If I Fell

A Hard Day's Night album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 27 February 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 10 July 1964 (UK), 26 June 1964 (US)

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

Available on:
A Hard Day’s Night
On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2

If I Fell was a ballad primarily written by John Lennon, which first appeared on the A Hard Day’s Night film and soundtrack.

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The song was a collaboration between Lennon and McCartney, with Lennon taking the lead.

That’s my first attempt to write a ballad proper. That was the precursor to In My Life. It has the same chord sequence as In My Life: D and B minor and E minor, those kinds of things. And it’s semi-autobiographical, but not consciously. It shows that I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back when.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The Beatles mimed to If I Fell during the A Hard Day’s Night film. The scene takes place while the crew are setting up equipment prior to The Beatles’ ‘studio performance’. Amusingly, Lennon sings the love song to Starr.

The song became a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire in 1964. As the only ballad performed by the group at the time, it often suffered for their inability to hear themselves above the screams of Beatlemaniacs.

The live versions were typically faster than the studio recording. Bootleg recordings also often show Lennon and McCartney vainly attempting to suppress laughter while singing the song – occasionally it was jokingly introduced as If I Fell Over.

The Beatles recorded If I Fell twice for BBC radio. The first was taped on 14 July 1964 at Broadcasting House, London, and was transmitted two days later on the Top Gear programme. The second performance took place on 17 July at the BBC Paris Studio, London, and was first broadcast on 3 August. Neither rendition was included on the Live At The BBC collection.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for If I FellOn 8 April 1988 John Lennon’s lyrics for If I Fell, written on the back of a Valentine’s Day card, were sold at Sotheby’s in London for £7,800.

People tend to forget that John wrote some pretty nice ballads. People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him really which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected. We wrote If I Fell together but with the emphasis on John because he sang it. It was a nice harmony number, very much a ballad.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Among McCartney’s contributions was the introduction, featuring a musical motif that appears nowhere else in the song.

I was a big fan of the preamble in my early days, which you find in lots of ’50s songs. A first verse that goes: ‘I was living in Kentucky when I did, did, did and I dud-dud-dud, and then I said…’ [breathes in deeply]… then you break into the bit of the song you want everyone to know. One song I wrote a little after Please Please Me was my best attempt at a preamble: If I Fell. [Sings] ‘If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be truuue…’ Then after the line, ‘just holding hands’, the song properly gets going. [Raises voice] That’s it, everyone!
Paul McCartney
Q Magazine, May 2013

In the studio

If I Fell was recorded in 15 takes on 27 February 1964. On the same day they also recorded Tell Me Why and the second and final remake of And I Love Her.

The song’s acoustic introduction – which is not repeated elsewhere in the song, musically or lyrically – made its first appearance on take 11. However, home demos recorded by Lennon early in 1964 contained the passage.

The two-part harmony vocals was sung by Lennon and McCartney into a single microphone. Lennon took the low harmony, allowing McCartney to dominate the verses.

Chart success

If I Fell was the third song on the UK version of the A Hard Day’s Night album, which was released on 10 July 1964.

The US soundtrack LP was issued on 26 June. If I Fell was also the b-side of the And I Love Her single, which reached number 12 in the Billboard chart.

If I Fell performed better in Norway, where it was a chart-topping single in its own right.

A rare UK single, with Tell Me Why on the b-side, was pressed in the UK by EMI and released on 4 December 1964. It was made for export purposes, but a number of record dealers began shipping the discs back into the UK for resale. The catalogue number was Parlophone DP 562.

52 responses on “If I Fell

  1. AlbertCunning

    “That’s my first attempt to write a ballad proper. In My Life was the first one that worked as a ballad. This one has the same chord sequence – just around D and D minor and E minor, those kinds of things. It is semi-autobiographical. It is really about this girl – not about Cyn. It has an intro like a Fifties song: “If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true and help me understand…” Paul may have helped with the middle eight. So that shows I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back then.”

    Just wondering: Where did you find this quote of John’s? I have the book ‘All we are saying’, by David Sheff — which is basically just a long version of the Playboy interview John did just weeks before he died — and what he says about his then wife, and, for me, more interestingly, Paul’s input, isn’t mentioned in the book at all.

    Have you been given access to David Sheff’s original tapes?

    I originally found this one to be one of those songs John and Paul disagreed over when it comes to writing-credits, but given what you have written is true, it seems that they are basically on the same wavelength — which of course DID happen from time to time…

    1. Joe Post author

      I wish I had access to David Sheff’s tapes! I need to come clean here, though. I wrote this article before I had bought the Sheff book, and you’re right – that full quote isn’t there. I don’t know if it was in the original Playboy edition in 1980, but I suspect that All We Are Saying pretty much contains everything Lennon said in the interviews.

