Listen to this track by the four mop tops singing an early track from their second UK album With the Beatles. I woke up with this song in my head for no apparent reason; it seems to have been the soundtrack for one of my dreams. But, as it turns out, it’s a favourite of mine.
In the famous 1980 Playboy interview, John Lennon dismissed a good many of his early compositions, I suppose in the way that you do when you’ve become more seasoned and are asked to look back on a career you started when in your early twenties. Yet, the fact is Lennon and McCartney, and later Harrison too, were extremely good at taking styles and making perfect pop concoctions that had their own marks on them. This is certainly one of them, a song about how love can be so simple, with just a whisper, a call, a kiss. It is teenage innocence inside of three-minutes of pop music. The Beatles knew who their audience was, just as those who ran the Brill Building knew.
I think a lot has been written about the Beatles as innovators and how their approach revolutionized what rock music could be and even down to how it was made. Yet, it’s often lost that the Beatles did not arrive out of nowhere. They had their influences. And perhaps ironically, the very influences which fed this song, “All I’ve Got To Do”, were the very ones they put in danger as far as the industry goes.
This tune is clearly the Beatles’ take on the sort of Brill Building pop song being written by people like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote a number of hits the Beatles would cover. After the Beatles, the need for professional songwriters working in cramped little rooms were not needed quite as much as they had been. So, with their skills at being able to meet their influences where they were, they soon made those influences redundant entirely. Well, perhaps that’s a bit strong. The Beatles’ ability to write and play their own songs didn’t immediately put people out of work. But, it ended an era where the division of labour in making a hit record, with writers, musicians, and singers as completely different jobs, was just a given.
Of course, the professional songwriter would never really be assigned to the ranks of the buggy whip factories. Pop stars today live and breathe on the compositions of professional songwriters, particularly as pop music needs to move units to a greater degree than anyone in the early 60s would have imagined. Yet, what the Beatles were able to do showed other acts, and perhaps more importantly record label bosses, that a band that writes their own tunes is not one of which to be suspicious. But, a band who could do that was one to seek out, emulate, and perhaps capitalize on.
Suddenly, there were options!