22. March 2013
After the moderate success of Love Me Do and the major hit with Please Please Me the obvious next step was to record an album.
The Beatles had been a busy band for long, with live performances or recording sessions for radio and television almost every day, but a free slot in their schedule was found. On the 11th February 1963 they got a day off from their tour, where they opened for Helen Shapiro.
In those days recordings were made using a 2-track analogue recording machine. It was possible to record a new lawyer on top of an already recorded track (overdub), even several times, but the inevitable noise on the tape becomes more pronounced with each added layer of sound. It rises exponentially and therefore such overdubs should be avoided or limited. Accordingly, recordings were almost live performances of songs the band had already performed many times before. They could be recorded much faster than later in the Beatles’ career where the songs were created in the studio and an increasing perfectionism had a substantial effect on recording time.
Still, it became a very long day − 12 hours and 3 quarters − although the two singles Love Me Do and Please Please Me and their B-sides (P.S. I Love You and Ask Me Why) had already been recorded and were to be included on the album. Some of the time was spent on recording Hold Me Tight. None of the 13 recordings (“takes”) of that number were quite satisfactory, but two takes were good enough to yield an adequate recording if they were joined by adding the first part of one take with the second part of the other. Eventually, Hold Me Tight was dropped and later re-recorded for inclusion on the next album With The Beatles.
With four Lennon-McCartney (or McCartney-Lennon as they were then called) songs already available, they could secure a majority of their own compositions on a 14 track LP by recording four additional Lennon-McCartney works, which would be I Saw Her Standing There, Misery, Do You Want To Know A Secret and There’s A Place.
The 8 original compositions were supplemented with 6 covers, all fairly new and all included in the Beatles’ live repertoire.
It seems as if The Beatles were more comfortable with the covers that their own compositions. The covers were recorded in an average of 3 takes, while the four new Lennon-McCartney songs required an average of 11 takes. A take may last a few seconds or the full duration of the song. If something goes wrong, the recording is stopped and a new take is made (perhaps after a discussion or a break). But a take can also be a complete recording of a song, which the producer or the band think may be improved by a new take.
Apart from the limited time available the situation was also influenced by the fact that John had a cold, which affected his voice (which you can hear when you know it). He had just enough voice to get through the session on a regimen of throat lozenges, tea, milk and cigarettes.
The album cover is not great art or design. It is based on a not fantastically creative photography of the band taken from below, with the band standing and looking down from a staircase. The picture is a bit muzzy and brownish. This picture has been pepped up by printing the text in yellow, red and blue. This album cover falls short of the creativity associated with the later covers of Beatles albums.
Some years later a new picture was taken on the same spot and in the same angle. The old picture − or to be precise: a very similar photo from the same photo session − was used for the red double album with hits from 1962-1966 and the new picture for the cover of the blue double album with later works. Quite clever.
Let us have a look of the numbers as they appear on the album.
1. I Saw Her Standing There
This is one of the best Beatles tracks ever. It was written for the far greatest part by McCartney but with an important, yet simple, improvement by Lennon. The first bit of the lyrics originally went “Well, she was just seventeen. Never been a beauty queen”. The second sentence not only appears strained to find a rhyme on “teen”. It goes dead against the basic story of the gorgeous girl he sees at some distance and crosses the room to dance with. Lennon pointed out the weakness and suggested that the second sentence be replaced by “You know what I mean”. This change draws the listener into the story and his imagination is stirred: just how good-looking is this girl?
By the way, the girl may possibly be Rory Storm’s younger sister Iris Caldwell, whom Paul had dated some years before (Rory Storm was frontman in Ringo’s old band Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, see chapter 1). Iris later married the musician Shane Fenton who had a few minor hits in 1961-62 with his band The Deltones and made a strong comeback in the early seventies under his new name Alvin Stardust.
The live concert feel is enhanced by McCartney’s count-in “One, Two, Three, Four” with a confident emphasis on four, raising the listener’s expectation level.
