So I had this thing in my head and I wrote it and gave it to George to sing.80
GEORGE: We might have run through 'Keep Your hands Off My Baby' (Little Eva's follow-up to 'The Loco-Motion') by coffin and King at that session. Sometimes we learnt songs and did them once or twice and then gave them up: like Paul at the Aintree Institute singing 'That's When Your Heartaches begin', the Elvis record where he talks in the middle. Have you ever heard such a dump line? - 'Love is a thing that we never can share.'
'Anna' by Arthur Alexander was on the album, too. I remember having several records by him, and John sang three or four of his songs. ('Soldier Of Love' was one; it appears on the BBC recordings.) Arthur Alexander used a peculiar drum pattern, which we tried to copy; but we couldn't quite do it, so in the end we'd invented something quite bizarre but equally original. A lot of the time we tried to copy things but wouldn't be able to, and so we'd end up with our own versions. (I'm sure that's how reggae came about. I think people were playing calypso music and listening to rock'n'roll in the Sixties and thought, 'We'll try that,' but they couldn't do it and it came out as reggae. Now we all try to play reggae and can't.)
RINGO: We started around noon and finished at midnight, in my book, with John being really hoarse by 'Twist And Shout'. We knew the songs, because that was the act we did all over the country. That was why we could easily go into the studio and record them. The mike situation wasn't complicated either: one in front of each amp, two overheads for the drums, one for the singer and one for the bass-drum. You still never hear the bass-drum and, now I think about it, I'm not sure if it's not just a confused memory of mine that there ever was one.
GEORGE MARTIN: I knew that 'Twist And Shout' was a real larynx-tearer and I said, 'We're not going to record that until the very end of the day, because if we record it early on, you're not going to have any voice left.' So that was the last thing we did that night. We did takes, and after that John didn't have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound.
JOHN: The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn't the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed, it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn't bother me. You can hear that I'm just a frantic guy doing his best.76 We sang for twelve hours, almost non-stop. We had colds, and we were concerned how it would affect the record. At the end of the day, all we wanted to do was drink pints of milk.
Waiting to hear that LP played back was one of our most worrying experiences. We're perfectionists: if it had come out any old way, we'd have wanted to do it all over again. As it happens, we were very happy with the result.63
GEORGE: The LP cover was photographed with us looking over the balcony at the EMI offices in Manchester Square. It was by Angus McBean - and I've still got the suit I wore then. (I wore it in 1990 to a party. It was a Fifties party but I cheated and wore a Sixties suit. It looked as if it fitted, but I had to have the trousers open at the top.)
We went back in 1969 and did the same picture for the 'Red' and the 'Blue' albums, although we had planned it to be the Let it Be cover at one point.
Right up to and even through the psychedelic period, EMI was like the Civil Service. they did train all their engineers properly. They would start on tape copies, and then would become tape operators, and then assist with demo sessions, and only after they had been through all the different departments, they might be allowed to engineer a demo session. Or, if suddenly there was no engineer available, a trainee might get his big break. They trained them well, but to still have to go into work in a suit and tie in 1967 was a bit silly.
PAUL: I remember being pretty nervous on most occasions in the recording studio, but very excited; a nervous excitement. It was fantastic to be in Abbey Road. I remember meeting Sir Donald Wolfit on the front steps: we were coming in, he was going out, and it struck me as something from out of the 'Just William' books - the great man! He had a coat with a big astrakhan collar - very theatrical - and great big bushy eyebrows. He looked down at us from beneath these eyebrows, rather patronisingly but benevolently, and said in a deep voice, 'Hello, how are you?'
We weren't even allowed into the control room, then. It was Us and Them. They had white shirts and ties in the control room, they were grown-ups. In the corridors and back rooms there were guys in full-length lab coats, maintenance men and engineers, and then there was us, the tradesmen. We came in through the tradesman's entrance and were helped by the lower people in the organisation to set up our stuff. That's how it was and stayed like until we became very famous (and even then those conditions still existed except that we were doing late-night recordings from the time of Sgt Pepper).
We gradually became the workmen who took over the factory. In the end, we had the run of the whole building. It would be us, the recording people on our session and a doorman. There would be nobody else there. It was amazing, just wandering around, having a smoke in the echo chamber. I think we knew the place better than the chairman of the company, because we lived there. I even got a house just round the corner, I loved it so much. I didn't want ever to leave.
GEORGE: In March we toured with Tommy Roe and Chris Montez, who were supposed to share equal top billing: one of them closing the first house and one the second house for the show. Chris Montez had a big hit, 'Let's Dance', and Tommy Roe had 'Sheila'.
