long' before Ringo gets things wrong again
iii) Singalong: 'I Should Have Known Better' is what John should have said after requesting a 'ballad'
iv) 'No Reply' : A master criminal (gosh there's a lot of these, aren't there?) named 'Anyface' can disguise himself to look like anyone, including Paul McCartney (so that's where those 'Paul is Dead' rumours came from!) Strangely the rest of the band take a while to notice! The way the band work out who is Anyface is clever - he's the one who doesn't run away from a bunch of marauding fans! Does the music fit? No - they don't seem to bother fitting this song into the plot! (If only the Beatles had recorded their own song 'One and One is Two' eh?!) Best gag of the episode: Anyface has stolen Ringo's rings and hidden them inside a 'false nose' he used to pretend to be Paul. John's comment 'A good job he didn't have a false nose like yours, Ringo, or he might have stolen our guitars as well!'
15) i 'I'm Happy Just To Dance With You' : The band parachute into Italy once again and take part in a Roman street festival. Paul tries his hand at the shooting range but accidentally hits Bonnie the Dancing Bear, who happens to have the hots for the bassist. The pair eventually win a dancing contest. Does the music fit? Well, technically it's the opposite: Paul is anything but happy to dance with a bear! Best gag of the episode: None, there's too much dancing and not enough jokes in this one!
ii) Singalong: Ringo's in a parachute as John says 'Don't Bother Me'
iii) John and Ringo 'join up' while 'Can't Buy Me Love' plays
iv) 'Mr Moonlight' : The same day the Beatrles recorded this track they also did the unreleased 'Leave My Kitten Alone'. How much more would the Brodax team have preferred that song to illustrate? Instead what we get is a convoluted story about professor Ludwig Van Brilliant who helps the band escape some fans by hiding in a lifeboat. Alas, Ringo accidentally sets them adrift and they end up on a desert island. The band and the prog get caught by natives, but luckily Brilliant knows there's an eclipse coming and the shocked natives set them free. Does the music fit? The plot takes so long to set up there's barely any story! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'What's an eclipse?' George 'That's when the Earth goes in front of the sun and the moon goes black' Ringo 'Well, that's not very polite!'
16) i 'Can't Buy Me Love' : As well as one of my least favourite Beatle tunes, this is one of my least favourite Beatle cartoons. The band are in Hawaii where John gets invited by an ancient tribe to wear an ancient ring. By accepting, though, it means he has to get married to a rather large native girl (what he doesn't tell anyone in the cartoon is that he's already married!) In a plot ripped from 'Help!' , Ringo plays a very small part and its a near solo for John. Luckily for him he ends up in a pineapple factory (!) and his betrothed refuses to marry him ('because I hate pineapple!') Does the music fit? Barely. Best gag of the episode: None. This is truly the (pineapple) dregs of the series.
ii) Singalong: George and a 'moo-dy' 'Anna (Go To Him)'
iii) Singalong: Presumably there is another singalong here but sadly my copy doesn't have it!
iv) 'It Won't Be Long' : More racial stereotypes, in China this time, with 'Dr Ah-So' on hand to put things right when Lennon 'accidentally' shrinks to a few inches tall in a magical lake (again the plot is ripped straight out of 'Help! but with John in the action instead of Paul). The others think he's a Beatle doll. Interesting info this episode: he's ticklish. Does the music fit? No! It won't be long till what? He's the proper size again? Best gag of the episode: George 'I'm so hungry I could eat a guitar' Ringo 'Have a drumstick - they're better!'
17) i 'Anna (Go To Him)' In a clever subversion of what you might expect, 'Anna' is really the 'Ahn-Ha', a Japanese junk. It's actually a ghost ship that lures people out to sea with its alluring images of a female crew and Paul falls for it. Thankfully the other three pull him to safety....only for him to meet a 'dragon lady' in a lift to his hotel room, where the whole plot happens again! Does the music fit? Yes, very inventively! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'This is a Japanese junk' John: 'And it belongs in a junk shop!'
ii) Singalong: In an eventful interlude Ringo drops his Gs but still manages to sing 'Matchbox'
iii) Singalong: Paul isn't thankful that Ringo interrupted him to talk about diction lessons but at least the band get to sing 'Thank You Girl'
iv) 'I Don't Want To Spoil The Party' : John's in a mood. He thinks the band aren't cultured and wants to go round some New York museums while everyone else holds 'wild parties in Greenwich Village'. Paul, George and Ringo decide to have some fun but don't like what they see (rather like what George experience for real in a visit there in 1967!) John smugly brings them back to their sense. Party pooper! Does the music fit? Perfectly! Best gag of the episode: 'Hey are you guys Beatniks?' Ringo 'No, we're more like Beatleniks!'
