Chapter 8: The Royal Variety Performance

4th of November 2013

The Beatles returned from Sweden on the last day of October 1963 ready for the autumn tour aptly named “The Beatles Autumn Tour” which covered every day of November, except Mondays. Without cancelling a concert they were therefore able to appear at fairly short notice on the first Monday the 4th of November 1964 in The Royal Variety Performance a.k.a. The Royal Command Performance in the Prince of Wales Theater, which as a matter of cause was broadcast on national television.

Unlike their appearance at the London Palladium they did not appear as the main attraction – there were no main attraction but a long list of performers in a very diverse show with Marlene Dietrich and Tommy Steel as the (at least today) best known of the other attractions. But no one had any doubt that The Beatles were the stars of the show.

The Beatles flew in from Leeds, where they had performed on Sunday, to London to appear at what they themselves (in a 32-page supplement to Daily Mirror, partly in colour) described as “the most fabulous night of their career” before the Queen Mother, the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret and brother-in-law Lord Snowdon. There were those who considered that a rebellious rock band could not appear before royalty without committing some sort of betrayal,  but Ringo – who sometimes came across as the band’s strongest communicator with legendary quotes and phrases – dismissed such views with “I wanna play me drums before the Queen mum” and at the end of the day hardly anyone disagreed that it was not only acceptable but wonderful that the new national heroes appeared before the royal family – and the entire nation watching on television.

The Beatles made two major changes compared with their recent London Palladium appearance. First, they replaced I’ll Get You with a cover song from their recorded but as yet unreleased next LP With The Beatles, i.e. ‘Till There Was You. This song which is absolutely not rock and hardly pop, was well chosen for the mature, VIP-dominated audience in the theater. It came from the Broadway-musical The Music Man and the audience and many of the television viewers probably knew the song from a version recorded by Peggy Lee or from the film version of the musical from 1962. We will return in further detail to the song in Chapter 9, where we go through all the tracks on With The Beatles.

The other major change was that the typical introduction of Twish And Shout done by Paul encouraging the audience to help by clapping their hands and stomping their feet (with more or less appropiriate contributions from John) was completely taken over by John with his legendary request to those in the cheaper seats to clap their hands and the rest of you just rattle your jewelry. Compared with John’s sometimes outrageous clapping-stomping displays during the introduction of this song (see chapter 6) this was an elegant and playful quip delivered with irresistible charm.

In sequence The Beatles performed From Me To You, She Loves You, ‘Till There Was You and Twist And Shout.

They tore into the first song while the curtain was being drawn. Having performed it, John and Paul quickly moved the microphone strands forward to the front of the stage. Paul nervously almost tripped in the microphone cable. Paul quiclly composed himself and bid good evening and the band continued with She Loves You. After a deep bow from the three guitarists and thank you Paul announced that they would like to play a song recorded by their favourite American group. He briefly paused to allow people to make a mental guess what group that might be and went on “Sophie Tucker”. Said Tucker was a sturdy then 76 year old, but still active, vaudeville singer who had never recorded ‘Till There Was You. However, she had appeared as the mystery guest in the famous quiz-show “What’s My Line”. One of the permanent elements in that show was the mystery guest(s), which the blindfolded four members of the panel should deduce the identity of, merely asking questions which could be answered yes or no. When Sophie Tucker appeared a panelist had asked “Are you a group?”, which had provoked a shower of laughter from the audience. You can see the event on YouTube by searching “Beatles mystery solved”. Paul’s reuse also evoked some measure of laughter.

Paul twice erroneously sings “they send me” instead of “they tell me” and George’s solo, which is superb on the record, shows a small rhythmic imperfection in its beginning. But still the song was a convincing demonstration of The Beatles’ versatility and not a bad choice for the mature audience.

Hereupon John makes his audacious introduction to Twist And Shout. They played an excellent version, and Ringo came down from his drum podium, John and Paul drew the microphone stands back behind the curtain line again, the guitarists removed the instrument cables and all stepped forward for deep bows to the middle, to the left and to the right.

After the show the entertainers met the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. The Queen Mother asked Paul where they performed next. Paul truthfully replied Slough and the Queen Mother said “Oh, that’s near us!” (i.e. Windsor Castle). She did not, however, turn up for the concert next day.

Except from From Me To You the performance is included on the Anthology 1 CD and except from She Loves You it is included on the Anthology DVD (disc 2). The entire concert can be watched on YouTube. Some of the versions, however, are without She Loves You.

The concert was a great success and confirmed The Beatles’ position as an English national treasure.

The Beatles built their position from nothing to the heroes of Liverpool by their live act and their busy concert schedule also after their first records greatly supported their career. It is natural to pose the question what made The Beatles by far the best live band in 1963.

There are several answers.

First, they had the best material including their own numbers.

Second, they were very strong musicians. They were not the only band, who had honed their skills by hours and hours during months and months of performances in Hamburg, but they were more talented than the others. This is long before the term “super group” came into use, but The Beatles were in fact a super group. Paul and Ringo rank among the very best on their respective instruments in the history of rock, and George (albeit more slowly developed) was an eminent guitarist. It may require some favour to place John in the historical elite as a guitar player, but there can be no denying – as he himself said later – that he could really fire up a band. And as a singer he was in the absolute world elite.