In my account of Beatles songs I must use a little music theory: The vast majority of popular music − including music by The Beatles and in particular this song – is written in the time signature 4/4. That means there are four beats in each bar (also called measure). Due to the widespread use of the 4/4 time signature, it is also known as common time. You can count 1 2 3 4, exactly as Paul does on this number. You can go on counting 1 2 3 4 at the same speed throughout the whole song. That a song is written in 4/4 does not imply that the song line or any instruments necessarily goes simply 1 2 3 4, but the count will fit anyway.
You can subdivide 1 2 3 4 by counting in eighths 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. The numbers 1 to 4 keep their place and the pace remains the same, but you inject an “&” between each of the numbers.
Enough theory for now. More will follow.
After the count in, which has set the high pace (tempo) of the song, the number commences in earnest with a 4 bar intro in the key of E. The one-bar bass riff which is essential to this song dominates the intro and is played almost throughout the rest of the song, of course transposed when the chord is changed from E major to the two other main chords in that key: A major and H major. The bass is played (“pumped”) in straight (= evenly distanced in time) eighth notes. It is very fast. We should not, however, go overboards in our praise of Paul for this bass riff. Paul did not invent it. It is admittedly 100% nicked from the bass line in Chuch Berry’s number Talkin’ ’bout You, which The Beatles also played live. You can hear the Chuck Berry as well as The Beatles version of that song on YouTube. The same goes for all other songs mentioned in this chapter unless noted.
It should be duly noted, that such a bass riff in itself is not protected by copyright and may be lawfully copied and that the two songs are quite different. So we can indeed give Paul some praise for his good idea of using the bass riff in this song.
After the intro the verse (8 bars) follows, then a prechorus (4 bars) and a chorus (4 bars). In the prechorus the bass cleverly only plays fourth notes (1 2 3 4), offering some desirable variation. It ascends from bar to bar ending in bar 4 on C, which is outside the E major scale. This creates a tension which is released in the chorus when the bass returns to the riff in eighths. That last tension-creating bar of the prechorus is probably the finest detail of the song.
After another round of verse, prechorus and chorus a middle 8 appears as a fine contrast to the first parts. Particularly there is an excellent vocal harmony in the end of the middle eight.
Then verse, prechorus and chorus again, and we are into a guitar solo – George’s first on record, which has its own sequence of chord changes, unlike most solos in the world which are based on another part of the song e.g. the verse, or even simpler stays on a single chord. It is not a bad solo, but George would develop markedly during the band’s career, and clearly this solo is not among his best work.
Then the middle 8 is repeated and there’s a new round of verse, prechorus and chorus before the song is brought to an end by extending the chorus and adding a few closing bars.
Ringo plays brilliantly and rhythm guitar and vocal harmonies (both John) are excellent. The number is often performed by coverbands and it possesses such inherent strength, that it sounds rather nice even if the bass player – as you may have experienced – is unable to play the fast bass riff with eighth notes and resorts to playing only fourth notes, although such a practice borders on sacrilege.
It is the best song on the album and better than the best of the preceding singles, Please Please Me.
Misery is the result of a 50-50 collaboration between John and Paul. They had originally intended Helen Shapiro to record it, but her manager declined the offer, so they recorded it themselves. They extended their collaboration by sharing lead vocal. In spite of the gloomy title the tale of the bitter loss of the beloved ex-girlfriend is a rather happy song. It is also a rather simple song. It is written in C major and apart from the three basic chords C major, F major and G major it only used the fourth most common chord in C major i.e. A minor.
The fine intro presents after a slow guitar chord the misery of the singer. Then there is a short rhythmic pick-up followed by a verse, explaining the cause of the alleged misery. Fine, but not fantastic. There is no chorus (and then obviously no prechorus). The second verse elaborates on the misery. A middle 8 follows, which − as always with The Beatles – is excellent. Probably the most characteristic quality in Lennon-McCartney’s music is their superb ability to bring variation to a song by introducing a brilliant middle 8.
The middle 8 in Misery is particularly interesting.
Again, we must interject a bit of music theory. As mentioned in the comments to I Saw Her Standing There a bar of four quarter notes can be subdivided into eighth notes. But you can also subdivide it further in sixteenth notes by doubling the number of points: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a.
