The Roots of the Beatles
This page explores the genesis of the music of Lennon/McCartney, Harrison
and Starr, by taking a look back at some of the early rock and roll
music which influenced the Beatles. These were the artists that were their
idols, and the songs that they covered on stage in Hamburg and at the
Cavern, on the BBC, and on their early albums.
These are the records the Beatles listened to the way we listen to Beatles
Songs Covered on Please Please Me
Anna - Arthur Alexander
Arthur Alexander, from Florence, Alabama, wrote and recorded Anna in
1962 on the Dot label. It reached #68 in the American charts in October, 1962.
Alexander's first hit, You Better Move On, was also covered by another
British group, the Rolling Stones.
The Beatles with John doing the lead vocal recorded Anna on
February 11, 1963 for their first album Please Please Me which was
released one month later.
Chains - The Cookies
The Cookies were an R&B vocal trio from New York. They did backup
work for Neil Sedaka, Carole King and Little Eva. In the 1950's
they backed up Ray Charles as the Raelettes. They had three hits
from 1962 to 1964 on the Dimension label, Chains being their first,
hitting number 17 in December, 1962.
Chains was the second cover song by the Beatles on
the Please Please Me album, this time with George doing lead
vocal, and John on harmonica.
Boys - The Shirelles
An R&B "girl group" from Passaic, New Jersey, the Shirelles, led by
Shirley Owens, had their first hit in 1960 with Will You Love
Me Tomorrow on the Scepter label, who's B side was Baby It's
You. Some of their other hits include Dedicated To The One I
Love, Mama Said and Soldier Boy. The Shirelles
were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Boys was the third cover song by the Beatles on
the Please Please Me album, this time with Ringo doing
what would become his usual one lead vocal per album.
Baby It's You - The Shirelles
Baby It's You went to number eight for the Shirelles in
January, 1962. It's the fourth cover song by the Beatles on the
Please Please Me album. John sang lead vocals, and George
Martin played piano on the track.
A Taste Of Honey - Lenny Welch
Although there were a few instrumental versions in 1962, Lenny
Welch's version, released on Spetember 17, 1962, was the first
vocal version of A Taste Of Honey. Lenny Welch was a black
pop singer from Asbury Park, New Jersey, and had hits in the early
sixties with Since I Fell For You and Ebb Tide.
A Taste Of Honey was the fifth song covered
on the Please Please Me album. Paul sings the doubletracked
Songs Covered on With The Beatles
For their second album, the Beatles pulled six more classic rock and roll
songs out of their repertoire. All of these songs were recorded by the Beatles
in the same two sessions at Abbey Road, on July 18 and July 30, 1963.
Till There Was You - Peggy Lee
The Music Man, written by Meridith Wilson, was a smash
hit of the 1957 Broadway season, running 1375 performances and beating out
even West Side Story in the Tony races. The original cast starred Robert
Preston and Barbara Cook, who sang Till There Was You, one of the
hit songs from the show.
Till There Was You was a minor hit in the UK for Peggy Lee in March 1961.
Paul McCartney was introduced to her music by his older cousin who would
occasionally baby-sit the two McCartney brothers. McCartney said: "I had no
idea until much later that it was from The Music Man."
The Beatles version of Till There Was You was recorded on July 18, and
July 30, 1963, with Paul doing lead vocal and Ringo on bongos, as it was
decided that drums would be too heavy for this track.
Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes
Another girl group from Detroit, the Marvelettes got together in 1960, and were
discovered by Motown after entering a high school talent contest. Please
Mr. Postman hit number 1 in 1961, and was their only number 1 record.
Recorded in the same session as Till There Was You on July 30, 1963,
the Beatles version of Please Mr. Postman was recorded in nine takes
with John on lead vocal.
Roll Over Beethoven - Chuck Berry
Born in 1926 in St. Louis, Chuck Berry was introduced to Leonard Chess of
Chess Records in Chicago by blues singer Muddy Waters, and went on to influence
every rock musician that followed, including the Beatles. His first hit
on Chess records was Maybellene in 1955. His second hit,
Roll Over Beethoven, reached number 29 in the top 40 charts in 1956.
He went on to have 10 more top 40 hits through 1964, including another
song that the Beatles covered, Rock and Roll Music in 1957.
George took center stage for the Beatles version of this song, also recorded
on July 30, 1963. They got it in five takes.
You Really Got A Hold On Me - The Miracles
Formed in 1957 in Detroit, the Miracles later became known as Smokey Robinson
and the Miracles. Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson "America's greatest living
poet". Their fourth record, You Really Got A Hold On Me, was released
in 1963 and hit number 8 on the pop charts. They had many hits through the
sixties, their last hit was Tears of a Clown in 1970.
The Beatles' version of You Really Got A Hold On Me, with John
on lead vocal, was the first song recorded during the sessions for With
The Beatles on July 18, 1963. The basic master for the track was
edited together from takes 10 and 11.
Devil In His Heart - The Donays
During 1961 to 1966, the peak years of the girl group era, many obscure groups
came and went with very little notice. The Donays, featuring lead vocalist
Yvonne Allen released Devil In His Heart. It did not chart, and the
group split up soon afterward. The Donays version of this song regained some
attention after the Beatles' version came out.
The Beatles' version, renamed Devil In Her Heart, was recorded on
July 18, 1963, in three takes, with three overdubs, with George doing lead vocal.
Money - Barrett Strong
Barrett Strong's career started big in 1961 with Money, one of Motown
founder Berry Gordy's first hits, reaching number 23 on the pop charts. Barret
then went on, with Norman Whitfield, to write some of Motown's greatest hits,
including Ball of Confusion and Papa Was A Rolling Stone. He
also wrote I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
The Beatles recorded Money on July 18, 1963, in seven takes, including a piano
edit peice, John performing the raucous vocal.
Historical information from
The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn and
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.
Additional information thanks to Scott French.
All song excerpts on these pages are for educational use only.
Individuals may copy these files for their personal use only, for
academic study of the source material. They are not to be
This page created January 1, 2002
Last updated October 25, 2007