The Beatles were getting more and more popular - unfortunately for Tommy and Chris. barking in London was the opening night of the tour and there was a big huddled meeting after the show because Arthur Howes, the promoter, said The Beatles had better close the first half. I think Chris Montez was closing the end of the performance and Tommy Roe the end of the first half. We said, 'No, no, Tommy and Chris close,' because they still sounded like big names to us. I remember Tommy Roe getting all uptight, saying, 'I'm contracted, and I'm going to leave if I don't close the show!'
I felt sorry for Chris Montez; he was just a little Mexican bloke. He did a slow song on a chair, a Spanish tune, and the Teds were all shouting, 'Boo, fuck off.' He said, 'Oh, you don't like it, OK,' and he stopped and put down his guitar and tried something else. It was sad really, but Beatlemania was coming on; 'Please Please Me' had been a hit and 'From Me To You' was on the way.
NEIL ASPINALL: The next big-name tour was with Roy Orbison, in May...
PAUL: At the back of the bus Roy Orbison would be writing something like 'Pretty Woman', so our competitiveness would come out, which was good. He would play us his song, and we'd say, 'Oh, it's great, Roy. Have you just written that?' But we'd be thinking, 'We have to have something as good.' The next move was obvious - write one ourselves. And we did. It was 'From Me To You'.
JOHN: We were selling records but we were still second on the bill, and one of our first big tours was second on the bill to Roy Orbison. It was pretty hard to keep up with that man. He really put on a show; well, they all did, but Orbison had that fantastic voice.75
GEORGE: Even right up to when he died he was a killer, because of his songs, and he had the most incredible voice. He'd had so many hit songs and people could sit and listen to him all night. He didn't have to do anything, he didn't have to wiggle his legs, in fact he never even twitched; he was like marble. The only things that moved were his lips - even when he hit those high notes he never strained. He was quite a miracle, unique.
We soon took over as top of the bill. We had to come on after Roy. They had a trick in those theatres where they would close some of the curtains on the stage so we could set up behind them while the other bloke was still out there doing his tunes. I can't remember where his backing group was, but Roy would be out there every night and at the end he'd be singing, 'She's walking back to me, do do do do do da do do-do...' And the audience would go wild. We'd be waiting there and he'd do another big encore and we'd be thinking, 'How are we going to follow this?' It was really serious stuff.
JOHN: Until now we'd never topped a bill. You can't measure success, but if you could, then the minute I knew we'd been successful was when Roy Orbison asked us if he could record two of our songs.63
RINGO: It was terrible, following Roy. He'd slay them and they'd scream for more. As it got near our turn, we would hide behind the curtains whispering to each other, 'Guess who's next, folks. It's your favourite rave!' But once we got on stage it was always OK.
JOHN: I'VE WRITTEN THINGS WITHOUT PAUL FOR YEARS. WE'VE ALWAYS WRITTEN TOGETHER AND SEPARATELY. ANOTHER WRITER, I DON'T NEED - GEORGE MAYBE; I'D WRITE WITH HIM.
RINGO: The real thrill, after we'd made 'Love Me Do' (even though I wasn't on it), 'Please Please Me' and 'From Me To You' - the first three singles - was that we always knew when they were going to be on the radio. Brian would say, 'Boys, it's on at twenty past seven.' We'd be in the car and stop wherever we were to listen. The other great deal was that every time a record of ours moved up the charts, we would have a celebratory dinner. You'll notice if you look at The Beatles from when we started recording, in the first eighteen months our weight went right up because we were eating all this food. That's when I discovered smoked salmon. I never ate salmon that hadn't come out of a tin until I was twenty-two; I still like it out of a tin.
GEORGE: We had four hits in 1963. Records were going gold before they had even been released - all kinds of things were happening.
The third single 'From Me To You' was really important, because that put the stamp on it. We'd had the first one, 'Love me Do', which did well. Then they let us back in the studio and we did 'Please Please Me', then we had the album, and then 'From Me To You', the success of which assured us some fame.
JOHN: The night Paul and I wrote 'From Me To You', we were on the Helen Shapiro tour, on the coach, travelling from York to Shrewsbury. We weren't taking ourselves seriously - just fooling about on the guitar - when we began to get a good melody line, and we really started to work at it. Before that journey was over, we'd completed the lyric, everything. I think the first line was mine and we took it from there. What puzzled us was why we'd thought of a name like 'From Me To You'. It had me thinking when I picked up the NME to see how we were doing in the charts. Then I realised - we'd got the inspiration from reading a copy on the coach. Paul and I been talking about one of the letters in the 'From You To Us' column.
