All The Songs

The Story Behind Every Beatles Release


By Jean-Michel Guesdon

By Philippe Margotin

Edited by Scott Freiman

Preface by Patti Smith

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In this lively and fully-illustrated work, two music historians break down every album and every song ever released by the Beatles, from "Please Please Me" (U.S. 1963) to "The Long and Winding Road" (U.S. 1970).

All the Songs delves deep into the history and origins of the Beatles and their music. This first-of-its-kind book draws upon decades of research, as music historians Margotin and Guesdon recount the circumstances that led to the composition of every song, the recording process, and the instruments used.

Here, we learn that one of John Lennon's favorite guitars was a 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri, which he bought for £100 in 1960 in Hamburg, Germany. We also learn that "Love Me Do," recorded in Abbey Road Studios in September 1962, took 18 takes to get right, even though it was one of the first songs John and Paul ever wrote together. The authors also reveal that when the Beatles performed "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, John's microphone wasn't turned on, so viewers only heard Paul singing.

There are hundreds of photographs throughout the book, including rare black-and-white publicity stills, images of the Beatles' instruments, and engaging shots of the musicians at work in the recording studio.

All the Songs is the must-have book for the any true Beatles fan.






Please Please Me

From Me To You / Thank You Girl

She Loves You / I’ll Get You

I Want to Hold Your Hand / This Boy

With the Beatles

A Hard Day’s Night

Beatles for Sale

I Feel Fine / She’s a Woman

Long Tall Sally / I Call Your Name / Slow Down / Matchbox


Yes It Is

I’m Down

Rubber Soul

Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out


Paperback Writer / Rain

Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

All You Need Is Love / Baby You’re A Rich Man

Magical Mystery Tour

Hello, Goodbye

Lady Madonna / The Inner Light

The Beatles

Hey Jude / Revolution

Yellow Submarine

The Ballad of John and Yoko / Old Brown Shoe

Abbey Road

Don’t Let Me Down

Let It Be

You Know My Name







On the eve of June 1, 1967, my friend Janet Hamill and I were camped in the family laundry room with a transistor radio, feverishly awaiting midnight. At that moment the Beatles new album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was to be premiered across America over local FM radio stations. It was a unifying moment for our generation, and joining the collective mind, we listened transfixed. The moods swung madly from cut to cut—Ringo’s inclusive “With A Little Help from My Friends,” Paul’s look into the future with “When I’m 64,” George’s trance-like “Within You Without You,” the calliope of John’s “Mr. Kite.” By the time “A Day In The Life” unfolded and the final chord stretched out into forever, we were ecstatic. For two aspiring young poets, that midnight journey offered possibilities that spun off in all directions.

I had come late to the Beatles. In the great divide of the new groups from England, I preferred the darker, more visceral Animals and Rolling Stones. But as the Beatles grew musically and conceptually, I was drawn in. By Rubber Soul I felt myself along for their ride, and with Revolver I was sold, acknowledging their influence and their enduring effect on our cultural voice.

I joined the legions seduced by the words of their world—all four worlds, that is. The mystic paths lit by the lantern of George. The human and melancholic joy of Ringo. The cinematic visions of Paul. John’s heightened, Joycean wordplay. They were so different from one another, like the four points on a compass, and yet contributed so much as a band. They combined the spiritual and the romantic, the absurd and political, and as they evolved, we evolved with them.

They aspired to literacy, which makes this book all the more revelatory. Even their earliest work, “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” has the simplicity of a Hank Williams song, poetry reduced to its essential phrase. By the time they reach the emotionally surreal landscape of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which heralded the coming of Sgt. Pepper in that sacred spring, their abstract imagery had become dreamlike, hallucinatory. Somehow it all made sense.

Their songs got into your head, heard from passing cars, storefronts and jukeboxes. We sang along wholeheartedly. We sang lyrics knowing and yet not knowing their multi-leveled meanings. These songs offered a sometimes-undecipherable and poetic language made familiar with melodies and harmonies that fit hand-in-glove. We did not need to break them down. We felt them. They embraced the small in the humble and exquisite “Blackbird” and expanded humankind with the universal phrase “All you need is love.” In between lies an arc only few are gifted-to embody the generational shift from adolescence into maturity. To grow and serve within one’s words, one’s music, one’s art.

