Misery

Please Please Me album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11, 20 February 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

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

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

Available on:
Please Please Me

On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2

The second song on the Please Please Me album, Misery was written by Lennon and McCartney during The Beatles’ tour with Helen Shapiro in late January 1963.

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It was kind of a John song more than a Paul song, but it was written together.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

They began writing it backstage before The Beatles’ performance at the King’s Hall, Stoke-on-Trent on 26 January, later completing at McCartney’s family home at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool.

It was our first stab at a ballad and had a little spoken preface. It was co-written. I don’t think either of us dominated on that one, it was just a job, you could have called us hacks, hacking out a song for someone.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

They originally hoped the song would be recorded by Shapiro herself, but her manager Norrie Paramor considered the lyrics unsuitable.

She turned it down. It may not have been that successful for her because it’s a rather downbeat song. It was quite pessimistic.
Paul McCartney

Instead, they gave it to singer/actor Kenny Lynch, who was on the same tour. As a result, Lynch became the first performer to record a Lennon-McCartney composition.

He was another lad with an eye for an opportunity, and he had a minor hit with it. He used to do it on tour with us… not amazingly well.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

The Beatles recorded Misery in 11 takes during their marathon 11 February 1963 session, in which the bulk of Please Please Me was put to tape.

The song was recorded with the tapes running at double speed – 30 inches per second – to allow for a piano overdub to be laid down at the slower speed at a later date. This was added on 20 February by George Martin, without The Beatles being present.

17 responses on “Misery

  1. Steve Ogg

    I find it strange that I am the only one to bring this up. “Misery” has a backing vocal that is not one of the Beatles’ voices. Check it out. At the beginning of each line, there is a voice that chips in and punctuates each line. “I’M the kind of guy”, “SEND her back to me.” I have listened to the Beatles for decades, and regardless of what the liner notes say, this is just not one of their voices. My guess? Well, my guess is that when George Martin overdubbed the piano, he also punched up the vocals by adding his voice. After all, Martin had a lot of control in those early days and it seems quite likely that he “fixed” this recording. As we all know, even Clapton was not credited for playing the guitar on one of Harrison’s songs until years later. Credit to other musicians just was not acknowledged back then. Does anyone out there have any recordings of George Martin singing, so we can confirm this? Thanks, Steve Ogg.

    1. Epenguin

      ” I have listened to the Beatles for decades”, yes, then you should know how outlandish your statement was. You may have listened, but you never actually heard or you would easily be able to spot a Fab voice.

  2. Nick Edmonds

    It seems to me that Paul and John are singing in unison switching to harmonies during the chorus. Two other Beatles songs I can think of the does the same thing are I Want to Hold Your Hand and Tell Me What You See.

  3. David

    I wonder what the first draft of the lyrics was. If it was originally tailor-made for Helen Shapiro, it wouldn’t have started with “I’m the kind of guy who never used to cry”. Does anyone know?

  4. M. Whitener

    That’s definitely Paul just singing louder over the intro words on those bars. It’s another really good co-op bass & rhythm job too. You can hear a lot of echo in the intro by John before the instruments join the piano. It sounds like it’s more John’s topic style than Paul though. That split may be more of a divide than Paul remembers from the writing session.

  5. Buddy

    It’s one of the Beatles’ songs that I enjoy very much. I heard the Kenny Lynch version and now I know why that version flopped. The Beatles gave it more pep and more power on it. I like how John mashes up the tune of the “LaLaLaLa” ending part on every incarnation of this song.

  6. Jay

    When I was still a kid, I remember my dad has a 45 rpm record/single of ‘Misery’. If my memory serves me right, the B-side is ‘I’ll Get You’ and the record label is ‘Vee-Jay’ not Parlophone. I wonder where was this Vee-Jay label from. USA or UK?
    Parlophone is the authorized record label of The Beatles here in the Philippines. Our local distributor of Beatles records here doesn’t carry Beatles-Capitol releases. Only Parlophone.

    1. Julian

      Vee-Jay is (or was at the time) a smaller US label that released some Beatles singles in 1963. The first US Beatles album “Introducing The Beatles” came out on Vee-Jay as well!

  7. Jay

    Thanks Julian for the information. Maybe my dad’s copy of that Misery/Vee Jay release was an imported record from the US because that’s the only Vee Jay single I saw on all our Beatles records then. Locally released Beatles 45 rpm singles & LP records here in our country were all in Parlophone label.

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