      I’ve corrected the quote, to the one on pages 194-5 in David Sheff’s excellent book. The previous version, which you mentioned, was taken from the rec.music.beatles newsgroup, but the person who posted it did say: “I think I got it from a Playboy interview somewhere”. So I shouldn’t have been quite so careless when reproducing it!

  2. AlbertCunning

    If we suggest John_did_state that Paul may have helped with the middle eight, that wouldn’t really make too much sense, because the song doesn’t have a middle eight; although — as I’ve mentioned before — John was never too much into the technicalities of music.

    …unless we assume that he meant the section that goes: “…her, ’cause I couldn’t stand the pain, and I would be sad if I knew love was in vain.”

    That section actually HAS eight bars.

    About David Sheff’s tape:
    http://www.geocities.com/donaldsauter/yellow-submarine.htm

    He appears to have listened to it.

    Although, John — seemingly — taking credit for ‘Two of Us’ is on page 204 in my version of ‘All We are Saying’.

  3. AlbertCunning

    On YouTube there is a demo of John doing ‘If I Fell’, where the section I’ve already mentioned appears to be a bit different melodically.
    Slightly different chords used, as well.

    I think I’m on to something here.
    [While others, I guess, will think I'm just ON something.]

  4. Matt

    One of my favorite bits about this song is that if you listen to the LP, Paul’s voice cracks on the second “was in vain”.

    This was fixed digitally for the CD release, which I honestly think was unnecessary and gratuitious.

    1. steve

      just to expand on matt’s comment – paul’s voice cracks on the stereo version of if i fell, the mono version is a different take, with perfect vocal – one of those odd fabs mono / stereo oddities (see please please me as an example)

      1. Happy Nat

        Actually the mono was just ‘repaired’ by copying and pasting Paul’s earlier vocal of “in vain” over the second one. Not sure why they didn’t do that on the stereo mix. Maybe it was just an oversite. The stereo mixes had less importance at the time.

        1. J. Brown

          You’re all wrong. The original take was where Paul cracked. When they overdubbed, it was sung correctly. If you listen to the mono mix, the original vocal is mixed out and just the single track overdub is heard.

          1. Happiness is a warm gun

            I can’t claim to know which of you are correct, but on the 2009 mono re-mix (which I’m listening to right now on pro quality headphones) something is odd about it–the sound of Paul’s voice warbles a little on that 2nd “in vain”. It definitely is a different take than from the previous “in vain” and from the one where his voice cracks. But that warble doesn’t sound like it’s his voice, but either a problem with the original tape or it’s been manipulated later somehow, or both. I haven’t heard the original mono LP version isn over 20 years so I don’t recall if that warble was there or not. But if it is, it may be due to the quality of the original tape of that take being compromised somehow. And if so, that’s possibly why they had to keep the cracked version in the stereo mix (which is kept on the 2009 re-mix–I double-checked).

            1. ken

              Having been in a recording studio I am familiar with the sound of a “punch in” where one recorded track with a mistake is re-recorded live and at some point the engineer pushes the record button to start laying down the new track. It usually happens on a beat to other so it is not obvious.

              I have always heard it on this song in the middle of the word “hope” which occurs after Paul’s voice cracked on “vain”. If you listen carefully you can hear that the voices sound suddenly different on the second beat during the word “hope”. There is a slight volume and balance shift suggesting it was a new take.

              Here’s what might have happened: Paul’s voice started to strain and he ended up stopping during the take later in the song (to cough or whatever). George Martin spun the tape back and told them to start singing again and at that moment- for whatever reason- he “punched in” the new recording. I don’t know why her would do it there; it’s just that it sounds like a punch in to my ears..

  5. BeatleMark

    The vocal harmonies to me are quite impressive. Being a guitar player and this being one of the songs I know by heart, it is hard to stay in the same vocal key as John without venturing into Paul’s.

    1. DavidBeatleGuitar

      Totally agree… It was hard to get a perfect take of me singing john and playing at the same time without going to paul… Specially on “two… cause I couln’t stand…”

  6. carlos gutman

    To me is 90 % John´s song. I have the original mono vinyl (1964) and there´s no crack in Paul´s “in vain”, and I have a stereo vynil copy too (1978) where Paul´s voice DOES crack. My little contribution.

  7. Rachel

    Paul: “We wrote If I Fell together but with the emphasis on John because he sang it.”

    Reality: “We sang If I Fell together but with the emphasis on John because he wrote it.”

