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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

All I've Got to Do

The Beatles had recorded most of their first album Please Please Me in one incredibly productive day in February of 1963.  By the middle of that year, they were the toast of Britain and there was no need to rush the production of their second LP.  Two sessions in July yielded eight fresh recordings, but the group's hectic schedule kept them from returning to the studio until September 11th.  On that date, they began work on three new titles, but only this one would be complete by day's end.

The master of this fine Lennon composition was laid down in fifteen takes, eight of them being false starts and one being an overdub.  This is fairly remarkable for a tune that the other three Beatles had presumably never heard before.  John played the song for them and they then figured out their arrangement and perfected it, all in the space of about two and a half hours.  This was the dawn of the boys becoming recording artists instead of performers.  Like a few of the other original compositions on this album, All I've Got to Do would not make it into their live act.  In fact, apart from their work on the song on this day, they never played the song again.

That is a shame because the song itself is a hidden gem, little known to those unfamiliar with the band's early albums.  John stated in interviews over the years that he was consciously trying to write in the style of Smokey Robinson here, but the song also bears resemblance to two cover versions of tunes he had sung on the group's debut album.  Anna (Go to Him) and Baby It's You both featured similar heartfelt vocal performances from John and variations on the jerky, stop/start patterns that he incorporated into this composition.  Ringo executes those tricky patterns and leads the band through the uneven number of measures (a Lennon trademark over the years) deftly, though achieving that may account for the high percentage of false starts.

It is worth noting that there is some disagreement concerning the date that this song was written.  A few sources claim that Lennon actually wrote it back in 1961 and even had it copyrighted at that time, but most believe that it was composed close to the date of its recording in '63.  This certainly seems more likely since Paul in particular would not have been unaware of the song if it had been sitting around unused for a few years.

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