Beatles For Sale

Chart success

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The aptly-titled Beatles For Sale was released on 4 December 1964, and entered the UK charts on 12 December. It was an instant chart-topper, replacing A Hard Day's Night, and remaining there for seven consecutive weeks. It returned to the top for a week from 27 February 1965, and three further weeks from 1 May 1965. In all it spent 46 weeks in the charts.

One month prior to its release more than 500,000 advance orders had been placed. By the time Beatles For Sale hit the shops this had gone up to 750,000, the highest number of advance orders ever received for an album. It also briefly entered the singles chart at number 22, at a time when the hit parade was made up of sales regardless of the discs' diameters.

In the US, songs from Beatles For Sale were released on two separate Capitol albums. Beatles '65 was released on 15 December 1964 and included No Reply, I'm A Loser, Baby's In Black, Rock And Roll Music, I'll Follow The Sun, Mr Moonlight, Honey Don't and Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, along with I'll Be Back, She's A Woman and I Feel Fine.

Eight Days A Week was released as a US single on 15 February 1965, with I Don't Want To Spoil The Party as its b-side. Both songs were also included on the Beatles VI LP, released on 14 June 1965, along with the four remaining songs from Beatles For Sale: Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!, Words Of Love, What You're Doing and Every Little Thing.

In the studio

Although Beatles For Sale was created between August and October 1964, only seven days were spent recording. The first was on 14 August, then the group went on tour in the US and Canada, and resumed recording on 29 September.

Recording Beatles For Sale didn't take long. Basically it was our stage show, with some new songs.
Paul McCartney

Aside from the unused Leave My Kitten Alone, each of the seven songs recorded before The Beatles' 1964 UK tour began on 9 October was a Lennon-McCartney original. Only I'll Follow The Sun would join the cover versions in the remaining two recording sessions. The group knew that they were short of material, and so recorded a selection of songs which would cause them the least amount of bother.

Each of the recording sessions for Beatles For Sale took place in Studio Two at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London. While recording the album they also taped both sides of the standalone single I Feel Fine/She's A Woman, and the group's second fan club Christmas record.

Although The Beatles had limited time in the studio in the latter half of 1964, a number of studio innovations found their way onto Beatles For Sale. The most notable was the fade-in introduction for Eight Days A Week, the first time it had been done on a pop music recording. The Beatles experimented with a number of arrangements for the song in the studio, including a vocal harmony intro.

Every Little Thing was one of the very first songs to feature multi-tracked bass guitar. This is most apparent in the stereo mix, which separates the two bass parts to the left and right channels; the overdubbed notes can be heard during the lead guitar solo.

George Harrison's version of Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby was also innovative in its use of heavy tape echo and delay on the vocals. His guitar introduction for Baby's In Black was another studio experiment, although perhaps not as innovative. A number of variations were tested, including bending the opening note with his Gretch guitar's vibrato arm, with George Martin happy to sit aside and let them perfect their arrangement.

Our records were progressing. We'd started out like anyone spending their first time in a studio - nervous and naive and looking for success. By this time we'd had loads of hits and a few tours and were becoming more relaxed with ourselves, and more comfortable in the studio. And the music was getting better.

For this album we rehearsed only the new ones. Songs like Honey Don't and Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, we'd played live so often that we only had to get a sound on them and do them. But with songs like Baby's In Black, we had to learn and rehearse them. We were beginning to do a little overdubbing, too, probably a four-track. And George Martin would suggest some changes; not too many, but he was always an integral part of it.

George Harrison

There were a handful of new instruments used on Beatles For Sale, including Ringo Starr's timpani on Every Little Thing, and George Harrison playing an African drum on Mr Moonlight, to which Paul McCartney also added a Hammond organ.

Although the group had access to four-track recording technology, three of the songs on Beatles For Sale - Rock And Roll Music, Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby and Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! - were each recorded in just one take. A second take of Kansas City was attempted, but it was judged inferior to the first.

Beatles For Sale was the first album where The Beatles attended mixing sessions; in future years they took a much closer role in the mixing process, but until this time had been content to let George Martin and his engineers carry out the sessions. Nonetheless, the mixes were mostly done quickly, with five songs mixed for stereo within half an hour on 27 October.