In the first 3 bars of the middle 8 John and Paul sing a complete descending phrygian scale from E to E an octave lower (“I remember all the little things we’ve done”). Then they are silent for the fourth bar, where one might ponder what those “little things” precisely were, if a forceful piano did not grab the attention with a new descending scale from G to G an octave lower (mixolydian scale) with each striking of the piano’s keys itself spanning an octave. There is only one bar in which to complete the scale (where the sung part has three) so it must be done quickly. It requires 8 striking to complete a scale of an octave and it could have been played in straight eights. But rhythmically that would have fitted poorly and it is played with sixteenth notes as follows: 1 a 2 a 3 a 4 & with uneven distances in time between the piano strikings. An excellent example of clever use of sixteenth notes. After this burst in bar 4 the piano player reminds of his presence with a single striking on 4 in bar 7 and in bar 8.
The piano is played by none other that George Martin and has been overdubbed onto the recording from 11th February on the 20th February without the presence of The Beatles. It is probably also George Martin’s idea. I have been unable to establish in Beatles literature whether this attention grabbing addition was already agreed with The Beatles or was devised by George Martin afterwards.
Opinion is divided as to whether the Martin piano overdub is an improvement or not. In my opinion it is and I can no longer listen to this song without playing air-piano on the two 4’s in bar 7 and 8. But you be the judge.
After the middle 8 there is a new verse and the middle 8 is repeated. The outro is an extension of the last bars of the verse. John sings la-la-la-la-la-la in falsetto, quite likely inspired by the then popular Pat Boone number Speedy Gonzales. This adds to the impression that surely they will get out of their misery.
A fine, but not a fantastic song.
3. Anna (Go To Him)
This is the first of the six covers. It was composed and written in 1962 by Arthur Alexander, who also recorded the original version (available on YouTube). The most important difference between the Alexander and Beatles versions is the instrumentation. The dominant instrument on the Alexander version is piano, and there is a lavish dose of strings. George plays a guitar version of the two bar piano riff, which introduces the song, but he has made a substantial improvement by prolonging the pause in the second of the two bars, where Alexander’s piano player noodles. Rhythmically the riff goes / 1 (pause) & a 3 & 4 & / (pause) & 3 & 4 & /. And opposed to Alexander’s piano player who after the intro only plays the first part of the riff in the verses, George sticks with the complete two bar riff (as improved) in the verses making it the foundation of the number. The absent strum on 1 in bar 2 of the riff and the pause all the way to 2& (= the & after 2, which of course is also the & before 3) makes George’s guitar riff much more interesting than the original piano riff.
Paul more or less plays the same bass line as Alexander’s bass player, The most distinctive element is that the bass, just as the rhythm guitar, plays on 2&. This matches the guitar riff and represents the song’s basic rhythm, which is also known from the classic song Stand By Me (recorded by Ben E. King and many others, including John Lennon solo). But Paul has also made an improvement. On the Alexander version the bass pumps (= plays eighth notes) out of the middle 8 to get back to the verse, both times. Paul makes a variation by playing quarter notes the second time: / 1 2 3 4 &/. That is very elegant.
John, too, has found room for improvement of the original song. Instead of Alexander’s short “Anna” which is completed in 3/8 of a bar, he stretches it to “A-an-na” (3/4 of a bar).
There is no chorus, only verse and a middle 8 alternating (except that verse 1 is followed directly by verse 2) − and intro and outro. The verse has two parts, where the second is more varied than the simple first part, which just uses two chords D major and B Minor. The middle 8 is quite dramatic and is not in the typical 8 bars (which is why it is known as a middle 8) but in 16 (nonetheless you can still call it a middle 8 and not “middle 16”). It is placed twice. The middle 8 also has an emphasis on 2& (listen to the guitar playing loudly on 2& and 4).
The length of the verses varies. The first verse has 12 bars, 6 for the first part and 6 for the second. In the second verse the second part is reduced to 4 bars, so the strong middle 8 appears before expected, adding to the dramatic effect. In the third verse, the first part of the verse is also reduced to 4 bars, so that the middle 8 may be repeated sooner.
