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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Baby It's You

The Beatles, retroactively referred to by some as the ultimate boy band, were huge fans of American girl groups and did not hesitate to incorporate numerous girl group songs into their live repertoire.  Early in 1961, the Shirelles, one of the first great girl groups, had a hit with a song crafted for them by a unique Brill Building team-up of Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams.  Producer Luther Dixon of Scepter Records felt that the demo of Baby It's You was so good that he merely had lead singer Shirley Owens record her vocal on top of it.  (Bacharach's voice can still clearly be heard singing the final "Sha-la-la-la-la" before each verse on the record.)

A lead vocal of such smoldering passion was naturally appealing to John Lennon and the song found its way into the Beatles' stage act.  When their producer George Martin was compiling a list of titles from that act to record for their debut album, Baby It's You easily made the cut.  Time was running short during the evening session on February 11th, 1963 when this number was begun, but the group knew it so well that it only took three takes to get it right.  It was one of only a few recordings on the album to be sweetened, with George Martin overdubbing a celeste on February 20th, doubling George Harrison's very simple lead guitar solo, which itself was a note-for-note recreation of a tacky-sounding organ solo on the Shirelles' original.

The boys continued to perform the song on occasion for several months afterwards.  They even recorded it for their radio program Pop Go the Beatles on June 1st.  Of course, the celeste does not appear on this version, but Harrison does add a little extra flourish at the end of his solo and the group brings the number to a complete finish instead of fading out as they did on the record.  This can be heard on Live at the BBC, including a wonderfully silly introduction by host Lee Peters using his "famous James Mason impersonation voice" at the instigation of the Beatles.

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