Randy has been writing a blog about Cover Songs, music genres and artists since early 2018. He moved to WordPress in February of 2022 and has found a welcome community of music enthusiasts. You can read about the origins of Rock and Roll, Blues, R&B and Country Music. There are Cover Song and Chart statistics as well, all with a focus on the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s at MostlyMusicCovers.com.
When Max asked us to write about our favorite song, I’m sure the other writers have the same dilemma as most fans would, how do I pick just one? As I am a bit flummoxed on a choice, I’m “taking the easy way out”. Instead of a single song, and being a cover song guy, I am seizing this opportunity to speak about songs recorded by The Beatles in those early years that were not original songs. In other words, songs they covered by other Artists.
Before I get to that, I had assumed that all the ‘original’ songs they recorded, were written/credited to John and Paul or George or Ringo. However, the very first song they recorded for their debut single was written by someone else. Mitch Murray, who became a much acclaimed songwriter/performer/producer wrote a great little song that George Martin thought was perfect for The Beatles first single. It was called “How Do You Do It” and they recorded it on September 4, 1962. The Beatles members never really liked the song and made several changes, much to the chagrin of Mitch Murray. After some debate, Martin agreed with the boys who thought that “Love Me Do”, recorded during the same session was a better pick. It really was the boys first choice for the ‘A’ side all along, perhaps leading to what some describe as a “lack luster” effort on the recording.
How different would the story be if they had picked that song? If you recognized the title you may know that “How Do You Do It” was next recorded by Gerry and The Pacemakers. Released in March of 1963 it became a smash #1 hit in the UK and reached #9 on the Hot 100 in the US. Calling the Pacemakers version, a ‘cover’ is more of technical debate as The Beatles recording was never put on an album and, in deference to Gerry and The Pacemakers or as Paul McCartney once said due to “peer pressure” that’s why they never released it as a single. It first appears on The Beatles Anthology 1 in 1995.
The next thing I looked at, again with a focus on the early days, what were the very first cover songs they released? Setting aside things done/credited as The Quarrymen or with Tony Sheridan etc., there are 25 songs that appeared on various albums. Of which some are stand alone singles. Some of these songs I thought (and maybe some of you did as well) were Beatles originals. I was too young to comprehend much when The Beatles first released songs in North America/Canada. I always was a big fan, and I began taking a keen interest in cover songs in my twenties. The best example would be thinking for the longest time that “Twist and Shout” from their first album was an original song. You likely saw that Max just posted about it recently.
We all know that some of the Albums released outside of the UK came out on different labels, dates, with different titles, and often the track listing had changed as well. Also, the 45’s/singles differed in the same way. So, for my point of reference, and the standard usage, for the most part I will use the UK releases. For that I turned to The Beatles Bible website and Secondhandsong.com.
Please, Please Me was released March 22, 1963. It turns out all the covers (6) on that album were recorded on the same day, February 11, 1963. In addition to “Twist and Shout” (1961) by The Top Notes (Russell/Medley), the cover songs were “Anna (Go to Him)” written and first performed by Arthur Alexander (1962), “Chains” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, first released by The Cookies (October 1962), but it was first recorded by The Everly Brothers on July 11, 1962, but not released until 1984. “Boys” was written by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell and sung by The Shirelles (1960), also by The Shirelles (1961) was “Baby It’s You” written by Burt Bacharach, Luther Dixon, and Mack David (Hal’s brother if you’re keeping score). Then we have “A Taste of Honey” written by Ric Marlow and Bobby Scott for the play of the same name. The first stage performance was by Billy Dee Williams in 1960, his vocal recording was released in December of 1961. Bobby Scott released the instrumental in October of 1960.
Those above songs are the first covers on their first album, but the first single cover version they released was (sort of) on Sincere Good Wishes for Christmas and the New Year on December 6, 1963. The songs were officially listed as “Good King Wenceslas” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. But they didn’t really sing the songs, however they had to credit the songs they referenced for copyright reasons while kibitzing with their fans. The disc contains spoken word messages of thanks from each of them and some goofing around as well. I think “Ricky, the Red Nosed Reindeer” was the spoof version they sang. It was sent to official Fan Club members as a thank you gift. So technically recorded as ‘cover songs’ but not much of the actual songs.
The first real single cover song that I could find where they credited it to just The Beatles was “Ain’t She Sweet” released on the ‘A’ side of a 45 r.p.m. disc May 19, 1964, on Polydor Records. The label reads The Beatles, Vocals: John Lennon, Recorded in Hamburg 1961. The song was written by Milton Ager, Jack Yellen and first released in 1927 by Lou Gold with The Melody Man – Vocal Chorus by Murray Amster. The song was recorded some 60 times before The Beatles release and twice that since.
Why this song? It was popular at the time and had been recorded by several artists in the late 50’s and early 60’s such as Rockabilly legend Gene Vincent in 1957. Max and any other Beatles experts may correct me on the following… I know Vincent was once on the same bill as The Beatles when he was in Europe, a bit of speculation on my part but perhaps his rendition was the inspiration? I think more likely, there was a popular blues singer at that time in the UK, Duffy Power released the song in 1959 so that may have been it as well. Apparently, it was a regular song from their live sets in Hamburg, Germany. It was recorded there in 1961 when Pete Best was the drummer. So, not the final Fab Four. This version appears on Anthology 1 but is credited as The Beat Brothers. By the time it was put out in 1964 of course Ringo was the drummer, they would re-record the song in 1969 and it appears on Anthology 3.
On the ‘B’ side of the single and listed as “Take Out Some Insurance on Me, Baby” (1959) written by Charles Singleton and Wally Hall. It was not the only song by Jimmy Reed that The Beatles would sing but I believe the only one recorded. This was also in Hamburg in 1961. The label on the ‘B’ side reads The Beatles with Tony Sheridan.
The first cover version as single released with Ringo on the skins (I believe) was “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”. Originally written and performed by Larry Williams in 1958. This song was released as the ‘A’ side of a 45 r.p.m. disc in 1965 on Parlophone Records. On the ‘B’ side was “Bad Boy” but apparently in some markets the B side was a song you may have heard of called “Yesterday”. The song appears on the 1965 album Help! and Live at the BBC.
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