    One of the more charitable passages in his book, giving John full singing credit on a song with shared vocals. The emphasis on John had to come from somewhere, after all.

    1. paulsbass

      In case you are quoting “Many years from now”:
      I’m SICK of people claiming Paul downsized any of John’s contributions. There is nothing “charitable” about his comment or any other.

      And anyone who works together with someone else will acknowledge that it’s sometimes hard to tell afterwards who did excactly what, especially who’s idea was it first.

      So it’s just Paul proving his point:
      John is doing the lead vocal (when there is one, e.g. the intro), so he was the main songwriter. But it was obviously a close collaboration, since they do almost all vocals together.

      Why is this concept so hard to get for so many people?!
      Listen to who sings what and you have the songwriting credits right there (ALMOST always).

      1. Rachel

        I agree that who does the singing is almost always the main composer(s) of the song. However, wouldn’t you agree that Two of Us, sung by both John and Paul, was not a songwriting collaboration but was, in fact, Paul’s song?

        I would like to add that I agree with Paul when he says about this song, “People tend to forget that John wrote some pretty nice ballads.” He then says that they wrote it together. I might agree with that too if he’d only state what his contribution was. What percentage did he give himself? If it was something like 40%, his contribution would be significant enough to remember.

        1. paulsbass

          Read my post: ALMOST always. You even agreed on that.
          Nuff said.

          I don’t seem to get what your problem is.
          Do you actually think Paul is lying?

          As for percentage:
          He says it was a coop with emphasis on John, obviously meaning something like 40-60.
          In fact, the intro chords are really tricky, sounds more like Paul to me. But I can be wrong, I wasn’t there.

          1. Rachel

            John sings the lead in the intro, so he wrote that for sure like you said before. Paul didn’t say he wrote those chords. I expect he would have if it were true. 40% sounds a little steep to me, seeing as he was so vague about his input. I distinctly recall that 60-40 was also what he gave for Norwegian Wood. According to John, Paul’s contribution on that one was the line about lighting a fire. At least John was specific (e.g., the “I love you, I love you, I love you…” middle section in Michelle which he says was his. Did Paul give him 40% on that song? I’ll give Paul credit for being specific about his contribution to Help (the counter melody). Therefore, I’ll take his word for it in that instance.

            I don’t know if I’d call it lying simply because his lack of specifics makes it impossible to cross-check with info from other sources. Just skewing John’s songs a bit much in his favor while being conservative with his own songs. The reason I’m making a big deal about this is because Many Years From Now was intended to “set the record straight” according to Paul, and people take it as the last word on the Lennon-McCartney collaboration despite the fact that John is no longer around to confirm/dispute any of it. Believe me, I loved the time when I could listen to Beatles records without caring who wrote what because the songs were almost always good whether they were John’s or Paul’s. Knowing that the person who sang it wrote it was enough for me. It showed that it was indeed an equal partnership. It’s a shame Paul couldn’t just leave it at that, as if being considered equal wasn’t enough.

            1. David

              Given the number of songs they were developing at any one time, it’s ridiculous to assume they would remember accurately, years or decades later, exactly who came up with what. And don’t forget how many musical ideas or lyrics fell by the wayside during the writing or recording process. (Occasionally, the Anthology versions of some songs show them going quite a long way with an idea they then scrapped, such as the “somehow, someway” line in Got to Get You Into My Life on Anthology 2.)

              I was involved in “teamwork” translation (that’s my job) for many years, and when I used to read something back after even just a few weeks, I honestly couldn’t remember if it was my draft that my partner had revised, my partner’s draft that I had revised, something half-finished by one that the other then finished off, or an “eyeball to eyeball” job. And that’s just boring corporate translation! When you’re talking about some of the greatest songs ever written by two of the most brilliant songwriters ever, who collaborated not only as writers but also as lead singers, backup and harmony singers and musicians, obviously the lines are going to be blurred. And that’s before you take into account the substances that may have been being ingested at the same time!
              Rachel seems obsessed with percentages. It’s impossible to say whose chord structures, melody lines, lyrics, harmonies, arrangements and production values constitute what percentage! Let’s just agree that If I Fell is 100% brilliant.

