By today’s standards, the notion of an artist releasing a first album stuffed with covers of other people’s songs sounds absurd, yet in the 1960s, it was rather typical for popular ensembles to do precisely that. After all, a good song was a good song, and The Beatles produced some of the finest. An acapella rendition of The Carpenters’ version of “Ticket to Ride,” which debuted on their debut album, is provided here.
‘Ticket To Ride’ was the first tune on Help! and the first Beatles song to go longer than three minutes. The band performed the song from an Austrian ski slope for the movie of the same name.
The song’s composition, credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, has been hotly debated. In one of his final interviews, Lennon claimed that the song was virtually completely his own. Lennon remarked, “That was one of the earliest heavy-metal records made,” to David Sheff, the author of All We Are Saying. The manner in which Ringo played the drums was Paul’s contribution.
Paul, on the other hand, was of the opinion that the song had been a group effort. McCartney said that he and John co-wrote the tune in his 1994 autobiography: “You can hear on the record, John’s taking the melody and I’m singing harmony with it. We’d often work those out as we wrote them. Because John sang it, you might have to give him 60 per cent of it. It was pretty much a work job that turned out quite well. John just didn’t take the time to explain that we sat down together and worked on that song for a full three-hour songwriting session, and at the end of it all we had all the words, we had the harmonies, and we had all the little bits.”
When ‘Ticket to Ride’ was released, it was hailed as a departure from The Beatles’ earlier work. It was heavier than anything The Beatles – or anybody else for that matter – had ever recorded before, aside from Ringo’s distinctive drum rhythm and the strangely depressing lyrics. But for Paul, the song’s most memorable feature was its double-time ending. Paul remembered in Many Years From Now, “I think the interesting thing was a crazy ending: instead of ending like the previous verse, we changed the tempo, We picked up one of the lines, ‘My baby don’t care’, but completely altered the melody. We almost invented the idea of a new bit of a song on the fade-out with this song; it was something specially written for the fade-out, which was very effective but it was quite cheeky and we did a fast ending. It was quite radical at the time.”
I suppose the Carpenters’ cover is a little less avant-garde. It was transformed into a Chopinesque ballad by them, wrapped in sweet strings. Below, you may listen to Karen Carpenter’s vocal samples on their own.