18) i 'Matchbox' : John has bought the band a fold-up trailer to cut down on hotel bills. It works a treat too, even if it's a bit of a squeeze (with Ringo's feet end up sticking out into the fridge and his drumkit doubling as a bath!) Unfortunately the trailer runs away with Ringo inside and he soon finds himself folded up along with the trailer. Does the music fit? Well, I don't think that's what Carl Perkins had in mind when he wrote it but, yes, the trailer is as big as a 'matchbox'! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'I might stay here for life!' [Volcano explodes] '...Or thereabouts!'
ii) Singalong: George gets gangbusters and John doesn't want to spoil the party
iii) Singalong: Ringo plays with the weather, to George's disgust, and John sings 'Help!'
iv) 'Thank You Girl' : A rather grump Brian Epstein tells the band they've been getting fat from French cooking and locks them in their hotel room to write more songs (erm, shouldn't this be the Rolling Stones?) The band escape and are on the lookout for food when they learn about a hotel offering free cooking lessons. Does the music fit? Not exactly, although a female secretary does come to their rescue. Best gag of the episode: None, another of the weaker entries in this series.
19) i 'From Me To You' : George has sand kicked in his face by a beach bully and decides to get fit through a magazine offer, but he can't even tear the coupon out of the page. Some pretty fans, assuming George to be strong, ask him to save them from the bully. Against his better judgement, George agrees to a duel - on a surfboard! (Was this cartoon written for The Beach Boys?!) He's rather good - briefly - but the bully is better and he cheats (luring sharks to George's board) so it's just as well that George cheated earlier too, pinning the bully to his board with starch. Does the music fit? Barely. Best gag of the episode: None, again. The writing is really dipping at the end of this first series.
ii) Singalong: Paul won't stop asking for ballads while 'Please Mr Postman' plays.
iii) Singalong: Ringo is statue-of-liberty-esque while 'I Saw Her Standing There' plays
iv) 'Boys' : The Beatles, using the same swimsuits they used for real in a 1964 photo-shoot, get involved in another plot The Monkees nick wholesale in 1967: a competition to find a new film star, 'Mr Hollywood', while on vacation in Hollywood. The band nominate Ringo to take the part but George somehow gets it. Being George, though (even a cartoon version) he turns his back on ego-trips and money and gives his trophy and the prize away! Does the music fit? No, quite simply, although there are some boys here I guess. Best gag of the episode: Paul 'What do we have to do?' 'John 'Stand there and look pretty' Paul 'Oh, then Ringo's sure to win!'
20) i 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy' : In another George-centric episode, the others turn out to be surprisingly good skaters but poor George isn't very good. That naughty John and Paul enter him into a skating competition to embarrass him, but luckily his partner is Elizabeth Von Holstein, whose rather good and they win easily. Does the music fit? Well she doesn't get that dizzy but she is called Lizzy! Best gag of the episode: Paul 'Let's do a few figure eights the hard way!' John 'Yes, two fours!'
ii) Singalong: That Kangaroo has a knock-out punch and so does 'Ticket To Ride'.
iii) Singalong: 'From Me To You' is a ballad, no ballet, no ballot...
iv) ' I Saw Her Standing There' : John and Paul are in Spain, lost, when they meet a charming senorita dancing a flamenco. However someone's cigarette ends up in John's Beatle boot and soon he's dancing a flamenco! She falls in love, her rather large boyfriend gets jealous and challenges him to a duel. The matter is solved, John is the victor, but now Paul saves her from a spider and the same thing happens all over again... Does the music fit? Not really, although technically she kind of is standing over there, I guess. Best gag of the episode: 'Think of your pride!' John 'I'd rather think of my hide!'
21) i 'What You're Doing' : What is it with Beatles and weddings?! This time it's Ringo whose pounced on by gypsies in some specified Scandinavian snow-covered country. It takes George, looking surprisingly good in drag, to get him out of the mess he's in. Does the music fit? Ringo's sure thinking it, but they could have actually put a line in that says 'what are you doing?' Come to think of it, most of the viewers are asking 'what are you doing?' by the end of this cartoon so perhaps there's a double meaning... Unusually the song is split in two for this episode. Best gag of the episode: Ringo's look of horror when 'Georgina' declares that Ringo is engaged to her and can't get married before he realises who it is!
ii) Singalong: John and that blinking parachute to the tune of 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy'. Give it a rest, guys!
iii) Singalong: John shows Ringo the meaning of 'in' and 'down' and 'out while 'All My Loving' plays to a background of George as a Liverpool sailor!
iv) 'Money' : Finally, after 42 individual cartoons, it's payday and The Beatles are owed masses. They discuss what to do with it all and for reasons best known to the cartoon Lennon sew the loot into his jacket before the band go to a carnival, with inevitable consequences. Well, it still makes more sense that giving it all to the black hole that was Apple! Does the music fit? You bet - you can still the writer's cogs whirring from a 50 year distance! Best gag of the episode: The ending: John thinks he's got one over Ringo by having George dress up as the 'villain' and has the money safe in his coat all the time. Turns out Ringo has it after all and they've just thrown it away into the crowd. Oops, Brian's going to be mad...
22) i 'Komm Gibb Mer Deine Hand' : In case you hadn't already guessed from the title, The Beatles are in Germany, which is really just an excuse to hear the band's most popular American song when this series was being made and stick the band in Lederhosen. As special guests The Beatles are given the ultimate tribute...climbing a mountain to plant a flag! Cue much animated hysterics with a St Bernard Does the music fit? Actually it's very clever - hanging from a St Bernard by a rope (!) The Beatles need to ask the dog, in German, for a 'hand'. It's just as well they didn't sing 'Sie Leibt Dich' I suppose! A burst of 'Slow Down' is heard when a ski-lift runs out of control too...Best gag of the episode: The dog brings the flaming flag back again, just when they've finally got it up the mountain!
ii) Singalong: George gets moo-edy, 'cuase he's a 'Bad Boy'
iii) Singalong: It's that bit with George and Ben Franklin again (ring any bells?) to the tune of 'Tell Me Why'
iv) 'She Loves You' : The band's second most famous American song makes a surprisingly late appearance on yet another cartoon where the band get lost in fog (the animators clearly only visited London during the Victorian era). The band think something funny is going on in a cabin on board a boat, but it's only a magician practicing his act. Cross that his beautiful assistant is making goo-goo eyes at the fab four, the magician tries to throw some knives at the band, so they sing him a song to re-assure him who she really loves...Does the music fit? About as well as'Magical Mystery Tour' did in the 1967 Boxing Day TV schedules (in other words, no). Best gag of the episode: None, another weak episode short on dialogue.
23) i 'Bad Boy' : We're in the Balvarian Alps this week, in a scene straight out of 'Help!', where the Beatles are taking turns to push and ride a sled and accidentally fall off a cliff (long story!) A local boy named Hans notices who they are and saves them, before growing a Beatle cut and declaring 'I want to be a Beatle!' After saying 'no!', the dad hears how much the band earn and signs up to become their tuba player! Does the music fit? Hans isn't that bad actually, surely we all wanted to run away to Liverpool and become musicians in 1965? He's just doing what comes naturally! Best gag of the episode: The dad when the boy has disappeared: 'Look, no Hans!'
ii) Singalong: Ringo drops his Gs, so it's just as well there aren't any in 'Please Please Me'
iii) Singalong: Paul helps Ringo with his diction by singing 'Hold Me Tight'
iv) 'Tell Me Why' : This time we're in Spain, which is a shame for the Beatles because the 'burro' they are riding on hates music (even the title song which plays on George's portable radio - shocking taste!) The band 'borrow' her to use as a racehorse at a local race (so they really did lose all their 'money' earlier!) with Ringo as jockey, but thanks to a short circuit in the electrics events don't turn out as planned...Does the music fit? Not at all! tell me why they wrote this plot round this song?! Best gag of the episode: 'There's a correction! Pedro doesn't after all, win by a nose. Instead he wins by the jockey's nose!'
24) i 'I Feel Fine' : The Beatles are trying to make their next film and explore a Hollywood film set. Paul gets terribly irate at how phony everything and tries to prove it to the others by messing around with the props, winding up 'Dick Dashing' the star of the film along the way. Well, that explains what happened to 'Give My Regards To Broad Street', then. Does the music fit? In a word, no. Who, pray tell, is feeling fine? Best gag of the episode: Paul puts out a dragon's fierce breath of flames...with a handy fire extinguisher
ii) Singalong: Give it a rest George, none of your songs come on like gangbusters. Not even 'What You're Doing'.
iii) Singalong: 'There's A Place' for singalongs about the weather and it peaked about 20 episodes ago!