We'd already written 'Thank You Girl' as the follow-up to 'Please Please me'. This new number was to be the B side. We were so pleased with it, we knew we just had to make it the A side, 'Thank You Girl' the B.63 It was far bluesier when we wrote it; today you could arrange it pretty funky.80
PAUL: We'd had a fair bit of practice writing over the years, though our legendary 'first one hundred' was probably in reality less than half that amount of songs. 'Please Please Me' was more John than me; I didn't have such a hand in it. 'PS I Love You' was more me. 'From me To You' was both of us, very much together. (I remember being very pleased with the middle eight because there was a strange chord in it, and it went into a minor: 'I've got arms that long...' We thought that was a very big step.) 'She Loves You' was custom-built for the record we had to make. 'Love Me Do' was a bit of a 'two-song'.
Crediting the songs jointly to Lennon and McCartney was a decision we made very early on, because we aspired to be Rodgers and Hammerstein. The only thing we knew about songwriting was that it was done by people like them, and Lerner and Loewe. We'd heard these names and associated songwriting with them, so the two-name combination sounded interesting.
I wanted it to be 'McCartney/Lennon', but John had the stronger personality and I think he fixed things with Brian before I got there. That was John's was. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that; I wasn't quite as skilful. He was one and a half years older than me, and at that age it meant a little more worldliness.
I remember going to a meeting and being told: 'We think you should credit the songs to "Lennon/McCartney".' I said, 'No, it can't be Lennon first, how about "McCartney/Lennon"?' They all said, '"Lennon/McCartney" sounds better; it has a better ring.' I said, 'No, "McCartney/Lennon" sounds good, too.' But I had to say, 'Oh, all right, sod it!' - although we agreed that if we ever wanted it could be changed around to make me equal. In fact, the Please Please Me album went out with the tracks all credited 'McCartney/Lennon'. Lennon/McCartney became a blanket term, but nowadays I occasionally fancy switching it on songs like 'Yesterday' to show who did what. So everything became Lennon/McCartney. But by now, we'd achieved our aim, we'd become like Rodgers and Hammerstein. We were now a songwriting duo.
JOHN: Paul and I saw eye to eye musically a lot in the old days. Geminis and Libras are supposed to get on well together, according to the astrologers' theories. And I suppose we worked well together because we both liked the same music.71
We sometimes wrote together and sometimes didn't.70 In the early days, we'd write things separately because Paul was more advanced than I was. He was always a couple of chords ahead and his songs usually had more chords in them. His dad played the piano. He was always playing pop and jazz standards and Paul picked things up from him.71 Some of Paul's he wrote separately. 'The One After 909' on the whatsit LP [Let It Be] is one that I wrote separately from Paul, when seventeen or eighteen in Liverpool.
We wrote together because we enjoyed it a lot sometimes.70 It was the joy of being able to write, to know you could do it. There was also the bit about what they would like. The audience was always in my head: 'They'll dance to this,' and such. So most of the songs were oriented just to the dances.74 And also they'd say, 'Well, are you going to make an album?' and we'd knock off a few songs, like a job.70 Though I always felt that the best songs were the ones that came to you.
If you ask me to write a song for a movie or something, I can sit down and sort of make a song. I wouldn't be thrilled with it, I find it difficult to do, but I can do it. I call it craftsmanship. I've had enough years at it to put something together, but I never enjoyed that. I like it to be inspirational, from the spirit.80
PAUL: SOMETIMES I'VE GOT A GUITAR IN MY HANDS; SOMETIMES I'M SITTING AT A PIANO. IT DEPENDS, WHATEVER INSTRUMENT I'M ON I WRITE WITH. EVERY TIME IT'S DIFFERENT. 'ALL MY LOVING' I WROTE LIKE A BIT OF POETRY, AND PUT A SONG TO IT LATER.65
JOHN: Usually, one of us writes most of the song and the other helps finish it off, adding a bit of tune or a bit of lyric.71 If I've written a song with a verse and I've had it for a couple of weeks and I don't seem to be getting any more verses, I say to Paul, and then we either both write, or he'll say, 'We'll have this, or that.'
It's a bit haphazard. There's no rules for writing. We write them anywhere, but we usually just sit down, Paul and I, with a guitar and a piano, or two guitars, or a piano and a guitar and Geoff (that's George).65 It's all the combinations you can think of; every combination of two people writing a song. And we obviously influence each other, like groups and people do.68
GEORGE MARTIN: As producer I didn't have tremendous input in their lyrics. I would tell them if I didn't think a lyric sounded good or suggest they ought to write another eight bars or so, but they tended to give me the finished songs. My work was mainly a question of contributing arrangement ideas.
