Every Little Thing

Beatles For Sale album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 29, 30 September 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 14 June 1965 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, lead guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, piano
George Harrison: acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, timpani

Available on:
Beatles For Sale

Written mostly by Paul McCartney, Every Little Thing was sung by him and John Lennon for The Beatles’ fourth album, Beatles For Sale.

Download on iTunes

McCartney initially hoped it would be the follow-up single to A Hard Day’s Night, although this wasn’t to be. In America, Every Little Thing was released in 1965 on the Beatles VI album.

Every Little Thing, like most of the stuff I did, was my attempt at the next single. I remember playing it for Brian backstage somewhere. He had assembled a few people. It was one of those meetings – ‘Oh, we have to do some recordings, who’s got what?’ and we played a few at Brian. We didn’t often check things with Brian, in fact I just remember it in connection with this because I thought it was very catchy. I played it amongst a few songs; it was something I thought was quite good but it became an album filler rather than the great almighty single. It didn’t have quite what was required.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The song was written in August 1964 during The Beatles’ first full US tour.

John and I got this one written in Atlantic City during our last tour of the States. John does the guitar riff for this one, and George is on acoustic. Ringo bashes some timpani drums for the big noises you hear.
Paul McCartney
The Beatles Off The Record, Keith Badman

A devotional love song, most likely written with Jane Asher in mind, Every Little Thing is as emotionally revealing as any of Lennon’s songs on Beatles For Sale. Although the music was less successful, the lyrics are among McCartney’s most succinct and tender on the album.

In the studio

The Beatles began recording Every Little Thing on 29 September 1964. They taped four takes, the last of which was temporarily considered the best.

They returned to it the following day, recording a further five attempts. It was a light-hearted session, as recounted by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn:

Take six was aborted when Paul burped a vocal instead of singing it, take seven was complete but ended in uproarious laughter. And Ringo was having fun with an instrument new to Beatles recordings – timpani. This appeared for the first time on take nine, along with the guitar intro and piano piece.
Mark Lewisohn
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions

36 responses on “Every Little Thing

  1. Les

    A tasty and unique little song, but a careful listen to the stereo mix reveals some details missed in the Lewisohn quote above.

    Firstly, John played the intro, solo, and those cool chimy notes in the chorus on his Rickenbacker 325/12. This is the only track that prominently features this unique custom guitar, and could be the only time it was used in recording. The sound is way different than George’s 360/12, and the approach to the solo sounds much more Lennon than Harrison.

    Like most of the Beatles’ four track recordings of the period, the session tape would have contained the basic instrumental track on 2 tracks and the basic vocal on the third. On this song the contents of the fourth (overdub) track are mixed to the far right(in the stereo master) so it is easy to figure out what was added after the original take 9 was laid down.

    One surprise in the right channel though. In the solo, there are bass guitar notes that were obviously played in the overdub–Paul plays a short run on the bass, which is answered by the 325/12, this pattern is repeated, then John plays a slightly rushed arpegio to finish the solo. This is in addition to the bass line which runs through the song, which is mixed to the near left.

    So, this song is one of, if not the first songs ever to feature multi-tracked bass.

    The piano part was part of the original take 9, so credit should go to George Martin for this.

    Summary: take 9 originally consisted of:

    John Lennon: Rhythm Guitar and Lead Vocal
    Paul McCartney: Backing Vocal and Bass
    George Harrison: ???????
    Ringo Starr: Drums
    George Martin: Piano

    Recorded onto track 4 of take 9:

    John Lennon: Lead Guitar
    Paul McCartney: Bass
    Ringo Starr: Tympani

    That’s how I hear it, any one like to add or subtract to this??

  2. SD

    Les is right with his comments about the guitars and its players but in case of the vocals I would say that Lennon and McCartney are on shared lead vocals because both of them are singing together all the time (often in unison).

  3. SD

    Listen again, this one has no double-tracked Lennon. You can hear McCartney’s voice come through a few times:
    00:22 (“… her”)
    01:01 (“… forever”)

    And also there was no free track for Lennon to double his voice. According to Everett, the four tracks consists of:
    1) Paul’s bass, Ringo’s drums, John’s acoustic guitar
    2) Lennon-McCartney vocals
    3) John’s Rickenbacker 12-string
    4) piano by Paul(!), Ringo’s timpani

  4. SD

    The piano is certainly played by Paul. Lewisohn has a photo in his book (Recording Sessions, page 48) which captures the overdub recording with Ringo on timpani and Paul on piano (30 September 1964).

  5. Barry

    Definitely John and Paul singing together the entire way. However it does sound like a single Lennon-sounding voice (more Lennon sounding than McCartney).