Patti Smith

Please Please Me:
The Beginning of the Legend



I Saw Her Standing There


Anna (Go to Him)



Ask Me Why

Please Please Me

Love Me Do

P.S. I Love You

Baby It’s You

Do You Want to Know a Secret

A Taste of Honey

There’s a Place

Twist and Shout


Great Britain: March 22, 1963 / No. 1 for 30 weeks

The First Two Singles

Very soon after the Beatles signed their first contract, it became critical for George Martin to produce a record. The Beatles’ recording career began with two singles, songs that later appeared on their first album. On Tuesday, September 4, 1962, the four musicians once again entered the Abbey Road Studios for their first real recording session. Pete Best was no longer part of the group, having been replaced in August by Ringo. On the agenda, they were supposed to record “How Do You Do It?” by Mitch Murray, which George Martin believed would become a hit. The Beatles, who were reluctant to play this song, let him know they did not want to perform this kind of “schlock” but rather their own compositions. Martin’s answer was, “When you can write material as good as this, then I’ll record it, but, right now we’re going to record this.”1 They finally did it, but demanded they also rerecord “Love Me Do.” At the end of the day, George Martin did not seem satisfied with Ringo’s drumming. He decided to book another date to redo the song.

Seven days later, on September 11, the Beatles returned to the studio. Ringo was replaced by Andy White, a professional drummer hired by George Martin “to make sure it was right.” At the end of the session, the first single was complete—“Love Me Do” for the A side and “P.S. I Love You” for the B side. “How Do You Do It?” remained unreleased (it reappeared in 1995 on Anthology 1). The single came out in Great Britain on October 5, 1962, and by December, “Love Me Do” was in seventeenth place on the charts. On November 26, the Beatles recorded their second single, “Please Please Me,” with “Ask Me Why” on side B, which came out in Great Britain on January 11, 1963. The single reached number 2 on the popular Record Retailer chart, but number 1 on most other charts.

A Live Album

Given the success of the first two singles, Martin decided to follow with an album as soon as possible. At first, he thought of recording in the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles often performed, in order to capture their power onstage. But he realized that the technical conditions of the club were not good, so he tried to think of other ways of re-creating the sound of a live recording. Norman Smith came up with the solution. Smith was the group’s first sound engineer, whom John later nicknamed “Normal Smith,” and he worked alongside the Beatles from the first audition up to Rubber Soul in 1965. To re-create the live atmosphere that characterized the group in the studio, Smith did not try to isolate each of the instruments. Instead, he positioned the microphones away from the group’s instruments to capture the general ambience of the performance. This method, which simulated the sound of a live performance, was contrary to the typical recording methods of the day.

On February 11, 1963, between 10:00 A.M. and 10:45 P.M., the Beatles achieved the incredible feat of recording eleven songs in barely more than twelve hours. However, when they entered Studio Two of Abbey Road on that Monday morning, they were not in top shape. Fatigued by the many concerts they had been playing for months, they were all ill, especially John, who had a sore throat. Norman Smith remembered the “big glass jar of Zubes throat sweets on top of the piano, rather like the ones you see in a sweet shop. Paradoxically, by the side of that, was a big carton of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, which they smoked incessantly.”2 Around 10:45 P.M., the eleven songs were recorded.


When George Martin decided to sign the Beatles in July 1962, the contract drafted by EMI indicated the date of June 4, while their audition took place on June 6. According to Martin, this was a typo. Other sources said it was a clever way of keeping the test tracks on June 6 under contract.

A single song, “Hold Me Tight,” would not be finalized and would be found on their second album, With the Beatles. Five of the songs are original tunes composed by McCartney-Lennon. Their names were reversed on writing credits after their fourth single, “She Loves You” (with “I’ll Get You” on side B), which came out on August 23, 1963. The total cost of the album was around £400 (or roughly $600 US). For the entire day’s work on February 11, 1963, the Beatles each earned £14.10 ($21.25 US) as session musicians.

Please Please Me came out in Great Britain on March 22, 1963. As early as May 11, the album reached the top of the British charts. It stayed there for thirty weeks, which held the record for the entire sixties: it was bumped out of first place on December 7 by the group’s second album, With the Beatles. In the United States, Brian Epstein had only found Vee Jay (a rather second-rate label specializing in blues) to sign the Beatles, since Capital Records (EMI’s American affiliate) did not yet believe in their success. The album came out under the title Introducing … The Beatles on July 22, 1963 (but it was not marketed) and was rereleased first on January 6 and then on January 27, 1964, each time with different track listing than the British version.