The lyrics of the song are about the typical subject of a girl breaking up with a boy = the singer. In the verses he seems able to deal with the loss and he appears to be understanding and ale to put his own interests aside, but in the middle 8 a bitter desperation breaks through, perfectly supported by the mood of the music. Then, when the calm seems to be restored in verse 3 after the desperate middle 8 outbreak, there is “just one more thing” the boy wishes to add and we learn that it is not just any casual relationship but an engagement to be married which is broken off. And this verse only lasts for 8 bars before the desperation breaks through again as a repetition of the middle 8. This way of varying the length of the verses to musically support a story of uncontrollable desperation is simply ingenious.
Then verse 3 is repeated (yes, you heard correctly: they were really engaged to be married) and the song ends on a simple outro based on the two chords from the first part of the verse.
John Lennon sings this song with fantastic empathy and intensity. Much better than Alexander who does a fine job, but while Alexander’s fiancée seems to have ruined his week, John’s fiancée has destroyed his life. And while he suffered from a cold, at that, which is most obvious on this track and on Twist and Shout.
Another cover. The original was written in 1962 by the legendary songwriting team Goffin & King (where the latter in none other than Carol King of Tapestry fame). The original version was recorded by the not very well known female vocal group the Cookies. The Beatles version is about 10% faster than the original, which reduces the song’s charm.
George, John and Paul sing together in harmony, but George’s voice is brought forward in the mix making him lead singer.
The number starts with a harmonica intro (John), which regrettably is rather aggressive and unpleasant. Ringo’s playing is unusually uninspired and monotone. On the good side the vocal harmonies and Paul´s relaxed and playfull bass line bring some life to a rather boring tune.
This is the only of the 6 covers on the album, where it must be admitted that The Beatles version is inferior to the original version. The original has a better swing. Try and listen to it on YouTube.
Enough said about Chains.
This cover was composed by Dixon & Farrell in 1961. The original recording was made by the female vocal group The Shirelles.
The song is about how irresistibly gorgeous boys are. They are “such a bundle of joy”. The lyrics have only to been amended to a minimal degree in order to reflect, that the song is now performed by a boy, so Ringo joyfully sings about how delicious he and other members of his gender are. He does it quite well with a pleasant, perhaps a bit nasal, voice. But Ringo never was a great singer.
Pete Best had sung Boys, when he was the drummer in The Beatles, and Ringo had sung it in his days with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, so it was natural for all concerned to let Ringo sing it in the Beatles.
The song is written in E major and only the three primary chords (E major, A major and B major) are used. It begins with a 4 bar intro using all three chords followed by 7 times a classic 12 bar blues pattern, which is used both for verse, chorus and solo. In the verses, there is a break on one on the first three bars and then things start going from bar 4 with steady eight notes from the bass and rhythm guitar. In the chorus (“Well I’m talking ’bout boys”) eighth notes are played throughout the 12 bar pattern.
After two verses and chorus George plays a rather fine solo, and then there is a verse and two choruses in a row, the song fading on the second.
The Beatles play freshly and tight. The song was in the can in the first tale. The best detail of the number appears quite late (at 2:12) where Paul reapplies his trick from Anna by suddenly (last chorus bar 4) while playing a descending line from E to A playing fourth notes instead of pumping eighth notes as he had done throughout the number.
6. Ask Me Why
This song was the flipside of the Please Please Me single. As all singles (until George managed to get Old Brown Shoe as the B-side to Lady Madonna) it is a Lennon-McCarney composition written mostly by John, who also sings it. Judged by the lyrics this is a sweet love song, but the music in the key of E major is moody. This makes the song interestingly ambiguous. It is rich in chords, not the most basic, with many minor chords.
