Jesse Jarnow

“hey bulldog” – the beatles & songbook

“Hey Bulldog” – The Beatles (download here)
from Yellow Submarine OST (1968)
released by Capitol Records (buy)

For whatever reason (soundtrack cut, etc.), the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” totally eluded me, and that’s rather awesome. There’s no reason to validate my love for the Beatles, or even to analyze what I love about “Hey Bulldog.” But it was pretty rad to discover, for me, what was essentially a new Beatles tune. If you’ll forgive me the rockist gushing, it reminds me of a Nick Hornby quote from Songbook, the warm ‘n’ fuzzy type of rock criticism that makes somebody like Hornby just as necessary as somebody like the Beatles.

In Victorian London they used to burn phosphorous at séances in an attempt to see ghosts, and I suspect that the pop music equivalent is our obsessions with B-sides and alternate versions and unreleased material. If you can hear Dylan and the Beatles being unmistakably themselves at their peak — but unmistakably themselves in a way we haven’t heard a thousand, a million times before — then suddenly you get a small but thrilling flash of their sprit, and it’s as close as we’ll ever get, those of us born in the wrong time, to knowing what it must have been like to have those great records burst out of the radio at you when you weren’t expecting them, or anything like them.

Hyperbole, I guess, but Cosby sweater/feel good hyperbole, and not entirely wrong. Beneath that, though, there is something a bit sad. The quest for b-sides, I think, can often be an attempt not to find out what something sounded like new, but to find something that might approximate an experience that one has worn out. It grows from the most atavistic of pop impulses: to want to hear more of what one liked before except, y’know, different. It’s not often that anything about the Beatles sounds new to me. Eventually, though, “Hey Bulldog” will dull, too. It will still be wonderful, of course, but that internalized, well-understood wonderful instead of that cue-and-recue-that-opening-groove wonderful. That’s maybe a little sad, because then I’ll (maybe) have no more Beatles songs to discover. For now, though: rawk.

4 Comments

  1. ariella says: - reply

    Great post. Never really interrogated my love for the b-side/deep cut thing. In addition to the points you mentioned here, I think the obscure cuts also tend to satisfy people who like it rawwww: a chance to see an artist or song in a less filtered light, or doing something just for fun as opposed to expressly for commercial appeal/gain, which is often just as if not more interesting.

  2. Jesse says: - reply

    Oh, absolutely. It’s a topic for a future post, but that’s what I love about (certain) bands recording really well-picked covers.

  3. Curt says: - reply

    Hey, great post, and great song. Having grown up during that time, your description is spot on. It WAS an incredible time for music.
    What’s interesting about this song was that in the movie, the animation for it was cut from some showings of YS in the States. (I saw it once while in school in Great Britain.) So unless you bought the YS album – which not many did – you might have never heard this this song. And it’s a great Lennon song with great lyrics: “Some kind of solitude is measured out in you…”
    If you can find it, also check out “It’s All Too Much”, a Harrison song also from the YS soundtrack, with the Beatles at their most psychedelic. I get flashbacks just thinking about it.
    Thanks again for posting the song!

  4. gardner says: - reply

    Weird. I had a nearly identical experience with “Baby You’re a Rich Man” a few months ago off Yellow Submarine. For me at least, part of the thrill of b-sides is gone. Half of it was the hunt. Pavement’s “Easily Fooled” was a world-rocker when I searched three stores to dig it up on the “Rattled By the Rush” 7-inch. It was just a song when I downloaded it from iTunes. Not to discount the “rawness” idea, which is of course absolutely true. I just don’t cherish the b-side like I did when it was really on Side B.