I felt we were progressing in leaps and bounds, musically. Some of the material on Beatles For Sale and the 1965 Rubber Soul album was just brilliant; what was happening elsewhere was nothing like it. It was getting to be really exciting in the studio. We did it all in there: rehearsing, recording and finishing songs. We never hired a rehearsal room to run down the songs, because a lot of them weren't finished. The ideas were there for the first verse, or a chorus, but it could be changed by the writers as we were doing it, or if anyone had a good idea.

The first form in which I'd hear a newly written tune would be on the guitar or piano. It's great to hear the progression through takes of various songs. They'd change dramatically. First of all, whoever wrote it would say, 'It goes like this.' They would play it on guitar or piano, singing it every time - they would be learning to sing the song while we were all learning to play it, over and over again.

Most of our early recordings were on three tracks because we kept on track for overdubs. That also kept us together as a band - we played and played and played. If one of them could sing it, the four of us could play it till the cows came home. There was none of this, 'We'll put the bass on later, or the guitars.' We put most of it on then and there, including the vocals. And songs were written anywhere.

Ringo Starr

29 responses on “Beatles For Sale

  1. salesanalyst

    I just played this one again, twice, after many years. And I was really taken by many of the songs, including the strong opening 5 tracks, skipping Mr. Moonlight which I’ve always detested, and I especially liked I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, an early melancholic Lennon number. And adding in Eight Days A Week, Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey, and a few more great covers make this album quite an enjoyable listen. This record certainly gets overlooked unnecessarily.

  2. Amphion

    I’ve noticed quite a few negative references to Mr. Moonlight, which I do like. Its got a powerful vocal. (Listen to John perfect it on the Anthology series. It also points to the fact that even from their early days they were playing a whole variety of different songs from different genres. This could also be said of many of the Beat boom groups from Liverpool. But it was this diversity as much as anything else which would define the Beatles as timeless.

  3. McLerristarr

    This is probably my least favourite Beatles album (other than Yellow Submarine but that hardly counts). But when you look at each individual song, they’re all great. Not sure what it’s lacking, perhaps it’s just they were still doing covers when they could have filled the album with self-written music. George didn’t have any self-written songs on the album and only sang one, that’s also a downside for me.

    1. Steve

      I think your right about the covers. In retrospect replacing ‘Moonlight, Words of Love and Honey Don’t with I Feel Fine, She’s a Woman and Leave My Kitten alone , would make it a fine album indeed.

  4. Stough

    This album gets ragged on for being “war weary”. Actually, I think Help is a better candidate for being tired (but I’ll leave those comments for that page). Certainly it’s not as varied or dynamic as Hard Days Night, but this is a very good album; especially when you add the single to the analysis. Alot is mentioned of the Dylan influence, but I think many of the acoustic tracks are also inspired by the success of the acoustic numbers from A Hard Days Night. Specifically, I believe they were building on the success of “if I Fell” and “I’ll be Back”. I know many of these tracks started out with a full electric line up, but I believe the above mentioned influences made it easy to go acoustic. To my mind they are doing the Everly Brothers and adding the folk/Dylan influence, along with their own awareness of their fantastic ability to sing duets. (Cynthia mentions how many times she and her friends were enraptured by the acoustic duets John and Paul would sing). As to the covers, Everybody and Moonlight are weak, but the rest are great. John dominates the writing, as Paul still seems to be looking for his voice (comparatively speaking); which I don’t think he really finds until Rubber Soul. What your doing is not a very strong track. I rank it ahead of both Help and their first album and MMT and possibly Let it Be (even with Don’t let me Down added). I love Georges 12 string , but it does seem to be getting old on some of these songs.

  5. Bob B

    I really liked this album a lot… the covers and originals. It was an album made in a frenzied time, but you can start to hear the changes that were to be evident a year later with Rubber Soul.

  6. Jerry

    What if the album lineup went like this:

    No Reply
    I’m a Loser
    Baby’s in Black
    Rock and Roll Music
    I’ll Follow the Sun
    Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby
    Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey
    Eight Days and Week
    Words of Love
    Honey Don’t
    Every Little Thing
    I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
    What You’re Doing
    Leave My Kitten Alone

    Better? Post modern disc jockeying?


      Hey Jerry, looks like you have my habit of mentally resequencing albums or adding unused tracks to see what happens. I do it all the time and my rejigged version of For Sale was pretty much the same except that I think Kansas City would have been a better closer. I agree with inserting Kitten, after hearing it on Anthology 1 I can’t imagine why it wasn’t used. I would have put it at the end of side one. Maybe I’d have switched round Baby’s in Black and I’m a loser too. Otherwise I think you’re spot on with this one. Incidentally, I think Mr.Moonlight sounds 10 times better on the remastered version – it’s come to life.

