‘If You’re Lonely, You Can Talk To Me . . .’

Originally posted November 20, 2007

One day in June of 1972, I walked out of my local music store with a new record. And I wasn’t very excited about it.

I was in the final months of my effort to collect all eighteen albums by the Beatles that had been released by Capitol, Apple or United Artists, and the LPs that remained on my list were – for the most part – the slightest efforts the group released. And on that June day, the LP I had in my bag was Yellow Submarine.

It really wasn’t much of an album. It had four new songs by the Beatles, songs that listeners would judge for the most part as throwaways, seemingly recorded without much care and then used for the soundtrack of the Yellow Submarine animated film. Those songs – “All Together Now,” “Only A Northern Song,” “It’s All Too Much” and “Hey Bulldog” – had some minimal charm, and “Hey Bulldog” rocked a little, but they were slight efforts compared to the standard that the group had set for itself.

The album was filled out with the Beatles’ tracks “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” on Side One and with orchestral soundtrack music from the pen of long-time Beatles producer George Martin on Side Two. I listened to the entire record the day I brought it home, and played Side One occasionally after that. I doubt that I ever played Side Two again.

(According to All-Music Guide, the Beatles considered releasing the four new songs from Yellow Submarine on an EP, a 45 rpm record, instead of releasing a full LP. The EP, AMG says, might also have included “Across the Universe,” a John Lennon-penned track that ended up on Let It Be. That might have been preferable, as it would have avoided the orchestral filler, but EPs were never as large a part of the record landscape here in the U.S. as they were in Britain, so I’m not sure it would have worked for the American fans.)

In any case, I bought the album, as I was trying to complete my collection. (I had three LPs to go after Yellow Submarine: The Beatles’ Second Album, Beatles VI and A Hard Day’s Night, which in its U.S. configuration had four orchestral tracks slotted in amongst recordings by the group.) Had I not been trying to get a complete collection, I doubt whether I would have bought it. And I tend not to think of the Yellow Submarine album or the four songs exclusive to it when I ponder the Beatles’ music.

I was reminded of all of this last evening when I came across a cover of “Hey Bulldog” in the mp3 files. Recorded by Fanny, the early 1970s all-woman group, the track was included on Fanny Hill, the third of five albums the group released between 1970 and 1974. Always in search of interesting covers – and increasingly unable to know exactly what lies in the nooks and crannies of nearly 20,000 mp3s – I listened to Fanny’s version of “Hey Bulldog.” The group nailed it, rocking harder than the boys, and investing the song with more urgency than one hears in the Beatles’ version.

Fanny was an anomaly of its time. Reprise billed the group as the first all-female rock group, which it wasn’t. But, as AMG notes, “as one of the first self-contained distaff groups to land on a major label, they were an important harbinger of things to come.” I don’t know about the group’s last two albums – Mother’s Pride on Reprise and Rock ’n’ Roll Survivors on Casablanca – but one could do a lot worse than seeking out Fanny, Charity Ball and Fanny Hill, the first three albums the group released.

(The four Reprise albums have been gathered with unreleased material into a box set titled First Time in a Long Time: The Reprise Recordings, a four-CD package that’s currently running at about $80 or more at your standard on-line merchants. The other option is heading into the vinyl jungle. Copies of all five LPs are available for reasonable prices on Ebay.)

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog” [1972]


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