I Saw Her Standing There

Please Please Me album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 February 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 March 1963 (UK), 22 July 1963 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass, handclaps
John Lennon: backing vocals, rhythm guitar, handclaps
George Harrison: lead guitar, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps

Available on:
Please Please Me
Live At The BBC
Anthology 1
On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2

Written with John Lennon in Paul McCartney’s front room in Liverpool, I Saw Her Standing There was the opening track on The Beatles’ debut album Please Please Me.

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I wrote it with John in the front parlour of my house in 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton. We sagged off school and wrote it on guitars and a little bit on the piano that I had there.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

McCartney is said to have come up with the idea for the song while returning from a concert in Southport, although it was completed with Lennon shortly after in September 1962.

Sometimes we would just start a song from scratch, but one of us would nearly always have a germ of an idea, a title or a rough little thing they were thinking about and we’d do it. I Saw Her Standing There was my original, I’d started it and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of the information, and then you had to fill in… It was co-written, my idea, and we finished it that day.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The lyrics were written in an exercise book from the Liverpool Institute. Mike McCartney’s book Remember includes a photograph of Paul and John working on the song while reading the book and playing guitars.

We were learning our skill. John would like some of my lines and not others. He liked most of what I did, but there would sometimes be a cringe line, such as, ‘She was just seventeen, she’d never been a beauty queen.’ John thought, ‘Beauty queen? Ugh.’ We were thinking of Butlins so we asked ourselves, what should it be? We came up with, ‘You know what I mean.’ Which was good, because you don’t know what I mean.
Paul McCartney
Anthology

A slightly slower version of I Saw Her Standing There, believed to have been recorded during a rehearsal at the Cavern Club late in 1962, is available on bootleg recordings. The recording features no rhythm guitar by John Lennon; instead he played harmonica in the introduction and beneath McCartney’s vocals during the verses.

The recording features laughter from McCartney and Lennon as they sing “Well we danced all night/And I held her tight/And I held her hand in mine” during the second bridge.

A live version of the song, recorded on 24 October 1963 in Stockholm during The Beatles’ tour of Sweden, was released on Anthology 1 in 1995. Several other live bootleg versions exist, including two from the Star-Club, Hamburg.

The Beatles recorded I Saw Her Standing There eleven times for BBC Radio. The first was a live broadcast for the Saturday Club programme on 16 March 1963, and the final recording took place on 1 May 1964 for From Us To You.

A version recorded on 16 October 1963, for the radio show Easy Beat, was first broadcast on 20 October, and was released commercially in 1994 on Live At The BBC.

In the studio

I Saw Her Standing There was recorded during the marathon session on 11 February 1963, which yielded the majority of tracks on the Please Please Me LP. It was recorded under its working title, Seventeen.

That’s Paul doing his usual good job of producing what George Martin used to call a ‘potboiler’. I helped with a couple of the lyrics.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The group recorded nine takes in the morning, just three of which were complete. Take one was judged to be the best, and that afternoon The Beatles overdubbed handclaps.

George Martin later edited in McCartney’s spirited “One, two, three, FOUR” count-in from take nine. The full version of take nine can be heard on the Free As A Bird single, released in 1995.

McCartney later revealed that I Saw Her Standing There’s bass part was lifted from Chuck Berry’s song I’m Talking About You, a single in February 1961.

I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. Therefore I maintain that a bass riff doesn’t have to be original.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
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23 Responses to “I Saw Her Standing There”

  1. Kent Bettenhausen

    John Lennon plays a wonderful and driving rhythm guitar that makes this song FANTASTIC!

    Reply
    • paula levine

      You are true. TONS of rock songs since this masterpiece of amazing music have been modeled after this entire beat. As timeless as any Beatles song ever.

