Day 138: “I’ve Just Seen a Face”

When was it recorded?  Jun. 14, 1965

When was it first released, and on which album?  Aug. 6, 1965 on “Help!”

Who wrote it?  McCartney

Have I heard this song before?   YEP

What my research dug up:

(Shit, Paul wasn’t joking when he said he and John felt compelled to use some variation of “I “ or “me” in the title of every one of their early songs.)

Paul worked on “I’ve Just Seen a Face” in the music room at Jane Asher’s parents’ home in London. His father’s youngest sister, Jane (nicknamed Jin), was so fond of the song when Paul practiced an instrumental version of it at family get-togethers that the song was called “Auntie Jin’s Theme” until Paul completed the lyrics.

Rolling Stone called “I’ve Just Seen a Face” “both a pretty love song and a breathless race to the finish.” The magazine also noted, “Its lyrics sound effortless and conversational, but they also contain a complex sequence of cascading rhymes… that is responsible for the song’s irresistible propulsion.”

“It was slightly country and western from my point of view. It was faster, though, it was a strange uptempo thing. I was quite pleased with it. The lyric works: it keeps dragging you forward, it keeps pulling you to the next line, there’s an insistent quality to it that I liked.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)

Richie Unterberger wrote in his song review, “Several [previous Beatles songs] had leaned in a country and western direction. But ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ was almost pure country, taken at such a fast tempo that it might have been bluegrass if not for the absence of banjo and fiddle. The song, principally the work of Paul McCartney, starts with a mesmerizing few bars of acoustic guitar patterns not heard elsewhere in the song, abruptly changing gears into a stiff-beat shuffle that’s almost as fast as any song the Beatles wrote. McCartney’s lead vocal jams about as many syllables as is possible into the verse, not even really pausing for breath, but never sounds awkward. He just sounds happy, like he genuinely can’t wait to tell the world about the face he’s just seen, of the girl who’s just right for him.”

After a month-long studio break, the Beatles recorded “I’ve Just Seen a Face” in six takes on Jun. 14, 1965. They used the final take for the album. According to the Beatles Bible, “The song is unusual in that it doesn’t contain a bass guitar part.”

“I’ve Just Seen a Face” was released in the UK on the album “Help!” However, Capitol Records loved the song so much they decided to take it off “Help!” and use it to open “Rubber Soul” (released in Dec. 1965).

Though never a hit single, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” has had lasting popularity. The song was one of the few Beatles numbers Paul performed while touring with Wings in the ‘70s, and it’s reportedly still part of his live shows.

I love this song, but I have equal love for the original and Slow Runner’s cover from “This Bird Has Flown — A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul.”  The tempo is considerably slower, giving it a very dreamlike quality.  Come to think of it, the cover from “Across the Universe” is pretty swingin’ too…  Heck, I just like any version of this tune.



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