    This amazing phenomenon can be heard on a lot of other songs: MISERY, SHE LOVES YOU, FROM ME TO YOU, I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, I’LL GET YOU, THANK YOU GIRL, LITTLE CHILD, maybe a few others.

    1. cris

      Nope.
      John on lead, no Paul at all.
      In songs like I Want to hold your Hand you can hear the two voices not too difficult, it tooks just a decent ear.
      Here is John and that’s all.
      Who’ earing Paul in the verse is simply dreaming.
      Paul does the chorus’ armonies, and that’s it.

      1. paulsbass

        Sorry Cris, you’re wrong. While it’s usually John OR Paul double-tracked on the verses, this time they’re singing together.
        Paul’s timbre can be heard especially good at the end of the second verse (“will never die”). It’s even more audible on the “forever” just before.
        And you’re right, of course, it DOES take a decent ear.

        1. cris

          Well, all I can hear is Lennon’s voice double tracked, as usual, with John.
          The great critic Ian MacDonald, on “Revolution in the head” wrote “it’s lead-sung by Lennon”.
          I totally agree with him.

          1. paulsbass

            Yes, Lennon is the dominant voice in the verses, especially in the first.
            But check out SDs post, which I didn’t read before posting my own. He heard Macca at the same part as I did, so there must be something to it.
            And according to Lennon and McCartney this is mostly Paul’s song, so it would be totally untypical that John should sing it alone.
            They wrote it together, so they sing it together.
            Another great “singing together unisono in the verses and with great harmonies in the chorus” song is the fantastic “I’ll be on my way”.
            Some people say they also sing unisono in Eight days a week. But that one is REALLY a toughie. I’m not sure about Paul in the verses there.

            But in this one, there’s really no question: John AND Paul are singing unisono, which gives the vocals a certain quality and sound a double tracked Lennon wouldn’t provide.

            1. Franco

              Definitely Paul is singing lead with John. I think Paul is doing a “Lennon” voice here. Same on “Things we said today” Macca is doing the John bit too. Also you can hear John doing a “Paul” voice on Rain. Those cheeky chaps…

        2. LiontheLeo

          John & Paul duets are an underdiscussed aspect of Beatle lore, but this is clearly John & Paul duetting throughout the song. The reason Lennon seems to be singing more than he is is that McCartney’s voice is not as powerful in this register. You can hear McCartney’s voice as almost a soft growl in the verses and then coming to it’s full strength as he goes high for the chorus and just before the chorus. There has to be some modern software that can be used to pull these two vocals apart.. I know they were recorded together on one track on the same mic.. but their character is so different that I really think this song and Tell Me What You See would be instructive!

    2. Baggio

      I can hear Paul dueting with John on this one – it’s very clear when they sing the word “forever”.
      However, I can’t hear Paul at all on the verses of Eight Days a Week and Little Child.

  6. DoBotherMe

    There is no definitive answer to who played the lead guitar. I post on Beat Gear Cavern, and even there no consensus has been reached. http://beatgearcavern.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=43375&hilit=+every+little+thing+

    http://oldies.about.com/od/thebeatlessongs/a/everylittle.htm
    “Some sources claim that John plays lead on this song, due to the style of the solo, and also because George did not arrive at the studio until two hours after the backing track was laid down. However, the guitar being played is indeed George’s (1964 Rickenbacker “Fire-glo” 360-12), although John may have merely borrowed it. The argument has never been resolved.”

    1. LiontheLeo

      The writer is claiming that the solo is a kind of call and response solo.. listening to it, I agree.. whoever is playing the da da da da could be someone else on guitar but it’s not a bass.. then john responds with the verse melody and then da da da da .. john responds with the next bit of the verse and then it’s possible both guitars to the spiral downward that ends the solo. I don’t know.. I’ve always thought the sound of the guitar on this song is rather exotic and could be two guitarists playing in unison as the Beatles did several times in their career.

    2. Asaf

      I remember the photographs from that session. There’s a photo of Paul behind the piano, Ringo behind the Tympani, and George with his 12 string guitar.
      I think that he overdubed his guitar to John’s lead. Both are heard on the right channel’ with the piano and tympani.

    1. AlbertCunning

      In the Playboy interview he actually states that Paul wrote it, but that he[John] may have thrown something in as well — unlike in the Hit Parader interview, where he just throws the song into the Lennon/McCartney pile, without further comment.

      But from those two sources, I would find it fair to assume he had _something_ to do with the writing, as well as being audibly the most prominent lead singer.

