All I’ve Got To Do

With The Beatles album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 September 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

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

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

Available on:
With The Beatles

The second song on The Beatles' second album, All I've Got To Do was started and completed in the same productive session that also saw the band begin recording I Wanna Be Your Man and Little Child.

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Lennon was reportedly inspired by Smokey Robinson, and the opening chord and general lyrical theme recalls The Miracles' You Can Depend On Me.

That's me trying to do Smokey Robinson again.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

The Beatles recorded All I've Got To Do in a single recording session, on 11 September 1963. In his biography of Paul McCartney, Barry Miles claims that Lennon played the song to McCartney just before they began recording it.

It took the group 14 takes to get the song right, though eight of those were false starts. They also recorded an overdub, which became take 15, the version used on the LP.

Although a strong John Lennon song, All I've Got To Do was never played live by the group; perhaps its stop-start rhythms would prove too subtle to be heard above the screams of Beatlemaniacs.

31 responses on “All I’ve Got To Do

  1. Rick C

    What a great song!! Anyone thinking Ringo was not the greatest in their early years needs to listen to the tasteful arrangement he does on this great tune. Lennon’s vocal is as soulful as can be. I never get tired of listening to this. It really sums up the vibes of the era.

  2. Joe Nania

    Hello to all, I will say that here with ALL I’VE GOT TO DO The Beatles further prove that they were ,even early on , the masters of spontaneous talents. I know for a fact that this song ALL I’VE GOT TO DO was NEVER performed past the recording of it on September 11th 1963. It never made it to the stage.BUT with out or with it still stands as a great tune that was learned that very afternoon in London by the other 3 Beatles who each put their wonderful souls on the recording.

  3. mithveaen

    IMHO One of John’s best. Raw emotion. And the lyrics are quite clever, because first, it’s all about the girl who’s there for a guy and with just one line, he changes the song to make it about his love for her as well.

  4. techsjj

    I bought the Complete Beatles Songbook on Amazon,com and I have been going through the songs, This one “All I’ve got to do” I love to play. The chords and arrangements. The Beatles played very sophiscated cords in the early days and made them work well. It gives me a great many hours of enjoyment.

  5. Peter

    I don’t know why no one ever mentions that “Oh, Darling” begins with exactly (or almost exactly?) the same chord.

    It seems as plain as day to me yet I’ve never read it remarked upon anywhere.

    I love that.

    1. Beatless

      “Oh! Darling” starts with an E5# chord, with the B sharp on top. In the left hand, the bass chord is E-B-E from the bottom up, with normal fifth!

      The opening chord of All I’ve Got To Do is G#9b(omit the fifth/D#), with E as the bass tone. A beautiful chord, often used by Bach and Sibelius.

      Spelled from bottom up, it’s E-G#-B#(or C, if you must)-F#-A. It consists of a dominant chord on top, while the bass plays the third of the minor tonic (C# minor in the next bar). Lovely

  6. Travis

    Never noticed this before, was wondering if anyone could confirm – isn’t that John harmonizing with himself on the “All I’ve gotta do!” refrains throughout the song? If so, this marks yet another time he did this on on early Beatles’ recordings (“Little Child”, “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” other two quick examples I can think of) – interesting to ponder when in a band with two other such capable (one great) singers. Another way John really dominated the group in the early years-probably had a very specific way he wanted some of his songs to turn out that he thought only his voice would accomplish.

    1. ManNamedLear

      I believe it’s Paul doing that harmony. I certainly sounds like him. When the word “all” is sung, it sounds quite a bit like Paul’s voice. John’s would have been more cutting.

  7. Travis

    Oh also, it might be worth adding to the song that, “According to Dennis Alstrand (from his book “The Evolution of Rock Bass Playing; McCartney Style”), this song is the first time in rock and roll or rock music where the bass player plays chords as a vital part of the song” (from wikipedia article) – yet ANOTHER innovation from our favorite band, and one they never get credit for, if true. No end to their genius, apparently.

    1. Vonbontee

      That’s interesting! He must be referring to electric bass specifically – I can think of at least one pop song (“Alley Oop”) in which the standup bass player plays chords.

  8. johnspeedle

    Anybody else out there hear Ringo’s squeaky bass drum pedal on here? I first heard it on the album when I was “lit up” and listening through headphones back in 1974. Now, with all the remastered tracks out there you can really hear it. Or am I hearing things?? What about that opening chord?! E11 aug… (Fretted, low to high 076575). Try it you’ll like it. Peace and love – peace and love.

    1. John Kay

      I’m listening to the original mono vinyl LP and you can’t miss it. Same applies on the Please Please Me album you can hear it all over the place. When CDs first came out they made a big thing about hearing Ringo’s pedal squeak as if CDs brought something new. It was always there! CDs were such a con…..

  9. carlos gutman

    A beautiful song from a beautiful album. I was just 7 when my elder sister bought it home and this song is “With the Beatles” sound. That´s Paul harmonizing (John could never have reached that high tone. An absolute John´s song, he leaded the Beatles music style up to 1965 when Paul started to involve much more on it.

  10. Bill

    Years ago, my family was on a trip to southern Indiana, & this song came on the radio (WLS-Chicago). My father turned it up because he liked it, but was surprised to find out that it was The Beatles. He thought it was the Monkees!
    Dad loved music, but didn’t necessarily pay attention to the artists. He once said his favorite Beatle song was “Jet”…ha!

  11. Gordon Ipock

    This is easily the most captivating song on the album. Wonderful vocals from John, along with the funky rhythm guitar throughout. Sounds like a Strat. I’ve played it over and over and intend to learn it.

  12. Steve

    An amazing Beatle song!! Read somewhere that John specifically tailored the lyrics for the American market. He said it wasn’t a typical practice for boys to call girls on the phone in England. Ringo’s drum pattern is an early take on several other drum beats in later songs, ie, ticket to ride. Same drum beat just a different variation of it. Charlie Watts did a take on it in Honky Tonk Women. Great Beatle song!

    1. Joe Post author

      It’s likely that the drum part was inspired by Arthur Alexander’s 1962 song Soldier Of Love (Lay Down Your Arms), which The Beatles recorded for a BBC session in July 1963 (it’s on Live At The BBC). Interestingly, on that recording Ringo played a different drum pattern.

  13. John Kay

    Is just me or is this like an early reggae style beat. The heavy bass, off beat guitar and drums must be a contender for the earliest reggae song in pop – way before reggae got its name in 1968

  14. Steve

    That’s interesting. But that drum beat was a springboard for other songs. “In My Life”, Ticket to ride”. It’s just played differently but it’s the same beat. And Watts used it on Honky Tonk women

  15. MopTop69

    If you think about it–what genius– Lennon played it for Paul right before they recorded it, I am a guitar player and it is a great song to play. But the other 3 Beatles heard John’s demo and they filled in beautifully. and I might add Quickly. I saw Paul McCartney recently and he played “Its getting Better” and he said that this was the first time he played it since they recorded it. Just like this one. Some they recorded and never went back to again. Incredible.

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