Third, they were really good singers. All sang well, and John and Paul were excellent. That there has been a band in which Paul McCartney was only the second best singer is almost unbelievable. Their vocal harmonies were superb and it is probably only The Hollies and The Beach Boys who could be named as bands on the same level in this respect (but their lead singers were not on the level of The Beatles).

Fourth, they had great looks, were most charming and came across as strong individual personalities along with a close and visible unity as a band. John had the profile of a greed god and Paul the face of an angel (barring the teeth), particularly when looking upwards, which indeed he did quite often. George had the most handsome hair (and the most handsome guitar) and Ringo the broadest smile.

Fifth, the aggregate visual appearance of their performance was very strong. Whether this was quite conscious, is difficult to say, but they had been aided by fortune. John, Paul and George were of almost the same height, which contributes to an aestetically pleasing view of the front line. Paul being left-handed gave a beautiful symmetry to their standard position with Paul to the left, the neck of his bass pointing left and John to the right with his guitar pointing right. They may have been playing in their positioning with the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Just two microphones, so that Paul and George had to share. George slides up to and away from the microphone in accordance with his singing duties and Paul can let him into the microphone space with a small turn of his body, which can only be so small because Paul is left-handed so that the bass does not interfere. The vision of Paul and George standing close and singing into the same microphone, particularly “Ooh”, both of them lean as sporting dogs and with their feet close together, while John with a sturdier frame stands by himself at the other microphone, legs astride bobbing up and down at his knees (ore one of them) imparts a peculiar beauty and aesthetic balance which is the quintessence and soul of The Beatles as a live band.

Sixth, the competition at the time was moderate. Their closest competitors (except Cliff Richard and The Shadows to whom we will return momentarily) were Gerry And The Pacemakers, Brian Poole And The Tremeloes and The Searchers. Check these bands on YouTube for a comparison.  They are not in the same league. Only The Searchers’ drummer Chris Curtis has the looks and charisma (star quality) to match the members of The Beatles. When competition grew, these bands quickly waned. On the other hand truly interesting bands in respect of both music and live appearance as The Kinks and The Who had not really started. They did not even have their final names yet but performed as The Boll-Weewils and The Detours respectively. The Rolling Stones had had a minor hit with Come On. Their next, more successful, hit I Wanna Be Your Man was written by Lennon-McCartney (and also included on With The Beatles) and graciously handed to Stones who were short on suitable material for recording. Thereby the pecking order between the two bands was settled for some time, and not until 1964 did the Stones really break through and not before 1965 did Jagger-Richards prove themselves as hitmaking songsmiths.

One could argue that Cliff Richard and The Shadows were worthy competitors but they lacked both the edginess and freshness of The Beatles and appeared a bit old fashioned by comparison. The Shadows’ career as a pure instrumental group was waning by 1963.

In the autumn of 1963 The Beatles were in a league of their own, but had yet to conquer the USA and their only tour abroad was the one to Sweden. Their entire recorded catalogue at this time counted a mere 18 songs. But their next LP and their next single were recorded, ready for release later in November. There was much to look forward to.

Chapter 7: The Swedish Tour – The first international tour

23. October 2013

On the 23rd October 1963 The Beatles flew to Sweden on their first international tour. They had played abroad before but their long term contracts with humble establishments in Hamburg cannot be called tours. Their records had already made them very popular in Sweden and they were also getting well known in Denmark.

The schedule was tight. On the day following their arrival they were to perform seven songs live for a radio recording in front of an audience. Then there were five days of concerts every day – often 2 or 3 shows on the same place the same day – and thereafter an appearance in the popular tv-programme Drop In. The next day, 31st October, they returned to England with concerts every day in November, except for three Mondays.

They recorded seven songs before an audience in Karlastad Studies, of which five can be heard on the Anthology I CD. They are I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, Money, You Really Got A Hold On Me and Roll Over Beethoven. The latter three were from their recorded, but as yet unreleased second LP With The Beatles. They were all covers. Technically these recordings are not very good, although they have a good bass and drums sound. The recordings are overdriven, so that the guitars and sometimes the vocals are distorted.

The band is in a bit of trouble at the end of From Me To You which is performed without the harmonica, which is strongly in attendance on the single, and either George or (more likely) John plays a strum too much.

In Roll Over Beethoven the third verse (“…rockin’ pneumonia…”) is skipped (probably intentionally) and the song is played 10% faster than the version on the LP. That is too fast. The excellent rhythm guitar on the record is less precise in this live-version. This performance of this song is somewhat sloppy, but you be the judge.

In addition to the songs included on Anthology I they played as the last numbers She Loves You and Twist And Shout. The entire concert can be heard on YouTube. The programme was broadcast in national Swedish radio on 11th November 1963.

