Musical coincidences # 131

October 1, 2011

Today’s coincidence is action-packed, so I’m going to try and say as little as possible and just let other people do the talking. The person who caused today’s ball to start rolling is one of my friends, David (Hi, David!), who sent me an email about something about he read about The Beatles‘ “I Feel Fine” in a book he has:

Tell Me Why: The Beatles – Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After by Tim Riley

[Page 117]

“…the guitar lick and some of the drum patterns are lifted straight from breaks in Bobby Parker‘s ‘Watch Your Step’, a 1961 single that picked up where Ray Charles‘s 1959 ‘What’d I Say‘ left off…”

In addition to the bit that David read in the book he has, there are also some quotes from a couple of Beatles books I have…

The Beatles: The Complete Guide to their Music by John Robertson & Patrick Humphries

[Page 87]

Lennon based the finger-twisting guitar riff on Bobby Parker’s R&B record, ‘Watch Your Step’, which had been covered by The John Barry Seven as early as 1961, and was well known among British blues fans.

The Beatles: Stories Behind The Songs by Steve Turner

[Page 92]

On October 6, while recording ‘Eight Days A Week‘, John was working out the guitar riff that would become the basis of ‘I Feel Fine’, a song they recorded only 12 days later. It was obviously inspired by Bobby Parker’s riff on his 1961 track ‘Watch Your Step’. “I actually wrote ‘I Feel Fine’ around the riff which is going on in the background,” John said in December 1964. “I tried to get that effect into every song on the LP [Beatles For Sale], but the others wouldn’t have it.

“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 the album. 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.”

And there’s this from a book I don’t have:

Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles:

Paul McCartney [talking about ‘I Feel Fine’]: “I’m on harmonies and the drumming is basically what we used to think of as ‘What’d I Say’ drumming. There was a style of drumming on ‘What’d I Say’ which is a sort of Latin and that Ray Charles’s drummer Milt Turner played on the original record and we used to love it.”

Right. Now for all those songs…

The Beatles – “I Feel Fine (1964)


Bobby Parker – “Watch Your Step” (1961)


The John Barry Seven – “Watch Your Step” (1961)


Ray Charles – “What’d I Say (1959)


And one last thing. Somebody on YouTube mentioned that when they heard the John Barry version of “Watch Your Step” they thought they’d been listening to Led Zeppelin‘s “Moby Dick” instead. Cue one more coincidence…

Led Zeppelin – “Moby Dick (1969)