wheatstrawsuiteIn one of the “lost episodes” of The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy Taylor is at the mountain home of the Darlings, playing bluegrass songs with Briscoe and the boys.  After a round of “Salty Dog,” Andy says, “Hey fellas, I’m not sure if you know this one or not.  It’s a new song by the Beatles.  It’s called “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” Briscoe Darling puts down his jug and says, “Of course we know it Sheriff. It’s off their new Rubber Soul album*. Besides your Aunt Bea’s cooking, there’s nothing we like better than the Beatles. Sheriff, you start it off on guitar and the boys will catch up with you.”

It’ a long way from Liverpool to Mayberry, but in 1965 the Beatles delivered a bluegrass classic. There are no fiddles, banjos or mandolins, but the bluegrass feeling pervades. “I’ve Just Seen A Face” has the intensity and element of surprise so vital to the genre. It matters little whether Paul McCartney (who wrote the song) was trying to create a country-bluegrass number or something that would fall into the new folk-rock category. No matter  what his intentions, the Beatles came up with a song that could be a showstopper at any bluegrass concert.

“I’ve Just Seen A Face” begins with a brief, spiraling solo by George Harrison on his acoustic twelve string. McCartney and John Lennon join in with their acoustic guitars as the song immediately picks up speed. Lots of speed. The mood is bright and exuberant.  McCartney’s vocal performance is one of his best ever. In the middle, there’s a hopping guitar solo by Harrison. Ringo Starr plays a brushed snare and maracas. The song moves at a fast and joyful pace from the end of Harrison’s dreamy opening until its close. No doubt, this is one of The Beatles’ most exciting tracks.

“I’ve Just Seen A Face” is a song that expresses discovery, gratitude and hope of sustained love. While the song moves at a lively clip, the words reflect the grounded nature of a thoughtful man so pleased with his good fortune.

I have never known

The like of this, I’ve been alone

And I have missed things

And kept out of sight

But other girls were never quite

Like this…..

Falling, yes I am falling

And she keeps calling

Me back again.

Certainly Briscoe Darling’s boys would be up to task on this song.  After all, the Darling boys were played by the members of the great bluegrass band, the Dillards. In the mid-sixties, the Dillards emerged as one of the new groups receiving the attention of a younger audience, yet maintaining the traditions of  Appalachian music. Respect, enthusiasm and innovation were the components of the Dillards’ recordings**. So it’s baffling that they missed the mark on their 1968 recording of “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”

The song is a letter high fastball for an accomplished group of bluegrass musicians. There’s the fast pace of the song as well as the sense of awe conveyed in the lyrics. There’s the short but rousing chorus. It’s one of the ultimate feel-good songs, but the Dillards do little with it. Their rendition is competent and pleasant enough but the spirit’s missing. That letter high fastball did not land in the bleachers.  There was a lack of timing in the swing. Maybe the Dillards were too careful. Or maybe they thought they could just run through it and still do justice to the song. But it’s not just any song; “I’ve Just Seen A Face” was, even for the Beatles, a stunning achievement.

In December ’65, American fans of the Beatles bought the just-released Rubber Soul, and upon first placing the needle on the record, they heard the envelope being pushed again. “I’ve Just Seen A Face” served as a grand beginning for an innovative album as well as a harbinger for breakthroughs on upcoming albums. Atlanta journalist Jim Auchmutey, always handy with the language, notes the wonder of the song, yet in this case he defines its glory while leaving off the usual superlatives. “I call it happiness,” says Auchmutey.

In Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ 1997 biography of Paul McCartney, “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is mentioned as a favorite.  McCartney was quite pleased with it, saying, “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.”

Of course. on the “lost episode” of The Andy Griffith Show, The Darlings play the song in the festive manner we know so well. Briscoe’s daughter Charlene dances up a storm, hoping to catch the eye of Sheriff Taylor. But Andy is concentrating on the song.  He’s doing his best to pick it like George Harrison.

 

*American version of Rubber Soul, released in December 6, 1965.

** Highly recommended is the Doug Dillard-Gene Clark collaboration from 1968, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark.

