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Friday, February 17, 2017

Devil in Her Heart

In this one instance, it can truly be argued that had the Beatles not recorded Devil in Her Heart there is a good chance that the song would be lost in obscurity.  And I daresay that this track is probably unfamiliar to most casual fans of the Beatles, as well.

Devil in His Heart was the B-side of the one and only single released by a girl group out of Michigan called the Donays, who soon thereafter broke up.  It appeared on a small Detroit label, was picked up by a New York label and even made it onto the Oriole Records label in the UK, though it never made the charts anywhere.  The NEMS record store in Liverpool, however, which was owned by Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, stocked at least one copy of everything that was released, so the single was sitting in the bins and just happened to catch the attention of the band, who were constantly on the lookout for new material.

The boys' affinity for girl group numbers had led them to a great vehicle for George.  By October of 1962, the Beatles were working the song into their live act, but when it came time to record their first album in February of '63, their more recent discovery Chains resulted in this song being overlooked.

The number came back to mind, however, on July 16th, 1963 when the band recorded an astonishing eighteen titles for editions eight, nine and ten of their BBC radio program Pop Go the Beatles.  They were constantly mining the riches of their pre-fame stage repertoire for these shows, playing songs that had influenced them alongside their own current hits.  The recording made on this date of Devil in Her Heart, which is available on the EP Baby It's You, seems to indicate that they had not performed the song for some time, as they mess up the lyrics more than once.

Only two days later, they were scheduled to begin work on their second album and, with this song now fresh in their minds, they decided to commit it to tape.  A mere three takes were all that were required to achieve the basic track, with everyone playing their usual instruments and George, John and Paul singing live.  George then overdubbed a few guitar bits and double-tracked his lead vocal during the verses, and Ringo added maracas.

Performances of the song continued to be rare, though, with Chains, Roll Over Beethoven and even Do You Want to Know a Secret more often serving as George's vocal spotlight.  The group did return to the number one more time for the BBC on September 3rd, 1963 - a date when they went themselves one better and recorded nineteen titles for editions thirteen, fourteen and fifteen of Pop Go the Beatles.  This performance is available on the collection On Air - Live at the BBC Volume 2. 

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