The “Beatles Sound”

Norman Smith always disagreed with George Martin’s choice to use reverb or an echo chamber when recording the Beatles’ vocals or solo instrumentals. Contrary to Martin, Smith preferred a “dry” sound to maintain the genuine quality of the recordings. He also preferred to tone down the voices in order to highlight the rhythm section. They reached a compromise: fewer vocals for the first album and less rhythm section for the second. This was exactly what gave such a particular character to the Beatles sound, which was imitated by other groups. In a 1963 interview, John stated that they were all ready to record it a second time if it did not meet their expectations: “We are perfectionists but ultimately, we were more than happy with the results”—although in 1975, he qualified his opinion, believing that the record did not succeed in transmitting the excitement of their Hamburg and Liverpool performances. He admitted, “That record tried to capture us live, and was the nearest thing to what we might have sounded like in Hamburg and Liverpool. It’s the nearest you can get to knowing what we sounded like before we became the ‘clever’ Beatles.”3

The album was almost called Off the Beatles Track, an idea of George Martin’s. For the cover, he recruited Angus McBean, a photographer with whom he worked regularly, who took the photo in which the four Beatles posed in the stairway of the Manchester Square Building, the headquarters of EMI (since then demolished). McBean would re-create the pose for the abandoned “Get Back” project. The two photos would appear on the covers of the Red and Blue albums, respectively.


The album was recorded in one single day on February 11, 1963, which was divided into three sessions and breaks:

The Morning Session: 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

“There’s a Place” / “I Saw Her Standing There”

Break: 1:00 P.M. to 2:30 P.M.

The Afternoon Session: 2:30 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

“A Taste of Honey” / “Do You Want to Know a Secret” /

“A Taste of Honey” [overdubs] /

“There’s a Place” [overdubs] /

“I Saw Her Standing There” [overdubs] / “Misery”

Break: 6:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.

The Evening Session: 7:30 P.M. to 10:45 P.M.

“Hold Me Tight” / “Anna (Go to Him)” / “Boys” / “Chains” /

“Baby It’s You” / “Twist and Shout”

A Real Find for Collectors

The “Please Please Me” single, edited by Vee Jay, has an interesting typo: on the label, Beatles was spelled Beattles, with two ts.

The Instruments

John used a 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri, which remained one of his favorite guitars for the rest of his life. He bought this guitar for about £100 ($150 US) on a whim in Hamburg around the fall of 1960. In 1963, he had it repainted black: you can see it on the Ed Sullivan Show, as well as in the Hollywood Bowl concerts. He used it in the studio until 1965, and he used it during the recording sessions of his last solo album, Double Fantasy (this information was confirmed by producer Jack Douglas and Yoko Ono). Today it belongs to his second son, Sean.

Another guitar that John used as much as George was the Gibson J-160 E. It was an electric/ acoustic guitar that each of them ordered in 1962 from Rushworth in Liverpool, and that they used to record every album from that point on. Ordered from a catalogue, the guitars were shipped from the United States, but it is difficult to state that they arrived in time for the recording of “Love Me Do” on September 11.

Both George and Paul used the Vox AC-30 as an amplifier. In 1962, Brian Epstein had made a deal with Jennings Music Shop in London to purchase the same amplifiers as the Shadows. He had promised that his group, which he claimed would become bigger than Elvis, would never use another brand than Vox in concerts. Reg Clark, the manager of the store, believed him. Later on, he said of Brian, “He kept his word!”

Paul used a Hofner 500/1 bass, a violin bass that he bought in 1961, at Steinway’s in Hamburg, for £30 ($45 US). The advantage for Paul, who was left-handed, was to have a symmetrical instrument that would not look strange when held upside down. It seems that—there is controversy about this—he even ordered a tailor-made left-handed bass from Steinway. One thing is for sure: not being one of the richest men in Great Britain yet, he had to agree to buy it on credit in ten installments! His amplifier was a Leak TL 12 Plus, connected to the Tannoy Dual Concentric loudspeakers and cabinet. George used a Gretsch Duo Jet from 1957, a guitar he purchased in 1961 through an ad in the Liverpool Echo for the sum of £75 ($113 US). This guitar was soon replaced by a Gretsch Country Gentleman, which he used in Hamburg, at the Cavern Club, on tours in Europe and the United States (in 1964), and, from time to time, during the recordings. Ringo, finally, used Premier Mahogany Duroplastic drums that he bought in July 1962, just before joining the Beatles.

