The Beatles had been approached to record a number of songs as the backing band for English rock ‘n’ roll singer Tony Sheridan. Towards the end of the 22/23 June 1961 session, which took place in a Hamburg school assembly hall, they taped two songs of their own choosing: ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ and ‘Cry For A Shadow’.
It was a bit disappointing because we’d been hoping to get a record deal for ourselves. Although we did ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ and the instrumental ‘Cry For A Shadow’ without Sheridan, they didn’t even put our name on the record.
Originally known as ‘Beatle Bop’, ‘Cry For A Shadow’ wasn’t released until The Beatles had found fame. It eventually saw light of day in the US and UK in 1964, on a Polydor single backed with a Sheridan song, ‘Why’.
‘Cry For A Shadow’ is the only known composition to be credited to Harrison-Lennon. The title and Harrison’s lead guitar work suggest the influence of The Shadows, Cliff Richard’s backing band. Although The Beatles were largely dismissive of The Shadows, their hit ‘Apache’ was occasionally a feature of the lengthy German shows.
In Hamburg we had to play so long, we actually used to play Apache… But John and I were just bullshitting one day, and he had this new little Rickenbacker with with a funny kind of wobble bar on it. And he started playing that off, and I just came in, and we made it up right on the spot.
Guitar Player magazine, 1987
By 1961, a number of rock ‘n’ roll instrumentals had found chart success. In addition to The Shadows’ ‘Apache’, The Beatles occasionally performed covers including ‘Harry Lime’ (the Third Man theme), Duane Eddy’s ‘Three Thirty Blues’, and Jet Harris and Tony Meehan’s 1963 hit ‘Diamonds’.
They also played a number of original instrumental compositions in their early period: as well as ‘Cry For A Shadow’, they also performed ‘Hot As Sun’, ‘Winston’s Walk’ and ‘Looking Glass’. Their best-known instrumental, however, was ‘Flying’, from 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour.
The only vocals on ‘Cry For A Shadow’ are screams and yelps, presumably by Lennon and Paul McCartney, in the background.
The result wasn’t a bit like ‘Apache’, but we liked it and we used it in the act for a while.