  7. M. Whitener

    This album took a long time for me to like, but once I matured with their music & came back to it, I realized how ridiculously strong it is. “I’ll Follow The Sun” was my long time fav, but after really listening I realized “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” is one of John’s great performances & “What You’re Doing” is definitely one of the most slept on songs they’ve ever made. Add in “Baby In Black”, which is one of the best Lennon/McCartney combo vocals of their entire catalog, and this album is among the strong of the pre-Studio band years. As a complete work, I’d take it over With The Beatles, Please Please Me & even A Hard Days Night.

  8. Richie

    Somehow I missed this album as a teenager. But I did manage to acquire the “4 by The Beatles” EP which included “I’m a Loser,” “Honey Don’t,” “Everybody,” & “Mr. Moonlight” enclosed in a nice cardboard cover. The fidelity of this vinyl Capital EP seemed enhanced compared to the other 45 rpm era singles such as “Eight Days”/”Spoil the Party.” I regret my 4 EP was destroyed in my parents’ house fire in 1984. They maintained it in their record rack & enjoyed listening to “Mr. Moonlight.”

  9. Yuri

    Hey guys, you should understand that e.g. in Russia, english words of the Beatles songs were in fact out of side of understanding but almost everything was defined by musical sounds. Probably it is true, with other texts the influence would be less since there is a definite harmony for sounds and words in that songs. Such things as No reply or Eight days were just anthem for youth and everyone heard the words (in Russian) in them which he wants to hear and later they were replaced by Michelle and Girl in a similar manner. To my mind, Beatles for sale is very high in sense of emotional perception if you do not understand words. This concerns also other albums. That’s why the influence of Beatles is such large all over the world even you get no words clear to you.

  10. Bill

    Always liked this album. Johnny Cash once said that he thought “I’m A Loser” sounded like a Johnny Cash song. One thing about the boys, they were very selective about which cover versions they would release on record, which I always appreciated. Some British groups recorded cover versions that were better left alone (does anyone really wanna hear Mick Jagger sing “My Girl”?). The boys’ versions were usually pretty faithful to the originals, therefore “Honey, Don’t” isn’t plodding, it sounds very much like Perkins’ version. Never cared for “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” in any version, not one of Little Richard’s best. The first fade-in on a pop record was Johnny Horton’s rockabilly classic “The Wild One” from 1958, unless someone knows of an earlier one.”No Reply” and “I’m A Loser” are two of my all-time favorite Lennon songs. I don’t think the boys were “war weary” at all. That’s just a tag that was put on this album years ago that stuck for some reason. I don’t think it’s accurate at all.

  11. James Ferrell

    On A Hard Days Night John’s contributions dominated, but Paul’s three songs were all great. On this one Paul has only one great song, I’ll Follow the Sun, and John’s middle eight was a high point of the song.

    So as much as I like some of the songs (No Reply, I’m a Loser, I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party, Eight Days a Week–I even really like the “plodding” Honey Don’t–overall I agree with the conventional wisdom. Weak Paul contributions + some lame covers = sub par Beatles album.

    One thing though–even though I’m not wild about the songs Every Little Thing and What You’re Doing, they both have a bit of a Rubber Soul vibe to me. A forerunner of better things to come.

  12. Dat Big Cheeze

    The Beatles music flipped on this album, recorded just after their meeting with Bob Dylan, since I’ve always been curious which album, song in particular, marked the end of the earlier Beatles “pop” period and entered their “psychodelic” (if you will) period. From what I’ve discovered, I’m A Loser was the very first song of the Psychodelic period, anyone know which song was penned just prior to August 28th, 1964, which would be the ending of the “pop” era?

  13. Beatle Chris

    This is not the beginning of their Psychedelic period Cheeze. This is smack dab in their busy early non-stop touring making hits days. I guess you could say Rubber Soul is the beginning of the huge change, but not this. They were exhausted and short on original material, but still put out a great album.

