Till There Was You

With The Beatles album artworkWritten by: Willson
Recorded: 18, 30 July 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 November 1963 (UK), 20 January 1964 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass
John Lennon: acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison: acoustic lead guitar
Ringo Starr: bongos

Available on:
With The Beatles
Live At The BBC
Anthology 1
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2

Till There Was You, sung by Paul McCartney on the With The Beatles album, was written by Meredith Willson for the 1957 musical The Music Man.

Download on iTunes



It also appeared in the 1962 film of the same name. McCartney, however, heard the song through Peggy Lee's 1958 version.

I had an elder cousin, Elizabeth Danher, now Robbins. She was quite an influence on me... Betty would play me records like Peggy Lee's Fever. Peggy Lee did Till There Was You as well. I didn't know that was from the musical The Music Man until many years later. This led me to songs like A Taste Of Honey and things which were slightly to the left and the right of rock 'n' roll.
Paul McCartney
Anthology

The song became part of The Beatles' live set from 1962, with performances taking place in such varied places as Hamburg's Star Club and the Royal Command Performance. They also performed it at their failed audition for Decca Records on 1 January 1962.

I could never see the difference between a beautiful melody and a cool rock 'n' roll song. I learnt to love all the ballady stuff through my dad and relatives - Till There Was You, My Funny Valentine - I thought these were good tunes. The fact that we weren't ashamed of those leanings meants that the band could be a bit more varied. And there was a need for that, because we played cabaret a lot. Songs like Till There Was You and Ain't She Sweet would be the late-night cabaret material. They showed that we weren't just another rock 'n' roll group.

The Lennon/McCartney songwriting collaboration was forming during that period. We went on from Love Me Do to writing deeper, much more intense things. So it was just as well someone didn't come up and tell us how uncool Till There Was You was.

Paul McCartney
Anthology

Till There Was You appealed to McCartney - a fan of musicals and show tunes - and offered a contrast to The Beatles' more rock 'n' roll numbers.

I looked at the recording scene and realised that a few people were taking offbeat songs, putting them into their acts and modernising them a bit. So I looked at a few songs with that in mind. Till There Was You was one; no one was doing that except Peggy Lee so I thought it'd be nice to play.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles performed Till There Was You at their famous appearance at the Royal Command Performance on 4 November 1963. It was later released on 1995's Anthology 1.

The next song we'd like to sing now is one which is a bit slower. This is from the show The Music Man, and it's also been recorded by our favourite American group Sophie Tucker.
Paul McCartney
Royal Command Performance, 1963

They also recorded it eight times for BBC radio, the first of which took place on 1 June 1963. The Beatles' last version, recorded for the From Us To You programme on 28 February 1964, was included on 1994's Live At The BBC.

Till There Was You was the second song performed during The Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in America, on 9 February 1964. It was the only song played that night which was not one of their hits.

In the studio

Till There Was You was first recorded on 18 July 1963, during the first session for the With The Beatles LP. On the same day the group also recorded You Really Got A Hold On Me, Money (That's What I Want) and Devil In Her Heart.

The Beatles recorded three takes of the song, two of which were complete. However, it was felt they were unsatisfactory, and a re-make was attempted on 30 July.

During this second session the group recorded takes 4-8, the last of which was selected as the best version. A mono mix was made on 21 August, and a stereo one on 29 October.

Lyrics:

There were bells on a hill
But I never heard them ringing
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you

There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging
No, I never saw them at all
Till there was you

Then there was music and wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you

Then there was music and wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you
Till there was you

17 responses on “Till There Was You

  1. Von Bontee

    This song gets a lot of ridicule, even more than “A Taste of Honey”, and not undeservedly so. I myself don’t enjoy it nearly as much as “Honey”, and the way Paul sings that he never “sawr” the birds winging is supremely irritating. But George’s surprising and unique guitar solo nearly makes it worthwhile.

    1. George Demake

      I’ve always liked this song. Paul does a great vocal and George’s playing really stands out in somewhat of a flamenco manner. Yup,George crafts his guitar solo qiute nicely from the first to the last note then delivers it beautifully right into McCartney’s next vocal line.

    2. MeanMrsMustard

      Wha?????
      Personally, I don’t care for “Honey,” but I absolutely love this song.
      (PS- I love Paul singing “sawr.” My mom and I imitate it when we sing along. :P )

    3. Allan Todd

      Personally I’d rather have this than “A Taste of Honey” – Paul’s “sawr” is just one of those individual touches I think. But what makes it work for me is the guitars, no doubt about it: not just the solo, but right from the intro and all the little interjections between the vocal lines – all beautifully done. And Lennon’s rhythm guitar is not to be overlooked either.

  2. tom watt

    I’ve always been intrigued by george’s guitar solo on this and wondered if it was original.For years i assumed that he must have copied it from the peggy lee version but on hearing it this isn’t the case.It wasn’t influenced by George Martin either as he played it on the decca tapes. Can anyone shed any light on this?

  3. Keith

    Thank you for highlighting this song. I remember it being performed on the Ed Sullivan Show and it is still may one of my favorites. I even suggested it to be included in the 2005 tour on McCartneys website at the time and couldnt believe they played it. It was my wedding song 30 years ago and I never get tired of it. I believe the ” sorry girls he’s married” reference to John while they performed on Sullivan was the basis for a scene in the movie “That Thing She Does”.

    1. James Ferrell

      Well, I sheepishly admit I kind of like this one. And “A Taste of Honey” and “P.S. I Love You”, which sound to me like three peas in the proverbial pod. Then after these pleasant but lightweight Paul performances, he comes up with “And I Love Her” on the next album, as beautiful and deep a ballad as you could ever hope for. What a guy; what a band!

  4. Richard Hancock

    Great lead vocal, great lead guitar and let’s give credit to the great songwriter Meredith Wilson who wrote the song for his Broadway musical The Music Man.

  5. eliirodz

    The “style” of this song is very reminiscent of what was happening in Latin music at the time. Listen to “Eydie Gorme and El Trio Los Panchos” and it is chock-full-o ballads that this wonderful song reminds me of.

  6. Oudis

    I guess you’re right eliirodz, there are a lot of Latin influences in George’s guitar, from its deep acoustic and gentle sound to its general style. A lot of “bolero” style.

  7. Randy

    George was well at ease with a classical on this, and “And I Love Her.” Robert, you’re right -George doesn’t even look, hardly on the Sullivan show -and that’s with a high fever! They all bought classical guitars while on holiday in Spain. George bought Mary Hopkin a Ramirez classical after she made a favorable comment about George’s.

Leave a reply