Thursday, March 17, 2011

1963, March 5: Back-Story

[The-Beatles-City-Hall-Sheffie-385821.jpg]

(above) poster for Helen Shapiro tour, March 2, 1963

"FROM ME TO YOU"

Due to their increasing popularity, the Beatles had been asked to be part of a British national tour beginning February 2, 1963. For this stint, they began at the bottom of a six-act bill featuring 16-year-old superstar Helen Shapiro (voted Best British Female Singer, 1961 and 1962) as the headliner, with The Kestrels and Kenny Lynch also in tow. During this tour, the “Please Please Me” single moved up the UK charts until, during the week of March 2, The Beatles had their first #1 (disputed among sources). At the same time (the exact day being either February 27 or February 28), while traveling by tour bus between shows, John and Paul wrote “From Me to You.”

This song was “very much co-written”1 (149), “both of us, very much together”2. John said, “I think the first line was mine. I mean I know it was mine (hums melody of first line). And then, after that, we took it from there”3 (168).

The inspiration for this song derived from the New Musical Express letters column. In 1963, John said, “As I explained recently, Paul McCartney and I wrote the number on a coach journey between York and Shrewsbury. We were on the Helen Shapiro tour at the time. What puzzled us was why we'd thought of a name like ‘From Me To You.’ In fact, it had me thinking until only recently, when I picked up the NME to see how we were doing in the charts. Then I realized - we'd got the inspiration from reading a copy on the coach! Paul and I had been talking about one of the letters in the ‘From You To Us’* column”2. Though this is indisputable, Paul muddied the waters somewhat when he recalled, “At the back of the bus, Roy Orbison would be writing something like ‘Pretty Woman,’ so our competitiveness would come out, which was good. He would play us his song, and we'd say, ‘Oh, it's great, Roy. Have you just written that?’ But we'd be thinking, ‘We have to have something as good.’ The next move was obvious - write one ourselves. And we did. It was ‘From Me To You’”2. Paul’s memory here is absolutely horrible; the Orbison tour began May 18, 1963, well after “From Me to You” was written, recorded and released!

* In some sources, the name of the letters column is incorrectly identified as “From Us to You.”

John relayed, “Anyway, there were we, not taking ourselves seriously. Just fooling about on the guitar. This went on for a while. Then we began to get a good melody line and we really started to work at it. Before that journey was over, we'd completed the lyric, everything. We were so pleased, we knew we just had to make it the A-side”4*. Contrarily, some sources (MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, for example) assert that John and Paul were not “fooling about” but wrote this song under pressure from George Martin and/or Brian Epstein, either or both anxious that the Beatles should follow up “Please Please Me” with another hit. While no doubt their manager and their producer had such feelings, and likely these feelings were conveyed, there is in this case no indication of such urgency (though it would seem natural enough that the ever-ambitious songwriters would push each other to achieve their dreams).

* Another source, The Beatles Off The Record (Badman, 2001), for some reason, splices together two different quotes. The Beatles Anthology paraphrases.

Paul noted, “We wrote ‘From Me to You’ on the bus”5. But John said, “We were writing it in a car, I think”3 (168). It may be that by “car” John meant any vehicle at all, from a train to a bus. Schaffner wrote that this song was “knocked off in the back of the van on the way to work”6. However, unless by “van on the way to work” he meant “tour bus on the way to the next gig,” Schaffner was incorrect.

“From Me to You” had two intentions. The first was personalization. John said, “The words weren’t really all that difficult – especially as we had decided quite definitely not do anything that was at all complicated. I suppose that is why we often had the words ‘you’ and ‘me’ in the titles of our songs. It's the sort of thing that helps the listeners to identify with the lyrics”7. Paul added, “A lot of our songs – ‘From Me to You’ is another – were directly addressed to our fans... We were in a rut, obviously!”5, and “There was a little trick we developed early on and got bored with later, which was to put ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ or ‘You’ in it so it was very direct and personal. ‘Love Me Do’... ‘Please Please Me’... ‘From Me To You’ (we got two of them in there)”1 (148). Alan W. Pollack, Beatles musicologist, gave Paul’s casual remark a more serious and logical angle: “I think it would be unfair to under-rate it as a mere exploitational pandering... In ‘From Me To You,’ a particular immediacy is achieved by the use of direct address. How else could this group of four fabulous gentlemen manage, in the midst of a crowded concert hall or across the incorporeal airwaves, to establish such a direct connection to their audience?” John likewise noted, “We think this is very important. The fans like to feel that they are part of something that is being done by the performers”7.

The second intention was purely business. John coldly asserted, “We were just writing the next single after ‘She Loves You’”3 (168).

