The Beatles were big stars in England in the spring of 1963 with the number one single and the number one album in the land. And, in order to maintain that status, manager Brain Epstein had them touring the country relentlessly, as well as making frequent stops in London to appear on various BBC radio programs. But now, in keeping with the master plan, it was time to come up with another hit to keep them looking fresh in the public eye. And so, on July 1st, they returned to Abbey Road Studios with a brand new composition in hand and made a breathtaking leap into immortality.
As with the previous single, both sides of the new one would be true Lennon-McCartney collaborations. Unlike the most recent release, the two new songs would be very different in character. The B-side in this instance would be another one of their hidden gems, whereas the A-side would prove to be one of the touchstones in rock and roll history - in all of popular culture, in fact.
She Loves You - One of my favorite stories in Mark Lewisohn's book The Beatles: Recording Sessions tells of engineer Norman Smith glancing at the lyrics as he was setting up the microphones in the studio and reading, "She loves you, yeah yeah yeah, she loves you, yeah yeah yeah, she loves you, yeah yeah yeah yeah" and thinking to himself, "This is going to be one that I do not like." Once they began playing, however, he quickly changed his mind. As Tim Riley states in Tell Me Why, "Everything here can be traced to earlier material...but nothing that came before hints at this kind of power." Riley then goes on to give an exhaustive, almost second-by-second breakdown of the merits of the song, which I highly recommend.
The eruption of sound at the top of the song is astonishing, especially when you consider that it is still only the same four-piece band that listeners were by now accustomed to hearing. This is the power that Riley refers to. Once again, all of the devices that they have learned are here - the kicks, the starts and stops, the vocals flowing from unison to harmony and back again, the "woo"s - the only thing missing for a change is John's harmonica. One delightful new trick is George Harrison's added sixth on the final "yeah" each time around. George Martin pointed out to them that it was rather old-fashioned, a chord big bands were prone to use, but they insisted that they simply had to have it, so he wisely let them have their way.
The exuberance of the music is equaled by the lyrics. It was easy for our elders to be dismissive of the "yeah yeah yeah" hook, but the major step forward here is in the verses. This is an interesting and rare narrative - a guy singing about and rejoicing in his friend's chance at love. The verses have a conversational feel to them, so much so that comedian Peter Sellers and the Goons (also produced by George Martin for Parlophone Records) recorded a few spoken word versions which, while humorous, wound up demonstrating just how conversational the lyrics were. Lennon and McCartney were already beginning to mature as songwriters.
I'll Get You - The harmonica reappears at the top of I'll Get You along with handclaps and some "oh yeahs"s from John and Paul, John singing incredibly low in his vocal range. The melody which follows is lilting, almost hypnotic. The tempo is a nice contrast to the A-side - it's comparatively laid-back. When George joins in vocally for the bridge, somebody muffs the lyrics around "when I'm going to change (make) your mind," yet somehow, it was left in the final mix. This is one of the few times that Mark Lewisohn could not find take numbers (for both songs) in the usually meticulous Abbey Road archives, so we don't know if they were pressed for time by the end of this session and the take was considered to be good enough. What we are left with is one of those quirky little flubs that some of us delight in.
The single was released on August 23rd and became the Beatles' first million-seller. This release, soon followed by appearances on both Sunday Night at the London Palladium and the Royal Command Performance, results in the phenomenon which is suddenly referred to as Beatlemania. England had never seen anything like it. As big as they had been before, they were now caught up in what could only be described as mass hysteria. And soon, the world would be caught up in it, as well.
But not yet. It was still the same old story in the US - a little bit worse, in fact. This time, Brian Epstein could not even convince tiny VeeJay Records to release She Loves You. The previous two singles and the album had done so poorly that VeeJay passed on the record that was creating such a frenzy in England and parts of the continent. He eventually talked Swan Records, an even smaller label, into releasing the songs. And yet again, with no promotion and little airplay, the record went unnoticed.
Several months later, after I Want to Hold Your Hand had broken the ice, Swan rereleased She Loves You and it became the Beatles' second number one in the US.