Would you call this a work of art?
Far from the love-me-goo of the Beatles’ shtick, pre-’65, and quickly overdubbed in the twilight of their studio-bound seclusion, “Old Brown Shoe” is a song I can’t quite put my finger on.
Maybe it’s about what it sounds like—a strident back-beat* that pushes a wall of sound (a bed of organ laced with the upper keys of a piano and a slide guitar or a Telecaster), giving as good as it can. As for lyrical intent, I don’t know what the hell George is singing about, but I’ll take a gander: He’s an eager chap out for some real love, and YOU could be the one that does it for him. To put him over the top; to make him come just like honey. Who knows? It’s a playful, nothing lyric that could mean something, or nothing. That’s fine.
So. The song is a slightly menacing, lascivious run on a Carl Perkins rave, a burst of 50s rock stranged by the Beatles’ alchemy and mastery of the studio. It avoids whimsy. It also avoids the self-consciously arty shambolism they sometimes fell into, in their last years.
Here, in sonic force, the band returns to Hamburg a little wiser — and weirder — for the wear. Like an old brown shoe, full of surprises.
*Dig that bass. I mean, WOW.