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.