Finishing off the Cavern Club set, Paulbot leaps into ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.
I’ve about run out of things to say about the Cavern-era Beatlebots, but looking at that live footage shows a general muting of the performances in the game – look at Ringo, a manic bundle of energy in a suit, thrashing away at the kit, compared to the grinning, docile half-alive thing Ringobot presents itself as. Granted, the above clip is from 1964 and (as was pointed out by Daniel Poeira in the comments) in 1963 Ringo was in real danger of being maimed by Pete Best supporters and might well have been a little nervy. But looking at some of the later stuff, Ringobot doesn’t change that much.
As for Paulbot – well, let’s see the digitised version:
Not that much difference, actually – the digital version seems considerably more than a year younger, but that works to his advantage in this one. Paulbot looks like the office tea boy pushed onto the stage at the Christmas do and forced to sing, fresh-faced, innocent, slightly nervous. (I’m wondering if nervousness will still be a visual theme in the next level, when the band are allegedly established pop idols.) That works for the song, because this – to my untutored ears at least – is a very innocent song. Kind of.
Let’s divert for a minute and talk about dancing. I didn’t start dancing until I was about 14 or 15, and even then it was self-conscious half-ironic disco moves – I didn’t start dancing for real until I was at Uni, where it was a lot safer to let yourself go. Mostly, I was dancing to techno songs – I left the floor for the Britpop and Indie numbers – and mostly it was the joy of moving to a rhythm. I used to throw a lot of shapes. Socially, you’d either dance in a rough clump of people with plenty of space between to avoid hitting anyone, or you’d form a vague circle. Dancing with one particular person was possible, but it didn’t seem to be the norm. Any coupling happened between songs, off the floor. (These were student-run discos, not any kind of club scene – your mileage for on-the-floor action may vary.)
In this song, the dance and the courtship are the same. The way McCartney sings it, there’s a clear progression: see the girl, dance with the girl, realise you could probably fall in love with/settle for this girl, fall in love/settle for the girl, get a job and a mortguage and two kids and then look around and realise you’re sixty-four and where did it all go? (Obviously the song cuts out before step five in this progression.) It’s sweet and innocent, as long as the metaphor lasts.
But it is a metaphor – dancing as sex is a metaphor as old as time, especially when you bring in all the social ‘dancing exclusively with’ mores of the time that this song conveys. So, as McCartney lets off an orgasmic shriek, in comes Georgebot, smirking Byronically over the solo, the tempting Devil to Paulbot’s sweet-faced angel. Yeah, we know what you mean, Paul. “And I held… her… hand… so… TIGHT!” We know what you’re saying. They should have called this song When I Saw My Penis Standing There In My Pants.
And underneath that buried sexual heat, we have a song about – a pretty girl at a dance. It’s rude and sweet at the same time, having the cake and eating it, which is probably the best way to be at the moment. We’ll see if they can keep this balance with their other teen-oriented output.
Musically – am I alone in thinking this is pure country? The twanging guitars, the cowboy inflection in the vocals – that “held her hand so tight” line should end in a “Yee-haw!”, and right afterwards we’re into another twangfest. It makes sense – Elvis would have been an inspiration for the Beatles, and Elvis was rockabilly through and through – but if I close my eyes while I listen, I don’t see the Beatles on that stage. I’m seeing four filthy digital cowboys, ready to move right on from this one to Ramblin’ Man and I Love This Bar. And it’s kind of a crime that Apple Corps won’t let me make that dream come true.
NEXT: Fast-forward to Ed Sullivan.