I SAID SHOE!...oh, never mind...
I'm going to deviate from my normal M.O. and post on a couple of songs at the same time. I'll continue with Something soon but let's pause to examine George Harrison's curious footwear.
It's interesting that Old Brown Shoe was recorded directly before Something as they're kind of peas in a pod. Both songs break all kinds of rules but one pulls it off in breathtaking fashion. And the other one is Old Brown Shoe.
It's too much of a good thing. There are numerous tickets to write on display here but they combine to make a really bad song. All the right ingredients but instead of a cake you get an inedible frisbee of death.
It's not difficult to say why this song is so bad. It's just difficult to say why Harrison does a lot of the same things wrong in Something and gets away with it.
But here's a couple of examples.
Putting a foot wrong
Staying off the root (Ticket 6) is a great way to increase some freshness and movement into tired chord progressions. But here we only get the root chord (C) for the first 4 bars of a 16 bar verse. We end on the Am (The Aeolian cadence - Ticket 10). The chord he uses as a root is itself an unsettled 7th chord. The root doesn't appear at all in the bridge (the only other section of the song). We also (as always) have multiple out of key chords (Ticket 28) but hanging on them for several bars at a time increases the tonal uncertainty. The melody makes things even worse by being based largely on the minor pentatonic instead of following the chords (Ticket 22).
So instead of starting somewhere unfamiliar and then heading for home She Loves You (intro) or heading out the front door then taking a quick detour Here Comes The Sun (bridge) we just wander around lost with a sharp stone in our old brown shoe for the full 3 minutes.
The most glaring weirdness in this song is the loping off beat drum part. Ringo was a genius (yes I did call Ringo a genius – deal with it) at coming up with fresh and inventive parts (even without McCartney's help). But messing with the beat means not only have we lost the root, we've lost the 'one' too (no pun intended).
Contrast this track with weird metre/syncopated songs by Led Zeppelin. The weirder the riff, the more likely you are to find John Bonham playing a solid AC/DC approved 4 to the bar (The Ocean, Kashmir, Black Dog). I don't blame Ringo though. No drum beat could have saved this song.
Lastly the lyrics are really poor. Harrison sometimes displayed a really cynical shoddiness when it came to lyrics and that's what we have here.
There are some interesting lines - right is only half of what's wrong, but I'm stepping out this old brown shoe? What does that mean? 'Out OF'? Has he moved in with the old woman who lived in a shoe? Or 'out IN'? What happened to his other shoe? And don't get me started on being in the queue for her sweet top lip. What's wrong with her bottom lip? Does she even have one?
The song is crammed full of lines that are not only vague, stupid or nonsensical but also really clunky and awkward sounding. The former is a minor infraction in pop music. The latter is unforgivable.
won't be the same now, when I'm with you
Not worry what they or you say
pick me up from where some try to drag me down
To miss that love is something I'd hate
This song hurts my feet.
The guitar solo is brilliant though...