The following days they appeared in concerts in Karlstad, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Boraas and Eskiltuna playing the same set of nine songs to 2, 2, 3, 1 and 1 houses: Long Tall Sally, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, A Taste Of Honey, Chains, Boys, She Loves You and Twist And Shout. Thus, no songs from With The Beatles were performed at these concerts, but 8 of their then 18 recorded songs and good old Long Tall Sally which was well known with Little Richard and must have been on the repertoire of almost all Swedish bands at the time. The Beatles later recorded this song for the EP bearing its name.

The Swedish fans were out of control at the concerts and in Stockholm they could not be held back by the line of policemen in front of the stage. George was floored but OK and the concert was completed.

On the 30th October The Beatles appeared as the main attraction on the popular Swedish tv-programme Drop In with local stars as Lill Babs and The Telstars.

After they had performed She Loves You and Twist And Shout (the last two songs at all the concerts the previous days) one of the hosts persuaded them to play an encore I Saw Her Standing There and then another encore Long Tall Sally. It looks spontaneous but at least the first encore was probably prearranged. At least it is only before the second encore you can see a brief exchange among The Beatles which may be a quick agreement on what to play.

The two encores are included on the Anthology DVD (vol. 2), but the entire show can be seen and heard on YouTube.

There is a rather small audience, which is not very noisy. The first row is only about three feet from the band, when John, George and Paul are standing at the microphones. John does not attract undesirable notice when Paul introduces Twist And Shout (although Paul like in London Palladium encourages the audience to join in and demonstrates handclaps and foot-stomping). You can, however, hear that outside the picture he is interfering a bit with Paul’s introduction.

The pictures from the concert are fine, but the audio is not without problems. John’s vocal is too loud in the two encores and George’s solo on I Saw Her Standing There is almost inaudible. George’s guitar sound is fixed for Long Tall Sally. Perhaps Paul is attracting a little bit too much attention compared with the others. But they are all in fine shape, there is a clear unity and joy of playing, and Ringo is having himself a party on Long Tall Sally. All in all a fine live recording. However I will postpone trying to explain the magic of The Beatles as a live band until chapter 8 about their performance at The Royal Variety Show.

Near the end of the third number the other acts return to the back of the stage and when The Beatles have completed their performance everyone, including the audience, join in with handclaps for Drop In’s signature tune with a two bar handclap riff going / 1 2 3 & 4 / 1 & 2 & & 4 / and the locals sing “Drop In” on the last “& 4”. In 1964 one of the most successful Danish bands of the sixties Sir Henry And His Butlers (still active to this date) issued the single Let’s Go based on the Drop In-handclap-riff as the verse (and a frail, indifferent chorus) but with the lyrics “Let’s Go” instead of “Drop In”. The handclaps were supplemented by a guitar playing the riff in the same rhytm over a simple 12-bar blues progression. Sir Henry (Ole Bredahl) credited himself as composer and lyricist, but did certainly not over-exert himself in the creative process. The song became a huge hit in Denmark and i.a. Sweden and is still well known and often used.

Swedish television could be seen in Copenhagen and my dear sister Bolette (then 15) and I (then 12) watched the show, when it was broadcast on the 3rd November. We were excited. Soon I had Please Please Me and she had With The Beatles.

When The Beatles returned to Heathrow airport the press and the fans were out in numbers to greet the new national treasure welcome home. The British Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas Hume returning at about the same time, did not receive a similar welcome, but was delayed by the crowd. The new Miss World, also among the day’s arrivals, remained unnoticed.

There were only four days until The Beatles’ legendary performance at The Royal Variety Show.

Chapter 6: London Palladium – Birth of Beatlemania

13. October 2013

With their appearance on the popular entertainment show Val Parnell’s Sunday Night At The London Palladium The Beatles in earnest reached an adult audience. The programme was broadcast in national television at prime time every Sunday and included a diverse display of entertainment acts. Ringo remembered how as a child he hoped one day to appear in this programme as the pinnacle of a career. It was a milestone achievement to be invited to perform in this programme – and as bill-toppers at that, less than a year after their first real hit Please Please Me.

The show was recorded live before an audience, and there were many teenagers in the hall that night, but far from just teenagers. The programme was watched by around 15 million viewers on television, to a large extent adults in the habit of watching London Palladium on Sunday night.

There are no recordings of the show on the Anthology DVD’s or on YouTube. On the Anthology I CD a single number is included i.e. I’ll Get You. But the audio of the whole show can be heard on YouTube which also has a short video of The Beatles leaving The Palladium after the show.

The Beatles took the stage last as the main and closing act with an effective count-down 5-4-3-2-1 by the compere and the crowd, before The Beatles started From Me To You. Then Paul with teasing interruptions from John introduced I’ll Get You played in a version transposed one and a half step up from E to G (which probably explains its inclusion on Anthology). Hereafter Paul, John and George jointly introduce She Loves You.

