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Summer ’63: The Beatles Build A Catapult

ps i love you

Sixty years ago, on July 1, 1963, The Beatles entered Abbey Road (EMI) Studios with a new song tucked under their arms. Criss-crossing the country had consumed their young lives that summer; after playing a June 26th show at Majestic Ballroom in Newcastle while leaving the venue via the band’s dimly lit van, Paul started a tune that mirrored a recent Bobby Rydell song. It was the root of the early Beatles mega-hit, “She Loves You,”  the track that would catapult the band to national prominence in the UK and beyond.

That Rydell tune had a musical “answering” structure that went: (girls singing)- “Go, Bobby, go, everything’s cool” and the singer answered back, “We all go to a swingin’ school.” The way Paul initially saw it, he’d sing, “She Loves You” and John and George would answer, “Yeah…yeah…yeah.”  John immediately nixed the answering structure, called it a “crummy idea,” but could hear the overall merits of the tune.

He and the others knew this next single was an important one (their 4th, coming off their last single, “From Me To You,” a number-one hit back in April). This motivated John and Paul to clean up all the song’s questionable elements the next day at Paul’s father’s house (more on this below), just in time to show producer George Martin that they had a blockbuster within their grasp.

On that July 1 day, while sitting on his usual high stool at the studio, Martin got to hear what he determined was “brilliant, one the most vital (songs) they had written so far. ” Quicky, suggesting they open the tune with the chorus, Martin saw it as the perfect combination of complex chords (the song is played in G, but the refrain begins in E minor) that metastasized into a jolt of excitement, jumping into the lap of the listener.

Holding the somewhat patronizing view that all that 1963 teens wanted were big beats to dance to, Martin knew he would feature “a really loud rhythm sound” in the final mix of the track. Indeed, up to that point, the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar found in Beatles tunes were typically placed in the mixed sound alongside all the other dimensions of the band. “She Loves You” brings them to the fore, as witnessed by the booming thuds of Ringo’s floor tom-tom over each chorus. “She Loves You” would also be the first time we hear the dominant swish of Ringo’s half-open high-hat cymbals washing over the entire track. So successful and unique was his technique, it has been said that Ringo didn’t close his high hat for another two years! (His technique finally “closes” on Rubber Soul in December).

The “other” George (Harrison) plays a big part in the “She Loves You” story.  Beyond his one-of-a-kind guitar licks that are a stand-out feature of the song (their most guitar-oriented single to that date) and with John and Paul singing the verses in unison to increase the tension of the song, Harrison heard something in the chorus refrain. He suggested a 3-part harmony, akin to what the Andrew Sisters used to do in the 40s. Paul told the Anthology interviewers, “We took it to George Martin and sang ‘She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah’ with that tight little 6th-cluster (harmony) we had at the end. The 6th chord idea was George Harrison’s.” George Martin said, ‘It’s very corny, that end, like the old days.’ But we said, ‘It’s such a great sound it doesn’t matter, we’re got to have it! It’s the greatest harmony sound ever!”

The lyrics of the tune’s chorus were also a bone of contention, breaking down upon generational views. Once glancing at the scribbled lyrics on a music stand,  middle-aged engineer Norman Smith told Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah, she loves you yeah, yeah yeah.’  I thought, Oh my God, what a lyric! This is going to be one that I DO NOT like!” Paul’s own father had the same kind of reaction that day his son and John finished the song off at their Forthlin Road home in Liverpool.

Paul reminisced, “My father said when he heard the song, “Son, there’s enough Americanisms around. Couldn’t you sing “Yes, yes, yes” just once?” I said, ‘You don’t understand Dad, it wouldn’t work.’  John defended the use of “yeah” as not really a mimic of the Americans. “Ever heard anyone from Liverpool singing ‘Yes’? It’s YEAH!  That was the main catchphrase.” Catchphrase indeed, as the Beatles would soon be known not only for their music but their haircuts and the youth movement in post-WWII England.  The three “yeahs” would be hackneyed headline fodder for the press once the single was released on August 23, 1963.

“She Loves You” would be the band’s first million-seller in Britain. It achieved the rare distinction of being the number one tune on separate spells. First, enjoying 4 weeks at number one through September 1963. Shortly after their appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium on October 13, with its TV viewing audience of 15 million — and near riots outside the theater, “She Loves You” would return to number one for two more weeks.  The term “Beatlemania” would be borne by the Fleet Street press officers, and the band would be catapulted to household name status.

