When someone says:
“I don’t believe in racial stereotypes but…”
they are generally about to make a racial stereotype.
I don’t believe in racial stereotypes but… The Celtic People are pretty good at music and ponder about death…. a lot.
The Irish touch is all over “Baby’s In Black” and all over the Beatles. They are pretty much an Irish band. 15 of their 16 grandparents are Irish. Liverpool is, well, basically as far from Ireland as Exit 16 on the Jersey Turnpike is from Manhattan. Hell, Liverpool IS Ireland. McCartney? Harrison? Starkey? Lennon? Irish, all.
And the smell of death lingers over the song as well. The beautiful and enigmatic Stu is dead from a brain hemorrhage and his equally beautiful and enigmatic girlfriend Astrid is grieving.
Stu was John’s 2nd in command in the Hamburg version of the Beatles. He wasn’t the greatest musician but he was certainly the most charismatic, which is often more important.
Paul has made no secret of the fact that he was a little jealous of Stu, and quite rightly so. Stu had “Star” written large above his head wherever he went. He looked like electric Bob Dylan before Bob Dylan was acoustic. He painted abstract paintings, he had the hottest girlfriend.
He was cool incarnate.
His tragedy was that after a gig in a small Lancashire town Sutcliffe got himself into a fight outside the hall and took quite a beating. John and Pete Best dragged him out of it but Stu had suffered a fractured skull. He was supposed to go to Sefton General Hospital for an X-ray but never went.
Within 15 months he was dead.
Indeed, she has seen the mistake. And John, in as morose a mood as you’ll find, is lamenting his inability to do a damned thing about any of it.
“Baby’s In Black” is one of many Beatle songs derived from Irish melodies, carved from "What Can the Matter Be?", also known as "Johnny’s So Long at the Fair", a traditional nursery rhyme traceable as far back as far as the 1780s.
John and Paul had already been known to have thrown a two part harmony together now and then, but rarely have they belted a better two minutes of mano a mano vocalization than you’ll find here.
And that, they literally did, shunning convention to record the song side by side, in front of a single mike, figure-8, Irish Old School.
There’s not a single note in this song where John and Paul are not harmonizing, and never once do they sing the same note together. Its a rare, if not totally unique Beatles composition in that respect (though at the 1:59 mark, I hear the hint of a third voice, Paul perhaps, singing a lovely 7th.)
When I attempt to sing this song I get a mini head rush from lack of air by the time I finish singing. Really. I’m feeling blue. From asphyxsia.
The harmonization is beautiful, and heartbreaking, filled with perfectly lilting phraseology, lifting to a first crescendo ("She thinks only of him") and then to that blissful, impossibly perfect duet ("Oh how long will it take") with Paul soaring to the high parts, beautifully, defiantly fighting to hang on to the end of the phrase, gasping for air at the start of the next line. Oh Dear.
The two mesh seamlessly, in that way that only they can. Voices so pure you can actually hear them phasing at times.
The publisher was equally dazzled, apparently having to ask which line was the melody and which the harmony.
Paul’s response was droll and accurate — they are both the melody.
The final verse has Paul’s plucking giant fifths on the bass, evoking sonic images of a lone bagpiper emerging from the fog.
Payne Stewart, where are you? Alas, somewhere with Stu.
Its 4 track recording at its best, with George’s oddly twangy solo double tracked for good measure.
Baby’s in Black was one of the songs performed during the 28 minutes or so they actually sang at Shea Stadium.
I think he was Irish too, that Mr. Shea.
Our version features Texas belle Jenny Baldwin who brings a touch of the south to our version. She sings both Paul and Johns parts dancing between the notes beautifully.
The recording’s Irishness is assured however due to the presence legendary Celtic accordionist Paddy O’Schreiner.
Producer David Barratt has a difficult working relationship with Paddy, as the accordionist only speaks Gaelic when he is in the presence an Englishman.
The former IRA Commander has recently been granted amnesty by the British Government for his part in the attempted kidnap of Prince Phillip in 1987. It is rumored that Paddy has refused the pardon on moral grounds.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
A native of Dallas, Texas, I grew up singing in the Baptist Church Choir since the age of five. I hear all of the harmonies of a church choir whenever I sing.
Fast forward… a New York City television executive by day and a chanteuse by night. What a great town to live a double life!
Whether on a side porch, back porch, CBGB’s, The Bubble Lounge, a studio, gospel choir, Sylvette’s, a friend’s couch, my couch – I’ve never NOT sung. I am privileged to be part of this project and to celebrate The Beatle’s harmonies with my vocals.
I’m a Beatle’s fan! Who isn’t! I am now a country girl living in Hudson, New York, working on a children’s music education and entertainment project for pre-school children.
Check it out at www.mandysmenagerie.com
Thank you, David Barratt, for producing and uking a fine rendition and to Lee Danziger for being my engineer.
Lee Danziger is an artist, designer and musician. He’s the residing music maestro at Chirp Studio in Woodstock, NY.
In addition to engineering the recordings of Jenny Baldwin’s vocal tracks for her contribution to Beatles Complete, he is currently co-producing a concept project with singer/songwriter, Pal Shazar– a thirteen song musical companion, an audiostration, for her soon to be released novel, Janitor.