As Paul tries to introduce the final number he can hardly penetrate the shrieks of female teenage fans and John yells “Shut up!” to the approval of the adult audience. Paul goes on to encourage the audience to clap their hands and stomp their feet to the last song (Twist And Shout) and shows them how. In the audio recording you can hear John putting on an act repeating the message in an unnatural voice, and it does sound like he is acting in a way similar to the one that can be seen in another early Beatles show by searching “John Lennon’s interesting sense of humour” on YouTube. John is making faces and clapping his hands and stomping his feet in an affected manner. Opinion of this behavior is divided. Some people find that John is mocking or imitating a spastic. Others claim that John is poking fun at Paul. Others again believe that John is making a parody of then famous comic actor Jerry Lewis or is just a precursor of Monte Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks. According to the memoirs of the press officer of The Beatles Tony Barrows John, Paul, George, Ringo … & Me John frequently made tasteless displays of parodies of disabled people, and the other explanations should probably be viewed as well-meant but untenable defences of a rather childish but deplorable behavior. At the time the matter does not seem to have been considered much of a problem. John also had a lighter version of his clapping-stomping-show which can be seen about two and a half minutes into a televised show, which can also be found on YouTube by searching Beatles 1963 TV concert “It´s The Beatles”. That version should offend no one.

Many fans had come to the London Palladium hoping to see their idols arrive for the auditions, and since it was a Sunday poor on newsworthy events, the crowding, which required some police interference to uphold order and enable normal traffic, received substantial coverage in next day’s papers along with enthused reviews of the show, There can be no doubt that many adult viewers came to appreciate the charming Beatles and their music and reached a better understanding of the younger generation’s enthusiasm. The Beatles had connected to the adult audience in England.

Next day’s papers did not use the phrase Beatlemania, but the word quickly became the standard description of the Beatles phenomenon, and the concert at London Palladium is recognized as the birth of Beatlemania. It is important to realize that this is a two-part concept. First, the wild enthisuasm of the young generation with screaming teenagers, tumultuous disturbances before concerts and fans chasing their idols. Second, the surrender of the adults to the phenomenon and the music and their acceptance of the enthusiasm of the youth. This applies not only to the average adult but also to experts of music and opinion leaders who (og course with some exceptions) confirmed the greatness of the band and the music.

A tacit national, and over time international, pact was made, that The Beatles were fantastic.

In the following weeks one major event followed the other: The first foreign tour, the even more famous – and still accessible – television appearance at The Royal Variety Performance, the second LP With The Beatles and the fifth single I Want To Hold Your Hand which rendered the breakthrough in the USA. All these events are dealt with in separate chapters.

Chapter 5: August 1963 and the fourth single: She Loves You/I’ll Get You

23rd August 2013

To understand the story of The Beatles and their development one must realize that this is not simply the story of the artistic development of four exquisite musicians and 2 or 3 superb songwriters, but also the story of a business enterprise. The Beatles were very much a money making business directed by Brian Epstein. The Beatles wanted money, which is easy to understand having their years of hard and poorly paid work in mind. Brian Epstein and his management business NEMS Enterprise (NEMS standing for North End Music Sales which was the name of the Epstein family’s record outlets) did not devote their entire energies on promoting The Beatles. NEMS Enterprises had grown in employees and broadened its income base by adding Gerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and lesser known artists to its list of clients. Later i.a. Cilla Black also joined. Both Gerry & Co., Billy & Co. and Cilla recorded on EMI-labels (Gerry on Columbia, the others on Parlophone) and with George Martin acting as producer. From From Me To You had to vacate the number one slot in the hit parade and till She Loves You could regain it, Gerry & Co. and Billy & Co. ensured that Epstein managed and Martin produced bands  remained at the very top of the list for 7 of the intervening 12 weeks.

In early August 1963 The Beatles were yet to distance themselves from Gerry and The Pacemakers in terms of success. They both had two number one hits – and in the autumn of 1963 the next single from both bands would also reach the top. After that point in time Gerry and the Pacemakers’ next single (I’m The One) reached second place (refused the top position by Dave Clark Five’s Glad All Over and The Searchers’ Needles and Pins). Then there would be no more top 5 hits for Gerry & Co. Billy J. Kramer also had his last Top 5 hit early in 1964. But Epstein of course did not know that when ensured NEMS Enterprise’s position as the ultimate management business in the popular music industry by hedging his bet.

Until the summer 1963 – and beyond then – The Beatles continued to work very hard with concerts at larger and finer venues and radio and TV appearances, but only in Great Britain. Their audience was still teenagers, predominantly girls. To exploit and maintain success a new single and a new LP should be put on the market.

With the next single She Loves You The Beatles took a decisive lead over their competitors. Soon thereafter − aided by the press and television − their national popularity would explode and encompass all age groups not just teenagers. With the follow-up I Want To Hold Your Hand they made the breakthrough in the United Stated that no English or band had been able to accomplish and their income multiplied.

The Beatles had a substantial fan club in Great Britain. Not an association with bye-laws and membership democracy. The fan club was an integral part of marketing and therefore part of the Beatles i.e. the NEMS Enterprise business. In august 1963 this marketing device had so matured that the first monthly fan magazine The Beatles Monthly Book was published. Thereafter it was issued monthly and sold on newsstand for years to come even after The Beatles disbanded. The fan club was operated by full time employees of NEMS Enterprise with voluntary (and thus unpaid) assistance from area secretaries. Within a few months a network of 38 area secretaries covered Great Britain while an overseas network of area secretaries was steadily expanded.

