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Monday, September 26, 2011

From Me to You b/w Thank You Girl

Before the album Please Please Me was even released, the Beatles were back in the studio on March 5th, 1963 to record their next single.  Manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin now had a plan - the group would record and release two albums and a handful of singles in the space of a calendar year.  After all, the popularity of most recording artists tended to last only a couple of years, so it made sense to strike while the iron was hot.

And John and Paul were already hitting their stride as songwriters.  While all of their compositions were credited to both of them (at this point in their career the credit read McCartney-Lennon), a song was usually started by one of them with some assistance from the other to help finish it off.  But now they began writing, as John would later say, "eyeball to eyeball" for the distinct purpose of crafting a hit single.  The result in this instance was their most blatantly commercial single to date - in fact, probably the most blatantly commercial single of their entire career.  But that is not to say that the results were not absolutely wonderful.

From Me to You - The song opens with the nonsense syllables "da da da, da da dum dum da" and John's now-familiar harmonica.  This is pop, not rock - it's more laid-back than the opening burst of Please Please Me.  John and Paul then proceed to sing what is essentially an open love letter to their fans, who they realize are now predominantly teenage girls.  As their popularity has grown, their fan base has shifted from the tough Northern crowds to a broader, more generic audience, and they are quick to recognize this and capitalize on it.

Listen to how smoothly their voices flow from unison to harmony and back again.  They were big fans of the Everly Brothers, and they definitely shared an innate sense of harmony with that famous duo.  All of the little vocal tricks that they have learned so far are put into play here, including the occasional jump to falsetto.  And they introduce their trademark "woo" at the end of the bridge, which Paul will accentuate onstage with a shake of his moptop, eliciting a fresh barrage of screams from the crowd.

Thank You Girl - This song was written first and was originally intended to be the A-side of the single until they came up with From Me to You.  This, too, is a love letter to their female fans and it, too, opens with John's wailing harmonica.  The vocal tricks are here, as well.  The same formula is applied to both sides of this single.  The end of the song features a rare treat - after John and Paul sing their "oh oh oh"s, Ringo is given a couple chances to cut loose on his drum kit, sticking with his snare the first time and heading down to the toms for his second go-round.

Astute fans are aware that there were often different mixes for the British and American markets.  In this instance, we were treated to a few extra harmonica bits in the US, as you can hear on the Capitol Records release The Beatles' Second Album.  (I wonder how long it took the geniuses at Capitol to come up with that title.)  The flourish at the very end of the song is quite wonderful and definitely more exciting than the British release.  Why George Martin chose to leave it off of that version is a mystery. 

In England, this record was an indisputable number one, unlike Please Please Me, hitting the top spot on all of the charts.  Released hard on the heels of their first album, it catapulted them to stardom throughout their native land and set in motion a whirlwind of activity which would carry them for the rest of 1963 and, indeed, for the rest of their career.

The American story, as usual, is much more complicated.  Once again, Brian Epstein could only convince tiny VeeJay Records to release the single and, once again, with no promotion and little or no airplay, it went unnoticed.  In January of 1964, in the wake of I Want to Hold Your Hand, VeeJay repackaged From Me to You as the B-side to Please Please Me.  The song just missed the Top 40, hitting number forty-one.

Thank You Girl was repackaged as the B-side to Do You Want to Know a Secret and hit number thirty-five.  And, as I already mentioned, it appeared on The Beatles' Second Album.  But, curiously, From Me to You was never released by Capitol Records during the Beatles' career, the only major song to be thus treated.  In 1973, it finally appeared on the greatest hits package The Beatles 1962-1966, often called the "Red Album."  

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