Beatles for Sale is the fourth studio album by English rock band the Beatles, released on 4 December 1964 and produced by George Martin for Parlophone. The album marked a minor turning point in the evolution of the Lennon–McCartney partnership, John Lennon particularly now showing interest in composing songs of a more autobiographical nature. “I’m a Loser” shows Lennon for the first time coming under the influence of Bob Dylan, whom he met in New York while on tour, on 28 August 1964.
Beatles for Sale did not produce a single for the UK – the non-album tracks “I Feel Fine” and “She’s a Woman” performed that role. Nevertheless, that coupling was followed up in the United States by “Eight Days a Week”, which became their seventh number one in March 1965.
The album hit the UK number one spot and retained that position for 11 of the 46 weeks that it spent in the Top 20. Beatles for Sale did not surface as a regular album in the US until 1987. In its place was Beatles ’65 which featured eight songs from Beatles for Sale, plus the A and B-side of “I Feel Fine” and “I’ll Be Back” from the UK’s A Hard Day’s Night album. Beatles ’65 enjoyed a nine-week run at the top of the US charts from January 1965.
The Beatles began their first studio session for Beatles for Sale on 8 June 1964, only seven days after their last session for A Hard Day’s Night. Prior to the new recording sessions, the band toured Australia and New Zealand (after a two-show night in Hong Kong), played concerts in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden and made several television, radio and live concert appearances in the UK. Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic said, “It was inevitable that the constant grind of touring, writing, promoting, and recording would grate on the Beatles,” leading to the inclusion of several cover versions after the all-original A Hard Day’s Night; the band’s visible weariness on the album’s cover is noted by narrator Malcolm McDowell during The Compleat Beatles. Yet during these sessions they were still capable of recording the single “I Feel Fine” and its B-side, “She’s a Woman” (both written by Lennon–McCartney, and not included on the album).
Gram Parsons has noted the strong country influence on “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”. “I’m a Loser” is also notable for being perhaps the first Beatles song to directly reflect the influence of Bob Dylan, thus nudging folk and rock a little closer together toward the folk-rock explosion of the following year.
Beatles for Sale and its modified US counterparts, Beatles ’65 and Beatles VI, all reached number one on the charts in their respective countries, with Beatles for Sale taking over from A Hard Day’s Night in the United Kingdom.
On 26 February 1987, Beatles for Sale was officially released on Compact Disc (catalogue number CDP 7 46438 2), as were three other Beatles’ albums, Please Please Me, With the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night. Almost 23 years after its original release, the album charted in the United Kingdom for a fortnight in 1987. Having been available only as an import in the US in the past, the album was also issued domestically in the US on LP and cassette on 21 July 1987. Even though this album was recorded on four-track tape, the CD version issued in 1987 was available only in mono.
This album has been digitally remastered using the latest technology (along with the rest of the Beatles’ catalogue) and was reissued on CD in stereo for the first time on 9 September 2009.
Writing and Recording
When Beatles for Sale was being recorded, Beatlemania was just past its peak; in early 1964, they had made waves with their television appearances in the United States, sparking unprecedented demand for their records. Beatles for Sale was their fourth album in 21 months. Recording for the album began on 11 August, just one month after the release of A Hard Day’s Night, following on the heels of several tours. Much of the production on the album was done on “days off” from performances in the UK, and most of the songwriting was done in the studio itself.
Most of the album’s recording sessions were completed in a three-week period beginning on 29 September. Beatles’ producer George Martin recalled: “They were rather war-weary during Beatles for Sale. One must remember that they’d been battered like mad throughout ’64, and much of ’63. Success is a wonderful thing, but it is very, very tiring.”
Even the prolific Lennon–McCartney songwriting team could not keep up with the demand for their songs, and with a targeted deadline of Christmas to meet, the band resorted to recording several cover versions for the album. This had been their mode of operation for their first albums but had been abandoned for the all-original A Hard Day’s Night. The album included six covers, the same number as their first two albums. McCartney recalled: “Recording Beatles for Sale didn’t take long. Basically it was our stage show, with some new songs.” Indeed, three of the cover tunes were recorded in a total of five takes in one session on 18 October.