###
Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran worked in advertising at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 27 years before accepting a buy-out in the Summer of 2008. In the seventies/early eighties, he handled advertising for Peaches Records and Tapes' Southeastern and Midwestern stores. He also wrote record reviews for The Great Speckled Bird, a ground-breaking underground newspaper based in Atlanta.

10 Comments
  1. This is one of my favorite Beatles songs. It was included in the movie “Across the Universe,” which is a great movie.

  2. A day or two after Christmas 1965, I went down to the W.T. Grant store at Belvedere Plaza and bought the Beatles’ new album, “Rubber Soul,” with some gift money from my Uncle Earl and Aunt Stella. Then I went home and put it on our mono record player and heard George’s spiraling 12-string intro. I don’t think I’ve ever been as thrilled the beginning of an album. Paul probably would have called “I’ve Just Seen a Face” a skiffle song. I call it happiness.
    I’m enjoying these pieces, Jeff.

  3. Tim Oliver

    Another great article, Jeff, and something I, definitely did not know. That Andy Griffith would even mention the Beatles on his show amazes me !

  4. Terri Evans

    Jeff, love what you’re doing with this. Very cool. Jim, I recall when Belvedere Plaza was, what seemed, the only shopping destination around. Haven’t heard that name in many a year.
    Warning to Jeff: Some folks do think of Missouri as a Southern state, and you know some of them. That said, all I can offer is this: Missouri was not one of the “Confederate” states; however, the state does belong to the Southern Governor’s Association (per the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture).

  5. Hey, Jeff- After reading this I wanted to play the song, so I pulled my Rubber Soul CD and it isn’t on there. (I also can’t get it on Rhapsody). Then I looked at my original Rubber Soul album and there it is, first song, side one. “It’s Only Love” is the first track on side two of the vinyl, but it isn’t on the CD either. However, “Drive My Car” , “What Goes On”, and “If I Needed Someone” are all on the Rubber Soul CD.
    I was having lunch at Mellow Mushroom the other day and “There’s A Place” came on. What a great song that is with the haunting harmonies and harmonica. I hadn’t heard that one in a while.
    I agree with Tim on being amazed that Andy would mention The Beatles- missed that episode.
    Love the articles, Cuz!

  6. Jeff Cochran

    “I’ve Just Seen A Face” was on the American version of “Rubber Soul.” It appeared first several months earlier on their UK issue of the “Help” album.

    When The Beatles” albums were first issued on CD in 1987, it was the UK configurations that were made available. Since then, the first 8 albums issued by Capitol in the US have been made available on CD.

    The UK version of “Rubber Soul” opens with “Drive My Car.” It sets quite a different mood than “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”

    Thanks for reading, Cuz.

  7. “Rubber Soul” is one of the few Beatles albums where a lot of fans think the rejiggered American track lineup is actually superior to the original British lineup.

    Nice series, Jeff!

  8. wanted to respond but ernest t. bass just threw a rock in the window!
    (and andy never mentioned the beatles! he was kidding! bye!)

  9. HELLO JEFF ……. GREAT ARTICLE ……….. I JOINED THE DILLARDS ON DRUMS IN 1966 …….. A GIRL SITTING NEXT TO ME IN MY JOURNALISM CLASS AT VAN NUYS VALLEY COLLEGE ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO COME OVER TO HER HOUSE AND TAKE AN AUDITION FOR A POSITION IN HER POPS BAND ……. SO I WENT OVER TO MITCH JAYNES HOUSE AND DOUG DILLARD SAID “YOU GOT THE GIG” ……. I SAW MYSELF AS A JAZZ DRUMMER AT THE TIME, AND DID NOT KNOW WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF IN TO ….. WELL WE PLAYED THE ICE HOUSE IN PASADINA AND ONE OF THE SONGS WE DID ON A SUMMER FRIDAY NITE WAS “IVE JUST SEEN A FACE” GREAT FUN ………. THANKS AGAIN FOR THE REMINDER … JESUS BLESSINGS TO YOU, JOHN T – GOSPELS GLORY ROAD HEARD SUNDAY MORNINGS ON THE WEB 6AM WEST COAST TIME AT kohoradio.com

Comments are closed.