Yer Blues

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"Yer Blues"
Song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 13 August 1968,
EMI Studios, London
Genre Blues rock,[1] hard rock[2]
Length 4:01 (stereo)
4:16 (mono)
Label Apple Records
Writer Lennon–McCartney
Producer George Martin
The Beatles track listing

"Yer Blues" is a song by the Beatles from the album The Beatles, also known as The White Album. Though credited to Lennon–McCartney, it was written and composed by John Lennon[3][4] while in Rishikesh, India.

Composition[edit]

Lennon said that, while "trying to reach God and feeling suicidal" in India, he wanted to write a blues song, but was unsure if he could imitate the likes of Sleepy John Estes and other original blues artists he had listened to in school. In "Yer Blues," he alludes to this insecurity with a reference to the character Mr. Jones from Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man," and with the third verse, which draws on Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on My Trail." Instead, Lennon wrote and composed "Yer Blues" as a parody of British imitators of the blues, featuring tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and rock and roll-inspired swing blues passages.[5]

The half-satirical, half-earnest song mockingly acknowledges the British blues boom of 1968 and the debate among the music press at the time of whether white men could sing the blues.[6] According to Walter Everett, the song's "ponderous earnestness ... belies the composer's satirical tone."[5] In the chorus, Lennon sings, "If I ain't dead already, girl you know the reason why." The writer Jonathan Gould interprets this to be a "joke [in] that nobody knows the reason why — or, for that matter, what any of these bluesy poetics are really supposed to mean." Gould called "Yer Blues" an example of the "cultural realism" that distinguished the Beatles from their musical contemporaries in Britain: "[T]heir acceptance of the idea that, except as a subject of self-parody, certain expressive modes of African-American music lay outside the realm of their experience and hence beyond their emotional range as singers."[7]

Recording[edit]

"Yer Blues" was recorded in EMI Studio Two's "annexe," which was actually a large closet in the control room.[8] The song is in the key of E major, but like many blues numbers, it prominently features accidentals, such as G natural, D natural, and B flat. The song is primarily in a 6/8 meter, but as with several of Lennon's songs, the time signature and tempo are altered many times.[9] In interviews for the Beatles Anthology series, Ringo Starr affectionately recalls recording this song in the stripped-down conditions, saying it was like the old days of live performances by The Beatles. The stripped-down, bluesy nature of the song bears similarity to much of Lennon's early solo output, including "Cold Turkey" and his 1970 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and marks a retreat from the concerns that Lennon had with such studio experimentation as had marked such songs as "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." The song, along with "Glass Onion" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," is one of the few known Beatles songs on which Paul McCartney used a Fender Jazz Bass rather than his better-known Hofner bass.

Contributing to the live sound of the song, loud yelling between band members can be heard in the instrumental tracks.

Performance[edit]

Just after the album The Beatles came out in late 1968, Lennon performed "Yer Blues" at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus with a supergroup dubbed the "The Dirty Mac," consisting of himself, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Keith Richards on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The performance was followed with a boogie instrumental jam called "Whole Lotta Yoko," featuring dissonant avant-garde violinist Ivry Gitlis and vocals by Yoko Ono. Though the recording was never broadcast, and though for decades the performance was only available on bootleg, it was finally officially released, on both CD and video, in 1996. Lennon's performance with the Dirty Mac was his first live performance since the Beatles's last concert in 1966 and may have contributed to his renewed enthusiasm for live performance in 1969. (See "Give Peace a Chance" and Live Peace in Toronto.)

Personnel[edit]

Personnel per Ian MacDonald[6]

Cover versions[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stanley, Bob (2013). Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop. Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-28198-2. 
  2. ^ Hohman, Charles (21 December 1968). "An in-depth Look at the Songs on Side-Three". Rolling Stone. The White Album Project. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Sheff 2000, pp. 199–200.
  4. ^ Miles 1997, pp. 421,497.
  5. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 170.
  6. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 307.
  7. ^ Gould 2008, p. 520.
  8. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 148.
  9. ^ Notes on "Yer Blues", Alan W. Pollack

References[edit]

External links[edit]