The Beatles – The Making Of “Beatles For Sale”

George Martin and I picked the same favorite from this album: I’ll Follow The Sun. But I also like I’m A Loser and No Reply and I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, the last has become my personal practice anyway.

Published on Jun 6, 2014

“Beatles For Sale” is the fourth studio album by The Beatles, released on 4 December 1964 and produced by George Martin for Parlophone. The album marked a minor turning point in the evolution of the Lennon–McCartney partnership, John Lennon particularly now showing interest in composing songs of a more autobiographical nature. “I’m A Loser” shows Lennon for the first time coming under the influence of Bob Dylan, whom he met in New York while on tour, on 28 August 1964.

The Beatles began their first studio session for “Beatles For Sale” on 8 June 1964, only seven days after their last session for “A Hard Day’s Night”. Prior to the new recording sessions, the band toured Australia and New Zealand (after a two-show night in Hong Kong), played concerts in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden and made several television, radio and live concert appearances in the UK. The Beatles’ road manager, Neil Aspinall, later reflected: “No band today would come off a long US tour at the end of September, go into the studio and start a new album, still writing songs, and then go on a UK tour, finish the album in five weeks, still touring, and have the album out in time for Christmas. But that’s what the Beatles did at the end of 1964. A lot of it was down to naivety, thinking that this was the way things were done. If the record company needs another album, you go and make one.”

Most of the album’s recording sessions were completed in a three-week period beginning on 29 September. Beatles’ producer George Martin recalled: “They were rather war-weary during “Beatles For Sale”. One must remember that they’d been battered like mad throughout ’64, and much of ’63. Success is a wonderful thing, but it is very, very tiring.”

Even the prolific Lennon–McCartney songwriting team could not keep up with the demand for their songs, and with a targeted deadline of Christmas to meet, the band resorted to recording several cover versions for the album. This had been their mode of operation for their first albums but had been abandoned for the all-original “A Hard Day’s Night”. The album included six covers, the same number as their first two albums. McCartney recalled: “Recording “Beatles For Sale” didn’t take long. Basically it was our stage show, with some new songs.”

“Beatles For Sale” featured eight original Lennon and McCartney works. At this stage in their partnership, Lennon’s and McCartney’s songwriting was highly collaborative; even when songs had a primary author the other would often contribute key parts, as with “No Reply” where McCartney provided a middle-eight for what was otherwise almost entirely a Lennon song.

In 1994, McCartney described the songwriting process he and Lennon went through:

“We would normally be rung a couple of weeks before the recording session and they’d say, ‘We’re recording in a month’s time and you’ve got a week off before the recordings to write some stuff.’ … so I’d go out to John’s every day for the week, and the rest of the time was just time off. We always wrote a song a day, whatever happened we always wrote a song a day … Mostly it was me getting out of London, to John’s rather nice, comfortable Weybridge house near the golf course … So John and I would sit down, and by then it might be one or two o’clock, and by four or five o’clock we’d be done.”

Recording took place at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London. George Harrison recalled that the band was becoming more sophisticated about recording techniques: “Our records were progressing. We’d started out like anyone spending their first time in a studio—nervous and naive and looking for success. By this time we’d had loads of hits and were becoming more relaxed with ourselves, and more comfortable in the studio … we were beginning to do a little overdubbing, too, probably to a four-track.”

Recording was completed on 18 October. The band participated in several mixing and editing sessions before completing the project on 4 November; the album was rushed into production and released exactly a month later.

“Beatles For Sale” was released in the United Kingdom on 4 December 1964. On 12 December, it began a 46-week-long run in the charts, and a week later knocked “A Hard Day’s Night” off the top of the charts. After seven weeks, the album’s time at the top seemed over, but “Beatles For Sale” made a comeback on 27 February 1965, by dethroning The Rolling Stones and returning to the top spot for a week.

The downbeat mood of the songs on “Beatles For Sale” was reflected in the album cover, which shows the unsmiling, weary-looking Beatles in an autumn scene photographed at Hyde Park, London. McCartney recalled: “The album cover was rather nice: Robert Freeman’s photos. It was easy. We did a session lasting a couple of hours and had some reasonable pictures to use. The photographer would always be able to say to us, ‘Just show up,’ because we all wore the same kind of gear all the time. Black stuff; white shirts and big black scarves.”

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