I Forgot to Remember “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”

DEVIN McKINNEY  •  Thinking about favorite unreleased Beatles songs, my mind, like most people’s, went right for the studio outtakes. But I was walking across town yesterday with iPod in ears and shuffled right into George’s BBC rendition of “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” one of the songs recorded by Elvis Presley at the legendary Sun Sessions. Elvis’s version is lachrymose, a tear-in-beer downer to break up the honky-tonk monotony. But the Beatles do it light, and light, it turns out, is right.

George tosses off the lost-love lyric with the callow elan of a boy skipping through mud puddles: he’s so young, so innocent, with so much world to discover; you know this sorrow won’t break his stride for longer than it takes to sing it away. The band plays like a single body with eight arms, wasting not one bar constructing a graceful groove but seeming to pluck it from thin, clean air. George’s guitar solo, one of his very best, is heartbreakingly sweet, melodic, succinct. There’s even a little shift into ska (!) for the middle eight: Memphis meets Kingston by way of Liverpool.

Not a drop of sweat or hassle on this recording. I played it twice through, just grinning.

As far as anyone knows, they taped this song just once. And I thought, damn, they were good, if they could craft a thing to such perfection, only to throw it away on a radio show one-shot…

Technically, “I Forgot” is not unreleased (it was on Live at the BBC). But there needs to be at least one post on this blog extolling it.

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One Comment

  1. Yeah, the BBC recordings are a real treasure trove just in general, aren’t they?

    George’s rockabilly-hiccup vocals also shine on “Glad All Over” and in 1964 it was probably pretty ballsy for a Brit to try to pull of this quintessentially and peculiarly (for lack of a better phrase) ethnic-American style of idiom-laden singing. I mean, by that time, it was commonplace for guys as bleached-white Caucasian as Pat Boone to make “Negro music” acceptable for respectable white foax. But even in “lower class” Liverpool, I doubt many foax used American country-ish phrases like “hot-dang gilly it’s silly” or “I’m a rock gone pappy
    and I’m happy” – it would be like me trying to pull off saying “fish-and-finger pie” with my raunchy American buds and expecting them to get what it means.

    Yet George sounds great on this song.

    It’s not always understood, now, but … Man, did those guys take chances! They covered – and released! – girl group songs (“Boys”)! They did black music! Blues! Musical theater (“Till There Was You”)! Stereotypically-and-fabulously-gay-shibboleths-before-they-were-recognized-as-gay-shibboleths (“Over the Rainbow”)!

    Man … they were good!

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