Beatles for Sale featured eight original Lennon and McCartney works. At this stage in their partnership, Lennon’s and McCartney’s songwriting was highly collaborative; even when songs had a primary author the other would often contribute key parts, as with “No Reply” where McCartney provided a middle-eight for what was otherwise almost entirely a Lennon song.
In 1994, McCartney described the songwriting process he and Lennon went through:
|“||We would normally be rung a couple of weeks before the recording session and they’d say, ‘We’re recording in a month’s time and you’ve got a week off before the recordings to write some stuff.’ … so I’d go out to John’s every day for the week, and the rest of the time was just time off. We always wrote a song a day, whatever happened we always wrote a song a day … Mostly it was me getting out of London, to John’s rather nice, comfortable Weybridge house near the golf course … So John and I would sit down, and by then it might be one or two o’clock, and by four or five o’clock we’d be done.||”|
Recording took place at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London. The Beatles had to share the studio with classical musicians, as McCartney would relate in 1988: “These days you go to a recording studio and you tend to see other groups, other musicians … you’d see classical sessions going on in ‘number one.’ We were always asked to turn down because a classical piano was being recorded in ‘number one’ and they could hear us.” George Harrison recalled that the band was becoming more sophisticated about recording techniques: “Our records were progressing. We’d started out like anyone spending their first time in a studio—nervous and naive and looking for success. By this time we’d had loads of hits and were becoming more relaxed with ourselves, and more comfortable in the studio … we were beginning to do a little overdubbing, too, probably to a four-track.”
Recording was completed on 18 October. The band participated in several mixing and editing sessions before completing the project on 4 November; the album was rushed into production and released exactly a month later. The Beatles’ road manager, Neil Aspinall, later reflected: “No band today would come off a long US tour at the end of September, go into the studio and start a new album, still writing songs, and then go on a UK tour, finish the album in five weeks, still touring, and have the album out in time for Christmas. But that’s what the Beatles did at the end of 1964. A lot of it was down to naivety, thinking that this was the way things were done. If the record company needs another album, you go and make one.”
All three opening tracks for Beatles for Sale have a sad or resentful emotion attached to them. This opening sequence set the sombre overall mood of the album, revisited in another Lennon tune, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”, which, “consistent in tone with ‘No Reply’, ‘I’m a Loser’, and ‘Baby’s in Black’”, according to Allmusic, “finds the singer showing up at a party only to find that the girl he expected to find isn’t there”.
Other McCartney songs on the album included “What You’re Doing”, which implored the singer’s girlfriend to “stop your lying”. Although “Eight Days a Week” and “What You’re Doing” are well regarded by many fans, they were regarded negatively by their creators: McCartney dismissed “What You’re Doing” as “a bit of filler … Maybe it’s a better recording than it is a song …”, while Lennon referred to “Eight Days a Week” in a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine as “lousy”. In 1972, Lennon revealed that “Eight Days a Week” had been made with the goal of being the theme song for the film Help!:
|“||I think we wrote this when we were trying to write the title song for ‘Help!’ because there was at one time the thought of calling the film Eight Arms To Hold You.||”|
McCartney considered the Beatles for Sale sessions to be the beginning of a more mature phase for the band:
|“||We got more and more free to get into ourselves. Our student selves rather than ‘we must please the girls and make money’, which is all that “From Me to You”, “Thank You Girl”, “P.S. I Love You” is about. “Baby’s in Black” we did because we liked waltz-time … and I think also John and I wanted to do something bluesy, a bit darker, more grown-up, rather than just straight pop.||”|
According to Lennon in 1972, Beatles music publisher Dick James was quite pleased with “No Reply”:
|“||I remember Dick James coming up to me after we did this one and saying, ‘You’re getting better now—that was a complete story.’ Apparently, before that, he thought my songs wandered off.||”|
Reviewer David Rowley found its lyrics to “read like a picture story from a girl’s comic,” and to depict the picture “of walking down a street and seeing a girl silhouetted in a window, not answering the telephone.”
“I’m a Loser”
Steven Thomas Erlewine, writing for Allmusic, singled out “I’m a Loser” as “one of the very first Beatles compositions with lyrics addressing more serious points than young love.” (cf. “There’s a Place”)
David Rowley found it to be an “obvious copy of Bob Dylan”, as where Lennon refers to the listener as a “friend”, Dylan does the same on “Blowin’ in the Wind”. He also said its intention was to “openly subvert the simple true love themes of their earlier work”.