I Saw Her Standing There

McCartney-Lennon / 2:52




Paul: vocal, bass, hand claps

John: rhythm guitar, backing vocals, hand claps

George: lead guitar, hand claps

Ringo: drums, hand claps


Abbey Road: February 11, 1963 (Studio Two)



Abbey Road: February 25, 1963 (Studio One)


Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineer: Norman Smith

Assistant Engineers: Richard Langham, A. B. Lincoln


The candor and expressive energy that exude from “I Saw Her Standing There” made it the right choice to start the album. Paul was entrusted with the honor of singing the very first song of the group for its very first record.

As with practically all the songs of that period, Paul composed it on his first guitar, a Zenith Model 17. It seems he got the inspiration for it when returning from a concert in Southport, one day in July 1962, as he was thinking about seventeen-year-old Iris Caldwell, his girlfriend at that time. Iris was the sister of Rory Storm, the leader of the rival yet friendly group, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, which featured none other than Ringo Starr.

In 1988, Paul confided in Mark Lewisohn that he wrote the song with John in the living room at 20 Forthlin Road, in Liverpool, in September 1962, five months before it was recorded: “We sagged off school and wrote it on guitars and a little bit on the piano that I had there. I remember I had Just seventeen never been a beauty queen, John screamed with laughter, and said ‘You’re joking about that line, aren’t you?’ What? Must change that … We came up with: You know what I mean.”1 The song was finished that day. The bass line was inspired by “I’m Talking about You” by Chuck Berry (1961). Paul said, “I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. Therefore I maintain that a bass riff doesn’t have to be original.”2 John claimed that Paul had done a good job in producing a piece that George Martin characterized as being “nutritious.” He played this song with Elton John at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 28, 1974, where he presented it to the public as a song written by a “old estranged fiancée of mine called Paul!”


When the Vee Jay technicians received the master tape of Please Please Me to produce the American version of Introducing the Beatles, they thought Paul’s countdown was an error that had gone unnoticed and tried hard to correct it, by more or less deleting it. Since they did not manage to correctly cut out the “4,” they resigned themselves to leaving it in. So the song starts with “4!”


“I Saw Her Standing There” was the second song to be recorded on Monday, February 11, 1963, after “There’s a Place.” “Seventeen,” which was then its working title, required nine takes. Only the last take included the famous countdown, “1, 2, 3, 4!” called out by Paul. After the lunch break (to the surprise of the production team, the Beatles skipped the break to rehearse), Martin suggested adding hand claps to the first take, which was designated the best. The Beatles then added hand claps to take 1 (a process called overdub). After several attempts, they reached take 12. On February 25, Martin and his team proceeded to edit the song and picked up the countdown of the ninth take to paste it at the beginning of the twelfth take. After this, there was the mix, in the absence of the Beatles, who were on the road doing a concert in Leigh in Lancashire. Two versions—one mono and one stereo—were produced. In those days, the mix meant only putting the track of the playback at the level of the voices. Unlike current techniques, it was a rather simple and quick operation.

Technical Details

In 1963, recordings were only done on two-track BTR3 tape recorders called Twin Track: one track for playback and another for voice or solo instrument. It was the prehistoric times of multitrack recordings. The Beatles recorded on this type of machine from their first audition on June 6, 1962, up to the end of 1963, when EMI started using four-track tape recorders. The overdubs were fairly complicated to produce. Therefore, to record the hand claps of “I Saw Her Standing There,” the technique consisted of injecting, through the mix console, the two tracks recorded that morning on the first Twin Track (take 9) into a second Twin Track, that recorded the hand claps in real time.


