I discovered my dad’s “I Feel Fine”/ “She’s a Woman” 45 in a basement box when I was a grade schooler. It was pretty scuffed up, so it sizzled enticingly when I put the needle down. The opening riffs on each side of the single blasted through with such abandon that I forgot all about the white noise. It turns out the white noise enhanced the music, giving that 45 an irreplacable, unique quality.
So if the experience of finding a little treasure box in our basement – which contained a single so fabulous that I can say in all honesty that I first took drugs when I was eight – makes it easy for me to say that “I Feel Fine” is one of my favorite singles, maybe what I’m really saying is that it’s my favorite material single. Is there more legitimacy to one’s experience with music and the value one assigns to it when it’s tied in with one’s tactile relationship with it, like this Beatles 45 with white noise so unique that it added something precious to the mix? Or the experience of pulling out a hidden box and finding it there in the first place? (Or what about a song’s relationship with a beloved radio? For example, I’m sure none of the Top 40 hits during the summer of 1979 would mean as much to me as they do now had I not gotten my first transistor then.) I don’t think I’m talking about fetishism when I say that the music most meaningful to me has a distinct material tie-in.
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When the Beatles CDs came out in the late 80’s, I was convinced producer George Martin had made some sort of terrible mistake, especially with “I Feel Fine,” “She’s a Woman,” “I’ll Be Back,” and “Yes it Is.” These became my four main reasons why I thought CD technology was killing something vital in music. And no one else seemed to care. Then I realized, a long time later, that only the US versions of these songs had reverb, which is what I was missing so badly. So when the “Capitol Albums” box sets came out, which featured the crucial American mixes, I was a reasonably happy consumer and put my voice-in-the-wilderness complex behind me. Still, even though I know vinyl purists can be a silly bunch, when it comes to “I Feel Fine” there’s still ultimately no other way for me than that very same 45 I first discovered. Here’s a straight dub of it compared to the Past Masters Volume One CD version (that red number ones album that everyone owns uses the same dead UK mix).
The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” (Capitol vinyl 45)
The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” (Past Masters Volume One CD)