Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!

Beatles For Sale album artworkWritten by: Leiber-Stoller/Penniman
Recorded: 18 October 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

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

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

Available on:
Beatles For Sale
Live At The BBC
Anthology 1
On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2

One of The Beatles’ most thrilling rock ‘n’ roll performances, Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey was recorded for Beatles For Sale in a single take in October 1964.

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Kansas City had been written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. It was first recorded in the same year by Little Willie Littlefield that same year, under the title KC Lovin’. Under its correct title, it was popularised by Wilbert Harrison in 1959, after which a number of cover versions followed.

Among these was Little Richard’s version. When performing the song live, it usually became part of a medley with his own song Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!, which was first released in 1958 as the b-side to Good Golly Miss Molly.

The Beatles saw Little Richard perform the medley in concert, and adopted it for their own set in 1962. They performed twice with him in England in October that year, and became friends with him during a two-week stint at Hamburg’s Star-Club in November.

I could do Little Richard’s voice, which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing; it’s like an out-of-body experience. You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it. You have to actually go outside yourself. It’s a funny little trick and when you find it, it’s very interesting.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Granada Television filmed The Beatles for the first time at the Cavern on 22 August 1962, performing Some Other Guy for the Know The North programme. Their sound technician Gordon Butler returned to the venue on 5 September to make a better-quality audio recording.

Butler used three microphones rather than one. He made an hour-long recording of The Beatles, of which performances of Some Other Guy and Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! survived. He made five acetate discs of the two songs, one of which was sold at Christie’s auction house in August 1993.

The sound engineer ran me off an acetate of Some Other Guy and Kansas City, and he gave another to Ray McFall and a couple to Brian Epstein. I kept mine in my box of records and I should have been more careful. When The Beatles became famous, the record disappeared. In 1993, a copy turned up at Christie’s and was sold for £15,000. I don’t know if it was my copy and anyway, I couldn’t prove it if it was.
Bob Wooler
The Cavern, Spencer Leigh

An audio fragment of the Cavern recording appeared in the Anthology series, although was partially obscured by interview speech. A recording from the Star-Club, Hamburg, taped in December 1962, is also available on bootlegs.

The Beatles had mostly dropped Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! from their live set by 1963, although they were performed for a BBC radio session that year on 16 July, first broadcast on 6 August. Recorded for Pop Go The Beatles, this version was released in 1994 on the Live At The BBC collection.

Another radio version was recorded for the From Us To You show on 1 May 1964, and was first broadcast on 18 May.

A third BBC version was captured on 17 July 1964, for the 3 August edition of From Us To You, and a final one followed on 25 November for Saturday Club, which listeners first heard on 26 December.

In the studio

Despite having mostly dropped it by 1963, The Beatles revived the Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! medley when their first American tour arrived in Kansas on 17 September 1964. It was rapturously received by the crowd, leading the group to consider recording it in the studio.

This they did a month later, when a shortage of original material for their fourth album led to The Beatles reviving a number of old songs.

Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! became one of The Beatles’ most successful cover versions. Perfected in just one take, it was one of the first songs to be recorded during a mammoth session on 18 October 1964.

The Beatles did record a second take of the medley, although this remained unissued until 1995, when it was the final song on Anthology 1.

Lyrics

Ah, Kansas city
Gonna get my baby back home, yeah, yeah
I’m going to Kansas City
Gonna get my baby back home, yeah, yeah
Well, it’s a long, long time since
My baby’s been gone

Ah, Kansas City
Gonna get my baby one time, a-yeah, yeah
I’m going to Kansas City
Get my baby one time, yeah, yeah
It’s just a-one, two, three, four
Five, six, seven, eight, nine

Hey hey hey hey (hey hey hey hey)
Hey, baby (hey, baby)
Ooh, now girl (well, girl)
I said, yeah, now, pal (well, pal)
Now, now, now, now, tell me baby
What’s been wrong with you?

Hey hey hey hey (hey hey hey hey)
Hey, baby (hey, baby)
Ooh, now girl (well, girl)
I said, yeah, now, pal (well, pal)
Now, now, now, now, tell me baby
What’s been wrong with you?

Well, I said bye (bye bye, bye bye, bye bye)
Bye bye, baby, bye bye (bye bye, bye bye, bye bye)
Whoo, so long (so long, so long, so long)
Bye bye, baby, I’m gone (bye bye, bye bye, bye bye)
Yeah, I said bye bye, baby
Bye, bye, bye, bye

Bye now, bye (bye bye, bye bye, bye bye)
Bye now, baby, bye bye (bye bye, bye bye)

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7 Responses to “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!”

  1. Andrew

    It might be worth mentioning the Kansas City concert where the promoter paid The Beatles a huge amount of extra money in order to play this song at the show. I’m not sure about the details, but it’s a fairly significant story about the song imo

    Reply
  2. Mikey

    The concert took place Kansas City Athletics (now Oakland) Memorial Stadium. Owner Charles Finley had his picture with a Beatles wig printed on the tickets with this quote:
    “Today’s Beatle Fan is tomorrow’s baseball fan”. I did not go, but my best friend did.

    Reply
  3. Michael McLellan

    I saw the Beatles in Kansas City and it was unbelievable. l also was lucky enough to see them two years later in St. Louis just about five concerts before they quit touring for good. great times!

    Reply
  4. maggie Rae

    I love the Beatles version of Kansas City Hey-Hey-Hey. I didn’t know that this is a cover of Little Richard’s recording. But I heard Richard’s song for the first time today. I noticed that Richard says: “yeah now child” and the Beatles say: “yeah now pal”, which never made sense to me. Now that I’ve heard Little Richard’s song, I wondering if the Beatles just misunderstood what Richard was saying, and thought he said “pal” instead of “child”. At first I thought Richard was saying “gal”, which rhymes with “pal”.

    Reply
  5. metzgermeister77

    One of the Beatles’ greatest rock covers, with a fantastic raw vocal by… Paul?!

    Seriously, though, this track is why I’ve never understood the general perception that John was the rocker and Paul was the balladeer. Paul could rip it up with the best of them.

    Reply

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