  8. Kendall

    I really admire Paul: however, this is John’s song entirely…the evidence is conclusive beyond ANY doubt…the song lyric, except for part of one line, is completely finished on John’s Home demo that ended up in the hands of the Beatles’ Chauffeur Alf Bicknell….later, John polished the one line in the lyric and that exists as well;and clearly, he wrote all of the music to this song, on his own, stem to stern….the chords in the demo are IDENTICAL to that on the finished record with one major exception: it was written in a different key on a guitar tuned down a whole step. On the demo, the first chord is F#m (Em if you’re in standard tuning). On the released Beatles version, the first chord is Ebm…to my mind, the greatest opening bars to any Beatles Ballad…This is, I believe, the greatest ballad on ANY record… let alone Beatles record…and this is where Paul comes in…Paul’s contribution may have been to help John change the key (lowering the pitch a half-step) thereby making it more suitable for the incomparable two-part harmony….Paul probably created his vocal part; however, this is an ARRANGING credit (NOT a songwriting credit).

    1. paulsbass

      First: I had to laugh when I read Rachel’s comment above again…

      Second: Is it confirmed that the Demo was finished before McCartney added anything to the song?

      Third: I think it is totally ridiculous how some people obsess here about who wrote what.

      I don’t really care about how many percent belong to whom. But I don’t like people calling Paul a liar.

      1. Kendall

        I certainly didn’t call Paul a Liar; but, I can say his recollection is in error concerning THIS song. Demo tapes are composition tapes…anyone will tell you that…you commit a song to tape either when your in the process of composing or to transcribe what you just wrote so as not to forget it…Paul and John have demos circulating that show them doing one or the other…both John and Paul have lapses in memory concerning certain songs..this is understandable. To date,no demo tape circulates of a song that they are in the process of writing together….”Michelle” and “We Can Work It Out” exist as Paul demos….however, both are missing the middle parts that John contributed later….these are “Home Demos”…solo efforts…and, “If I Fell” is complete on John’s demo to the extent I mentioned earlier…he deserves the full credit for this song: the different key signature on the demo is the clincher for the melody and chord structure…you can’t underestimate that…it makes it conclusive…and, of course, the lyrics are there as well….the only things missing are the two-part harmony and the change of key (which are questions concerning the arrangement…)…

      2. JohnPaulGeorgeRingo

        see what he say in 2013 about the song…he basically claims its his own song…Paul: “I was a big fan of the preamble in my early days, which you find in lots of ’50s songs. A first verse that goes: ‘I was living in Kentucky when I did, did, did and I dud-dud-dud, and then I said…’ [breathes in deeply]… then you break into the bit of the song you want everyone to know. One song I wrote a little after Please Please Me was my best attempt at a preamble: If I Fell. [Sings] ‘If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be truuue…’ Then after the line, ‘just holding hands’, the song properly gets going. [Raises voice] That’s it, everyone!” even takes credit of please please me which is also a lennon number…lennon took credit wrongly on eleanor rigby but thats about the only one

        1. Baggio

          I find Paul’s comments in regards to his contributions to songs that are predominantly John’s sometimes vague and inconsistent. I think what he really meant was: “One preamble I wrote a little after the Please Please Me album was recorded was the one for If I Fell…”.

          For the record, I don’t think Paul wrote even the preamble by himself. John sang most songs on “A Hard Day’s Night” and if Paul had wrote that bit I think he’d have sung it. Plus if Paul had written this alone and they both wrote the rest together it would mean this is more a Paul song, but Paul himself claimed this is more John’s song (i.e. “John could write nice ballads”, “emphasis on John”).

          Additionally, the demo does sound like a composition demo (John switches between what became his vocals and Paul’s) and it seems like John had pretty much everything on this one (it sounds great by the way!).

          I think both John and Paul made mistakes on their recollections – it has more to do with the amount of songs they composed/time elapsed/drugs than ill intent. I don’t think John wrote Eleanor Rigby and I don’t think Paul contributed significantly on this one.

          We’ll never know it for sure though. So all we have left is their legacy to listen and enjoy.

  9. Charlie

    Paul does not seem shy about claiming credits on John songs, especially the Beatlemania hits on which John sings, and which John said that he wrote. On the other hand, Paul does give some credit to John for tracks like Paperback Writer and Magical Mystery Tour (the song). The John “VERSUS” Paul bit might come more from Barry Miles than from McCartney – and that is another story.

  10. brian

    While it may be a stretch to many in saying so, I think this is the very first time John intentionally refers to a previous Beatles composition in a song with the line “and I found that love was more than just holding hands” – a clear reference, I think, to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

  11. Pavel (Russia)

    What do you think:

    I must be sure from the very start
    that you would love me more than her

    Do these lines tell us that girl should sing that? Or is this a Liverpool slang and grammatically it should be “You would love me more that SHE DID”?

  12. AlExiy

    Dear moderator, there is in Russia one site like yours. There is one topic in russian site http://music-facts.ru/song/The_Beatles/If_I_Fell/

    Main aim the discussion is to decide from what person The Beatles sing this song, I mean sex – from boy or from girl? It is simple for native english speaking peoples? But not for us. Help us to solve this problem any way. Many Thanks.

