Beatles for Sale

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical Recordings and compositions

Beatles for Sale
Beatles for Sale cover
Studio album by The Beatles
Released December 4, 1964
Recorded Abbey Road August 10 - August 14, September 29 - October 26, 1964
Genre Rock and roll
Length 33:26
Label Parlophone
PMC 1240 (mono)
PCS 3062 (stereo)
CDP 7 46438 2
Producer(s) George Martin
Professional reviews
  • All Music Guide 5/5 stars link
  • Q magazine 4/5 stars link
The Beatles chronology
A Hard Day's Night
Beatles for Sale

Beatles for sale by The Beatles (side 1) - Parlophone yellow and black label. This is an original pressing as the "Kansas City" track listing was not yet corrected.
Beatles for sale by The Beatles (side 1) - Parlophone yellow and black label. This is an original pressing as the "Kansas City" track listing was not yet corrected.

Beatles for Sale was The Beatles' fourth album, released in late 1964 and produced by George Martin for Parlophone. The album marked a minor turning point in the evolution of Lennon and McCartney as lyricists, Lennon particularly now showing interest in composing songs of a more autobiographical nature. "I'm a Loser" shows Lennon for the first time seemingly coming under the influence of Bob Dylan, according to leading Beatles archivist Mark Lewisohn (see Complete Beatles Chronicle, p.168), having met him for the first time in New York while on tour on August 28th, 1964 (see Paul McCartney - Many Years From Now by Barry Miles).

Album information

The album is considered by some to be the weakest in the group's history, because of the "war weariness" ( Lewisohn) the band was suffering from due to the now constant slog of touring and recording. Others note that the album, with its ironic title, and downbeat lyrics and cover photo, seems intended as a direct challenge to fans who wanted The Beatles to continue writing upbeat, happy songs. Only two months and eight days separates the last session for A Hard Day's Night (Tuesday 2nd June) and the first for Beatles For Sale. 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 TV, radio and live concert appearances in the UK. It was "inevitable that the constant grind of touring, writing, promoting, and recording would grate on The Beatles," (All Music Guide) leading to the inclusion of several cover versions after the all-original A Hard Day's Night. And yet, during these sessions, they were still capable of recording the single " I Feel Fine" and its B-side, " She's a Woman," both songs of considerable quality and interest. The former contains the first known controlled use of feedback in the pop music idiom (Lewisohn), and illustrates, according to McCartney biographer Barry Miles, their "conscious awareness of the Surrealist tradition that they incorporated found objects into their work." The sound was found completely accidentally by Lennon, according to McCartney in Many Years From Now. McDonald refers to "She's a Woman" as "in every respect revolutionary," which illustrates, in the midst of recording the second and last studio album of an exhausting 1964, they could still push the parameters of pop music outwards.

Beatles for Sale and its modified counterpart in the United States, Beatles '65, each reached number one on the charts in their respective countries, with the former taking over from A Hard Day's Night in the United Kingdom. Almost 23 years after its original release, the album charted in the United Kingdom for a fortnight in 1987. Even though this album was recorded on four-track tape, the CD version is available only in mono.

Writing and recording

When Beatles for Sale was being recorded, Beatlemania was just past its peak; in early 1964, the Beatles had made waves with their television appearances in the United States, sparking unprecedented demand for their records. Beatles for Sale was the Beatles' fourth album in 21 months; recording for the album began on August 11, just two months 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 "off days" 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 September 29. 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 John Lennon/Paul 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. Paul 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 October 18.

Beatles for Sale featured eight original Lennon and McCartney works. At this stage in their collaboration, Lennon and McCartney's songwriting was highly collaborative; even where 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."

The recording of Beatles for Sale took place at Abbey Road Studios in 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 October 18. The band participated in several mixing and editing sessions before completing the project on November 4; the album was rushed into production and released exactly a month later. It was their fourth in 21 months. Beatles 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."

Original songs

The opening three tracks, "No Reply", "I'm A Loser" and "Baby's In Black", are sometimes referred to as the "Lennon Trilogy", as Lennon was the chief writer of all three tracks. Unusual for pop music, each one has a sad or resentful emotion attached to it. 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 All Music Guide (AMG), "finds the singer showing up at a party only to find that the girl he expected to find isn't there".

According to Lennon in 1972, The 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."

AMG singled "I'm A Loser" out as "one of the very first Beatles compositions with lyrics addressing more serious points than young love." Rowley found it to be an "obvious copy of [Bob] Dylan," and to "openly subvert the simple true love themes of their earlier work".

