Saturday, January 31, 2015
So, This Used To Be A Thing
When young people hear late Cretaceous period Bob Dylan gargling participles, or are forced to flip the channel hurriedly when the PBS begging jag starts out with the twitching corpse of Peter, Paul, and Mary, they don't really have a frame of reference for what's going on. Folk Music used to be a thing.
Not just a thing. THE thing. John Lennon wrote this song because he wanted to take a stab at the folkie thing. It wasn't really their bag. It was more like a train running on a parallel track. Liverpudlians had skiffle, their own version of folk music, but Gerry Marsden took care of that. When prospective manager Brian Epstein found the Beatles banging away in the Cavern Club, they were wearing leather clothes like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, and they interrupted their fifties proto-rock covers to have Gerry Marsden sing some scouse ballad while he stood on a packing crate because the microphone stand couldn't be adjusted. It wasn't any sort of Rock Island Line festival.
Brian Epstein signed The Silkie because he heard them playing in the Cavern Club when he dragged his Savile Row arse in for a gander at the Beatles. It's hard to say whether the Beatles or The Silkie did the cover version of Hide Your Love Away. Both versions were recorded at the same time by the same people, more or less. It's assumed that John Lennon always wanted to be someone other than himself on a given day, and that day he wanted to be Bob Dylan for a spell.
Or so everyone says. I've never seen a pop-culture vulture offer any other opinion about this record. They all agree that John Lennon wanted to be Bob Dylan because they have no idea what creative people are like. If they were in the slightest bit creative themselves, they wouldn't be writing for music magazines. It's like relying on remoras for advice on how to be a shark. John Lennon was like many people who feel an intense need to compete in whatever arena they find themselves in. It might be passive-aggressive combat, but it's very real. I get a whiff of Oh Yeah, I got yer folk music right here, Bob in this song. Like Marlon in The Wild One, he's wondering whattaya got he can rebel against.
The song was given to The Silkie to record, Lennon produced the record, McCartney played the guitar, and George kept time by tapping the top of an acoustic guitar. When it was done, Lennon called Brian Epstein, held the phone up to the speaker in the studio, and told him they had recorded a Number One hit.
The Silkie version made it to a respectable #28 in the UK, and #10 in the US. The Beatles version was part of the Help! soundtrack, which was # 1 nine ways from Sunday. Knowing how that happens is why the Beatles had a manager, I guess.