The song begins with a short intro, which in the second bar has a pick-up to the verse on 3 4 (“I love”) and then on the 1 beat of the next bar – the first bar of the verse – has “You”. After the first four bars of the verse it seems they will be repeated as bar 5 – 8, which in an exceedingly common practice, but in bar 8 the song changes course. From bar 8 to bar 12 no less than 5 new chords are introduced of which three are noteworthy by being major chords in stead of the “correct” minor chord and vice versa. Quite advanced. The next bar (between verses) contains the 3 4 pick-up to verse 2. After the second verse there is a pick-up (“I can´t be-“) to the middle 8 (“-lieve”), which seems rather dull but is salvaged in bar 7 by the guitar playing a marked “1 and 2” followed by the vocal “misery” on “3 & &”. After the middle 8 a bridge follows, which is sort of a mini-verse, again with the 3 4 pick-up both out of the middle 8 and out of the bridge. Then comes another verse, middle 8 and the bridge and the tune ends with a gentle outro.
The 3 4 pick-up is used in the intro, bar 4 of the verse, in the bar between two verses, out of the middle 8 and out of the bridge/mini-verse, which is played twice. The song comes to a near halt every time just before the 3 4 and this pick-up is used 9 times to get the song back in movement. That is really too much.
In spite of the wobbly progress it is quite a nice song, which points to greater future achievements by its ambitious choice of chords.
7. Please Please Me
This song is reviewed in Chapter 2. It was placed as the last song on side 1 of the record in accordance with George Martin’s philosophy to have the strongest songs as the first and last tracks on each side of an LP.
8. Love Me Do
This song is reviewed in Chapter 1. George Martin placed it as the first track on side 2.
9. P.S. I Love You
This is the B-side of Love Me Do. It is mostly written by Paul in the Hamburg days and he also sings it. It is written in D major and uses 8 chords including two outside the D major scale (Bb and C).
It does not seem to be a very heartfelt song written with a particular loved one at home in mind. It seems more like he has written a song to complete the concept suggested in the title. He has done his homework and solved the task he put to himself.
Compared to John’s Ask Me Why the lyrics are weaker, but the composition stronger. It begins with an 8 bar intro with its own chord sequence, which is similar to the middle 8. The lyrics of the intro gives a summary of the song. The intro fits the verse very nicely, which presents the interesting feature of John and George singing harmonies on the 1 beat of each bar, They sing the word or part of the word, which is placed on 1 (treasure, words, -gether, all, ever). This is not the case in the bar with “P.S”, but then the song is in two part harmony for the rest of the verse. After two verses the middle 8 follows. Musically it is a typical middle 8 starting on the fourth chord (i.e. the chord built on the fourth note of the scale), but lyrically it is peculiar in merely repeating the lyrics from the intro. Another verse follows and the middle 8 is repeated − now with some free additional singing from Paul perfectly placed in the “wholes” in the lyrics from the first middle 8. The song ends by a prolongation of the verse based on its three last chords.
Throughout the song Ringo plays a latin percussion rhythm on the snare drum and hi-hat, which is decisive for the overall feel and confers upon the song an elegant and relaxed lightness.
A fine number in spite of the somewhat frail lyrics.
10. Baby It’s You
Another cover and just like Boys, one originally recorded by The Shirelles (like Boys). It was written by Hal David, Burt Bacharach and Barney Williams in 1961.
Unlike Boys the lyrics are just as suitable for a male singer as for a female.
The Beatles follow The Shirelles’ version (accessible on YouTube) completely except for a simplification of the rhythm of “sha-la-la-la-la” (just before the verse), which is sung in straight eighth notes. However, The Shirelles-version is somewhat loose and the instrumentation rather weak, so The Beatles’ version appears more tight, firm and strong.
As already proven on Anna John can sing a love ballad with enormous empathy and intensity, and he does so again here.
The very simple keyboard solo on the Shirelles version sounds as if it is played by an amateur with one hand on a bad organ. The same melody line is played on guitar by George on the Beatles version and sounds precise and melodious. As on Misery George Martin has added an overdub after The Beatles finished recording. It is much more subtle than the heavy piano added on Misery. He plays a perfect parallel to George’s solo in a higher register on celeste (a keyboard instrument with a chiming sound), creating a unique sonority.
Comparing this number, Boys and Anna with the respective original versions, one gets the impression that covers of contemporary American music has been a successful recipe for a good song. The originals are tidied up, tightened and given a better instrumentation etc., just by being played by The Beatles. Chains, however, demonstrates that this is not quite an infallible method.
