Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Beatles and musical history: "Matchbox"

And so now we come to one of The Beatles' biggest influences: Carl Perkins. Carl Perkins is considered one of the many pioneers of rock 'n' roll, and is essential listening for any rockabilly fan. George Harrison was a particularly big fan of his, and his early guitar-playing style shows that Perkins' style was a strong influence- an admiration that lasted throughout his career, and clearly expressed by his involvement with the 1985 Carl Perkins special Blue Suede Shoes: A Rockabilly Session, where he played alongside with his hero.

The Beatles would play many of his songs early in their career, and "Matchbox" is the first that was recorded, as part of the 1960 home recordings.

Interestingly, Carl Perkins partially derived the song from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Match Box Blues". If you can make out his thick accent, you'll notice the opening lines from "Matchbox" make up the second verse:

As you can probably tell from listening, in the group's earliest days, John sang the song. Once Pete Best joined the group, it was apparently one of the few songs he sang. This version was never recorded- I don't imagine that Pete was a terribly good singer- and once he was fired and replaced by Ringo, John took over again, as you can hear in their Star Club performance in 1962:

The Beatles also did two versions of the song for BBC radio, the first being recorded in July of 1963, and apparently Ringo had been given lead vocal by that point. Now, I'm assuming those who are interested in The Beatles' lesser known recordings would already have a copy of Live at the BBC, but that release is incredibly incomplete when it comes to putting every known BBC recording in one place, and it would seem awkward to leave something out just because it was put on the official release. Also, it seems to me that Live at the BBC is a much lesser known release than the Anthology series (which I assume that my readers already have), so not everyone would know about the songs therein.
(I also assume that you've heard the most famous songs they covered, like a big Elvis hit or something.)

The second version, recorded mere months before they recorded the version we all know that wound up being released on the EP Long Tall Sally in June '64 (and subsequently the Past Masters CD), doesn't seem to be circulating on YouTube. Hobnail's Unsurpassed Broadcasts is your best bet for collecting The Beatles' BBC recordings.

Unfortunately, a lot of the songs they did for the BBC were done several times, so you might find that I include as many as I can find on YouTube, and consequently posts with multiple, similar versions of the same song. But then again, knowing YouTube, I might not find anything!

And finally, we find Ringo paying tribute to the song by singing and drumming along with Carl Perkins as part of A Rockabilly Session, also featuring Eric Clapton:

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