Misery - The Beatles
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"Misery" - The Beatles (1963)
“Misery” was originally written for Helen Shapiro, a 16 year old who toured with The Beatles that year. Her management rejected the song, so The Beatles recorded the track themselves when they needed material for the Please Please Me album.
Producer George Martin uses a technique he developed of recording a piano at half-speed by itself or in unison with a guitar track that had been recorded at an octave lower. Played back at regular speed, the piano introduction assumes a quasi-harpsichord or music box effect which Martin referred to as the “wound-up piano.”
Musicologist Alan Pollack wrote that the song's overall sound, characterized by a shuffling, "washboard" beat and spare, pseudo-acoustic instrumental texture, represents a genuine if somewhat under-appreciated facet of the group's early style.
Says Beatle author Tim Riley:
“John hardly sounds sad: and even when he does, in the middle eight bars, the descending piano that echo his melody are too saccharine to believe- they could be aural tears falling like rain. He makes his pitch for pity in the dramatic opening moments of the song as if on his knees to the audience, pleading-‘The world is treating me bad, misery.’”
The composition is ultimately about loss- experienced, however without a whiff of pain.
Writes Beatle scholar Ken Womack:
“The speaker, suffering from the understandable woes of a failed romance, maligns his gloomy present in contrast with the ostensibly joyful times of a rapidly fading past: “I’ll remember all the little things we’ve done” he tells us, suggesting that his blissful memories of happier days might function as curatives for his broken heart. The song’s implicitly irony, of course, is that the speaker’s nostalgic longings for his beloved serve to establish a vicious circle of sorts in which his miserable state will continue to plague him indefinitely.”
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