11. Do You Want To Know A Secret
This is a Lennon-McCartney composition, probably with approximately equal contributions, but based on John’s idea. It was written for George to sing.
The chord progression is fairly sophisticated.
The intro has individual lyrics, rather than loans from the verses and is played with out of tempo chords strummed on guitar. Then a pick-up line on guitar sets the tempo and the song is underway.
Unusually, the verses have 14 bars. They change in character after the first 10 bars, without the following 4 bars being a separate element or section.
The overall sequence of the elements is super classic: Intro, 2 verses, middle 8, verse, middle 8 and outro.
The middle 8 presents, as is the trademark of The Beatles, a fine contrast to the verses. It consists of only 6 bars (but you may still call it a middle 8).
The lyrics do not possess great qualities. It is a cute song about a guy, who (I think) draws the girl closer as they are dancing and confesses his love. (Already on A Hard Day’s Night we have George back on the dance floor with much the same concept in I’m Happy Just To Dance With You).
From verse 2 George’s lead song is spiced up with John and Paul singing Doo-Da-Doo on 3 4 1 over a descending chromatic line G#, G, F# (chromatic: you play a few notes either ascending or descending and without skipping any keys of frets so that the notes are only a semitone − the smallest tone distance recognized in Western music − apart). These Doo-Da-Doos sound fine at first but quickly become rather tiresome. The bass also plays the descending chromatic line and that is both fine and sufficient.
Paul plays a pleasant, almost dancing, bass line, which stands stronger in the mix than usual in early Beatles recordings. Ringo’s drumming on the contrary is laid back and simple, bordering on boring.
It is an OK, perhaps even fine, number, but it is not among the best of early Beatles music.
The song was also recorded as a single by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas. That is a more rocked up but rather untight or even sloppy version stuffed with powerful but untasteful drumfills. On the plus side of the Kramer version the absence of the tiring Doo-Da-Doos should be noted (the bass takes care of the little chromatic run). Also the outro on this version is much better that the Beatles version. Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas got a number 2 hit in England with their version. Quite a breakthrough for Lennon-McCartney as songwriters.
11 1/2. A bit about triplets
Before reviewing the final three tracks, we must take a short theoretical excursion. We have been through the possibility of dividing a bar into halves, quarters, eighths, sixteenth etc. so that a sound − or a silence − may last a whole, a half, a quarter, an eighth or a sixteenth bar. Sounds and pauses (rests) of different durations/lengths may be combined, e.g. first a quarter note, then a quarter pause and then 4 eights (1 (pause) 3 & 4 &). The total duration of sounds and pauses in a bar should of course be as indicated in the time signature, e.g. 4/4 = 1. The number of combinations is extremely high. Even if there are no shorter subdivisions than quarters and we keep the note choices within one octave and presume that we only consider a single instrument there are more than a billion (1000 millions) different ways to combine sounds and silences in just 2 bars (perhaps 4-5 seconds).
You can also subdivide a bar (or part of a par) by dividing by 3 instead of 2. This implies that instead af two notes (or a note and a rest) of equal length, we sing or play three notes (or two notes and a rest or one note and two rests) in the same space the “normal” two notes would have taken up. An example: Rather than 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & (eights) we play 1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a, We do not have to do so for a full bar, but could also play e.g. 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & a.
Notes (and rests) based on a subdivision by 3 are called triplets. They can be varied in length (duration), and are named after the two notes they replace. If we replace two eighth notes by triplets, those are eight- note-triplets. If we play 3 triplets for a half bar they will replace two quarter notes and are quarternote-triplets.
Triplets may occur a few places in a song, perhaps with some instruments or the singer playing/singing triplets, while other performers do not, to further increase the rhythmic tension. Triplets may also be used more systematically. On All My Loving (from With The Beatles) john plays fast eighth note triplets (12 in each the bar)on his rhytm guitar throughout the verses and Oh Darling (from Abbey Road) is laden with eighth note triplets. Listen to the piana from the beginning and then the lead guitar entering in the contrast section beginning with “When you told me” (1:00). A lot of blues is played in the so called shuffle rhythm, which is based on eighth-note-triplets in the variant sound-rest-sound (with a normal sound-sound-sound triplet here and there, particularly on 4 as in The Door’s Roadhouse Blues).
