“It had to be a mistake,” I said. “But I can’t iMAgine it being a mistake.”
I glanced over at my wife and saw that “here we go” smile. We were driving again, with The Beatles Help! on the juke. Specifically, “Ticket to Ride.”
“The ‘aaahhhhh’s’ before the third and fourth choruses,” I said. “John obviously double-tracked the third chorus. But not the fourth. Why not?”
As we’ve established, my wife is used to my flights of non-linear ADD and historical crime-scene analysis. Once I get on a jag, its smile-and-nod time for her as I’m off to the races.
“Okay,” she said, “what’s this double-tracking?”
“Funny you should ask!” I said. “Double-tracking is when you sing or play something twice to thicken it up a little. With multi-track recording, you can have multiple tracks to layer on, like a cake or bricks. The Beatles were early practitioners.”
I scrolled the CD back to the first verse.
“One vocal track on the verses,” I said. “But you can hear the double-track on the chorus. Listen to ‘ride’ especially. ‘She’s got a ticket to rih – hih- hiiiide.’ Hear it? The vocals are thicker than the verses, and there’s just a slight bit of warble where the syllables don’t quite line up.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I hear it!”
“Okay,” I said. “Forward to the third chorus, right after the ‘don’t know why she’s ridin’ so high’ middle eight. Hear the ‘aaahhhhh’? It sounds huge! Just explodes out of the speakers.
“NOW…” I forwarded to the fourth chorus. “Listen to this ‘aaahhhhh.’ Not nearly has huge. Why? Because John didn’t double-track that ‘aaahhhhh.’ WHY NOT?!?”
“Um,” she said. “He forgot?”
“Exactly my problem,” I said. “That’s exactly what it sounds like. But John and Sir George Martin were meticulous about this stuff. So why would they forget? This was the beginning of The Beatles as an obsessive studio-only band, so it doesn’t make sense that they would overlook something like that, especially after hundreds of replays in the studio.”
We drove on for a few minutes, just listening for a change.
“Isn’t there some controversy about the title, too?” she said.
“Heh,” I chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t think that there’s anything deeper than the surface narrative? Guy loses girl, girl shuffles off on British Rail. But there are competing stories. I think Paul had a friend or relative that owned a pub in the town of Ryde. So Paul and John would have to get a ticket to Ryde to visit them.”
“I can see that,” she said.
“It’s possible,” I said. “But here’s the other version. Apparently the …ahem… working ladies of Hamburg had to be tested regularly. One night while The Beatles were playing, John supposedly found a friend for the evening with a clean-bill-of-health card from the medical authorities, and told someone that she’s got a ‘ticket to ride.’”
“Nice!” she said.
“Yeah, right?” I said. “John was quite the rake, so that’s plausible. But there probably isn’t anything to it other than the surface narrative. Probably…”
“So many mysteries for one song!” she said.
“Yep!” I said. “And I’ll never have answers, damnit! “
I drove us on, knowing that from dropped vocals and speculative narratives, I would only have more questions and would be perpetually unrequited.