“She Loves You” would hold the all-time top single sales record in Britain for the next 15 years, only to be overtaken by a little song called “Mull of Kintyre”, Paul’s (with Wings) 1978 hit. Elton John would eventually break that record with “Goodbye English Rose” (his reworded “Candle In the Wind”) in 1997, in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. Over 60 other artists have recorded “She Loves You” for their own career ambitions.

To get an idea of how big the song was to the British culture,  watch the April 1964 video of the crowd at the Liverpool VS Arsenal football match singing, in unison, the biggest musical hit for their country in over a century.

“She Loves You” captured the pop sentiments of “From Me To You” (the band’s last #1 single in April of 1963) while returning to the turbo-powered energy of “Please Please Me” (their other number-one single from February 1963). With a formula found in this tune’s explosive chord progression, “She Loves You” will always serve as the quintessential blueprint for the Beatle’s early years sound.

-Steven Valvano

Photo: Getty Images

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22 comments on “Summer ’63: The Beatles Build A Catapult

  1. Richard Short

    Great article Steve, and I’m not just saying that because “She Loves You” is/was/still is/has always been my favorite Beatles song. Well, maybe I am saying it because of that 😊. But thanks for reminding me all the same. Keep up the good work!

  2. Gary Hallock

    Love the way you put the pieces of Beatles history together and provide insight into their creative process. Another great read.

  3. Seth Roehl

    Great read, but I think you may have mixed up the dates though. You mentioned they entered the studio on July 1st. 1964 to record the song, but later reference it being released on August 23rd. 1963.

    • Renee Carson

      I agree. I think it’s a mistake/misprint. The title should begin ‘Summer ’63…’ which would reflect 60 years. As well as the first line of the article ‘Sixty years ago, on July 1st 1964’ should also read 1963. Unless I’m missing something. Other than that, wonderful article, as always.

    • Steven Valvano

      Thanks Seth, we caught it and now corrected-SV

  4. Roy P Dwyer, Jr

    Steve, I always learn so much reading your articles. The history of the Beatles intrigues me. Great job again!👏

  5. Robert Moore

    Steve Valvano continues to demonstrate his encyclopedic knowledge of not only the Beatles as a band, but the culture of the times they evolved within and the tremendous effect they had on the same. I look forward to his next effort.

  6. Another story I’ve heard that contributed to the high energy delivery from the boys is that while they were recording the song a gang of girl fans broke into the studio building and ran screaming down the corridors, in search of their favourite Beatle, chased by sound technicians.

    • Steven Valvano

      this is true…reports said they disbursed all over the facility in all directions like cockroaches!
      Not and easy task, Abbey Road has two floors and three studios!-SV

  7. Rob Weaver

    Interesting article! I love learning new things about a band that’s seemingly had everything written about them.
    The anecdotes of Paul’s father put a more humble, human look of these powerhouse song writers still in their infancy.
    And to think that within the next 3, 4 years their masterpieces would come forth from Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s…
    Again, thank you!

    • Steven Valvano

      Not sure if you ever had a chance to take the tour Paul’s childhood home in Liverpool, but when you are in the front room, and realized “She Loves You” was born in the room next room (the dining room), you can see Paul and John coming through the door to where his father sat….. and singing the song in front of the fireplace for his opinion …. the whole scene its so quaint and so working class…
      You get a real sense that they were kids, being so normal with their passions…
      But where the song would take them would have been impossible for anyone to see on that day. -SV

  8. Good stuff. The double-edged, inescapable nature of something so iconically linked is best illustrated by the Flintstones homage/sarcasm. It supports the generational disconnect with the “adults” singing yeah, yeah, yeah in a flat monotone. It’s a hoot.

    • Steven Valvano

      Yes, I remember that cartoon well…they called it “Bug Music”….while screaming: “OH NO!!!” ….just goes to prove how big the whole Beatles wave was, it effected the Saturday morning cartoon world… soon would be the Impossibles, The Banana Splits, Josey & the and eventually the Monkees. -SV

  9. Marc Latta

    Turbo-powered essay. Brilliant parallel drawn with the Rydell tune which I’d never heard before. Fascinating mention of the “complex chords” G and E minor.
    Fab!

  10. Mark Zutkoff

    Ironically, in the song “The Night Before”, for the movie “Help!”, Paul adds a somewhat sardonic “Yes!” just before the guitar solo. I’ve occasionally wondered if that was a nod to Paul’s father and his reaction to the chorus of “She Loves You”.

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