The Beatles use triplets as a spice on the three last number of the record, hence this explanation.
12. A Taste Of Honey
Another cover, but of quite a different nature than the others. It is authored by Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott for a motion picture.
This song has become an evergreen which has been recorded in several, very different, versions in widely differing tempos, styles, moods, instrumentation and quality. Originally an instrumental by Acker Bilk (trumpet), it has been recorded in other instrumental version e.g. by Chet Atkins (guitar) and Herb Albert and His Tijuana Brass (a somewhat muzak-like uptempo version sounding like the theme of a television detective series) and numerous vocal versions, often slow and jazzy. Among the vocal versions Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and The Hollies could be mentioned.
The Beatles version is made using the usual Beatles 1963 recipe: Take a song and play and sing it better than the original. (May I remind you of the lyrics from Hey Jude: “Take a sad song and make it better”). The “original” in this respect is a version recorded by the rather unfamous Lenny Welch.
The most peculiar feature of this song is that its time signature alternates between 3/4 time (1 2 3 1 2 3 or “waltz meter”) and common time (4/4). Mostly it goes in waltz meter, but at 0:42 and 1:32 6 bars are played in common time, giving a change of feel.
The name of the constituent elements after the intro may be called A, B and C. The 16 bar A-parts can be seen as verses. They develop as they move along, but not quite in such a way to be considered different sections. The B-parts are the 6 bars in common time and the C-parts are the following 4 bars. This A B C sequence is played twice. In the second C-part the song goes out of tempo and the outro follows.
Paul sings lead and his vocal has been double-tracked (i.e. a second vocal is overdubbed) for a fuller sound.
It is difficult to be deeply touched by a song, which has as its lyrical point, that kisses taste like honey, and that honey (about 80% sugar) tastes sweeter than wine, where the sweetest desert wines hardly surpass a 5% sugar content. The metaphorical language is corny, almost ridiculous.
This is not among The Beatles’ best works, but should be acknowledged as probably the best version of this song, the enduring success of which makes you wonder.
13. There’s A Place
This is the last Lennon-McCartney composition on the album. Paul has probably contributed a bit more than John. The lyrics are more reflective than on most early Beatles songs, so it is natural to assume that John as the better lyricist has been the main force behind the lyrics and Paul as the better at compositional details has probably had the main responsibility for the music.
The song begins with a 4 bar harmonica Introduction (John), with a main theme which reoccurs several times later. John and Paul share lead vocal, which is sung in harmony with Paul on the top. They come in with “The-e-e-e-re” on 3 & 4 & 1, then makes a short teasing pause for effect and come back with “is a” on 3 4 and “place” on the 1 of the first bar of the verse and the song is away. This is a pick-up to a pick-up. Clever. A pattern is then established by alternating between “& 3 4 1” where the note sung on 1 is held for the duration of the bar and a bit into the next (go, low, blue). To good effect John holds the note a little longer than Paul.
This pattern is beautifully varied (0:21) by substituting the characteristic “3 4” pick-up to the next bar with quarter note triplets starting on 3 (and completing the bar). Both vocals, guitar, bass and drums perform these triplets. The verse is followed by a bit of harmonica and then the teasing stop-restart pick-up from the intro brings us into verse 2. Unlike Ask Me Why which also halts briefly and is restarted with a pick-up on 3 4 this pattern with a pick-up (3 & 4 & 1) to the pick-up (3 4 1) is very elegant. After the second verse (with a small variation), a fine middle 8 is introduced at the standard place (i.e. after two verses). Then a third verse leads into an outro, where the title lyrics are repeated and the song fades out supported by John’s harmonica.
Paul stays modestly in the background with a simple bass line, leaving space for Ringo’s exquisite drum playing and some fine guitar work.
Of the new Lennon-McCartney songs on the album this comes out as a convincing second best, surpassed only be I Saw Her Standing There. In respect of lyrics it marks a provisional pinnacle of their work.
