Anna (Go To Him) (as made famous by The Beatles)

“Anna (Go to Him)”, or simply “Anna”, is a song written and originally recorded by Arthur Alexander. His version was released as a single by Dot Records on September 17, 1962. A cover version was performed by English rock group The Beatles and included on their 1963 debut album Please Please Me.

According to Richie Unterberger, music critic for AllMusic:

‘Anna’ was one of the great early soul ballads, even if its loping groove was closer to a mid-tempo song than a slow ballad. Like several of Alexander’s songs, it would come to be more famous in its cover version than through its original release. And it was actually a small hit when it first came out in 1962, getting to #68 in the pop charts and #10 in the R&B listings.[2][3]

Critic Dave Marsh rates Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him)” as one of the top 1001 singles of all time.[1] He praises the “gently swinging rhythm,” the tough, syncopated drumming, and Alexander’s vocal, particularly at the beginning of the refrain, suggesting that John Lennon may have learned to sing ballads like “In My Life” by listening to Alexander’s performance.[1]

Despite the title, throughout the song the lyric is “go with him” rather than “go to him”.

A personal favourite of John Lennon,[4] it became part of the Beatles’ early repertoire and was consequently recorded by them for their 1963 debut album, Please Please Me.[5] It is the first song released by the group which specifically names a girl. In the U.S., Vee Jay Records released it on Introducing… The Beatles (January 10, 1964) and Capitol Records re-released it on The Early Beatles (March 22, 1965).[6] Vee Jay also released “Anna (Go to Him)” on the EP Souvenir of Their Visit: The Beatles in the US[7]

The band recorded the song on February 11, 1963 in three takes; Take 3 was the master. It was remixed on February 25.[8] George Harrison played the distinctive phrase on guitar; Floyd Cramer played it on piano for the original.[9]

Unterberger praised the Beatles’ version in his review, saying:

Ringo Starr faithfully [replicates] the unusual drum rhythm and hi-hat crunches. Lennon’s vocal, however, added a tortured pain not present in Alexander’s model, particularly when he wailed in his upper register at the conclusion of the bridges. The Beatles’ backup harmony vocals, in addition, were superb, and more effective [than on Alexander’s version].[2]

Music critic Ian MacDonald had a different view of Lennon’s vocal delivery, saying it sounded like “a passionate youth grappling with a man’s song”.[9] As noted in many references including Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Recording Sessions, Lennon had a bad cold on the day of recording which had an effect on his voice.

They recorded “Anna (Go to Him)” on June 17, 1963 for the BBC radio show Pop Go the Beatles. The show was broadcast on June 25. They recorded it once again on August 1, 1963 for the show broadcast on August 27.[10]

John Lennon – vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney – bass, backing vocals
George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals
Ringo Starr – drums
Engineered by Norman Smith