The Songs The Beatles Gave Away

There are twenty-five “give-aways” in total. Sixteen hail from the early years of Beatlemania (1963-66), two come from the Pepper – Mystery Tour era and the remaining seven from the launch of the band’s Apple empire

The Songs The Beatles Gave Away

Ever since the Beatles broke up in 1970, fans have spent countless hours imagining what the next album might have been like, if only they had stayed together. Trawl internet chatrooms, blogs and fan sites and you can find dozens, if not hundreds of suggestions. It’s even the subject of a book – The Lost Album Of The Beatles, by Daniel Rachel – which no self-respecting Beatle obsessive should be without. But there is also another game that I’ve played over the years: imagining what the Beatles might have done with the songs that Lennon and McCartney (and Harrison) gave away.

Not counting the songs that the Fabs did record and release themselves, but which other performers released first (there are five of those: “Misery” by Kenny Lynch”, “I Call Your Name” by Billy J. Kramer, “I Wanna Be Your Man” by the Rolling Stones, “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight” by Trash and, surprisingly, “Let It Be” by Aretha Franklin; Cliff Bennett almost made this list, too, but his version of “Got To Get You Into My Life” reached the shops on the same day as Revolver), there are twenty-five “give-aways” in total. Sixteen hail from the early years of Beatlemania (1963-66), two come from the Pepper – Mystery Tour era and the remaining seven from the launch of the band’s Apple empire. The full list is:

  • “I’ll Be On My Way”, “Bad To Me”, “I’ll Keep You Satisfied” and “From A Window” by Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas
  • “Love Of The Loved”, “It’s For You” and “Step Inside Love” by Cilla Black
  • “World Without Love”, “Nobody I Know”, “I Don’t Want To See You Again” and “Woman” by Peter and Gordon
  • “Hello Little Girl” and “I’m In Love” by the Fourmost
  • “Like Dreamers Do” by the Applejacks
  • “Tip Of My Tongue” by Tommy Quickly
  • “One And One Is Two” by the Strangers with Mike Shannon
  • “That Means A Lot” by P.J. Proby
  • “Catcall” by Chris Barber and His Band
  • “Sour Milk Sea” by Jackie Lomax
  • “Thingumybob“ by the John Foster and Son Ltd. Black Dyke Mills Band
  • “Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin
  • “Penina” by Carlos Mendes
  • “Badge” by Cream
  • “Come And Get It” by Badfinger
  • “Ain’t That Cute” by Doris Troy

All were written by Lennon and McCartney, apart from “ Sour Milk Sea”, which was written by George Harrison, who also co-wrote “Badge” and “Ain’t That Cute” with Eric Clapton and Doris Troy respectively. Completists might also want to add Adam Faith’s “I’ve Just Fallen For Someone”, written by Johnny Gentle (John Askew) with help from John Lennon, and Johnny Devlin’s “Won’t You Be My Baby”, penned by Devlin with the help of Paul McCartney, but as neither Beatle was formally credited on the records, I’ll leave those to one side. There is in any case enough here for two “lost albums” – and certainly enough for a decent length CD…

Back in the eighties, when the aptly-named The Songs That Lennon-McCartney Gave Away LP gathered nineteen of these songs together (the twentieth track, Ringo’s “I’m The Greatest”, although penned by John, didn’t really fit the brief but it made for a round number…), the Beatles’ own versions of these songs remained unheard (except on bootlegs). So began the game of imagination – what might a Beatle arrangement of these songs sound like? For the songs handled by other beat groups – especially those produced by George Martin – it was perhaps not too hard to guess, but for the tracks recorded by P.J. Proby, Mary Hopkin and Cilla Black in particular (not to mention Chris Barber!), the possibilities were more intiguing.

The opening up of the Beatle archive in the nineties with the Live At The B.B.C. release and then the three Anthology albums yielded a few secrets – demos, radio performances and studio off cuts of some of these songs. The more recent “authorised bootleg” set of 1963 sessions, together with the deluxe versions of late period albums, has filled in a few more gaps but still, Beatle recordings of many of these songs remain stubbornly unheard, even eluding the bootleggers. Even when we do have a Beatle version, it is not necessarily a “proper” recording – the version of “Step Inside Love” on Anthology 3, for example, is just a case of the band goofing off in the studio, playing around with the song a few months after Cilla’s version hit the top ten. (Happily, we do have Cilla singing a demo of this song, with Paul on guitar – you can find it on Cilla’s 1963-1973: The Abbey Road Decade compilation. This gives us a good idea as to how Paul might have handled it, and it is quite different from the version Cilla put out on 45; check it out on YouTube). So the wait goes on, and fans continue to hope that the long-lost demos for, say, “World Without Love”, or “Woman”, or “It’s For You” will eventually turn up.

But for Australian Beatle fans, some sort of consolation prize appeared around 25 or so years ago. That was when Perth’s (and the country’s) leading Beatles tribute band, the Beatnix hit on the idea of taking eighteen of these songs (the first seventeen above, plus “Goodbye”), adding in the unreleased (until Anthology 2) “If You’ve Got Troubles”, and giving them all proper band arrangements, resulting in the rather wonderful It’s Four You album. Sure, it isn’t the Beatles – but it is a collection of nineteen (mostly) good-to-great Lennon-McCartney tunes, properly recorded in a studio, by musicians who understood the Fabs’ music, and performed with suitably Beatlesque arrangements on authentic, Beatle-era instruments. Yes, it was a case of bare-faced cheek (an unofficial Chinese issue of the album was actually marketed as being by the Beatles), but it was also affectionate, clever, touching and very, very well done. Listen closely, and you can tell it’s not the Beatles, but drop the songs from the album into a random Beatles mix on ITunes and (much like the songs from the Rutles) they actually blend in pretty well, almost well enough that you can believe… what you want to believe.

Sadly, the original CD has long since gone out of print, and it’s not (yet) been licensed anew for the digital age, but it’s surely only a matter of time. Until then, hey! It’s all on YouTube (of course it is). So, if you need a fix of “new” Beatle tunes, then don’t wait around for a new Oasis album (it ain’t gonna happen any time soon). Instead, check out the Beatnix, breathing new life into the songs the Beatles gave away…

 



 



 

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Gareth Jones

Gareth Jones is a music connoisseur and the author of the book "French Pop: from Music Hall to Yé-Yé"

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