Beatles For Sale

The cover artwork

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Beatles For Sale was packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a first for the group. The front and back covers featured photographs of The Beatles taken by Robert Freeman in London's Hyde Park.

The album cover was rather nice: Robert Freeman's photos. It was easy. We did a session lasting a couple of hours and had some reasonable pictures to use. We showed up in Hyde Park by the Albert Memorial. I was quite impressed by George's hair there. He managed to create his little turnip top. The photographer would always be able to say to us, 'Just show up,' because we all wore the same kind of gear all the time. Black stuff; white shirts and big black scarves.
Paul McCartney

The Beatles appeared looking notably weary in Freeman's photographs, with pale, unsmiling faces frames by their long hair and turned-up collars. The album's title appeared in a small type size, dwarfed than the EMI/Parlophone logos, with the group's name nowhere else on the cover.

Inside the gatefold was a photograph of The Beatles standing in front of a montage of photographs at Twickenham Film Studios, another of the group performing in Washington, DC on 11 February 1964, and sleeve notes by Derek Taylor:

This is the fourth by the four. 'Please Please Me', 'With The Beatles', 'A Hard Day's Night'. That's three. Now...'Beatles For Sale'.

The young men themselves aren't for sale. Money, noisy though it is, doesn't talk that loud. But you can buy this album - you probably have, unless you're just browsing, in which case don't leave any dirty thumbprints on the sleeve!

It isn't all currency or current though. There's priceless history between these covers. None of us is getting any younger. When, in a generation or so, a radio-active, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn, asks you what the Beatle affair was all about - 'Did you actually know them?' - don't try to explain all about the long hair and the screams! Just play the child a few tracks from this album and he'll probably understand what it was all about. The kids of AD 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well being and warmth as we do today.

For the magic of the Beatles is, I suspect, timeless and ageless. It has broken all frontiers and barriers. It has cut through differences of race, age and class. It is adored by the world.

This album has some lovely samples of Beatle music. It has, for instance, eight new titles wrought by the incomparable John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and, mingling with the new, there are six numbers culled from the rhythmic wealth of the past extraordinary decade; pieces like Kansas City, and Rock And Roll Music. Marvellous.

Many hours and hard day's nights of devoted industry went into the production of this album. It isn't a potboiling quick-sale any-old-thing-will-do-for-Christmas mixture.

At least three of the Lennon-McCartney songs were seriously considered as single releases until John popped up with I Feel Fine. These three were Eight Days A Week, No Reply and I'm A Loser. Each would have topped the charts, but as it is they are an adornment to this LP, and a lesson to other artists. As on other albums, the Beatles have tossed in far more value than the market usually demands.

There are few gimmicks or recording tricks, though for effect, the Beatles and their recording manager George Martin, have slipped in some novelties. Like Paul on Hammond organ to introduce drama into Mr. Moonlight, which also, and for the first time, has George Harrison applying a thump to an elderly African drum because Ringo was busy elsewhere in the studio, playing bongos. George's thump remains on the track. The bongos were later dropped. Ringo plays timpani in Every Little Thing, and on the Rock and Roll Music track George Martin joins John and Paul on one piano. On Words Of Love, Ringo plays a packing case.

Beyond this, it is straightforward 1964 disc-making. Quite the best of its kind in the world. There is little or nothing on the album which cannot be reproduced on stage, which is, as students and critics of pop-music know, not always the case.

Here it is then. The best album yet - quite definitely, says John, Paul, George, and Ringo - full of everything which made the four the biggest attraction the world has ever known. Full of raw John and melodic Paul; a number from George, and a bonus from Ringo. For those who like to know who does precisely what, there are details alongside each title.

Derek Taylor

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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