Slow Down (as made famous by The Beatles)

“Slow Down” is a 24-bar blues written and performed by Larry Williams. Released as a single in 1958, it was a rhythm and blues hit that influenced the growing rock & roll movement of the time. Both “Slow Down” and the single’s flip-side,”Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, were covered by the Beatles in 1964 and 1965, respectively.

The Beatles covered the song early in their career. In 1964, they recorded a version and Parlophone released it on the Long Tall Sally EP in June in the UK. In July, the song was included on the American album Something New. Capitol Records released it as a single, with “Matchbox” (also a 12-bar blues, from the Long Tall Sally EP) as the flip side. “Slow Down” reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is also included on the 1988 Past Masters compilation. A performance specifically recorded for broadcast by the BBC is found on the album Live at the BBC (1994).

Ian MacDonald criticised the performance as “one of the Beatles’ least successful rock-and-roll covers”, lacking “bottom, drive and basic cohesion” and stated that “The guitar solo is embarrassing and the sound balance a shambles”. He also pointed out the edit at 1:14 whereupon the piano momentarily disappears and McCartney’s bass becomes inaudible.[2] Starr can likewise be heard to lose time during the song.

John Lennon – vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney – bass guitar
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums
George Martin – piano

She’s A Woman (as made famous by The Beatles)

“She’s a Woman” is a song by the Beatles, written mainly by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. John Lennon contributed to the lyrics and middle eight (the bridge). The song was finished in the studio the morning of the session. It was released as the B-side to “I Feel Fine” in 1964, their last single release that year. It reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 from frequent airplay. In New Zealand, the song reached number one for one week.[1]

The song was featured in the movie Help! (1965).

“She’s a Woman” has been described as an example of the rock and roll and rhythm and blues genres.[2][3] The song, penned mainly by Paul McCartney (Lennon helped with the lyric and bridge) was his attempt at imitating the vocal style of Little Richard. This is why the song is in such a high register, even for McCartney’s tenor range. Some takes of the song (especially recordings of live concerts) feature an extended outro.

The structure of the song is fairly simple, with the melody carried mostly by McCartney’s voice. His bass and a backing piano produce a countermelody, with Lennon’s guitar playing chords on the backbeat. After the first verse, the piano also plays chords on the upbeats. George Harrison plays a bright guitar solo during the middle eight.

Author Ian MacDonald noted in his book Revolution in the Head that the final mix of “She’s a Woman” at the time of its original release was unusual of the time, with the bass kick on Starr’s drum kit being barely audible due to it being compressed in the mixing process. MacDonald suggested that McCartney’s bass part might be responsible for the rearrangement of the mixing as its more prominent volume was in sacrifice of the drums’ usual mixing due to limiting problems.[4]

In the United States, the song was released on the Capitol album Beatles ’65, and is presented in a duophonic mix featuring a layer of reverb added by executive Dave Dexter, Jr. A true stereo version of the song can be found on the Past Masters, Volume 1 CD. Some people say that this stereo version was first released in Australia without authorization. There is also another stereo version that sounds the same but with McCartney’s count-in which appears on the CD EP box set. This stereo version with the count in also appeared on a bonus stereo vinyl EP included with an earlier vinyl EP box set. The song is heard being played on a tape recorder underground during the Salisbury Plain scene in the movie Help!. In the UK, the first album release was on the 1978 compilation LP Rarities in mono in the box set The Beatles Collection and later released separately.

The band started including the song in their live shows in 1965. It is characterised by the classic percussive “honk” of Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325. One of the versions of the song can also be found on the Beatles’ live albums, Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Live at the BBC, while a version from the first of two shows at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in 1966 appears on Anthology 2.

On the US charts, the song was the final of 11 top ten hits in the calendar year 1964, giving the Beatles an all-time record for most top ten hits in a calendar year on the Billboard Hot 100 charts by one artist/group (surpassed by rapper Drake in 2018).[5] It was also the twelfth top 10 hit written by Lennon–McCartney, an all-time record for most top 10 hits in a calendar year on the Billboard Hot 100 by a songwriter.

Paul McCartney – vocal, bass
John Lennon – rhythm guitar
George Harrison – double-tracked lead/rhythm guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, chocalho
George Martin – producer, piano

Bad Boy (as made famous by The Beatles)

“Bad Boy” is a song composed and recorded by Larry Williams.[2] The song was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California on August 14, 1958. The musicians on the recording included Williams on vocals and piano, Earl Palmer on drums, René Hall on guitar, Jewell Grant on baritone sax, Plas Johnson on tenor sax, and Ted Brinson on bass.[3] The record did not break the Top 40 charts in the United States.

“She Said Yeah” was originally the B-side of the Larry Williams single, and has been recorded by the Rolling Stones and the Animals, among others. “She Said Yeah” was written by rockabilly singer Roddy Jackson and Sonny Bono (under the name Don Christy).[4] The Beatles loved the song and almost certainly performed it on stage and fully intended to record it. Paul McCartney in the liner notes to his album Run Devil Run said “Me and John [Lennon] particularly loved Larry Williams…Bony Moronie…John did Slow Down…I was always going to do She Said Yeah”. Roy Young (who was invited to join The Beatles) recorded a version in 1959. Paul McCartney finally recorded it in 1999.