iv) 'Hold Me Tight' : The Beatles are at Times Square, 'the crossroads of the road', but only George and Ringo want to pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty. According to Ringo 'She looks like my mum waiting for y dad to come with the paycheck' (which is odd, given that Ringo's mum was a single parent). Along the way they stop someone they think is a crook (you can't really blame them, given the amount they've met on this series) but who turns out to be just eating his lunch. Does the music fit? George and Ringo are holding on to the Statue of Liberty for dear life, but it's not where I expected this cartoon to be going when I read the title! Best gag of the episode: The guard catches Ringo after he slides down the banister inside the Statue of Liberty 'Having fun?' 'Well, actually the Tower of London was faster'
25) i 'Please Please Me' : Another episode in Spain about bulls, with George and Ringo somehow conned into being matadors. John and Paul are meant to be the 'fake' bull but before they can get in the costume a real one rushes past, leaving the pair of singers desperately trying to get their bandmates' attention. It's all going to end in tears...Does the music fit? No - who are they pleasing exactly?! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'Ants can't hurt you!' [A bull rushed past, breaking the tablecloth he's holding] 'Oh, perhaps that was a moth!'
ii) Singalong: Ringo's stupid, not cupid, but he has the sense to introduce 'Roll Over Beethoven'
iii) Singalong: Sometimes, Ringo, your repeats really burn me up, until you play some 'Rock and Roll Music'
iv) 'There's A Place' : In a neat parallel of 'A Hard Day's Night', a rather stressed production manager and grumpy director try to put a Beatles TV show together. If anything, this lot are even more clueless, not even recognising their guest stars and putting the band on alongside a monkey named Mr Marvellous (how the animators must have regretted the fact The Beatles never put their cover 'Too Much Monkey Business' on a record!) Lennon gets concerned for his welfare and sets him free, causing much chaos along the way. Does the music fit? Well, it does if the song's about where do monkeys go when they feel sad and low, when they feel blue? Best gag of the episode: None, there's to much monkey business for much dialogue!
26) i 'Roll Over Beethoven' : In the last episode of the first series, it's finally time to leave New York and fly back to Britain. Before the band catch their plane home they decide to have one last look around...big mistake! A limousine full of waving Beatles causes all sorts of traffic problems and the band get mobbed, again. Along the way Paul gets kidnapped by an elephant named 'Beethoven' and have to play a song to him to set him free. Does the music fit? Yes, but only because the elephant was named 'Beethoven'. Personally I think he looks more like a 'Tchaikovsky'. Best gag of the episode: Ringo having fun with a fork-lift truck!
ii) Singalong: Bertha packs a punch, but oddly given the circumstances John sings 'I Feel Fine'
iii) Singalong: Ballad? 'She Loves You'? Ringo might as well have stayed thinking this was a ballet...
iv) 'Rock and Roll Music' : The Beatles are finally home in a hilariously wrong depiction of the British isles, full of palaces and upper class twits. In a bit of a misunderstanding, The Beatles have been booked under the impression that they are a string quartet (Brian's surely going to be fired for booking them this gig!) The band decide to liven things up with some 'rock and roll music' instead...Does the music fit? Best gag of the episode: Two. Ringo 'I Feel like little boy blue!' Paul 'I'm not surprised with that horn!' John, while studying the sheet music they've been given 'It's Bach' Ringo 'Well if it's back to front just turn it round!'
27) i 'Eight Days A Week' : At last! Psychedelia is here, with the start of series two (broadcast between September and October 1966). New life is at last breathed into a series that was growing a bit stale. A lengthy opening sequence full of the cartoon Beatles merging from their 'real' selves to the tune of 'And Your Bird Can Sing' is spectacular, but at 2 minutes an episode leaves even less room for dialogue and plot than normal. Inside another TV studio, Paul is shocked to find that film star 'Lips Lovelace' is 'worn out' after his time as a romantic lead and offers to take over. Even Paul can't keep up with this much kissing, however and is relieved when Lovelace takes his old job back. Does the music fit? Pretty well actually: ':Love you every day, girl' Best gag of the episode: Paul wants a reward for helping out with all the kissing and get it too - a kiss.
ii) Singalong: At last, some new ones! Paul is in the Beatles' groovy pad and sitting at a white piano (did Lennon see this before making 'Imagine'?!) Paul requests a 'swinging number that brings down the house' - and soon wishes he hadn't... 'Run For Your Life' is the song.
iii) Singalong: Paul says the song 'really rocks'. In comes 'Starr Gravel Company' with a load of rocks. Ironically this week's singalong is 'Girl', the first for ages that isn't a rocker! Note the use of some real photographs as part of the cartoon, which would have been quite daring for 1966!
iv) 'I'm Looking Through You' : Out in the deserts of Egypt, The Beatles find a pyramid to rehearse in. The ghost of an Egyptian (who looks and sounds remarkably like Ringo) needs a body to transfer into and chooses the drummer ('A body! Not much of one...but a body!') Ringo is then the ghost doomed to a cruel fate before the ghost gives him back his body ('I didn't spend 5000 years waiting for a body like this!') Does the music fit? Brilliantly - I'll never hear this song again without thinking of ghosts! Best gag of the episode: Ringo after sitting down in the wrong place: 'I'll never practise on a cactus!'