McCartney-Lennon / 1:47


John and Paul


John: vocals, guitar

Paul: backing vocals, bass

George: lead guitar

Ringo: drums

George Martin: piano


Abbey Road: February 11, 1963 (Studio Two) / February 20, 1963 (Studio One)



Abbey Road: February 25, 1963 (Studio One)


Producer: George Martin

Sound Engineers: Norman Smith, Stuart Eltham

Assistant Engineers: Richard Langham, A. B. Lincoln, Geoff Emerick


On January 26, as they were giving a concert at King’s Hall in Stroke-on-Trent, John and Paul found themselves backstage, where they wrote a song for Helen Shapiro, who was the star of the national tour in which they participated for the first time. Barely sixteen years old, she already had two number 1 hits on the charts in Great Britain (“You Don’t Know” and “Walkin’ Back to Happiness”). Therefore, having her perform this song would have been a coup for Lennon and McCartney. But Helen’s manager, Norrie Paramor, declined the offer without even notifying the young singer. Why? Probably because the lyrics were too pessimistic, according to Paul. “Misery” was completed a few days later, at Forthlin Road. “It was kind of a John song more than a Paul song, but it was written together,”2 John said in 1980. Finally, another singer from the tour, Kenny Lynch, ended up singing “Misery.” He ended up making a rather saccharine version of it. It was the first remake of a Beatles song, although it was not a success.

A Missed Opportunity

“I really hate myself… when I think I could have been the first artist to record a song of the Beatles, but I’m happy for good old Ken [Lynch] that he got the honor.” Helen Shapiro, from her 1993 autobiography1.


Toward the end of the afternoon, the Beatles tackled “Misery.” George Harrison had problems playing the little guitar riff that accompanied the line I’ll remember all the little things we’ve done. George Martin then decided to replace George with a piano solo, which he did on February 20. Martin had asked Norman Smith to record the song at twice the normal speed (30 ips [inches per second] rather than 15 ips) so that he could overdub his solo at the slower speed of 15 ips. The eleventh take was selected as the best. It was 6:00 P.M.

At this time, the Beatles were very much influenced by the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll—Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and the like. And to sound like them, they altered the pronunciation of certain words to sound more American. For example, the sentence Send her back to me turned into Shend her back to me. On February 20, Martin returned to the studio by himself. He was assisted by Stuart Eltham and Geoff Emerick, who was then sixteen years old and became one of the main sound engineers of the group. Martin sat at the piano and recorded the riff to replace George. Five days later, “Misery” was mixed with the rest of the album.

Technical Details

When George Martin asked Norman Smith to record “Misery” at twice its speed, it was for a very specific reason: he wanted to play his piano part slower, at half speed. When the piano overdub was played at the normal (30 ips) speed, it had a crystal sound that resembled a tack piano or a harpsichord. Martin used this method many times, including the solo in “In My Life” in 1965. He added reverb while playing the piano part, which meant that, at normal speed, it acquired a distinctive sound.

Anna (Go To Him)

Arthur Alexander / 2:54


John: vocal, acoustic guitar

Paul: backing vocals, bass

George: lead guitar, backing vocals


  • "Fun facts about every one of the Fab Four's creations, with photos. Yeah yeah yeah."—People
  • "Fifty years ago, the Beatles released their debut album. ... if you're a fan and All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release makes it onto your coffee table, chances are that it'll be the one least likely to leave. Music historians Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin dissect, discuss and analyze every song, from 'Please Please Me' (1963) to 'The Long and Winding Road' (1970). There's a well- written 'Genesis' and 'Production' section for each song, as well as enough technical tables to please everyone's inner nerd, not to mention 600 photographs.—Wall Street Journal
  • "Everybody has a Beatles fan in their life, and you'll make them very happy if you give them a copy of All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release."—Newsday
  • "A perfect giftt for the Fab-Four fanatic."—New York Post
  • "This is rock-solid stuff .... Yields all sorts of surprises, even for the initiated.... Essential for Beatles fans and a pleasure to read."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "Beautiful layout and plenty of photos throughout.... And if that isn't enough, Patti Smith wrote the book's preface."—A.V. Club, 'Our Favorite Books of the Year
  • "Impossible not to like for Beatle-types."—The Nation

On Sale
Oct 22, 2013
Page Count
672 pages

Jean-Michel Guesdon

About the Author

Jean-Michel Guesdon, a musician, composer, and sound engineer, who wrote with Philippe Margotin All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release, Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, The Rolling Stones All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track,  and Pink Floyd All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. He lives in Paris.

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Philippe Margotin

About the Author

Philippe Margotin has written numerous books on music, including biographies of U2 and Radiohead, as well as All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release, Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, and Pink Floyd All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. He lives in Paris.

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