PAUL: John and I wrote 'She Loves You' together. There was a Bobby Rydell song out at the time and, as often happens, you think of one song when you write another.
We were in a van up in Newcastle. I'd planned an 'answering song' where a couple of us would sing 'She loves you...' and the other one answers, 'Yeah, yeah.' We decided that that was a crummy idea as it was, but at least we then had the idea foe a song called 'She Loves You'. So we sat in the hotel bedroom for a few hours and wrote it.
We took it to George Martin and sang 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeaah...' with that tight little 6th-cluster we had at the end. (The 6th chord idea was George's - George Harrison's.) George Martin said, 'It's very corny, that end; it's like the old days, "De de dum dum wowww" - I would never end on a 6th.' But we said, 'It's such a great sound it doesn't matter; we've got to have it. It's the greatest harmony sound ever.'
He would often give us parameters, like, 'You mustn't double a 3rd,' or, 'It's corny to end with a 6th, and a 7th is even cornier.' We'd say, 'We like it, man; it's bluesy.' It was good that we could override a lot of his so-called professional decisions with our innocence. If anyone now asks, 'What is the sign of a great songwriter?' I say, 'If the songs sound good.' So we never listened to any rules.
My father said when he heard the song, 'Son, there's enough Americaisms around. Couldn't you sing "Yes, Yes, yes" just for once?' I said, 'You don't understand, Dad, it wouldn't work.'
JOHN: Ever heard anyone from Liverpool singing 'Yes'? It's 'YEAH!'
That was the main catchphrase. We'd written the song and we needed more, so we had 'yeah, yeah, yeah', and it caught on.67
It was Paul's idea: instead of singing 'I love you' again, we'd have a third party. That kind of little detail is still in his work. He will write a story about someone. I'm more inclined to write about myself.80
PAUL: Brian Matthew, the radio presenter, reviewed 'She Loves You' in Melody Maker, and called it 'banal rubbish'. None of us had heard the word 'banal' and we thought, '"Banal"? What's that? Soppy? Too rebellious? What does "banal" mean?' But when the record zoomed to Number One in the Melody Maker chart the next week, he was on the front page disclaiming his comments: 'No, no - at first I thought maybe it was a little banal... but it grows on you.'
I'm sure we paid attention to the critics, so that's a golden memory for me. Criticism didn't really stop us and it shouldn't ever stop anyone, because critics are only the people who can't get a record deal themselves.
Later, William Mann in the Times wrote of the descending 'Aeolian cadence' in our song 'Not A Second Time' and the 'pandiatonic clusters' that came flying out of us at the end of 'This Boy'. We hadn't been conscious of any of that. We just did our songs in hotel rooms, whenever we had a spare moment; John and I, sitting on twin beds with guitars. He on one bed, me on another.
JOHN: Don't ask me what I think of our songs. I'm just not a good judge. I suppose the trouble is that we're so close to them. But I can't help having a quiet giggle when straight-faced critics start feeding all sorts of hidden meanings into the stuff we write. William Mann wrote the intellectual article about The Beatles. He uses a whole lot of musical terminology and he's a twit.65 I still don't know what it means at the end, but he made us acceptable to the intellectuals. It worked and we were flattered. I wrote 'Not A Second Time' and, really it was just chords like any other chords. To me, I was writing a Smokey Robinson or something at the time.72
Intellectuals have the problem of having to understand it. They can't feel anything. The only way to get an intellectual is to talk to him and then play him the record. You couldn't put a record on and just let him hear it.71
GEORGE: 'This Boy' was one of our three-part harmony numbers. There were a lot of harmony songs around. Harmony in Western music is natural. Paul claimed that his father taught us three-part harmony, but that's not the case from my memory. When you think back to early rock'n'roll there was always stuff like Frankie Lymon and the Tennagers, The Everly Brothers, The Platters. Everybody had harmonies. It was natural to sing a harmony sometimes - with the Everlys, it was a permanent thing.
JOHN: That was the thing about The Beatles: they never stuck to one style. They never did just blues, or just rock. We loved all music. We did 'In My Life', 'Anna' on the early things and lots of ballady things. My image was more rocky but if you look down those Beatle tracks, I'm right there with all the sentimental things, the same as Paul. I love that music just as much.80
PAUL: I could often be a foil to John's hardness. But it could be the other way round, too. People tend to have got it one way; but John could be very soft, and I could do the hard stuff.(One of the things I didn't like about the film
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