14. Twist And Shout
The last song on the album is a cover written in 1960 by Burt Russell and Phil Medley.
One may wonder why this song, which was the last to be recorded on that day, was recorded at all. It had already been a long day, and if the acceptable recording(s) of Hold Me Tight was included in the count, 14 tracks were already available. Nonetheless it was agreed during a tea break to record one more song and decided that that final song should be Twist And Shout. The issued version is take 1. A second take was attempted (one wonders why) but was abandoned. John had no more voice.
This episode is a testament to the high ambition level of the Beatles and the unusual determination, will and self-discipline of the members of the band.
The song was originally recorded by a band named The Top Notes and then by The Isley Brothers. The Top Notes version is indescribably awful, and is most impressive that The Isley Brothers were able to recognize the song’s potential. Their version is fine, but as most of the other songs The Beatles covered on the album, it is somewhat looser than the Beatles version.
The Beatles took this version as the starting point, but increased the tempo with almost 10% and of course used their own instrumentation without horns.
Everyone praises John’s fantastic singing and rightly so.
But the highest praise should go to George, who straightened up the two bar riff, which is the foundation of the song, making it quite irresistible. It was a strong riff already with the Isley Brothers, but George found room for improvement. It works so well due to its alternations between straight quarter notes, off-beat quarter notes (playing on “&” without playing on the neighboring downbeats i.e. 1 2 3 4). It goes like this: / 1 2 3 & & / & 2 & 3 & 4 & / (repeat both bars). The first time it is preceded by a pick-up: / (rest) & 4 & /, which is taken from the end of the second bar. First straight quarter notes. Then off-beat quarter notes. Then eighth notes. This almost hypnotic, understated riff is the essence of the song and the platform on which John stands as a singer.
After a short intro establishing the guitar riff s the foundation of the numer, two verses follow based on the riff and with a brilliant call and response singing where Paul and George mirror John’s vocal. This is followed by what should be seen as an instrumental contrasting section rather than a solo. Here, George plays a new and different two bar riff in a new rhythm: / 1 & 3 & & / & 3 4 /. Again, straight quarter notes, off-beat quarter notes, rests and eighth notes are mixed.
Then the bridge with “Aah” follows, the vocal harmonies ascending bar by bar reaching “Wouw Yeah”, and a new verse is next. The bridge is sung and played again and after a bar with most emphatic quarter note triplets (six beats) the song ends on 3 in the following bar.
Ringo plays with great authority and finesse. Paul’s bass does what needs to be done, nothing more.
A well-known detail is the high “Oohs”, which Paul and George sing in several places (0:21, 0:36, 0:51, 1:06, 1:49 and 2:04). This may appear as quintessential Beatles, but it is not. You can hear these Oohs plainly on the Isley Brothers version. However, The Beatles invented the accompanying shaking of their mop top heads to draw hysterical screams from fans. And THAT combination is indeed quintessential Beatles.
The number has become one of the greatest rock classics ever. It has been played live by e.g. The Kinks (not on YouTube except for a version with Kinks member Dave Davies), The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.
A most excellent end to the album.
Brian Poole and The Tremeloes who conquered The Beates at their same day auditions with Decca (se chapter 1) were quick to record and issue an average version of the song directed at the segments of the market that found an LP (or later an EP) too expensive. That record reached the number 4 spot in the English charts.
The LP went to number one on the English LP chart and stayed there until the next LP With The Beatles replaced it.
Songs from the LP was also used for two EPs each with four songs. On 12th June 1963 Twist And Shout was released with that number and A Taste Of Honey, Do You Want To Know A Secret and There’s A Place. On the 1st November 1963 The Beatles (No 1) followed with I Saw Her Standing There, Misery, Anna (Go To Him) and Chains. The practice of issuing scraped versions of the LP’s as EP’s continued up to and including Rubber Soul.
The LP was released in the United States by the independent record company VeeJay – EMI´s American company Capitol was as usual not interested – without Please Please Me and Ask Me Why. Obviously, the former exclusion prompted another name for the album, which became Introducing The Beatles. It did not create any interest in the States upon its release.