I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party

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

Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 15 February 1965 (US)

John Lennon: double-tracked vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine

Available on:
Beatles For Sale

Although sung by John Lennon, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party had been written by Lennon and McCartney with Ringo Starr in mind.

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It was composed as a country and western song. Starr was an aficionado of country songs, and I Don't Want To Spoil The Party follows on from I'll Cry Instead as one of The Beatles' first songs in that style.

Ringo had a great style and great delivery. He had a lot of fans, so we liked to write something for him on each album. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party is quite a nice little song, co-written by John and I. It sounds more like John than me so 80-20 to him, sitting down doing a job. Certain songs were inspirational and certain songs were work, it didn't mean they were any less fun to write, it was just a craft, and this was a job to order really, which Ringo did a good job on.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Despite McCartney's recollection, Starr didn't sing the song. Why Lennon took the lead instead is uncertain, although he later claimed the song was written from the heart.

That was a very personal one of mine. In the early days I wrote less material than Paul because he was more competent on the guitar than I. He taught me quite a lot of guitar really.
John Lennon

In the studio

The Beatles recorded I Don't Want To Spoil The Party on 29 September 1964. They taped in 19 takes, although just five of those were complete.

The final attempt, take 19, was the one which appeared on the Beatles For Sale album.

35 responses on “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party

  1. SD

    George is on backing vocals only. John’s lead is double-tracked (Everett writes: “The fact that John chooses to duet with himself in the verses here and in ‘Eight Days A Week’, rather than harmonize with Paul, was brought to my attention by Tom Hartman in May 1999 correspondence.”
    But Paul sings the high harmony in the middle part.

    1. AlbertCunning

      To my ears it sounds as if Paul sings the high LEAD during the middle eight, while John does the low harmony.

      Almost the same thing happened with If I Fell; with John singing the intro all by himself, but for the remainder of the song he’s “relegated” to low harmony.

      Sometimes it’s hard to determine what’s the lead and what’s the harmony.
      Baby’s In Black springs to mind.

      1. George

        The ” though tonight she’s made me sad” lyric, Paul’s voice is more dominant than John’s, which then seems to dominate the next line. George’s country and western playing and licks serve the song especially well, which is definetly his musical strength.

    2. Sergey

      Everett:
      Recorded in nineteen takes (only five of which were complete),
      the texture includes drums, bass, and Jumbo on one track, one Lennon vocal
      part on a second, the bright round sound of Harrison’s MRB-enhanced Tennessean
      on a third, and Lennon’s self-duetting vocal, tambourine (in bridge, C
      [0:50–1:04]), and backing vocals by McCartney and Harrison for the SRDC
      verse’s D-gesture (B+1–4 [0:20–0:24]) on the fourth.

    3. James Ferrell

      +1. This is the way I hear it too.

      Love this song. This and “I’m a Loser” are my favorite BFS tracks–both kind of depressed, country-inflected John songs.

  2. Brian J Lenny

    “THE BEATLES” IN 1960s I WENT TO SEE THEM AS I WAS ADDICTED TO THERE SONGS.I HAVE LOTS OF BEATLES ORIGIONAL ITEMS AND I STILL LIKE TO HERE THEM AS THEY ARE STILL THE BEST FOR SINGING THERE SONGS.I MISS JOHN & GEORGE.

  3. mitchell

    that is not john singing with himself. that is john singing with paul who is doing a lower harmony in the verse, but then switches to the higher in the middle eight. there is no doubling of the ‘nasal’ twang of john which would be very noticeable. the voice is either George or Paul, but after listening very carefully, i have concluded its most likely Paul. whoever is saying it is john is wrong.

    1. TheOneBeatle (From Youtube)

      This is one of my favorites songs, i think it’s John in lead vocals, and Paul the backing vocals of John. Paul & George shares the ”aaaaaaah…”, and Ringo, and his excellent drumming.
      I feel so much sad and happiness in this song.

    2. Sergey

      I think you’re right.
      Mike Brown (http://wgo.signal11.org.uk/html/content/i.htm#idwtstp):
      1:04
      John comes in late on “want”. He had sung the full line like Paul prior to “I don’t want to”.

      2:15
      John inserts a spurious “If I” after “I’ve waited far too long”. Maybe he thought the next line was going to be “If she turns up while I’m gone” and converted to “I think I’ll take a walk”.

  4. carlos

    I have the original vinyl mono version of “Beatles for sale”. I’m hearing the Fab Four since 1964 and I’m pretty sure that the notes on the original cover are right. It says that John& Paul are the singers, but I’m pretty sure that John sings lead and Paul harmonizes, not George. George appears on the middle eight and on the ooooohs.

  5. 2much4mymirror

    In “Many Years From Now” Paul calls the composition of this song 80/20 John. Interesting to speculate what Paul’s 20 percent might have consisted of. If you suppose that gorgeous middle “Though tonight she’s made me sad…” was mostly Paul, wouldn’t it be more like 60/40? Especially given that Paul didn’t hesitate to claim 60/40 for less clear-cut songs, this would seem to be largely a John composition.

    1. Joe Post author

      It might not have been a particular section, just a few lines or words here and there which helped complete the song. It wasn’t uncommon for either of them to bring a song scrap to the studio which was finished off there and then. I agree, though, that this seems to be mostly a John song.