With their most recent single From Me To You/Thank You Girl (see chapter 4) The Beatles had made a safe bet and the result was a number one hit, which had been able to hold the top slot for an impressive 7 weeks. Their first LP (see chapter 3) was recorded but not yet released when From Me To You was recorded. Now it held a long term number one position on the LP chart (and was to stay there until duly relieved by the second Beatles LP). The success of the third single and the LP gave self-confidence and the courage and strength to go all in on the next single. There was no need to think commercially. They could go ahead and do what they wanted. Success was pre-assured.

Therefore She Loves You is much more innovative than From Me To You/Thank You Girl. The song was created in equal collaboration between John and Paul on the tour bus and in a hotel room a few days before the recording on 1st July 1963. Unlike From Me To You/Thank You Girl mixing of She Loves You and the B-side were done in mono only. This proves that by then it had been decided, that the new tracks were not to be included in the upcoming LP With The Beatles, where the recordings started on the 18th July 1963. Thus, the concept from the first LP, where all four tracks from the first two singles were included, reducing the need for new material, was not to be repeated. The principle to keep singles and LPs apart, except from LP´s based on movies, was generally adhered to in the rest of The Beatles’ career.

The most special feature of She Loves You is in fact what is absent from the number. Generally it is more difficult (but important) to notice what is lacking from a certain situation, than what is present. In one of the most legendary Sherlock Holmes stories Silver Blaze the shrewd detective solves the mystery of an abducted racehorse by noting that the watchdog in the stable did not bark, from which he deduced that the dog knew the horsenapper.

She Loves You is noteworthy by the absence of a middle eight. There had been a middle eight in every previously issued Lennon-McCartney song (and most contemporary popular music except blues). Their trademark as songwriters was probably first of all their ability to create the desirable contrast and variation in a song by an excellent middle eight. By now, they were so brave and skilled that they could create a supersong with sufficient finesse and variation without a middle eight.

The intro is a lead-in on tom tom drums followed by a variation of the highpowered, almost overwhelming and catchy chorus (of course you do not know that the first time you listen to the song). This way the title and essence of the song is introduced immediately.

The lyrics, despite the basically simple story, are innovative. It is unlike the thousands of songs where boy sings to the listener or to a girl, where you can listen in (and may imagine to be the girl). It goes further than Please Please Me where the singer tells the listener what boy said to girl, making her third party. Now we have four parties: Boy, listener, boy’s friend and girl, who is friend’s girl, what friend does not sufficiently understand and appreciate. Brilliant.

The song, which is in G major, begins (after the tom toms) with the pick-up “She” on 4&, then comes “loves” – the central message – on 1 and “you” on 2 in the first whole bar. Then follows “Yeah Yeah Yeah” on 3 and on 1 and on 2& in the next bar. To be historically correct it is actually not “Yeah”, but “Yeh”. That is how it is spelled in the original sheet music and in the lyrics printed in The Beatles Monthly Book.

Yeah Yeah Yeah is a recurring motif in the song. Melodically it goes G, F# and E. A simple downward movement from the root note (G) in G major to the next note F# and on to the next note E. After the last Yeah in each Yeah Yeah Yeah, Ringo hits the snare drum twice (each hit doubleshots i.e. made with both sticks) in a quarternote triplet rhytm. This rhythmic detail stands out and is an important contribution to the motif’s spirited energy.

The two bar pattern (She loves you Yeah Yeah Yeah) is presented three times, impressively over different chords each time (Em, A7 and C). The third time a fourth Yeah is added on 1 in the next bar. Again, there is a chord change to G and “Yeah” is held for a bar and a half.

George joins John’s and Paul’s vocal harmony consisting of the root note G and the low fifth D by cleverly deviating from general principles of choral harmony placing himself in between the G and the D, singing E (which is also the last note of the Yeah Yeah Yeah melody line). Thereby the G chord becomes a G6 chord. This introduces a tension building dissonance between the E and the nearby low fifth D. Even without a theoretical explanation one can hear that this chord is not just another pretty harmony, but is more tense and spicy. The two following bars bring about some tranquility, but leaves the space for George to deliver a slick fill before the verse commences. A most excellent intro.

The verse is 8 bars long with a new chord progression with a change of chord for each bar. The story begins with a soft musical accompaniment. There is an apparent but probably intended problem with the metric feet so some syllables need stretching: Yester-day-y-ay and say-y-ay. It does not sound at all flawed but quite the contrary charming.

At the end of the verse on 3& in bar 8 there is a transition to a bridge (it could have been called a prechorus if it wasn’t for the fact, that this first time there is no chorus afterwards) with a strongly emphasized “she says she”, so we again land with “love” on the 1 on the first bar of the bridge. This is followed by an emphatic strike from guitars, bass and drums on 2& in the same bar and then some tranquility follows with the long “bad” starting on 1 in the 3rd bar of the bridge, leaving space for George to deliver three delicate, rather slow chords on 3 in bar 3 and on 1 and on 2& in bar 4. These chords are a guitar version of the Yeah Yeah Yeah motif and cleverly George plays the chords G without the fifth, Gmaj7 again without the fifth (and where maj7 is the F# played both as the lowest and highest note) and finally Em. All of these chords are played only on the top four strings. This is a brilliant detail. Then boy’s message to friend is repeated over new chords. After the bridge a chorus could have followed, but is does not yet. Instead, we have a new fill from George leading into the next verse.

