“You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” is a song written by Smokey Robinson which became a 1962 Top 10 hit single for The Miracles on Motown’s Tamla label. One of the Miracles’ most covered tunes, this million-selling song received a 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It has also been selected as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was covered by English rock group the Beatles on their second album, With the Beatles and many other musicians.
“You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” was written by Smokey Robinson while in New York in 1962 on business for Motown; he heard Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”, which was in the charts at the time, and — influenced by it — wrote the song in his hotel room.
The song was recorded in Motown’s Studio A on October 16, 1962 with Robinson on lead vocals, and Miracles’ second tenor Bobby Rogers on harmony co-lead. Robinson was the producer, and he had Eddie Willis and Miracle Marv Tarplin share the guitar parts.
The Miracles can be seen performing the song live on stage at the Apollo Theatre in New York (1963) on the Motown/Universal DVD release: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: The Definitive Performances 1963-1987. This filmed performance, according to the DVD’s liner notes, is the only known recorded live footage of the group with original Miracles member Claudette (Mrs. Smokey) Robinson. They also performed it live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium the following year (1964) for the American International Pictures concert film, T.A.M.I. Show. It was also chosen for the soundtrack of the award-winning 1964 Ivan Dixon film, Nothing But a Man, and many others (see below). Smokey Robinson himself also performed a rewritten version of it on Sesame Street alongside a grabby, feminine-looking Muppet letter “U”, who wouldn’t stop trying to grab Smokey, with such lyrics as “U stands for uptight/That’s how I’m feelin’/Bein’ grabbed by a letter is/Unappealin'”. The Miracles performed the song on a 1964 telecast of the ABC television series Shindig!, and in 1983, the group also performed it, 21 years after they originally recorded it, on the Emmy-winning NBC Television special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.
“You Really Got a Hold on Me” [sic] was the first track recorded for the Beatles’ second United Kingdom LP, With the Beatles, and features John Lennon and George Harrison on lead vocals with Paul McCartney on harmony vocals. The Beatles acquired an imported copy by the Miracles and included it in their repertoire early in 1963. In a 1968 interview, Smokey Robinson reported that he liked their cover.
The Beatles recorded the song on July 18, 1963. This session took place while Please Please Me was still at number one in the album charts four months after its release, and in the midst of a rigorous touring schedule that also had to include BBC sessions for radio and television. It was completed in seven takes, four of which were complete. The group then recorded four edit pieces. The final version was an edit of takes 7, 10 and 11.
The Beatles also recorded “You Really Got a Hold on Me” on four occasions for BBC radio in 1963. One of these, from July 30, 1963 was included on the Live at the BBC collection. A live version recorded in Stockholm, Sweden in October 1963 was released in 1995 on Anthology 1. The song was performed once again in 1969, during the Let It Be recording sessions, and featured in the 1970 documentary film, Let It Be.
John Lennon – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
George Harrison – lead guitar, lead vocals
Paul McCartney — bass guitar, harmony vocals
Ringo Starr – drums
George Martin – piano