"I’ve Just Seen A Face" is the first of three Beatles masterpieces recorded on June 14, 1965, four days before Paul McCartney’s 23rd birthday.
This was a big day in Beatleworld. In America the unimaginatively named “Beatles VI” was released while in England John Lennon’s book of nonsense stories, "A Spaniard In The Works", was published.
But the real magic that day was happening, as it usually did, in Abbey Road Studio 2.
In six short hours, The Beatles, led a baby-faced Paul McCartney, recorded not one, not two, but three pop classics.
They started after a light lunch (cheese sandwich, Branston pickle) with "I’ve Just Seen A Face." They then had a nice cup of tea and digestive biscuits, picked up their guitars and rocked out "I’m Down". Then after a rather unpleasant evening meal, (steak and kidney pie, mashed potato and overcooked English greens, with a dessert of Spotted Dick), McCartney laid down the guitar and vocal to "Yesterday".
Any other band would have sold their souls to have written, recorded and released any one of these songs. Entire careers rose and fell on less than any one of them. The Beatles did them all in a single day.
It was nothing for them.
It was just what they did.
On first listening it could be said that the three songs have nothing in common – but that would be wrong. Paul had the band record these songs in sequence, which when listened to in order tell a complete and exquisite tale of love found, fought, and ultimately lost.
All this, conceived by a 22 year old boy and executed by him and his mates as effortlessly as BP pumps oil into the ocean.
"I’ve Just Seen A Face" was the first recording that day, the quintessential song of love’s first flush. Paul gushes a stream of charmingly unexpected rhymes in a tribute to the "face" that he has "just seen" (he doesn’t know her name but he knows she is beautiful) of which he will "dream . . . tonight."
The possibilities are still endless.
By the afternoon, however, things have started to turn a little sour. The owner of the morning "face" has now become a mid-afternoon drag, who "tells lies" and "can’t cry" because she’s laughing at the man who fell in love with her that morning.
By nightfall, the arc is complete. The jilted lover thinks back to yesterday (in reality it was that morning), when his troubles seemed so far away. But now night has fallen, and the girl of which he sang he had never known the likes of, just that morning, has left. Why? She didn’t say. But something went wrong and she’s gone.
This complete, perfect opera of love’s intoxicating beginnings, laborious middle, and heartbreaking ending was written by a boy.
There ought to be a word bigger than "genius" for things like this. It is our own shortcoming that we didn’t come up with one then, and still haven’t now.
On first listen "I’ve Just Seen A Face" is a song about infatuation but it is in fact a song about geometry.
Everyone knows the moment that breath is taken away by the sheer beauty of a perfect face. S/he fills you with wonder. Your heart sings. You are simultaneously helpless and powerful in its wake. Quite possibly you create a future that involves a beach, a sunset and a fire.
The more cynical amongst us may think that this is something to do with skin care, working out at the gym, tanning salons or surgical enhancement , but really it is about math. The length and angle of the bones. The light refracting on the skin’s surface. The breadth of the hips.
We are suckers for it every time. And let us thank Darwin that we are.
Neurons and hormones work together and whisper words like “Love”, “Destiny” or “Magic” to us, but really it’s just a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals doing their best to ensure reproduction of the next generation.
What great songwriters do is take that confluence of chemicals and make it poetic. McCartney is a master of the art.
No anchors weigh down the soaring spirit of this song, in fact, there isn’t even a bass guitar on the track. John, Paul and George play their acoustic guitars together, with teenage jumbled-up coordination – a perfect match to the breathless lyrics that are sputtered over them. The words come in a rush of disjointed phrases ("been aware . . . dream of her/girl for me . . . world to see/known the like of this . . . been alone and I have missed") that never quite settle down but skip like stones thrown by a hopeful lover’s hand across a still pond. Its the frantic rhythm of teenage love.
The song captures the boundless uncertainty of love’s undefinable first stirrings in many other odd ways as well; for example, although it was recorded in the key of "A" it feels like it was written in "G" (as many of us guitarists have concluded over the years) and Paul himself, in later years, switched to playing it in G. The song thus "exists" in two keys. It also "exists" on two albums; the British "Help!" (where it was intended, at least chronologically) and the American "Rubber Soul" (where arguably it is more at home with its acoustic siblings and feels more naturally in its place). For all these reasons it is a song that you can’t quite put your finger on, you can’t tie down — and maybe that’s the whole point. It remains full of things to discover, like the budding love affair of which it sings.
Our version features the world-weary, disenchanted but sexually magnetic Mumtaz Jafri.
Mumtaz has seen love sneak through the back door too many times. He knows that this chance meeting can only end in one of two ways.
Separation or death.
There is no escape.
He has done his best to avoid that disgusting and distrusting emotion that some call love, but there it is again in the corner of the bar, the one they should have closed several hours ago, ready to tease and torture him once more.
That perfectly sculpted face. That cruel Adonis will lead him against, what could be laughingly described as his will, towards the pain and sorrow that only love can bring.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
In 1970, Mumtaz Jafri was born of Pakistani and Dutch parents in The Netherlands.
Mumtaz studied theater at the Academy of Performing Arts in Amsterdam, and graduated with his one man show, "NUL" ( ZERO ), in 1995. The show won several prizes and he toured the Netherlands with it for 3 years.
He was presented with the opportunity to live out his childhood dream of living on a farm with a chubby bearded farmer in the middle of nowhere (Wales) and live off the land.
For the next seven years he bred Golden Guernsey goats, rare breed poultry, broke in horses, raised, killed and ate his own pork, kept bees and grew his own vegetables and fruit.
In 2005 Jafri moved back to the Netherlands for a brief period to record his first CD, and after that moved to New york to spend some time with his brother and his family.
He currently lives in Cardiff.
released August 14, 2012
Ukulele version #073 recorded January 2nd 2010
Mumtaz Jafri – Vocals and guitar
Terry Radigan – Vocals
Gary Schreiner Piano, accordion
David Barratt – Ukulele &Everything else
Produced by David Barratt at The Abattoir Of Good Taste