  6. David Lee Fairey

    Pretty sure it’s John double-tracked on the verses (although there is a slight George sound on the lower harmony in my opinion).

    Paul definitely comes in during the middle six bars.

    George’s guitar solo is spot-on. I always class this as one of the Beatles’ Hidden Gems.

  7. Bill Purdy

    I’ve been playing, singing and listening to the song quite a bit over the past several weeks. I’ve been singing the lead for years but wanted to learn the other parts. I am still not certain who sings in the verses. Clearly John is singing the high lead. Some believe it is double tracked John. While it is unusual for Paul to take a low harmony, it’s also unusual for them not to use Paul’s harmonic talents. I tend to believe it is Paul on low harmony in the verses and on high harmony for the bridge. According to John C. Winn in “Way Beyond Compare-The Beatles Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957-1965″ – “For the verses, Paul sings the lower harmony (sounding deceptively like a second Lennon), and on the bridges Paul takes the high part.”

  8. nycvelo

    I hear the influence of Don Rich from Buck Owens’ band in Paul’s vocals here (and on Act Naturally, of course). Rich did that high harmony quite well, and it was a hallmark of the Buckaroos’ sound.

  9. Galen

    Okay, I’ve got another theory:

    (Paul on top, John on bottom):
    I don’t want to spoil the party so I’ll go
    I would hate my disappointment to show

    (John solo, Paul and George on “oohs”:)
    There’s nothing for me here, so I will disappear

    (John on top, Paul on bottom):
    If she turns up while I’m gone, please let me know

    Repeat this lineup throughout the song.

    The middle part (“Though tonight she’s made me sad”) is clearly Paul on top, John on bottom.

    I don’t believe there’s any double-tracking whatsoever. It must also be said that Paul’s singing is very Lennon-esque here, for the sake of blend. But listen to how much more the top part sounds unmistakably like John where I’ve indicated it as him, as opposed to the other parts. In essence, I’m just proposing that Paul sings lead on the first two lines, John on the second two.

    1. bobbyclementine

      has anyone ever found live footage of the fab four playing this song in concert? youtube link? the harmony on the verses would have to be shared on a live version. on the studio version the high parts sound like john and george, the low parts john and paul. yes, four lead vocal tracks blended to sound like two, all likely originally intended to be backing for a ringo lead vocal that never panned out.

  10. Tom

    John on top and bottom .no doubt …the middle 8 (traditional ‘we can work it out’ style bridge) is obvious, with John on bottom paul on top

  11. Frank Walton

    I can clearly remember walking out of a department store onto the parking lot on a hot day with this picture sleeved single in my hot little hands and I could not wait to get home and start playing Eight Days a Week, having no clue as to what I Dont Want to Spoil the Party was going to be about. Turns out after hearing it a few times I loved it just as much as the A side.

  12. David

    There is no possible way that Ringo could ever sing this due to the complicated vocal structure of the song. What was Paul thinking? Maybe the original arrangement was a cross between Honey Don’t and Act Naturally .

  13. Bert

    Upsidtius, it is most certainly NOT mediocre. About 15 years ago I was going through a terrible, terrible time and wanted to kill myself. What kept me from doing it, literally, was the thought that if I jumped off that bridge as per my plan, I would never get to hear “I don’t want to spoil the party” ever again. Just because you can’t relate to the gorgeous harmony, beautifully crafted lyrics, groovy twangy guitar and the great feel of this song doesn’t mean it’s mediocre. And they wrote Ringo some unbelievable songs, not throwaways.

  14. Tommy

    I saw a Beatle “cover band” in Pittsburgh, several years ago, and they played that number-with John on melody, and George (impersonators) on the lower harmony..VERY effective. On the middle section, like the recording, Paul has the melody, an John sings the harmony below. Long into adulthood, it’s much easier, naturally, to pick out the individual voices. I’ve read, as well, that Ringo actually does a rare “back-up” vocal on the “Hey-hey-hey-hey” half on Kansas City. The melody chant on “Flying”(from MMT) and “Carry that Weight” (Ab. Rd.) are quite possibly the only other ones,maybe something else I didn’t think of. Back to I Don’t ….Party, it’s absolutely John on both voices, except for “Tho’ tonite..” Bobby Darin and Bobby Vee did this pretty regularly-also Steve Lawrence on “Go Away Little Girl”..and even Andy Williams on “Can’t Get Used To Losing You”

  15. David Reynolds

    Again another example of Paul being under estimated here. As earlier mentioned, he provides a lower harmony to his own song Things We Said today. That in itself fooled me because I always thought it was John. Clearly its him singing with John in the verses in this song. Some tribute bands use George but this song goes to show how versatile Paul’s range is. Jumping from a lower harmony to something out of this world.

    1. Baggios

      John is definitely doing both the lead and lower harmony on the verses. John’s voice is raspier, it sounds very different from Paul’s lower registry – e.g. when Paul backs himself on “Thing We Said Today” or when he does the lower harmony when John joins him on the verses of “Day Tripper”

  16. d

    john and john in verses. and he did it because he heard it that way and it’s beautiful. paul in the high part of the refrain with john on lower harmony. I’d say Paul wrote the chorus, as it’s more upbeat, sort of like how john write the darker “life is very short” part of we can work it out.

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