There’s a Place - The Beatles

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"There’s a Place" - The Beatles (1963)

"There's A Place" was one of the very first attempts by Lennon to write in the style of the Motown girl-groups and rhythm and blues. “In my mind there's no sorrow...' It's all in your mind."

The title was inspired by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" from West Side Story, which contained the line: "There's a place for us."

McCartney owned the album of the soundtrack at the time of writing "There's a Place" and acknowledges its influence. The "place" in question was "the mind", making its subject matter slightly more cerebral than Britain's kissing and cuddling songs and America's surf music from that period.

He writes in his autobiography:

“In our case the place was in the mind, rather than round the back of the stairs for a kiss and a cuddle. This was the difference with what we were writing: we were getting a bit more cerebral. We both sang it. I took the high harmony, John took the lower harmony or melody. This was a nice thing because we didn't actually have to decide where the melody was till later when they boringly had to write it down for sheet music.”

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack commented:

“Paul takes the lead for most of the verse sections with John singing in harmony below him. At the end of the first and third verses, Paul suddenly drops out leaving John briefly exposed by himself on lead, and at the end of the middle variant verse, John sings lead with a vocalese backing by Paul and George. The bridge section alternates between solo John and John and Paul in unison.”

Musicologist Walter Everett writes:

“If the Beatles’ early instrumental backing was not rich with timbral variety, their vocals were usually crafted with this goal in mind. This is particularly appreciable in the many arrangements in which John sings a main vocal line that is adorned by an upper harmony part, a descant line sung by Paul. Their suburban-Liverpudlian voices could blend as closely as would those of the brother pairs on which they modeled their early duet style: Phil and Don Everly, and Carl and Jay Perkins. In duet, John and Paul would generally create contrasting colors not through variation of vocal technique, but by changing contrapuntal relationships within song sections.”

Musicologist Wilfrid Mellers adds:

“There’s A Place" was the first Beatle song concerned with self-reliance. It is curiously austere, resolutely diatonic, virtually without modulation. The “place” where he thinks of her is his own mind; which his ultimately inviolable, even by her. It is probably the first song wherein we realize that John might be an “oral” poet, and that in terms of poetica-musical experience he had a long way to travel.”

Beatle writer Terence O’Grady points out how songs in the format or style of “There’s A Place” demonstrate some of the characteristics associated with rhythm and blues influenced rock. There needs to be instrumental accompaniment techniques and special effects (i.e., string bending); an emphatic beat defined by percussion and guitars; and a generally restrained adaptation of rhythm and blues vocal techniques:

"There’s a Place" established the Beatles, and particularly Lennon, as artists willing to explore an emotional terrain that up to that point had been left all-but-untouched by the mainstream pop world. It was daring for the time.

Professor Ken Womack said that the track also provides listeners with an intriguing early portrait of John and Paul’s embryonic sense of nostalgia as a restorative experience. The speaker images an otherworldly space where “there’s no sorrow” and “no sad tomorrow”.

“More likely a state of being as opposed to an actual physical locale, this personally inscribed place allows Lennon’s speaker to be alone and, rather significantly, to be liberated from the socially dislocating forces of the workday world. Yet as with so many other Lennon-McCartney songs written during this period, the lead vocalist’s optimism belies the lyrics’ multifarious shades of blue.”


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