Monday, March 1, 2010

Thoughts on "It Won't Be Long"

"It Won't Be Long" is one of the reasons I started this blog.

On a random night two summers ago, I was watching and enjoying The Beatles Anthology ("Mythology," according to some) with a friend of mine. Good times. But when we came upon the part that played "It Won't Be Long," I quickly asked myself, "How do I not know this song?" From the first listen, it was a marvel to hear. It was such magnetic and spirited rock 'n' roll. After eagerly taking it in, I felt both exhilarated and somewhat ashamed. At the time, I wasn't terribly well-versed in the Beatles' early-period albums (for the unacquainted, "It Won't Be Long" is the lead track on With The Beatles, the band's sophomore release). But that didn't seem like a valid excuse for never having experienced the succulent excitement of this song. How had I so egregiously missed the boat? What's more, I had watched The Beatles Anthology once before, albeit more casually than I did the second time, and yet somehow "It Won't Be Long" had escaped my attention. I resolved to not allow this to happen again with any other Beatles song, and as I had been contemplating various ideas for a blog but was still undecided at the moment, I realized after we were done watching the DVD that the nature of my next writing venture had finally revealed itself: I would blog about the Beatles.

While "It Won't Be Long" was playing, though, I couldn't dwell on my feelings of regret or give much thought to this blog concept that had only just entered my head. I was too swept up in the immediate thrill of what I was hearing. More than most Beatles songs, "It Won't Be Long" hits you with force, and it does so instantly. Its impact is swift. Those propulsive, addictive, and echoing "yeahs" - the song's trademark - are there right at the outset and stir up so much energy and momentum and a sense that something real is on the line. They're the song's life force; you can hear the frenzy of Beatlemania in them. Reviewing the remastered edition of With The Beatles for Pitchfork, Tom Ewing characterized the "'yeah yeah' chants" as "missiles." This dovetails nicely with my description of the whole song as a "controlled explosion" (from this post). Yes, explosively full of life, those "yeahs" elevate "It Won't Be Long," and they would serve the Beatles well throughout their career.

"It Won't Be Long" is actually packed with signature Beatle touches like the "yeah yeah" chants. There's the clever wordplay in juxtaposing "be long" and "belong;" there's George's "scaling" guitar part;" reminiscent of "She Loves You," there's the abrupt shift at the end of the song; and there's John's lyric which channels some of his long-standing insecurities about rejection and isolation ("Here I am sitting all on my own").

All together, it makes for a classic. The Beatles had reservations about the song and chose not to release it as a single, but they shouldn't have doubted themselves. It's striking pop. Almost 50 years after With The Beatles was recorded, "It Won't Be Long" still delivers the goods in glowing fashion. May it inspire more Beatles fans to fully explore a catalogue of music that should be familiar from start to finish.

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