Saturday, December 10, 2011

Song #44 of 9999 - You've Really Got a Hold on Me by The Miracles

Song #44 of 9999

Title: You've Really Got a Hold On Me
Artist: The Miracles
Year: 1963
Album:The Fabulous Miracles

In London recently, I saw a West End production of Backbeat, a new musical chronicling the early career of The Beatles, with particular attention paid to Stu Sutcliffe, the band's original bass player, and his relationship with John Lennon and Astrid Kirchherr, Sutcliffe's photographer girlfriend. I found the production to be quite enjoyable, most notably the band performances which were loud, raucous, well-performed and quite realistic. It was fun to forget that these weren't actually The Beatles circa 1962 on the Hamburg club scene.

The Beatles were covering a lot of songs from the U.S. at the time, including just about everything from Chuck Berry to girl groups to Motown. One of the songs featured in the show was Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me." The Beatles were a great cover band and they learned a lot from songs penned by other great writers. Listening to the actors singing Smokey Robinson's lyrics, I was struck by just how great they are in their simplicity.

I don't like you but I love you
Seems that I'm always thinking of you
Though you treat me badly
I love you madly
You've really got a hold on me

These lyrics are so indicative of the type of lyrics John and Paul would become so good at writing later on. There's nothing innately clever about them at all–they are simple and to the point, completely sincere and they work. When coupled with Robinson's melodies, the song becomes a masterpiece of pop. I love the way the third line takes on a bluesy lilt over 7th chords. Later, the stop-time insistence of "hold me....hold me....hold me....hold me..." elevates the song to a higher plane by adding yet another hook. It's reminiscent of the kind of repetition John would use so effectively in songs like "Please Please Me" ("Come on...come on...etc.")

I think that sometimes we believe The Beatles just appeared out of nowhere writing the best songs ever and, although they were certainly gifted, it was fun to be reminded by this musical about the great songwriters that so influenced and shaped their understanding of rock and roll.

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