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Friday, January 6, 2017

Boys

Even before the Beatles became famous, John and Paul always dominated the lead vocals, though George was also highly featured in their stage act.  Drummer Pete Best had his own contingent of fans in Liverpool (and still does to this day) so he, too, got his moment in the lead vocal spotlight.  In 1961 and '62, he sang a number by the Shirelles called Boys.

Most people are familiar with the A-side of the single, the hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow, but leave it to the Beatles to focus on the obscure rocker from the B-side.  The lads were great admirers of American girl groups and worked many numbers from those groups into their live act, altering the lyrics as needed.  In this case, they made few alterations to the words, figuring rightly that the drive and energy of their performance was all that was necessary to carry the song.  When Ringo joined the band, he had no trouble inheriting the number, as he had already been singing it himself with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

On February 11th, 1963, the day that the Beatles recorded the bulk of their first album Please Please Me, producer George Martin wanted all four members represented exactly as they were in their stage act.  This insured that Ringo would get his customary spotlight number and he did not disappoint.  The band knew the song so well that they nailed it in one live take during the evening session.

Boys remained in the band's repertoire for most of 1963.  They performed it a total of seven times for the BBC, with the June recording for Pop Go the Beatles preserved on the 1995 EP Baby It's You.  This version features a full stop at the end as opposed to a fade out as on the record.  At the end of the year, Ringo's new vocal showcase I Wanna Be Your Man from the group's second album With the Beatles replaced it in their stage act.

In April of 1964, both Boys and I Wanna Be Your Man were recorded for the TV special Around the Beatles.  The performance of Boys did not make the cut, but you can hear it on the 1995 collection Anthology 1.  They omit a repeat of the first verse as the Shirelles did on the original, and they bring it to a full close after only one chorus at the end.

The song once again became Ringo's vocal spotlight for much of 1964.  The most well-known live version, recorded on August 23rd, 1964, opens side two of the 1977 album The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.  The group plays the song at a breakneck pace with only one chorus at the end, bringing it in at just under two minutes (including Paul's quick introduction).  This version also appears on the revamped 2016 re-release of this album, now titled Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

The Beatles last performed the number in October of '64 for the American television program Shindig.  Of course, Ringo has revived the song multiple times over the years with his All-Starr Band, even playing it for the 50th anniversary celebration of the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

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