28) i 'Help!' : The Beatles are in Paris for a fashion show. Ringo doesn't like it. Another crook has stolen the spring collection and Paul and Ringo set of in hot pursuit, with a distinctly 'Monkees' style romp around the city ('The Monkees' screened for the first time at about the same time - interestingly they, too, will do a slapstick show filmed in Paris). Does the music fit? To be honest a good half of these cartoons could have featured 'Help!' and the song would have fitted in! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'What's that bunch of girders?' Paul 'Ringo, that's the Eiffel Tower! And talking of eye-fuls, look at her!'
ii) Singalong: George is in the band's groovy pad this time and requests a 'real bang!' Typically, he 'nearly gets blown to smitheroons' by Ringo. He's probably longing for 'The Night Before'
iii) Singalong: George's next song 'really takes off' - Ringo happens to have a spitfire in his collection. Amazingly George gets out of this one quite well - it's Ringo who gets hurt! The song is 'Day Tripper'
iv) 'We Can Work It Out' : The Beatles are back in Hollywood and after finding out so many film stars are superstitious George gets worried ('Have you ever seen Marlon Brando step on a crack?') A wizard pretending to be a 'soothsayer to the stars' 'saves' George's life. Typically, a forthright John doesn't agree and tries to report him to the police, but the dastardly magician captures the band and puts them inside a crystal ball. Thankfully the real police catch him and the Beatles vow never to be superstitious again ('Knock on wood!' they say, knocking on Ringo's bonce!) Yep, it's official. The illustrators must have been dropping LSD too to come up with this plot! Does the music fit? Not really, although opening line 'try to see it my way' does kind of fit. Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'Do you read palms? Bumps on the head?'Magician 'No, I read money!'
29) i 'I'm Down' : The Beatles are touring a wine factory in France (erm, more likely a drugs factory in Haight Ashbury I'd have thought...) where Ringo accidentally undoes months of work by breaking a wine barrel ('Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-oops!') The factory will close down and everyone will lose their jobs...unless The Beatles can do three months work in two hours. Surprisingly the others rally round Ringo in this episode and 'speed up production' by singing. Does the music fit? No, actually. No one seems that down in this episode and there's no reference in the lyrics to wine ('A Taste Of Honey' might have been a better choice?) Best gag of the episode: George 'There's no point whining over spilled wine!'
ii) Singalong: John, in the band's groovy pad, requests something to go with a 'a really wild rhythm'. He thinks the jungle Ringo comes up with looks fake - until an elephant treads on him! Poor John probably feels like he's been doing these announcements 'Eight Days A Week'.
iii) Singalong: John again requests a 'knock-out' song but this time gets a boxing ring. Ringo gets knocked out and requests that John change it to 'a lullaby'. The resulting song, 'Paperback Writer', is a little of both.
iv) 'Run For Your Life' : In another French-centred episode, The Beatles are in Versailles. On a tour of the palace there Ringo gets knocked out and dreams that he's in love with Marie Antoinette. A storming mob of peasants break up their romance (don't they known Ringo's partner is a Working Class Hero'?!) and only Ringo's quick sneezing saves them both. Does the music fit? Not really - Ringo and Marie don't actually run anyway, but then the band are only playing to wake Ringo up. Best gag of the episode: Tour guide: 'Versailles has 3000 glass windows!' [Crash] Ringo 'Make that 2999, uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
30) i 'Drive My Car' : The Beatles are attending a race of 'old jallopies' where they befriend two young teenagers in a run-down car that can only do four miles an hour. When the other competitors try to bully them out of taking part, The Beatles nobly step in - with five people in the car they won't even have to stop to change drivers. Interestingly this is another episode ripped off wholesale by The Monkees in their 1968 episode 'The Monkees Race Again'. Neither are all that distinguished, though. Does the music fit? Yes, a little too obviously to be honest. Best gag of the episode: None, although the tortoise that overtakes the car did get a quick chuckle
ii) Singalong: A repeat of Paul asking for a 'swinging number' and getting...'Yesterday'. Swinging? Seriously?!