“Bad Boy” is one of several Larry Williams songs which the Beatles recorded during their career. Along with “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy”, “Bad Boy” was recorded by the band on May 10, 1965 (Larry Williams’ birthday), and was originally intended for a solely American release; however, “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy” featured on the British Help! album that year. “Bad Boy” was first released on Beatles VI in June 1965. It eventually got a UK release on A Collection of Beatles Oldies in December 1966.[6] It is also available on the 1988 release, Past Masters, Volume One.

John Lennon – vocal, rhythm guitar, organ
Paul McCartney – bass, electric piano
George Harrison – double-tracked lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine

You Can’t Do That (as made famous by The Beatles)

“You Can’t Do That” is a song written by John Lennon[3][4][5] (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and released by the Beatles as the B-side of their sixth British single “Can’t Buy Me Love”.[6]

One of Lennon’s semi-autobiographical songs,[5] “You Can’t Do That,” “contradicted the genial tone with its tense threats, sexual paranoia and nagging, dragging groove,” according to Robert Sandall.[7] The song’s jealousy theme was re-visited in other Lennon compositions, such as “Run for Your Life” and “Jealous Guy”. Influenced by the then relatively unknown Wilson Pickett,[3] the song is rooted in the twelve-bar blues form, with Lennon introducing a discordant Sharp 9th (F) on the D7th chord, pointedly emphasising “…I told you before…” and then pushing this note for the exasperated “Oh!” before resolving to the song’s key of G.[8] Lennon also played the guitar solo, which he conceived.[3] The song reflected Lennon’s love for hard-edged American R&B—”a cowbell going four in the bar and the chord going chatoong!” as he put it.[9]

George Harrison wrote the intro and outro guitar riff in the studio according to Tom Petty in Rolling Stone. When asked by Petty how he came up with it, Harrison recalled “I was just standing there [in the studio] and thought, ‘I’ve got to do something!'”.[10]

With filming due to begin on A Hard Day’s Night, film director Richard Lester needed the Beatles to provide him with original material ahead of production and “You Can’t Do That” was selected to be part of the Scala Theatre “live performance” scene in the film, but was dropped from the final cut along with “I’ll Cry Instead” and “I Call Your Name.” The recording took nine takes to complete, and was considered for the A-side of their next single until McCartney wrote “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

“You Can’t Do That” was recorded on Tuesday, 25 February 1964, in Abbey Road Studios in London.[11] An early take with a guide vocal is included on Anthology 1.[12] It was the first song completed in the week before the Beatles began filming A Hard Day’s Night, though “I Should Have Known Better” and “And I Love Her” were also started on the same day.

While in New York for The Ed Sullivan Show, guitarist George Harrison was presented with a Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe electric 12-string guitar worth (in 1964) $900.[4][13] Only the second one produced, it was heard for the first time on “You Can’t Do That” and gave the song its distinctive chiming sound.[4]

The song was first released as the B-side of the “Can’t Buy Me Love” single on 16 March 1964 in the United States by Capitol Records and on 20 March 1964 in the United Kingdom by Parlophone. It was the Beatles seventh US single and sixth UK single.[6] It was later included in the A Hard Day’s Night album in the UK, and The Beatles’ Second Album in the US.[6]

The Beatles were filmed miming to “You Can’t Do That” as part of the final concert sequence in the A Hard Day’s Night film. The filming took place on 31 March 1964 at the Scala Theatre, London, but was not used. It was, however, broadcast on The Ed Sullivan Show on 24 May.[14] The performance is included in the documentary The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night”.

The Beatles recorded “You Can’t Do That” four times for BBC radio in 1964. It also became a part of the group’s live repertoire that year, and was the second song in their set—after “Twist And Shout”—during their Australian and North American tours.[14]

According to Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Recording Sessions book, George Martin overdubbed a piano track to Take 9 on 22 May 1964 ostensibly for the album version of this song, but it was never used.

John Lennon – lead vocal, lead guitar (solo), rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass, cowbell
George Harrison – backing vocal, 12 string lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, bongos

Helter Skelter (as made famous by The Beatles)

“Helter Skelter” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released in 1968 on their self-titled double album, often known as “the White Album”. It was written by Paul McCartney[4][5] and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song was a product of McCartney’s attempt to create a sound as loud and dirty as possible. The Beatles’ recording has been noted for its “proto-metal roar” and is considered by music historians to be a key influence in the early development of heavy metal.[6] Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Helter Skelter” 52nd on its list of the “100 Greatest Beatles songs”.[7]