  14. Graham Paterson

    Like the album that followed it Help it is a transitional album and underrated. I received this record in 1978. Along with great covers it has songs showing the ever developing craftsmanship of the Lennon- McCartney team. With the former I just love Kansas City, Rock and Roll Music, Words of Love and Everybodys Trying To Be My Baby. And with the latter McCartneys Ill Follow The Sun is great, but this is an album that is particularly strong for John Lennon compositions. The autobiographical Lennon was really coming to the fore with Im A loser and No Reply and I Dont Want To Spoil The Party are great numbers. Also Eight Days A Week is as catchy as hell and a US number one to boot.

    1. Graham Paterson

      Just adding something to my comments from a few days ago. Babys In Black and Every Little Thing are two other great Lennon- McCartney songs off this album that are outstanding, showing the steady development of their craft so evident on this album.

  15. Amy Gdala Godiva

    No Reply, to my ears, has one of the greatest bridges ever both in terms of composition and execution. If I had hairs on the back of my neck, they’d stand up every time I heard it!

  16. Biased Lennon-Harrison fan

    There were only two albums in which George seriously threatened Paul’s role
    as John’s wingman, those were With the Beatles (which I commented on) and this album, Beatles For Sale. After With the Beatles, Paul made sure to shut down George’s contributions to A Hard Day’s Night, rejecting his original song You Know What To Do. On this album though, George couldn’t be held back.
    The credits to this album should read

    John is in top form as always. He wrote
    No Reply, I’m A Loser and I Don’t Want To Spoil the Party, singing lead on all of them. He also came up with the original idea for Baby’s In Black and collaborated with McCartney on Eight Days A Week.
    John even sang lead on Paul’s Every Little Thing. Add that to his covers of Rock and Roll Music and the underrated Mr.Moonlight along with his prominent lead harmony in Words Of Love

    Paul wrote 3 songs and collaborated on 2 others, though he only sang lead in I’ll Follow the Sun and What You’re Doing. He also did a mediocre cover of Kansas City and sang harmonies on Words Of Love and Baby’s in Black

    George only sang lead on Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby, but his guitar work is what defines this album, along with John’s raspy voice of course.
    His guitar on songs like Honey Don’t
    Words of Love, Spoil the Party and I’m A Loser among others is amazing.

    So 7 lead vocals for John and 2 duet lead vocals
    3 for Paul and 2 duets
    1 for George, but prominent guitar parts throughout
    And Honey Don’t for Ringo

    George’s contributions overall are equal if not superior to McCartney’s. If he had only developed his songwriting skills a little earlier, we could be remembering Beatles history very differently. As it is, Paul’s stranglehold on the wingman spot was tightened by the time of Help!

  17. Steve

    Have to say though that the opening triple salvo of No Reply, I’m a Loser and Baby’s in Black is as good an opener as on any of their albums. Imagine how good the album would be if it also included I Feel Fine, She’s a Woman and Leave my Kitten Alone at the expense of some of the weaker covers and perhaps What your Doing ( not a great mac a track ). Btw if you haven’t heard the cover of Every Little Thing as covered by prog rock band Yes do yourself a favour and give it a listen. Outstanding , really brings it to life.

  18. Steve

    My Dad bought me this album on my 14th birthday (1974) he said it was their best one . I didn’t believe him then, I don’t believe him now, I think he will be proved right in the future.

  19. J Huckleberry Sneed

    Ah, but what they learned about singing -after listening back to their dreadful vocals at the Decca audition. Right eh? A bit about singing with much more power and grit. John, especially, morphed really into having much more of staying true to his own voice. You know, Pauly, that you keep re-writing history. Well, surely now…just make sure you don’t tell them how we actually wrote our first 3 LPs in Hamburg…

  20. jnoble

    always thought Beatles For Sale was an unusually sloppy sounding poorly-produced Beatles album compared to what came before and after. Tinny sounding, many obvious mistakes left in, some half-baked songs. When I make my list of their best to worst albums, that one is always towards the bottom.

    Still, Words Of Love is a deep cut hidden gem that I’ve always liked.

  21. Don

    I just played the remastered version for my 14 year old son during breakfast. A very fine, underrated gem. It shows the band’s 50’s influences and Dylan, as well. I still get chills when George hits the chimey intro chords to “Words Of Love”. Your website is awesome!

  22. edward slack

    This after Revolver Is the best of the Beatles.. More so because John Lennon was in the forefront (for a change !)
    Before G.Martin and the musiciatians got involved this is the true essence of Beatles.

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