Although "Baby's In Black", which AMG described as "a love lament for a grieving girl that was perhaps more morose than any previous Beatles song," was mostly Lennon's work, it was written in the same room with McCartney, who contributed a harmony to it. Rowley considered the track to veer "between the banal and the sublime," and thought the lyrics to be "world-weary, sardonic and in places deliberately awful."

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', 'PS 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."

The dark theme of the album was balanced by McCartney's "Every Little Thing", "a celebration of what a wonderful girl the guy has," according to AMG, 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 song later resurfaced in highly embellished form, on the 1969 debut album of the British progressive rock band Yes (album)).

"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 totaling nearly seven hours on October 6 and 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 Beatle first and pop music rarity in that the song begins with a fade-in as a counterpoint to pop songs which end in a fade-out. AMG dismissed it as a "standard celebratory love song," and Rowley found it to lack "both conviction and the trademark upbeat mood of early Beatles singles."

Other McCartney songs on the album included the rocker "What You're Doing" that implored the singer's girl 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 Help! movie: "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'."

"I'll Follow the Sun", which Rowley thought to have a "lovely melody" that made "it a minor classic," 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." AMG 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."

By prior agreement, all songs written by either McCartney or Lennon were credited to " Lennon/McCartney".

Cover versions

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, the United Kingdom. The band, which in the previous year had grown weary of performing for screaming audiences, followed the, at that time, standard industry practice of including covers in order to maintain an expected level of productivity which many later artists would consider excessive. Q found the album title to hold a "hint of cynicism" in depicting The Beatles as a "product" to be sold. Nevertheless, AMG said, "the weariness of Beatles for Sale comes as something of a shock."

However, even in a somewhat weakened state the Beatles created an album some critics such as AMG found to be a stepping stone "from Merseybeat to the sophisticated pop/rock they developed in mid-career". Some of the cover versions on the album included Chuck Berry's " Rock and Roll Music", Buddy Holly's "Words of Love", and two Carl Perkins tunes: "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", sung by George Harrison, and "Honey Don't", sung by Ringo Starr. Starr recalled: "We all knew 'Honey Don't'; it was one of those songs that every band in Liverpool played (. . .) that's why we did it on Beatles for Sale. It was comfortable. And I was finally getting one track on a record: my little featured spot." Rowley found "Honey Don't" to have "lost the raunch" of the original, and considered "Words of Love" to be "a touch too reverential and polite."

Many critics panned the cover version of "Mr Moonlight", and AMG went as far to call 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 was more restrained, referring to it as "hardly outstanding".

The recording of the medley of "Kansas City" and "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" was memorable for McCartney, who in 1984 stated 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". The original LP sleeve listed the song as "Kansas City" ( Leiber & Stoller). After the attorneys for Venice Music did their job, the record label was corrected to read "Medley: (a) Kansas City (Leiber/Stoller) (P)1964 Macmelodies Ltd./KPM. (b) Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey (Penniman) Venice Mus. Ltd. (P)1964".

The release

Beatles for Sale was released in the United Kingdom on December 4, 1964. On December 12, 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 February 27, 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 March 7, 1987, almost 23 years after its original release, Beatles for Sale reentered the charts briefly for a period of two weeks.

The album design

The downbeat mood of the songs on Beatles for Sale was also reflected in the album cover, showing the unsmiling, weary-looking Beatles in an autumn scene photographed at Hyde Park, London. Paul 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." The inner sleeve 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.

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 #1 hit single in the U.S.), "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 #35 in the U.S.and it would hit #1 on the U.S. 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 tracks that were omitted were finally released 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, shifting a million records in its first week alone.


  • George Harrison - guitar, drums, vocals
  • John Lennon - guitar, vocals
  • Paul McCartney - piano, bass guitar, Hammond organ, vocals
  • Ringo Starr - drums, tambourine, vocals, timpani
  • George Martin - piano, production, photography
  • Robert Freeman - photography
  • Derek Taylor - liner notes

Track listing

Side one

All Songs credited by John Lennon and Paul McCartney unless noted otherwise

  1. " No Reply"
  2. " I'm a Loser" SAMPLE (92k)
  3. " Baby's in Black"
  4. " Rock and Roll Music" ( Chuck Berry)
  5. " I'll Follow the Sun" SAMPLE (100k)
  6. " Mr. Moonlight" ( Roy Lee Johnson)
  7. Medley:
    • " Kansas City" ( Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller)
    • " Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" ( Richard Penniman)

Side two

  1. " Eight Days a Week" SAMPLE (100k)
  2. " Words of Love" ( Buddy Holly)
  3. " Honey Don't" ( Carl Perkins)
  4. " Every Little Thing"
  5. " I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"
  6. " What You're Doing"
  7. " Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" ( Carl Perkins)
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