iii) Singalong: At least 'We Can Work It Out' does indeed 'really rock!'
iv) 'Tell Me What You See' : In one of the cleverest episodes of the series, The Beatles find themselves visiting a 'master of make up'. Due to a mix-up with a futuristic looking machine, the other three Beatles all end up looking like Ringo and Ringo ends up looking like Frankenstein, then a gorilla, then - in a unique crossover - one of the 'goons' from Popeye! Eventually the machine explodes (is this what started all those Paul is Dead rumours?...) Does the music fit? Like a glove, very clever! Best gag of the episode: Make-up Man to Ringo: 'I told you not to fool around with my faces! take that silly mask off!...Oh, sorry!'
31) i ' I Call Your Name' : In a second classic episode in a row, Ringo adopts a pet frog which he names Bartholemew. He causes chaos when he brings it into a posh restaurant and so reluctantly has to part from him. However The Beatles' film producer is keen to make a film called 'Froggy Come Home' and promises to pay the Beatles $100 a day for him to star in the film. Cue the band desperately calling for him in the swamp...A happy ending? Nope, the producer says everything you need to know about show business: he'd rather save the money he offered din the first place to pay a parakeet to play a frog fro free! (since when did The Beatles become this addicted to money by the way?!) Lance Percival is terrific at the frog sound effects by the way! Does the music fit? Brilliantly, especially John's increasing irritation set to the line 'Don't you know I can't take it!' Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'Aww he likes me' John 'I like you too, Ringo, but I don't croak' Ringo 'Some music critics say you do!'
ii) Singalong: George gets blown to smitheroons and yet still introduces 'I Feel Fine'
iii) Singalong: Ringo's spitfire causes George to sing...'Wait!'
iv) 'The Word' : In another Monkees-y episode, the band entertain a harem of girls for a friendly Sheikh. However they get yet another flat tyre and have to hitch a lift on a passing camel. Alas another sheikh isn't so pleased to see them and bans his teenage girl harem from seeing the Beatles. Huh, fat chance! The Beatles get one last request granted, to sing a song and pass on the password: 'love'. Somehow the cavalry hear it and come a-running in to save them. Does the music fit? A bit convoluted, but I'll buy it. Best gag of the episode: There's two. Ringo 'Instead of a flat tyre I wish we had a flat camel!' Girl 'Please, before you throw them to the crocodiles, can't they sing one last song?' Ringo 'We could even play two, uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
32) i 'All My Loving' : This early Beatles song crops up surprisingly late don the list (was this cartoon abandoned in the first series, perhaps because of similarities to the 'Help!' film?) The band are in India (George seems especially keen, which is a nice though probably co-incidental touch!) and after Ringo accidentally insults someone enlist in a 'charm school'. Alas, it turns out to be a 'snake charming school', hosted by Lance Percival in an appalling Indian accent, with a tiger taking a particular shine to Ringo. The only way the band can subdue it is by telling him that he's 'loved'! Oddly, it doesn't work (come on, who doesn't love that song?!) and the band have to escape by using the 'indian rope trick'.
Does the music fit? Very vaguely. Best gag of the episode: None, this is a rather 'ropey' episode.
ii) Singalong: John is lost in the jungle and really should find himself 'looking through' Ringo by now!
iii) Singalong: Ringo boxes not-very-clever to the tune of 'Nowhere Man', set for some reason in space (did this clip inspire the scene with Jeremy in 'Yellow Submarine'!)
iv) 'Day Tripper' : Ever thought the Beatles music was 'out of this world?' Well they did take a trip on a flying saucer once! A rather feminine looking alien takes a shine to them and takes them for a flight, which ends in predictable misery when she turns out to be a fuzzy creature with seventeen arms who has been sent to Earth to capture the band. Luckily, the planet dig their music as much as earthlings do and help set them free. In real life John Lennon famously saw a ufo in 1974 (and proudly recorded the fact on the back of his 'Walls and Bridges' album!) but doesn't record anything like this tall tale! Does the music fit? Yes, although it probably wasn't quite the 'day trip' The Beatles had planned! Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'You're so big and brave I suppose if a flying saucer came right down here and a big bloopy blobby creature with seventeen arms and long fuzzy claws crawled out, you wouldn't run and hide, eh?' John 'Of course not, I'd simply give him what he came for - my autograph!'