Concerning the music, both songwriters believed this song flexible. Paul mused, “‘From Me to You’ - it could be done as an old ragtime tune, especially the middle eight”8. John said, “It was far bluesier than that when we wrote it. The notes - today you could rearrange it pretty funky”3 (168). Paul especially liked the “creamy center” of this song. In 1988, he said, “It was great. That middle eight was a great departure for us. Say you're in C, then go to A minor - fairly ordinary - C, change it to G, and then F - pretty ordinary. But then it goes, ‘I got arms,’ and that's a G Minor. Going to G Minor and a C takes you to a whole new world. It was exciting”5. To this, he added, “I remember being very pleased with the middle eight because there was a strange chord in it, and it went into a minor... We thought that was a very big step”2, and “The thing I liked about ‘From Me To You’ was it had a very complete middle. It went to a surprising place. The opening chord of the middle section of that song heralded a new batch for me. That was a pivotal song - our songwriting lifted a little with that song”1(149).

As the boys were writing, “Kenny Lynch, who, at this time, fancied himself as a songwriter, sauntered up to the back of the coach and decided he would help John and Paul write a song. After a period of about half an hour had elapsed and nothing seemed to be coming from the back, Kenny rushed to the front of the coach and shouted, ‘Well, that's it. I am not going to write any more of that bloody rubbish with those idiots. They don't know the music from their backsides. That's it! No more help from me!’ The song that John and Paul were writing at this time was a track called ‘From Me To You’”9. It has been reported that Lynch stormed off because he heard them incorporate “ooh!” into the song, to which he declared, “You can't do that. You'll sound like a bunch of fucking fairies!”10. Lynch himself recounted, “I remember John and Paul saying they were thinking of running up to the microphone together and shaking their heads and singing, ‘whoooooooo.’ It later became a very important, terrifically-popular part of their act when they sang ‘She Loves You.’ But, at the time they were planning it, even before the song was written, I remember everybody on the coach fell about laughing. I said, ‘You can't do that. They'll think you're a bunch of poofs.’ I remember John saying to me he thought it sounded great and they were having it in their act”11. John later admitted that “the ‘woo woo’ was taken from the Isley Brothers' ‘Twist and Shout,’ which we stuck into everything – ‘From Me to You,’ ‘She Loves You’ - they all had that ‘woo woo’”3 (169).

1 Miles, Many Years From Now, p.148-149

2 The Beatles Anthology, p.94

3 Sheff, All We Are Saying, p.168­­­­-169

4 Tremlett, The Paul McCartney Story, p.98

5 Lewisohn, Recording Sessions, p.10

6 Schaffner, The Beatles Forever, p.21

7 interview, attributed 1963 (not verified)

8 interview with David Frost, May 18, 1964

9 Badman, The Beatles Off the Record (2001), quoting Roger Greenaway of the

Kestrels

10 Turner, A Hard Day’s Write

11 Coleman, John Winston Lennon, p.193

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"THANK YOU GIRL"

Since we know that “From Me to You” was conceived around the idea of a music publication’s letters column, it’s not far-fetched to believe that “Thank You Girl” was like-minded. In fact, Paul said, “We knew that if we wrote a song called, ‘Thank You Girl’ that a lot of the girls who wrote us fan letters would take it as a genuine ‘thank you.’ So a lot of our songs – ‘From Me to You’ is one of them - were directly addressed to the fans”1. It is therefore easy to conclude that “Thank You Girl” was composed on the Shapiro bus, perhaps on the same day as “From Me to You.”

Paul accounted, “This was pretty much co-written, but there might have been a slight leaning towards me with the ‘thank you, girl’ thing. It sounds like me, trying to appease the mob”2. John basically agreed, “Paul and me”3.

We know the inspiration, and intention, but what did they think of the product? John said, “This was just a silly song we knocked off”3 and “One of our efforts at writing a single that didn't work. So it became a B-side or an album track”4. Paul concurred, “These early songs were wonderful to learn by and were good album fillers... A bit of a hack song, but all good practice”2.

1 Lewisohn, Recording Sessions, p.10

2 Miles, Many Years From Now, p.149

3 article in Hit Parader, Apr 1972, originally in The Record Mirror, Oct 1971

4 Sheff, All We Are Saying, p.169

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GENERAL REFS: Winn, Way Beyond Compare; Lewisohn, Chronicles; Castleman & Podrazik, All Together Now; Lewisohn, The Beatles Live!

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Tom Wise
gengar843@msn.com

Although I use quotes from sources, or cited fact, much of the material on this and other pages of my blog is original, from my own pen. This is not cut-and-paste, it is a work of art. Copyright © 2010 Tom Wise.

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