Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tell Me

England’s Newest Hitmakers

Side 2, Track 3

"Tell Me (You're Coming Back)" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 4:05

There's a great story told in the Beatle's Anthology – it seems that after the band had hit with "Love Me Do" but before they'd proven themselves to be consistent songwriters, producer George Martin had gone looking for a song for the band to cover, a song that would be a likely hit. He found such a song, and gave it to the band. They said, we can't do this song, it's terrible. Martin replied, but it is a surefire hit for someone. The band said, maybe so, but we can't be seen in public doing this song. Martin said, okay, what can you give me instead?

The song the Beatles came up with was "Please Please Me", their first great composition. The song Martin wanted them to do? "How Do You Do It", a bubble gum confection that Gerry and the Pacemakers later turned into an annoying hit, using the Beatles arrangement.

I was always reminded of that anecdote whenever I listened to "Tell Me". "That poor band," I would think to myself. "Forced to perform a pop song clearly unsuited to their style. This has all the hallmarks of studio executive meddling."

Imagine my surprise just now when I saw the Jagger/Richards songwriting credit. I don't know what to think now, or who to blame. Who is responsible for this? The sloppy overdubs, the embarrassing attempts at soul testifying, the incoherent structure – who approved of this mess? I see now that it was released as a single, and actually got to #24 on the Billboard Hot 100, presumably riding the wave of Anglophilia following the Beatles success. I can only hope that the single version recieved some judicious editing – the ablum track is more than 4 minutes long.


Nanker said...

The single version of this song was indeed edited down from 4:03 to 2:51, as can be seen in the YouTube clip above.

Anonymous said...

I like the song. It is the best of their early songs.