About the next verse I first have to say that The Beatles should have made a small change to the lyrics (just as John improved Paul’s original lyrics to I Saw Her Standing There, see chapter 3). They sing “She said you hurt her so, she almost lost her mi-i-ind. But now she says she knows, you-re not the hurting ki-i-nd”. The first “She” ought to have been “You”. With “She” one is forced to conclude that girl is somewhat mentally unstable, since she has decided that the man, whom she claims have hurt her to near insanity, is not the kind who could hurt someone. With a “You” the singer would have corrected his sensitive and self-critical friend’s misconception of having hurt his sweetheart and thereby removed his feeling of guilt. A “You” would have been so much better than “She”. Fortunately I have lived for more than 49 years happily assured that they sang “You”. Sadly, I now know that they do sing “She”.

After the second verse, the bridge is repeated modified by a high Beatles “Oooh”. Then the chorus follows, which one recognizes from the intro.

A new round of verse, bridge and chorus follows before the song goes into the outro as a prolongation of the chorus. Lyrically the outro presents the conclusion of the story “with a love like that you know you should be glad” with “love like that” given rhythmic emphasize by placing the words on the 1, 2 and 3 beats. In the outro the dynamic shifts between energetic and tranquil periods are taken to the extreme. The song decreases in tempo on the third “you know you shou-ou-ould” when suddenly “be glad” thunders through as a fanfare, an exuberant and infectious universal message of joy.  George brilliantly delivers his delicate three Yeah Yeah Yeah chords once more on the long “glad”, this time followed by Ringo´s two doubleshots on the snare drum. This is the absolute high point of the song. Then two times 3 Yeah’s (again with Ringo’s doubleshots) and a final long Yeah, again with George’s G6 both in the choral harmony and on his guitar, establishes Yeah as the new word in the vocabulary of the young and the youthful meaning joy of life. In fact Cliff Richard has introduced We Say Yeah the previous year as the B-side to his number one hit The Young Ones. Elvis Presley had used the word on All Shook Up back in 1957. But now it was established as the essence of The Beatles.

The Beatles were so proud of their original use of G6 that the knowledgeable George Martin did not have the heart to point out that sixth-chords had been heard before, in particular with Glenn Miller. The prior use does not change the fact that this choice of chord, which was unusual to this style of music, contributes to the tension and power of the song.

Never has so much joy of life and vitality been presented with such dynamic power in just over 2 minutes. The greatest respect to John and Paul for writing and performing the song, but one should not forget how much Ringo’s most excellent drumming and George’s delicate chords and fills contributes to the total.

The B-side I’ll Get You is also a 50-50 collaboration between John and Paul. It is a fine tune with immediate application of the new buzzword Yeah. The lyrics display self-confidence, bordering on arrogance. The construction is simple. First an Oh Yeah (Yeh) intro over 4  bars, then a calm 8 bar verse (with great drum playing from Ringo with eighths on drums and hihat) before an intense 2 bar prechorus leads to a 4 bar melodic chorus. A half intro brings us to the second verse and another round. Another half intro leads to an excellent middle 8 (8 bars), bringing further variation to a fairly simple number. Should one make a critical remark it could be noted that Paul makes a mistake in bar 3 of the middle 8 (at 1:13) where he is about to sing “make” before correcting it to “change”. This is the second time Paul makes a singing mistake in a Beatles single (the first time was on Please Please Me, see chapter 2). But never mind.

Then we get to the third verse and another round and the song goes into its outro based on the Oh Yeah intro.

Throughout most of the song John plays whole-notes on his harmonica. This does not give much of a positive contribution to a fine and typical Beatles song, probably their best B-side thus far.

The single was issued on 23rd August 1962. It became The Beatles’ first record to sell a million copies and their first golden record. With over a half million advance orders it went straight to number one and stayed there for 4 weeks until the top slot was taken by Brian Poole and The Tremeloes (Beatles’ old competitors from the Decca-audition on 1st of January 1962, see chapter 1) with Do You Love Me and then by Gerry and The Pacemakers (under Epstein management) with You’ll Never Walk Alone. Then it regained the top position and held it for 2 weeks until this position was duly taken over by the next Beatles single I Want To Hold Your Hand.

In the US it was business as usual. EMI’s subsidiary Capitol was not interested, and the song was instead released by a small record company without stirring any interest at the time of release. This was the last time Capitol and the US passed. When The Beatles had their American breakthrough with their next single their old material assumed its rightful place of popularity and She Loves You reached the no. 1 position by ousting I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Chapter 4: The Third Single: From Me To You/Thank You Girl

11. April 2013

The Beatles’ third single was important. If they were to hold on to the success achieved by their second single Please Please Me, it needed to be followed by a new chart topping hit. They did not want to become one hit wonders.

