With The Beatles

With The Beatles album artworkRecorded: 18 July-23 October 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 November 1963

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, tambourine, handclaps
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, piano, woodblock, handclaps
George Harrison: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, handclaps
Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, bongos, maracas, handclaps
George Martin: piano, Hammond organ

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Tracklisting:
It Won't Be Long
All I've Got To Do
All My Loving
Don't Bother Me
Little Child
Till There Was You
Please Mister Postman
Roll Over Beethoven
Hold Me Tight
You Really Got A Hold On Me
I Wanna Be Your Man
Devil In Her Heart
Not A Second Time
Money (That's What I Want)

The follow-up to The Beatles' debut album Please Please Me consolidated their position as the United Kingdom's number one pop act.

With The Beatles was released eight months to the day after Please Please Me, and was an instant hit. Although no singles were taken from it, it came three months after She Loves You became a smash, and just seven days before The Beatles conquered the world with I Want To Hold Your Hand.

Seven of the album's 14 tracks were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. On Please Please Me the pair had demonstrated to audiences that they were more than capable at writing their own material, and With The Beatles proved that they were no flash in the pan.

The Beatles rarely had a day off in 1963, working a punishing schedule of recording sessions, concerts, dozens of radio and television appearances and numerous other public engagements. On 13 October they appeared on Sunday Night At The London Palladium before a television audience of 15 million, winning over Fleet Street journalists who coined the term Beatlemania to describe their fans' hysteria, and the following month they appeared before the Queen at the Royal Command Performance.

Admiration for The Beatles had spread by this time into the establishment. In his essay What Songs The Beatles Sang, The Times newspaper's music critic William Mann praised Lennon and McCartney as "the outstanding English composers of 1963."

One gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of Not A Second Time (the chord progression which ends Mahler's Song of the Earth).
William Mann
The Times

By the time they came to record With The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney had used up the best of their original compositions. The challenge of writing a new selection of songs meant they recorded the album's cover versions first, but the pair eventually came up with a host of classic songs: It Won't Be Long and All My Loving were on a par with anything The Beatles recorded in 1963, and I Wanna Be Your Man later became a hit single for The Rolling Stones, though for the album it was sung by Ringo Starr.

George Harrison, too, was emerging as a songwriter. His first released composition, Don't Bother Me, was recorded for With The Beatles; although its author later dismissed it as a throwaway, it is often acknowledged that Lennon and McCartney had several years of songwriting by 1963 and were far more confident in their abilities.

The remaining six songs were cover versions. The choice of songs demonstrated the group's maturity, with a greater emphasis on Motown and R&B songs. Two were sung by Harrison: Devil In Her Heart and Roll Over Beethoven.

In the studio

The success of their debut album, plus numerous radio sessions and TV appearances, meant The Beatles had become more confident in the studio by the time they came to record With The Beatles.

However, they were still bound by the technological limitations of the time, and the album was recorded entirely on two-track machines. It was only from I Want To Hold Your Hand that the group moved on to four-track recording.

With The Beatles was recorded between July and October 1963. In contrast to the straightforward guitar, bass and drums line up of much of Please Please Me, The Beatles' second album included greater use of percussion and keyboard instruments.

On 18 July, the first recording session, The Beatles worked on four cover versions: You Really Got A Hold On Me, Money (That's What I Want), Devil In Her Heart and Till There Was You. The first two, in particular, arguably eclipsed any of the covers on Please Please Me, and remain among the group's finest recordings.

Although they had more time to work on With The Beatles than on Please Please Me, the album was recorded in just seven non-consecutive days, plus several editing and mixing sessions. The most complicated song was Money (That's What I Want), which contained enough overdubs to warrant a series of reduction mixes. The final stereo version used a separate mono mix in each channel, in order to avoid any more tape-to-tape copying.

Mono was still the preferred format in 1963. Stereo mixes were made, but The Beatles attended none of the sessions. The stereo mixes were primarily intended to feature a balance between the vocals and instrumentation, with each typically filling one of the available recording tracks.

Chart success

By the time it was released, Please Please Me had been atop the UK album charts for seven months. The best-selling EP of 1963 was The Beatles' Twist And Shout, and three of their singles - Please Please Me, From Me To You and She Loves You - had conquered the charts.

With The Beatles album replaced Please Please Me at the number one spot, and stayed there for 21 weeks. Combined with the success of their debut, The Beatles achieved a continuous run of 51 weeks at the top of the charts.

The album also briefly entered the UK singles chart, where it peaked at number 11. In the early 1960s the chart included all releases, regardless of format or diameter.

With The Beatles spent a total of 51 weeks in the top 20.

14 responses on “With The Beatles

  1. Amphion

    Iconic artwork on the cover. Although possibly a poorer representation of Astrid Kirsheners work, this was the first step to rewriting the rules on pop production. George Martin calls it their first songbook. It took me longer to get to know this album than any other Beatle album. By the time of With The Beatles, the innocence of Please Please Me had given way to an expectation. This is a fine album. But to truley appreciate what was happening with the group, you really need to listen to their first three albums, in order, one after another, and then you will actually hear The Beatles sound evolve.

      1. metzgermeister77

        Tony Barrow’s liner notes on page 2 here claim that it’s John, so if you have better sources that say otherwise you might want to add a note to that effect in brackets.

  2. M. Whitener

    “With The Beatles” marks their first real lasting “moment” in my book, but that is just by the cover image. The content of this album is probably my least favorite. The highs are very high, but the lows are down there among the worse stuff they did. “It Won’t Be Long” continues their trend of starting an album out 100 mph & “All My Loving” is one of their best, but it gets a bit inconsistent after that. “Little Child” & “Devil In Her Heart” just aren’t a good sound. George did well on this album & “Money” is their best cover ever for my buck. It helps to know they also did “She Loves You” during this time, but all in all, I think it’s a step down from Please Please Me as a total product.

  3. Bob Ryan

    I agree with the assessment that this album is very uneven. Having grown up with the American versions, I think it’s counterpart “Meet the Beatles” is an unqualified masterpiece. Practically all originals and nearly every song is strong. The overall effect of Meet the Beatles is “WOW!” the overall effect of “With the Beatles is “Hey cool, more Beatles songs!” Of course, Capitol cherry-picked the best songs available for their first Beatles release.

    1. Joe

      You cannot compare it to the American counterpart ‘Meet The Beatles’ as that is not an album, merely a compilation. You may as well compare it to the first disc of The Red Album if you are going to compare.

  4. Bronx Boy Billy

    Great, tasteful, woefully underrated album. Interesting to note that George and Paul sing lead on only 3 songs!
    (actually GH has a bit more than PM since he sings along with John on “You really got a hold on me”).

  5. cold turkey 1987

    All ive got to do is a good example of how the beatles could have such solid numbers of songs they never did live or payed to much attention to but oher groups would have used the same material for singles. From the opening as energetic as ever sliding into all ive got to do has such a great flow. Album is better than beatles for sale which imo has the most filler of any album. Wtb is a solid beatles album.

  6. Bongo

    Freeman’s image was also used on the cover of Meet The Beatles!, the group’s first Capitol album in North America.

    This above statement is wrong. Canada’s “Beatlemania! With the Beatles” was the group’s first Capitol album in North America to use Freeman’s image, two days after the U.K. release in November 1963. Meet the Beatles came out in 1964.

  7. Joe

    I have always considered this my favourite Beatles album of the 4 early albums (PPM, WTB, HDN, BFS). Track for track it may not be the best however as an ‘album’, I have always loved how it flows from ‘It Won’t Be Long’ to ‘Money’, it just works so wonderfully well.

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