“Baby’s in Black”
Unterberger said this song was “a love lament for a grieving girl that was perhaps more morose than any previous Beatles song”. The song features a two-part harmony sung by Lennon and McCartney.
“I’ll Follow the Sun”
“I’ll Follow the Sun” was a reworking of an old song; it had originally been written when McCartney was a youth, as he related in 1988:
|“||I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16 … We had this hard R&B image in Liverpool, so I think songs like “I’ll Follow the Sun”, ballads like that, got pushed back to later.||”|
Unterberger argued that although the song was “sometimes described as a ballad because of its light and mild nature, it’s actually taken at a pretty brisk tempo.”
George Martin would later say that this was his favourite song from Beatles for Sale.
“Eight Days a Week”
“Eight Days a Week” is noteworthy as one of the first examples of the in-studio experimentation that the band would use extensively in the future; in two recording sessions totalling nearly seven hours on 6 October devoted exclusively to this song, Lennon and McCartney tried one technique after another before settling on the eventual arrangement. Each of the first six takes of the song featured a strikingly different approach to the beginning and ending sections of the song; the eventual chiming guitar-based introduction to the song would be recorded in a different session and edited in later. The final version of the song incorporated another Beatles first and pop music rarity: the song begins with a fade in as a counterpoint to pop songs which end in a fade out.
“Every Little Thing”
The dark theme of the album was balanced by “Every Little Thing”, a “celebration of what a wonderful girl the guy has”, according to Unterberger, that appeared later in the album and had been written as an attempt for a single, according to McCartney:
|“||‘Every Little Thing’, like most of the stuff I did, was my attempt at the next single … but it became an album filler rather than the great almighty single. It didn’t have quite what was required.||”|
The British progressive rock band Yes included an extended cover of this song on their 1969 debut album and have played their version live on many occasions.
“What You’re Doing”
The lyrics are generally believed to concern McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher, also considered to be the muse for future Beatles songs such as “I’m Looking Through You” and “You Won’t See Me” from Rubber Soul and “For No One” from Revolver.
The remainder of the album consisted of cover versions, several of which had been staples of the Beatles’ live shows years earlier, especially in Hamburg, Germany and at The Cavern in Liverpool, including Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music”, Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love”, and two by Carl Perkins, “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” (sung by George Harrison) and “Honey Don’t” (sung by Ringo Starr).
Many critics panned the cover version of “Mr. Moonlight”. Stephen Thomas Erlwine of allmusic called it Lennon’s “beloved obscurity” that wound up as “arguably the worst thing the group ever recorded.” Q magazine agreed, calling “Mr. Moonlight” “appalling.” Rowley noted that the original by Dr Feelgood and the Interns was “hardly outstanding”. A cover of Little Willie John’s “Leave My Kitten Alone” was recorded at the same session, but rejected from inclusion on the finished album; it was widely bootlegged before seeing official release on 1995’s Anthology 1 compilation.
The recording of the medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!” was memorable for McCartney, who in 1984 said that it required “a great deal of nerve to just jump up and scream like an idiot.” His efforts were egged on by Lennon, who “would go, ‘Come on! You can sing it better than that, man! Come on, come on! Really throw it!'” The song was inspired by Little Richard, who combined “Kansas City” with his own composition, “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!”, but Rowley found the lead vocals “strained” and considered it McCartney’s “weakest Little Richard cover version” (although McCartney only recorded one other Little Richard cover, “Long Tall Sally”, while with the Beatles). However, in contrast to this Ian MacDonald, in his book Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, described it as one of their better covers. The original LP sleeve listed the song as “Kansas City” (Leiber & Stoller). After the attorneys for Venice Music complained, the record label was revised to read “Medley: (a) Kansas City (Leiber/Stoller) (P)1964 Macmelodies Ltd./KPM. (b) Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey! (Penniman) Venice Mus. Ltd. (P)1964.”