The two songs were recorded on the 5th of March 1963 and thus prior to the release of the album Please Please Me. Both are the result of John’s and Paul’s collaboration.

Originally Thank You Girl – or as it was first called Thank You Little Girl –was intended as the A-side. But on the 28th March 1963 John and Paul wrote From Me To You during a ride in the Helen Shapiro Tour bus. They thought it was better, and sought the opinion of Helen Shapiro and Paul’s father (a musician himself), who were both of equal minds. This little test seems to confirm that at this point commercial success was more important than artistic ambitions.

The lyrics of both songs are sucking up to the female fans. They are invited to dream about their favourite Beatle who will give them all, including eternal love and even be forever grateful for the opportunity.  The lyrics indicate how all important it was to do the sure thing and get the next number one hit.

Both songs were recorded on the 5th March 1963 after the Helen Shapiro tour had ended and before the next tour with Tommy Roe (of Sheila fame) and Chris Montez (Let´s Dance) began on the 9th March 1963. Some harmonica overdubs were recorded on the 13th March 1963.

John’s harmonica, which had been prominent on the two first singles, is back in business and generally The Beatles stayed close to what had worked so well on Please Please Me.

From Me To You is in the key of C major and is kicked off with an intro based on a simple vocal riff “Da da daa da da dum dum daa” sung twice. Then the song is away with 4 bars of verse with a bold octave jump in the end and a 4 bar chorus. This is played twice followed by – of course – and eight bar middle 8, ending with a very Beatles-like high Oooh (taken over by The Beatles from The Isley Brothers, see chapter 3 about Twist And Shout). Then again verse and chorus, followed by an instrumental verse (harmonica and a little singing) and chorus. The middle 8 is repeated followed by verse and chorus yet again, leading to an excellent outro, where the theme of the vocal riff is played on harmonica.

Paul plays a simple bass line, leaving room for Ringo´s fine drumming. The vocal harmonies are central and pretty.

The number is catchy, fresh and well constructed, but it is a bit shallow and shows consistency rather than evolution.

Thank You Girl (in D major) begins with a 4 bar intro in two parts. There are 2 instrumental bars with drums and harmonica to the fore and then 2 bars with a vocal added “Oh Oh” on the two 1 beats of bar 3 and 4. Then the song slides into a 12 bar pattern best described as 8 bars of verse with long notes on the 1 beats, 2 bars of prechorus (“and all I’ve got to dooo is”) and 2 bars of chorus (“Thank you girl”). This pattern is repeated (very typical early Beatles) before a good, but not fantastic, middle 8 brings some variation. In the stereo version (Past Master vol. 1) John plays a bit of harmonica in bar 4 and 8 of the middle 8. It does not become the number well and is fortunately absent on the mono version. The middle eight is neatly and with some logic (it has the same length as a verse) followed by prechorus and chorus. Then, surprisingly and cleverly, the intro reappears before another round of verse, prechorus and chorus leads to an outro based on the intro played three and a half times.

Again Ringo’s drumming is the most characteristic feature in a fine and fresh, but not superb, song. The two details of the middle 8 being followed by a prechorus and the repetition of the intro before the last verse, both contribute to building an interesting whole from the simple elements that constitute the song.

The record became a number 1 hit in England and kept that place longer than most other Beatles singles before and after. EMI’s American company Capitol still considered that The Beatles had no potential on the US market. The record was therefore released by a small, independent record company. Initially this was unsuccessful, but that changed when the Beatles made their breakthrough in USA with their 5th single.

From Me To You was also recorded for the US market by Del Shannon (best known for the 1961 hit Runaway) who had toured England with the Beatles. This version is remarkably similar to The Beatles’ version. Despite Del Shannon’s position in the US this was not a success either.

Chapter 3: The First LP – Please Please Me

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.

2. Misery

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.

4. Chains

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.

5. Boys

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.

Chapter 2: The second single: Please Please Me

11th January 2013

Today it is fifty years ago The Beatles released their second single Please Please Me/Ask Me Why.

Parlophone’s head George Martin had desired How Do You Do It to be the first single, but The Beatles had persuaded him to go for their own Love Me Do. George Martin now suggested that How Do You It should be their second single. Again, The Beatles wanted to release their own material and convinced George Martin to issue Please Please Me having given the song a substantial improvement. Thereafter there was never any talk of issuing singles not written by themselves, and  was passed on to Gerry and The Pacemakers who obtained a No. 1 hit.

Please Please Me was recorded on the 26th November 1962, but had already been recorded at the end of the session on 11th September, when Love Me Do was finally recorded with Andy White playing drums. That recording of Please Please Me can be heard on Anthology I. It remains unclear whether it is Andy White or Ringo drumming, but compared with the 26th November version it is quite clear that the song was much improved during the intervening two and a half months.

Please Please Me was written by John Lennon originally in a much slower version and without the harmonica and guitar riffs first played in the intro of the final, recorded version. The original version was inspired by Roy Orbison. Paul has contributed to the improvements.