    By the way, author of last post Pavel is from our society.

    1. John E Conner

      I have been playing these songs since they came out. Every new song or album was a new guitar lesson..One thing about this song not mentioned here is that the actual melody line switches back and forth between John and Paul. Whenever they are both singing, Paul seems to have the lead melody and John is doing a low harmony. In places the jump John has to do is almost awkward but he pulls it off quite well as in. “see that I WOULD LOVE TO LOVE YOU, and that she….” Anyway, it’s something you notice when you work it out with a band.

    2. metzgermeister77

      The correct way to render the line in English would be “I must be sure from the very start that you would love me more than she,” but most native English speakers don’t have such a precise grasp of the language, and even if they did, to say it that way sounds stuffy. So “love me more than her” is understood to mean “love me more than she does.”

  13. Matte H

    “One song I wrote a little after Please Please Me was my best attempt at a preamble (…)
    Paul McCartney
    Q Magazine, May 2013″

    So now Paul claims that he wrote this one all by himself?

  14. Jay

    Just finished reading the discussions here about this song.
    I think this song is an equal collaboration…
    Just an observation guys. John sang alone on the intro. And they sang together (John & Paul) onwards on the entire song.
    Have anyone noticed that Paul is actually singing the melody & John is singing the lower harmony?
    My point is, if this song was of John’s majority, why is Paul singing the melody?
    Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not on a Paul vs John or John vs Paul argument ( I love them both) :-)
    On the lyrics, maybe it’s more of John’s… but on the whole, I think the two contributed almost equally.

  15. James Ferrell

    If I Fell is one of my favorites from AHDN, and maybe my favorite John + Paul 2-part harmonies in the Beatles’ canon. It’s a beautiful, affecting song.

    Harmonically it remind me a bit of Do You Want to Know a Secret–the three chromatically descending minor chords over the “doo dah doo” in DYWTOAS are used, to good end, over the “with you” part of IIF. And both songs have preambles and similar tempos.

  16. Baggio

    A “sister” song to the great “And I Love her” – I think “If I Fell” is even better than that.
    The harmony vocals here are amazing – John’s vocals in particular are very hard to sing!

  17. Jullius Lenar

    Are you guys talking about a song from 50 years ago. We get it, if you love john, you look and try to point out all of johns greatness etc….If you love Paul, you point out everything Paul did and try to spin it. The only thing I have noticed is that Paul always contributed to songs in the studio and most certainly this type of song he would of contributed. Also, I notice how people try to minimize Paul’s contributions to the Beatles songs. Lets get real and move on in life. They were great musicians and everyone added in the studio. If you people believe everything that was written or said in interviews by John Lennon then you must be all crazy because he said a lot of stuff that made nonsense, he even said a lot a bad stuff about the Beatles music and about George, Paul and producer George Martin. John Lennon was a heroin and cocaine addict that lied all the time and had Yoko manipulating him like a lot of girlfriends do. However, he has been dead for so long and most of the world doesn’t care about a crack in a voice at 0200th of a second. Come on, get with it people. ….Life goes on and Music changes and progresses and musicians change stuff all the time in a studio and then the producers change their songs when they are at home relaxing. Then the song is cut up and pasted together and harmonies added and different takes are cut together and stuff is drowned out and then they have a product to sell to people like you. Especially people that will keep buying different versions of the same song and then buy books and treat Playboy interviews as a life long interview and Holy grail. Anyhow, you get the point. GET A LIFE GUYS! Paul McCartney is the only one that actually still sings Beatles songs and has been promoting the Beatles for over 40 years by including the Beatles songs in his concerts and keeping the music in the public eye. Lennon did 1 concert after the Beatles and it was laughable. He needed a big hit of heroin before he could face the crowd, Just like Michael Jackson.

  18. Joseph Brush

    What a patronizing distorted comment! Hard core fans of this website love the Beatles warts and all with no expiry date in sight. GET OVER IT!
    For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.

  19. wayne

    “If I Fell” is a fine song, written by John Lennon and recorded & performed by all four Beatles. “And I Love Her” is a fine song, written by Paul McCartney and recorded & performed by all four Beatles. Both songs are from The Beatles album “A Hard Day’s Night”. All this senseless bickering over “who wrote what” is maddening. Lennon has been dead for 33 1/2 years. McCartney’s memory of what did or didn’t happen at the height of Beatlemania craziness fifty years ago may or may not be a bit inaccurate. Who really cares at this point? The songs are still awesome.

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