McCartney was inspired to write the song after reading a 1967 Guitar Player magazine interview with the Who’s Pete Townshend where he described their latest single, “I Can See for Miles”, as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song the Who had ever recorded. McCartney then “wrote ‘Helter Skelter’ to be the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera” and said he was “using the symbol of a helter skelter as a ride from the top to the bottom; the rise and fall of the Roman Empire – and this was the fall, the demise.”[4] In British English, a helter skelter is an amusement park attraction which features a tall spiral slide winding round a tower.[8] McCartney has cited this song as a response to critics who accuse him of writing only ballads.[9]

On 20 November 1968, two days before the release of The Beatles, McCartney gave Radio Luxembourg an exclusive interview, in which he commented on several of the album’s songs. Speaking of “Helter Skelter”, he said: “Umm, that came about just ’cause I’d read a review of a record which said, ‘and this group really got us wild, there’s echo on everything, they’re screaming their heads off.’ And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’d be great to do one. Pity they’ve done it. Must be great – really screaming record.’ And then I heard their record and it was quite straight, and it was very sort of sophisticated. It wasn’t rough and screaming and tape echo at all. So I thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll do one like that, then.’ And I had this song called ‘Helter Skelter,’ which is just a ridiculous song. So we did it like that, ‘cuz I like noise.”[10]

The song was recorded many times during sessions for The Beatles. During the 18 July 1968 sessions, the Beatles recorded a version of the song lasting 27 minutes and 11 seconds,[11] although this version is rather slow and hypnotic, differing greatly from the volume and rawness of the album version.[12] Another recording from the same day, originally 12 minutes long, was edited down to 4:37 for Anthology 3. On 9 September, 18 takes of approximately five minutes each were recorded, and the last one is featured on the original LP.[11] After the 18th take, Ringo Starr flung his drum sticks across the studio[13] and screamed, “I got blisters on my fingers!”[4][11] Starr’s shout was included on the stereo mix of the song. At around 3:40, the song completely fades out, gradually fades back in, fades back out partially and finally fades back in quickly with three cymbal crashes and Ringo’s scream (some sources erroneously credit the “blisters” line to Lennon; in fact, Lennon can be heard asking “How’s that?” before Ringo’s outburst).[14] The mono version (originally on LP only) ends on the first fadeout without Starr’s outburst. The mono version was not initially available in the US as mono albums had already been phased out there. The mono version was later released in the American version of the Rarities album. In 2009, it was made available on the CD mono re-issue of The Beatles as part of the Beatles in Mono CD box set.

According to Chris Thomas, who was present,[11] the 9 September session was especially spirited: “While Paul was doing his vocal, George Harrison had set fire to an ashtray and was running around the studio with it above his head, doing an Arthur Brown.”[11] Starr’s recollection is less detailed, but agrees in spirit: “‘Helter Skelter’ was a track we did in total madness and hysterics in the studio. Sometimes you just had to shake out the jams.”[9]

Among music critics commenting on “Helter Skelter”, Richie Unterberger of AllMusic views it as “one of [the] fiercest and most brutal rockers done by anyone” and “extraordinary”.[15] Writing for MusicHound in 1999, Guitar World editor Christopher Scapelliti identified the track as one of three “fascinating standouts” on the White Album.[16] While admiring the diversity of McCartney’s songwriting on the album, Mark Richardson of Pitchfork cites “Helter Skelter” as one of “the roughest, rawest tunes in his Beatles oeuvre”.[17]

Ian MacDonald was highly critical of the song, however, calling it “ridiculous, McCartney shrieking weedily against a massively tape-echoed backdrop of out-of-tune thrashing”.[18] Rob Sheffield was also unimpressed, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) that, following the double album’s release on CD, “now you can program ‘Sexy Sadie’ and ‘Long, Long, Long’ without having to lift the needle to skip over ‘Helter Skelter.'”[19] Alan W. Pollack said the song will “scare and unsettle” listeners, citing “Helter Skelter”‘s “obsessive nature” and “undercurrent of violence”, and noted McCartney’s “savage vocal delivery” as reinforcing this theme.[20]

In a 1980 interview, Lennon said, “That’s Paul completely … It has nothing to do with anything, and least of all to do with me.”[5]

In March 2005, Q magazine ranked “Helter Skelter” number 5 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.

Charles Manson told his followers that several White Album songs including “Helter Skelter” were a part of the Beatles’ coded prophecy of an apocalyptic war in which racist and non-racist whites would be manoeuvred into virtually exterminating each other over the treatment of blacks.[21][22][23] Upon the war’s conclusion, after black militants would kill off the few whites they would know to have survived, Manson and his companions would emerge from an underground city in which they would have escaped the conflict. As the only remaining whites, they would rule blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running America. Manson employed “helter skelter” as the term for this sequence of events.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who led the prosecution of Manson and four of his followers who acted on Manson’s instruction in the Tate-LaBianca murders, named his best-selling book about the murders Helter Skelter.[21] The book was the basis for two television movies of the same title.

Paul McCartney – lead vocal, electric guitar, piano
John Lennon – backing vocal, six-string bass, electric guitar, sound effects (through brass instruments)
George Harrison – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, electric slide guitar, sound effects
Ringo Starr – drums, vocal shout
Mal Evans – trumpet