Beatles for Sale was released in the United Kingdom on 4 December 1964. On 12 December, it began a 46-week-long run in the charts, and a week later knocked A Hard Day’s Night off the top of the charts. After seven weeks, the album’s time at the top seemed over, but Beatles for Sale made a comeback on 27 February 1965, by dethroning The Rolling Stones and returning to the top spot for a week. The album’s run in the charts was not complete either; on 7 March 1987, almost 23 years after its original release, Beatles for Sale re-entered the charts briefly for a period of two weeks shortly after the first CD release on 26 February 1987.
The downbeat mood of the songs on Beatles for Sale was reflected in the album cover, which shows the unsmiling, weary-looking Beatles in an autumn scene photographed at Hyde Park, London. McCartney recalled: “The album cover was rather nice: Robert Freeman’s photos. It was easy. We did a session lasting a couple of hours and had some reasonable pictures to use … The photographer would always be able to say to us, ‘Just show up,’ because we all wore the same kind of gear all the time. Black stuff; white shirts and big black scarves.”
This was the first Beatles album to feature a gatefold cover (the next would be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in 1967). The photo inside the gatefold cover showed The Beatles standing in front of a montage of photos, which some have assumed was the source of inspiration for the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, though there is no evidence for this.
The sleeve notes featured an observation by Derek Taylor on what the album would mean to people of the future:
|“||There’s priceless history between these covers. When, in a generation or so, a radioactive, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn, asks you what the Beatle affair was all about, don’t try to explain all about the long hair and the screams! Just play them a few tracks from this album and he’ll probably understand. The kids of AD2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today.||”|
North American Release
The concurrent Beatles release in the United States, Beatles ’65, included eight songs from Beatles for Sale, omitting the tracks “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey!”, “Eight Days a Week” (a number one hit single in the US in early 1965), “What You’re Doing”, “Words of Love”, “Every Little Thing”, and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (flipside to “Eight Days a Week”, it reached number 35 in the US and it would hit number one on the US Country chart for Rosanne Cash when she remade it in 1989). In turn, it added the track “I’ll Be Back” from the British release of A Hard Day’s Night and the single “I Feel Fine”/”She’s a Woman”. The six omitted tracks finally got an LP release in America on Beatles VI in 1965. Beatles ’65 was released eleven days after Beatles for Sale (and just ten days before the Christmas holiday) and became the fastest-selling album of the year in the United States.
Although the LP was released with an identical track listing to the UK version, EMI Australia changed the cover art. The reason for this was due to a union rule stating that either new artwork had to be made for overseas albums or the original cover was to be photographed. John Lennon complained to EMI Australia at a meeting about the changes, but the cover remained the same until the album’s release on compact disc in 1988.
The cover of the Australian release of the LP featured individual photographs of The Beatles taken at one of the group’s Sydney concerts in June 1964.
The band, which in the previous year had grown weary of performing for screaming audiences, followed the contemporary standard industry practice of including covers in order to maintain an expected level of productivity. Q found the album title to hold a “hint of cynicism” in depicting The Beatles as a “product” to be sold. Erlewine said, “The weariness of Beatles for Sale comes as something of a shock.”
|The A.V. Club||B|
|Consequence of Sound|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|
Despite citing it as “the group’s most uneven album”, Allmusic felt that its best moments find them “moving from Merseybeat to the sophisticated pop/rock they developed in mid-career.” Tom Ewing of Pitchfork Media said, “Lennon’s anger and the band’s rediscovery of rock ‘n’ roll mean For Sale’s reputation as the group’s meanest album is deserved”. Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph commented that “if this is a low point, they still sound fantastic”, adding that “the Beatlemania pop songs are of a high standard, even if they are becoming slightly generic.” John Lennon said of the album, “You could call our new one a Beatles country and western LP.”
|All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.
Charts and Certifications
BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.
- The Beatles
- John Lennon – lead, harmony and backing vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitars, piano, harmonica, tambourine, handclaps; 12-string lead guitar on “Every Little Thing”
- Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, Hammond organ, handclaps
- George Harrison – harmony and backing vocals, lead vocals on “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”, lead, acoustic and 12 string guitars, African drum, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, timpani, cowbell, packing case, bongos, lead vocals on “Honey Don’t”
- Additional musicians
- George Martin – piano and producer
- Personnel per Mark Lewisohn
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia