Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Beatles – "Ticket to Ride" (1965)

I don't know why she's ridin' so high
She ought to think twice

On March 25, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered an attack on Fort Stedman, a modest Union Army fortification located just east of Petersburg, Virginia. 

Union General Ulysses S. Grant had spent the previous ten months patiently maneuvering against Lee’s much smaller army, which was stretched very thin along a 40-mile-long front. 

The attack on Fort Stedman
Lee’s desperate attack failed to break Grant’s stranglehold on his army, and Grant’s counterattacks over the next few days forced the Confederate commander to abandon his defense of both Petersburg (a vital supply base and railroad depot) and nearby Richmond (the Confederate capital) and retreat to the west on April 2.

For the next week, Lee’s forces retreated along the route of the Southside Railroad, which connected Petersburg to Lynchburg, Virginia, which was about 130 miles to the west.  

*     *     *     *     *

The most notable feature of the Southside Railroad was the High Bridge, which was completed in 1852:

The original High Bridge under construction
The High Bridge, which carried the railroad across the Appomattox River valley, was almost half a mile long and had a maximum height of 160 feet above the ground.

The engineer who designed it later said that “there have been higher bridges not so long, and longer bridges not so high, but taking the length and height together, this is, perhaps, the largest bridge in the world.”

The bridge’s 20 piers contained almost four million bricks, and supported not only the railroad bridge but also an adjacent wagon bridge.

*     *     *     *     *

On April 6, 1865, as Lee’s Confederate forces retreated to the west, a Union raiding party tried to destroy the bridge to slow the southerners down.  The attempt was a spectacular failure – the entire 800-man Union force was either killed or captured, and the Confederates were able to cross the Appomattox using the bridge.

The next day, the Confederate rear guard tried to burn the bridge to slow down the Union pursuit.  The railroad bridge was made unusable, but the wagon bridge was not seriously damaged.  Grant’s forces were able to remain on the heels of the retreating Confederates, and Lee was forced to surrender only two days later after reaching Appomattox Court House, about 25 miles west of the High Bridge.

*     *     *     *     *

A few years ago, some 31 miles of the Southside Railroad’s right of way was converted to a rail trail by the Virginia state government.  I rode most of the trail on a recent two-day trip to Farmville, which sits at the midpoint of the trail.  

You can click here to read about my ride on the western half of the High Bridge trail and my post-ride visits to Third Street Brewing and the Fishin’ Pig restaurant.

The next day, I returned to Farmville and rode east, crossing over the High Bridge about half an hour into my trip.

Here's a 90-second video of bikers on the High Bridge.  PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO!

I continued to Moran, which is seven miles southeast of the bridge before turning around and heading back west to Farmville.

On my return trip, I stopped to inspect the High Bridge more closely. 

There’s a path that takes you from the rail trail down to the river, which enables you to get a good look at the bridge from below:

Here’s a photo of the bridge I took after walking several hundred yards up the riverbank:

The burned bridge was rebuilt shortly after the Civil War under the supervision of William “Billy” Mahone, a civil engineer who had been a major general in Robert E. Lee’s army.  (Mahone had been with Lee when his foundering army retreated across the High Bridge just before surrendering at Appomattox.)

Here’s a photo of the bridge being rebuilt:

I am not a fan of heights, but crossing the bridge didn’t bother me too much even though the bridge is fairly narrow.  (There’s room for two bike riders to pass safely, but there’s not a lot of room to spare.)

The river itself is not very wide, but has cut a fairly deep valley, which is what necessitated the half-mile-long bridge.

*     *     *     *     *

The weather was beautiful the day I rode the eastern half of the High Bridge rail trail – sixty degrees, little or no wind, and a cloudless blue sky – but I didn’t see a single other biker on the outbound portion of my ride.  (Yes, it was a weekday, but I’m still surprised there was so little traffic on the trail.)

At the end of my ride, I returned to the Third Street brewery to have a pint of their “High Bridge Helles” lager.  While enjoying my beer, I wowed the other patrons with a detailed account of my bicycle exploits.  (They were hanging on my every word!)

After that, I couldn’t resist returning to the Fishin’ Pig for another heapin’ helpin’ of fried catfish (cooked in “Shorty’s Famous Seafood & Chicken Breading”), cole slaw, and redskin potato salad – plus a glass of Parkway Brewing’s delicious”Reformator” doppelbock:

Not only was the catfish delicious, it was cheap – fried catfish dinners are half price every Thursday evening at the Fishin’ Pig.  (I must have done a major good deed in a previous life.)

Then it was time to hit the road for the three-hour drive back to my home.

*     *     *     *     *

Most pop and rock songs have verses and a chorus.  Each verse usually has different lyrics, while the choruses usually have the same lyrics. 

Many songs also have a bridge, which is a section somewhere in the middle of the song that contrasts with the verses musically.

One common song structure is ABABCAB, where “A” stands for a verse, “B” for the chorus, and “C” for the bridge.

The Beatles wrote and recorded several songs that could have been ABABCAB songs, but that they turned into ABABCABCAB songs.

The verses and choruses of some Beatles songs were so short that following the ABABCAB structure would left them with a too-short song.  

One example of an ABABCAB song that the Beatles stretched by repeating the bridge and the final verse/chorus is today’s featured song, “Ticket to Ride,” which begins with this verse:

I think I'm gonna be sad
I think it's today, yeah
The girl that's driving me mad
Is going away

Next comes the chorus, which couldn’t be simpler:

She's got a ticket to ride
She's got a ticket to ride
She's got a ticket to ride
But she don't care

Next is the second verse:

She said that living with me
Is bringing her down, yeah
For she would never be free
When I was around

The chorus that follows the second verse is identical to the chorus that follows the first verse, so there’s no need for me to repeat it.

“Ticket to Ride” was on the Help! soundtrack
Here’s the bridge that follows that second chorus.  It’s essentially a mini-bridge that they repeat:

I don't know why she's ridin' so high
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me
Before she gets to saying goodbye
She ought to think twice
She ought to do right by me

The second half of the song is essentially identical to the first half – albeit slightly rearranged.

The third verse (which follows the bridge) is simply the first verse repeated.  It’s followed by the same chorus.

The bridge is then repeated word for word and note for note.

Next, the second verse is repeated, followed by the same ol’ chorus.

Finally, there’s a short coda (or “outro”): 

My baby don't care, my baby don't care
My baby don't care, my baby don't care
My baby don't care, my baby don't care

Let’s face it – we don’t need the bridge of “Ticket to Ride” to be repeated, and we don’t need the second verse (plus chorus) to be repeated.  The song should really have gone to the coda immediately after the repeat of the first verse and chorus.  (Better yet, the Beatles could have written a new third verse rather than repeating the first one.)

The problem is that “Ticket to Ride” would have only been 2:20 long if it had ended before the repeat of the bridge.  By repeating the bridge and repeating the second verse (plus the chorus), the Beatles stretched it to 3:11.

There are a lot of Beatles songs that are no longer than 2:20 – “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Help!,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Paperback Writer,” and “Lady Madonna,” to name just a few.  I would have preferred “Ticket to Ride” without the padding, but the Beatles decided otherwise.

*     *     *     *     *

When all is said and done, “Ticket to Ride” consists of two four-line verses (each of which is repeated), a chorus that repeats one line (“She’s got a ticket to ride”) three times, a six-line bridge that’s really a four-line bridge because two of the lines are repeated, and a coda that repeats the same short phrase (“My baby don’t care”) over and over.

If you take out all the repetition, you end up with exactly 15 lines containing a total of 80 words (counting the “yeahs”).

That’s not atypical of Lennon and McCartney songs.  John and Paul cranked out a lot of songs together  in a very few years, but there wasn’t much in the way of substance in many of those songs.  

Here’s “Ticket to Ride”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment