Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"I Feel Fine"

"I Feel Fine" is a riff-driven rock song mainly written by John Lennon (although credited to Lennon/McCartney) and released in 1964 by The Beatles as the A side of their eighth UK single. The song reached the top of the charts on 12 December of that year, displacing The Rolling Stones' "Little Red Rooster," and remained there for five weeks. The b-side was She's a Woman, mainly written by Paul McCartney. It also reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1964.


"I Feel Fine" burgeoned from its distinctive guitar riff, written by Lennon while in the studio recording "Eight Days a Week." "I actually wrote 'I Feel Fine' around the riff which is going on in the background," Lennon recalled. "I told them that I'd write a song specially for this riff so they said, 'Yes. You go away and do that,' knowing that we'd almost finished Beatles for Sale. Anyway, going into the studio one morning, I said to Ringo, 'I've written this song but it's lousy,' but we tried it, complete with riff, and it sounded like an A side, so we decided to release it just like that." Lennon's riff was influenced by a riff in "Watch Your Step", a 1961 release written and performed by Bobby Parker and covered by The Beatles in concerts during 1961 and 1962. The two songs also sharing a remarkably similar Latin-style drum pattern, although Paul McCartney has claimed that the drums on I Feel Fine were inspired by Ray Charles's "What'd I Say." The Beatles would continue to feature guitar riffs in their songs, most notably in numbers like "Day Tripper", "Ticket to Ride", "And Your Bird Can Sing", and "Paperback Writer".

At the time of the song's recording, The Beatles, having mastered the studio basics, had begun to explore new sources of inspiration in noises previously eliminated as mistakes (electronic goofs, twisted tapes, talkback). "I Feel Fine" marks the earliest example of the use of feedback as a recording effect—artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, and The Who used feedback, but Lennon remained proud of the fact that The Beatles were the first group to actually put it on vinyl. This subtle shift in their approach to recording became a lasting element of the group's later career, making itself widely apparent on albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


The intro to "I Feel Fine" starts with a single, percussive (yet pure-sounding) note (a high "A" harmonic) played on Paul's Hofner bass guitar that sustains, perhaps beyond any song previously recorded. It is then (famously) transformed and distorted via feedback. According to Paul McCartney, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pick-up on it so it could be amplified… We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it… and it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object– an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.” While sounding very much like an Electric guitar, John played it on an acoustic (a Gibson model J-160E), employing 1960s sound effect devices to make the acoustic guitar sound more electronic. The intro riff around a Dmaj chord progresses to a C, then a G, where the G major vocals begin. Just before the coda, Lennon's intro riff (or ostinato), is repeated with a bright sound by George Harrison on electric guitar (a Gretsch Tennessean), followed by the surprisingly more electric sound of John on amped acoustic.

Other releases

In the US, the song was released on their Capitol album Beatles '65, and is presented in a duophonic mix featuring a layer of reverb added by executive Dave Dexter, Jr..

In the UK, the song was released on the LP format on A Collection of Beatles Oldies. A true stereo version can be found on the Past Masters Vol 1 and Beatles 1 CDs.


* John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, lead/rhythm guitar
* Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass
* George Harrison – harmony vocal, lead/rhythm guitar
* Ringo Starr – drums

Cover versions

* Queen - In the Mannheim, Germany leg of the Magic Tour, Brian May played the opening riff of the song.
* The Sweethearts of the Rodeo recorded a country version of "I Feel Fine" in 1988, releasing their version as a single.
* In 1998, The Punkles did a Punk cover of this song on their first album.
* Les Fradkin has an instrumental version on his 2005 release- "While My Guitar Only Plays".
* Take That member Mark Owen performs I Feel Fine in the Beatles Medley

B-side: "She's a Woman"
Released: 23 November 1964 (US), 27 November 1964 (UK)
Format: 7"
Recorded: Abbey Road, 18 October 1964
Genre: Rock and roll
Length: 2:18
Label: Parlophone R5160 (UK), Capitol 5222 (US)
Writer(s): Lennon/McCartney
Producer: George Martin


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