33) i 'Nowhere Man' : This version of the 'nowhere man' isn't anything like 'Jeremy Boob', he's a rather antisocial hermit who hates the facts the Beatles are exploring his cave. However all his traps and attempts at revenge go wrong and the fab four walk blithely on, oblivious, while his cave collapses all around him. Dangnabbit musicians! Does the music fit? Just about. Best gag of the episode: George 'Let's go out for a quiet tramp in the woods' Ringo 'Where is he? The quite tramp in the woods?'
ii) Singalong: Paul's swinger-ringer-dinger is 'And I Love Her', another song oddly late to this list.
iii) Singalong: Paul's latest 'rocky' song is, erm, 'Michelle' (they really didn't put much thought into linking these songs up did they?)
iv) 'Paperback Writer' : In another of the better episodes (clearly based on John's 'In His Own Write' getting published) a book editor promises to make the band rich if they can get their manuscripts on how they met to him by 'tomorrow morning'. All four have a very different story to tell, with each of them as the 'hero' in the band which they imagine while playing the song. Ringo, a rich man, helps the others out when they were buskers. Paul leaves the Royal Academy of Science and meets the others when they are down and out when they take part in an experiment of his. George is a policeman working undercover who captures the other three working as crooks. John is a world war two pilot who captures the others (the Battle of Britain was the year he was born, so that's really stretching things!) However the editor isn't having any of it and throws the band out. Some of the clips are hilarious, as the band are meant to be playing but are clearly 'miming' their daydreams! Does the music fit? Perfectly. You can almost hear the sigh of relief as the illustrators finally get a Beatles hit single they can get their teeth into! Best gag of the episode: Too many to choose from, although a shot of a busking Beatles complete with stubble is the funniest
34) i 'Penny lane'. Here we are at the start of the third and last series, broadcast in September 1967. Jealous of spy 'James Blonde', they overhear an apparent gangster talk of going to Liverpool to rob Penny Lane. Getting the wrong end of the stick, the band rush there and see all the sights in this very visual song. However it turns out that 'Penny Lane' is a person and James Blonde has beaten them to it again! Does the music fit? The whole clunking plot-line is built around it. It would have been funnier if they'd misheard it as 'Denny Laine'! Best gag of the episode: George 'Why is he called '00'? Girl 'When his fans see him they go 'oh-oh!'
ii) Singalong: George's segment goes with a bang again before 'Good Day Sunshine' plays.
iii) Singalong: Ringo gets his spitfire out again, while the graphics for song 'Rain' are in great contrast to what's just been on for the last song!
iv) 'Strawberry Fields Forever' : The Beatles' car breaks down outside an orphanage where their chauffeur Jim used to live. The salvation army home is cleverly drawn in monochrome in contrast to the Beatles' typically colourful gear. The frightened children run away but the Beatles decide to help paint the place and show their support. Can they really make such a drab place colourful again? 'It depends how you look at it!' says John.
Does the music fit? The illustrators clearly did their homework over what this song was actually about! Best gag of the episode: There aren't many lines at all in this one, with almost the entire lengthy song used instead.
35) i 'And Your Bird Can Sing' : Despite being heard just minutes before, the Beatles' second signature tune is back again. The Beatles are bird-watching with a pretty ornithologist and her companion whose clearly in love with her. However they keep being disturbed by a crazy bird, whose like the ADHD brother of Woody Woodpecker. In the end the bird locks the two lover birds in the cage meant for him, while for some reason the Beatles march to the tune of 'Colonel Bogey's March'. All very surreal, even for 1967. Does the music fit? All too bluntly. Best gag of the episode: Even the bird can sing 'yeah yeah yeah!'
ii) Singalong: A repeat of last week's banging episode, which seems a bit lazy, this time with a rather fetching design set to 'Penny Lane' quite different to the last episode.
iii) Singalong: Ringo's spitfire introduces 'Eleanor Rigby', in the one segment of the whole series that points directly forward to the 'Yellow Submarine' film. This black-and-white photo montage isn't quite as powerful as the Liverpool setting of the original, but it's pretty moving all the same and by far the best of the ;singalong' montages.
iv) 'Got To Get You Into My Life' : Surrounded by fans in India again, the Beatles escape by dressing up behind sashes. However what they really want to escape from is looking like The Beatles, so they go to another Lance Percival racial stereotype to let their spirits escape from their body. Amazingly, it works - but The Beatles' bodies walk off without them. Somehow the Beatles are physical enough to play a song to wake up their sleepy swami and get their bodies and spirits reunited. Does the music fit? This is another clever link, which wasn't qwuite what McCartney meant when he wrote it! Best gag of the episode: George 'They free their spirits from their bodies so it doesn't hurt , it's just mind over matter' Paul 'Well that lets Ringo out, his mind doesn't matter!'
