I’m Down - The Beatles

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"I’m Down" - The Beatles ()

Recorded in June 1965, McCartney commented on 'I'm Down":  

"It was my rock n roll shouter. I could do Little Richard’s voice, which is a wild hoarse, sceaming things it’s like an out of body experience. You have to leave your current sensiblities and go about a foot above your head to find it. Those kind of songs with hardly any kind of melody, rock n roll songs are much harder to write than ballads because there’s nothing to them.”

Released on the “B” side of Help, the song was written very quickly by McCartney- and they also recorded in just a few takes. The tracks’s  tone exhibits the essence of rock ‘n’ roll: “fun songs about bad stuff.”

It's raucous, rough-shod, and in context of where the Beatles were at the time of its release, it's even a bit self-consciously regressive. Beatle scholar Alan Pollack points out that the musical style is derived from one of the archetypal cliché R&B idioms of the fifties; a semi-improvisatory rave-up in which the exact words don't quite matter as much as the angry or naughty tone they set.

At the end of the first take Paul famously described the band’s sound as “plastic soul, man”—an ironic reference to the sonic textures of American rhythm and blues that the Beatles had become veritable masters at emulating.

Professor Ken Womack writes that the concept of “plastic soul,” then, refers to the Beatles’ chameleonic penchant for transforming a musical form in their own image, retaining its fundamental qualities inthe process of making it their own.

McCartney plays out the role as the blue-balled protagonist- the pain in his voice stemming from his unrequited passion. His lover won’t give in, and he is beside himself- frustrated, crazed inexorably down. But within this context,  he turns the music into a celebratory frenzy, not a lament, but a raised clenched first, twisting disappointment into a raging story of self- assertion.

While the band veers breathlessly close to the edge of hysteria- it is to Ringo’s credit that things don’t fall apart.

Says musicologistg Tim Riley:

"The hardest assignment for any drummer is to let the others cut loose to the extreme while providing a steady beat for them to fall back on. Lesser bands would easily come unglued with a groove so saddled and punctured; Ringo maintains a sure but unconfining backbeat for the madness, the strongest glue of all.”

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