      Reply
  2. M. Whitener

    I don’t think anybody’s debut album first track has ever jumped out the box like this one. You can hear all four parts of the music separately, and even after listening to so much of their work that followed this one, it still stands out as one of their great group performances. It’s one of John’s best rhythm jobs & Paul’s bass drives the entire track. But what jumps out the most is the counter melody in chorus & bridges, Paul going up with John supporting the effort behind him. Add in George’s great solo & Ringo’s intense effort during the solo & you have one of their best songs ever.

    Reply
  3. mr. Sun king coming together

    Most Overrated Beatles Song Ever. An high energy, but ultimately boring, song. They should have given this away to another act.

    Reply
    • BJ

      You obviouly underestimate the fact that this song broke through the crap of the day! This being the first song on their first album and Twist and Shout as the last song, made their debut album (On VEEJAY records) totally rock and forced people in the US to notice them.

      Reply
  4. robert

    Sorry Sun King, I usually find myself agreeing with a lot of what you say – but we part company here.

    ISHST is an absolutely outstanding rock and roll song – in my opinion, of course.

    And when it first came out and hit the US airwaves in ’63, you can be sure NOBODY sounded like this.

    In particular, when the middle eight hits “Well me heart went boom” – people are still trying to write transitions like that almost 50 years later.

    It’s worth noting that John Lennon, during his solo years, only performed one very old Beatles song live – and this one was it.

    Reply
        • Eric

          so Robert wrote “… very old song…” I agree with him because ISHST is the most amazing rock & roll song of the Beatles’ repertoire… Three songs in this album rocks the first one, the last one and the middle one Boys… and the age is so important… no one in that year made that great sound…

          Reply
    • Rolindadice

      I have always considered this song to be a grand representation of who/what they were before fame set in and had its inevitable effect on them. It sounds like a culmination of youthful, animalistic ardor and the honing brought about by their Hamburg experience. Ar this point they had yet to make their mark, and this track ‘feels’ like they knew they were shortly going to break big

      Reply
  5. robert

    Yes he did play those live – please re-read what I wrote (caps added for emphasis):

    It’s worth noting that John Lennon, during his solo years, only performed ONE VERY OLD Beatles song live – and this one was it.”

    Reply
    • Frank

      yes robert, you are absolutely right; he played it at a concert with Elton John (I think in Madison Square Garden) and he introduced the song as follows: “i would like to do a song now that was written by an old fiancé of mine).

      Reply
  6. carlos gutman

    In my country (Argentina) the very first Beatles record ever released was the january 1964 single “Twist and shout / I saw her standing there” (even earliest copies were 78 RPM). Can anybody imagine the shock these 2 great rock´n´roll songs produced in a 7 years old kid ? (That was me)

    Reply
  7. Pablo Castro

    I´ve always wondered why didn´t they choose I Saw Her Standing There for the first single, insetead of Love Me Do. Firstly, because I Saw her Standing There had been already written, and performed live ; secondly, because it´s much more rocking and exciting, than the naive Love Me Do. The lyrics contain some wit , like “and you know what I mean” , the guitar solo is superb, as is Ringo´s drumming. It´s mysterious for me …

    Reply
  8. michael kimsal

    @pablo:

    http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/love-me-do/

    If you believe that ISHST was completed in Sep 62, Love Me Do was already recorded at that point (June 62) and decisions to put out something different were probably not easy to make that late in the game. Love Me Do was released on October 5 – they were likely already printing up discs and sleeves at that point. Making a change that late for an unknown group wouldn’t have played well, I’d think.

    Reply
  9. Billy Shears

    Probably the BEST rock and roll song ever written. It has everything: Boy meets girl, They fall in love, they dance…and it really rocks. Basic. Timeless. Happy. The perfect dance song.

    Reply
  10. Moogmodule

    This is a great rock song. And the live versions do give some sense of how exciting early Beatles live shows would have been.

    I have to admit though that I’ve never listened to it quite the same way since it was pointed out how closely the harmonic structure follows When the Saints Go Marching In.

    Reply

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