36) i 'Good Day Sunshine' : Ringo thinks he's a jinx - it always rains when he's around. However after a few more examples of it raining just over Ringo the band are forced to agree. The Beatles go on a holiday to Coney Island, but the sun goes out again and everyone at the carnival blames it on Ringo. So The Beatles sing a sunshiney song to make it shine again. Frankly, this plot is rather boring - I'm putting myself to sleep just writing about it. Does the music fit? Like a sledgehammer. Best gag of the episode: Ringo getting stuck on the escalator and going back round again.
ii) Singalong: Paul gets a-swinging before a surreal montage of images set to 'Strawberry Fields Forever'
iii) Singalong: Paul's latest 'rocky' announcement is for 'And Your Bird Can Sing'
iv) 'Ticket To Ride' : The Beatles have a rare day out they spend on their hobbies. In a contrast to 'Twist and Shout' Paul is into modern art. George is into electricity and builds his own robot, which Ringo scares and then accidentally destroys. Ringo is a collector and has locked up a fan, who tries to escape down a subway station (hence the song). John's hobby is writing and he pens a poem that's rather rude about poor Ringo! Does the music fit? Only very very loosely. Best gag of the episode: John on George's robot 'He's got a nasty look in his eyes' Paul 'Yeah all three of them!'
37) i 'Taxman' : It's the end of the financial year and The Beatles have to pay tax. Unusually, they pay their taxes in cash and pull up in a big van full of money. Ringo asks why they have to pay and John tells him that 'even back in the days of Robin Hood' they had to pay. Cue another daydream which tells as much of the story as any cartoon can within five minutes , although sadly the writers don't get to call Lennon 'Little John'! Does the music fit? If the last one was a sledgehammer, this one is a steamroller. Best gag of the episode: Ringo 'Never ever happened' [pulls arrow out from his back] Err-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-yeah!'
ii) Singalong: My copy is missing the singalongs for this week I'm afraid!
iii) Singalong: My copy is missing the singalongs for this week I'm afraid!
iv) 'Eleanor Rigby' : The Beatles, being driven home after a gig, spy some children being rude about 'old ma Rigby', who they think is a witch. John doesn't believe in witches (which makes you wonder what he thought was going on during 'Devil In Her Heart') and sets off to put things right. With the help of chauffeur Jim, they reveal to the children that's she's just lonely and shy and they pledge to be nicer to her and hold a party for her, with all the lonely old people of the neighbourhood joining in to the tune of 'I Feel Fine'. Bah, I say burn the witch! Does the music fit? If the last episode was as subtle as a steamroller, this one's a herd of elephants! Best gag of the episode: This one is too busy moralising to be funny!
38) i 'Tomorrow Never Knows' : The absolute strangest episode of the series and a first draft for the surrealism of 'Yellow Submarine'. Ringo falls down a well that leads to the centre of the world ('The Inner World' as George puts it) and discover themselves inside a statue surrounded by an ancient tribe. Playing to soothe the savage beasts (why play that song then?!) we see a truly psychedelic experience: tribal paintings coming to life and dancing while multiple Johns spill out into the ether. Luckily the tribe like it, unluckily they're yet another group of people whose first thought on spying the Beatles is to marry them. Luckily before they can be caught The Beatles fall 'up' a well. So ends one of the strangest five minutes of my life. Does the music fit? Bizarrely, yes. Best gag of the episode: John 'I bet you don't know where we are' Paul 'Yes I do, we're just following Ringo's nose George 'Then we're in for a long trip!'
ii) Singalong: Jungle John introduces 'She Said She Said'. Note the first ever Al Brodax-animation group drawing of a 'submarine' in the graphics (and no, I don't know why it's illustrating this song either!)
iii) Singalong: Ringo gets knocked out before the animators revive the only 'old' animation they've done already for an earlier cartoon: 'Long Tall Sally', which in this context sounds like it belonged to a quite different era (Did something go wrong with the track they had planned?)
iv) 'I've Just Seen Her Face' : Ringo loses his voice (don't cheer) and the others try to get it back for him, with mixed success. Figuring that he might get his voice back if he's scared enough they take Ringo to a haunted house, where he gets his own back by knocking over a tub of flour that makes him look like a ghost. Does the music fit? Only if Paul had added lyrics about 'seeing a ghostly face', although the animators make good literal use of the 'falling, I keep falling' chorus! Best gag of the episode: George, asking about Ringo's vocal chords: 'Too loose?' John: 'Toulouse Le Trec!' OK that loses something on the printed page, but it made me laugh!