      1. LiontheLeo

        I don’t think Lennon wanted to be the most prominent singer.. any more than he did on Eight Days a Week.. McCartney just couldn’t maintain the power and stability in this range to overpower Lennon.. that’s why McCartney is always double tracked when he sings up this high as in Can’t Buy Me Love. His home range is more All My Loving, And I Love Her, I’ll Follow the Sun. This song.. Eight Days a Week.. single tracked Can’t Buy Me Love.. McCartney’s voice has a rather thin nasal quality and is pretty shaky at times in their early work. In these duets.. Lennon usually sounds more prominent but you can certainly hear McCartney QUITE clearly… especially that line “there is one thing i’m sure offf..I will luv her forevaaarrrr” and his voice is like a soft growl.

  7. Dave Rybaczewski

    Here’s some interesting food for thought about “Every Little Thing.”

    McCartney said in interview in late 1964 (as found in Keith Madman’s book “The Beatles Off The Record”): “John and I got this one written in Atlantic City during our last tour of the States. John does the guitar riff for this one, and George is on acoustic. Ringo bashes some timpani drums for the big noises you hear.”

    In Paul’s “Many Years From Now” Book, co-author Barry Miles says the song was written at Jane Ashers house on Wimpole Street, but contradicts himself by saying in one place that it was written in the “little music room” and in another place saying that Paul wrote it “sitting in his garret room alone, strumming his guitar.” Interestingly, neither of these quotes are from Paul himself! Even so, the book came together around 30 years after the fact, so the more reliable source would be Paul’s 1964 quote.

    John playing lead guitar is also substantiated by this quote, while George playing acoustic guitar is quite a bombshell.

    1. Joe Post author

      Thanks Dave. I’ve added that quote – I have a copy of Keith Badman’s (Madman?) book too. You’re right – it is best to rely on the 1964 quote rather than something (mis)remembered years later. It’s a shame Badman doesn’t attribute the source, though – some of the snippets in his book are from years after the event, though others are more obviously from the 1960s.

      It’s interesting about George playing acoustic – I’ll add him back into the line-up.

      1. Steve

        Just for the record, that Badman quote is from the 14 November 1964 edition of Disc. Paul did a track-by-track commentary on the Beatles For Sale songs, setting the record straight concerning a lot of who-plays-what on the LP.

          1. Steve

            I don’t think it’s online (believe me I’ve looked!!) – I checked it out at the British Library. I wish I’d have taken a copy, but I just made a few notes, I’ll send these to you. It’s also quoted in the brilliant Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records by Spizer. The article also confirms, by the way, that Paul, John and George Martin all played piano at the same time on Rock And Roll Music.

    2. AlbertCunning

      I just assume Paul started writing it at Wimpole Street, and then he and John put it together while on tour.

      Although, I must admit, I thought it was the Australian tour.

      I seem to remember — very vaguely, I must say — reading some interview where John was asked what new songs he and Paul had written on the tour, and John asks Paul what were the names of the two new songs they wrote the other day, and Paul answers: ‘What You’re Doing’ and ‘Every Little Thing’.

      See, in those days, it was still ‘we’, rather than ‘me’.

  8. Dave Rybaczewski

    Sorry about Keith’s name. I guess he’s a “bad man” and not necessarily a “madman” :-)

    Have you ever heard ‘take four’ of the song that they recorded on September 29th? You can hear it on YouTube. John originally played more lead guitar flourishes during the verses as well as a somewhat different sounding solo in the instrumental section. Paul even pops into a couple harmony lines in the verses. It’s an interesting listen!

  9. Dartos

    John’s lead guitar riff is simple, showing how he hadn’t progressed as a guitar player much at this point. I’ll have to listen closer to see if I can detect George’s acoustic guitar section.

  10. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    It’s John AND Paul singing in unison on the verses, despite what McDonald (genuflects) says. Listed very carefully – with headphones – and try to block out Lennon’s voice. After a few listens Paul’s voice becomes clearly evident. Lennon’s voice stands out more because of the raspy vocal quality he has. It’s true.

  11. carlos gutman

    John’s voice prominant is true, and Paul IS singing lead too, if you can’t hear his voice listen to his pronunciation “PEOPLE tell my I’m lucky”, it’s Paul for sure. John plays lead and acoustic too (listen to the double tempo along the guitar solo, that´s John’s style). So George isn’t present at all.

  12. metzgermeister77

    Bit of a lightweight song, the kind you’d expect as a B-side that came out between WTB and AHDN, but pleasant nonetheless. And John’s Rickenbacker 325/12 adds an interesting, unique quality to the sound.

  13. Jay

    SD and paulsbass are right. I clearly heard Paul’s voice in the line “There is one thing I’m sure of, I will love her forever.”
    John’s voice is too dominant at this pitch that’s why we hardly hear Paul’s voice.

Leave a reply