The song was also inspired by an old Bing Crosby song Please with a pun on please and pleas. Lennon modified the pun to two meanings of please, “would you kindly” and “make content/happy”, but made a mental note of “pleas”, which he later used on Tell Me Why (from A Hard Day’s Night).

Please Please Me marks a leap in ideas, nuances and sophistication compared to Love Me Do.

It is written in E major and is based on the elements intro (4 bars), verse (8 bars), prechorus (4 bars), chorus (4 bars), middle eight (8 bars), a short bridge (2 bars) and outro. Verse, prechorus and chorus are played three times. The middle eight appears after the second chorus and the bridge leads into verse 3. As most Beatles songs it is written purely in common time, 4 quarter notes to the bar, so you can count 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4.

Where Love Me Do made do with just the three basic chords, this song uses four additional chords, two of which contains notes not included in the E major scale.

The intro begins with bass and guitar playing the E major scale’s fifth degree − B − on 4& (= the & after 4) as a pick-up to the first full bar commencing with the root E on the 1 beat. Then follows a unison harmonica (John) and guitar (George) riff for two bars commencing on the 2 beat and playing 7 notes ending on beat 4 of the second full bar. The riff is supported by Paul’s energetic pumping bass and Ringo’s precise and tasteful drumming. This two bar intro riff is a recurring theme in the song. It is a simple necessity to commence on two, as John later will be singing on the 1 beat and of course cannot play harmonica at the same time.

Melodically the riff contains the same notes as the first to bars of the verse, but there is a rhythmic difference, so that the verse is more straightforward. The difference is brought about by extending a single note (the fourth in the riff = the first in bar two) with an eighth and delaying the fifth note accordingly so that it comes closer to the sixth note. The riff goes / 2  3  4 / 1    & 3  4 / while the first two bars of the verse go / 2  3  4 / 1  2  3  4 / with the notes at a constant distance. Simple, yet efficient. The riff is played twice in the intro.

The verse starts on the 2 beat just as the riff does, which is not at all common, but also happens on e.g. Don’t Bother Me and Every Little Thing. It is more common to begin singing on the 1 beat or very late in the bar as a pick-up to the next bar.

John sings the lead with a descending melody covering two bars, and an upward movement in bar 3 of the verse (“my girl”). Paul sings harmony staying on the root E.

After bar 3 there is an energetic guitar-riff in bar 4. Then the 3 first bars are repeated as bar 5, 6 and 7, followed by a new guitar-riff in bar 8 and the vocal pick-up “Come” on 4& leading into the prechorus where “on” occurs on the 1 beat giving much weight to “Come on”. The prechorus is sung in three part vocal harmony with John taking turns with Paul and George singing “Come on” in an ascending melody line over chord changes, including two new chords, building energy, intensity and tension, which is released in the chorus.

Vocally the chorus begins with “Please” on the 4 beat of the last bar of the prechorus. It is the second “please” which is placed on the 1 beat of the first bar of the chorus.

This is probably the best prechorus ever.

The vocal chorus ends on “you” on the 1 beat of bar 3. This enables a repetition of the intro riff starting on the 2 beat. In this way the intro is repeated and we are prepared for the 2nd verse.

Towards the end of the 2nd chorus the band begins to play the intro riff but breaks on one (i.e. they play 2 3 4 / 1) leaving room for an excellent drum fill. The middle eighth follows (at 1:01) beginning with the fourth-chord of the scale − A major − as per the classical middle eight recipe. Noteworthy is the octave jump in the beginning of bar 7 (“you”), which is quickly followed by the first “Yeah” in The Beatles’ recordings.  As in the chorus the vocal extends to beat 1 of the next bar and the intro riff is played yet again as a bridge to verse 3 (in which Paul at 1:26 mistakenly sings “I know” instead of “Why do”).

The third and last chorus leads to the outro which consists of two repetitions of the last two bars of the chorus (the intro riff again) followed by a short series of extremely well chosen chords on 1 and 3 with drum fills in between and finally ending on the E major chord.

The final result is an energetic, fresh, elegant and varied, yet consistent, song with excellent transitions and a clever reuse of the intro riff throughout the song.

Lyrically, the song is different from Love Me Do and most other Beatles songs in that the listener does not coincidentally hear boy sing to girl about himself and her. In Please Please Me John addresses the listener directly to tell what boy told girl last night. We should not get too deeply into what boy said, but it was something along the line that boy is not pleased that girl fails to please him in the same way he pleases her and which he need not show her. He thinks girl should do something about that. It can be taken broadly and generally and then seems rather innocent or it can be understood as a quite specific sexual pleasure (and lack therof). I leave the interpretation to you.

George Martin congratulated The Beatles on their first No. 1 hit as soon as the song was in the can. He was right. It made No. 1 in New Musical Express’ and Melody Maker’s charts, but not on Record Retailer’s (where it reached the No.2 spot). In the USA there was little interest when the song was first issued, but that changed when The Beatles broke the USA and the song went to No. 3, third only to two other Beatles songs.