Recorded for the Please Please Me album, ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was written by John Lennon and sung by George Harrison.

I can’t say I wrote it for George. I was in the first apartment I’d ever had that wasn’t shared with fourteen other students – gals and guys at art school. I’d just married Cyn, and Brian Epstein gave us his secret little apartment that he kept in Liverpool for his sexual liaisons separate from his home life. And he let Cyn and I have that apartment.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon based the song on ‘Wishing Well’, from Walt Disney’s 1937 animated feature film Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

My mother was always… she was a comedienne and a singer. Not professional, but, you know, she used to get up in pubs and things like that. She had a good voice. She could do Kay Starr. She used to do this little tune when I was just a one- or two-year-old… yeah, she was still living with me then… The tune was from the Disney movie – ‘Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell. You are standing by a wishing well.’

So, I had this sort of thing in my head and I wrote it and just gave it to George to sing. I thought it would be a good vehicle for him because it only had three notes and he wasn’t the best singer in the world. He has improved a lot since then, but in those days his singing ability was very poor because (a) he hadn’t had the opportunity, and (b) he concentrated more on the guitar. So I wrote that – not for him as I was writing it, but when I had written it, I thought he could do it. It was just written.

John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was later given to Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, another group managed by Brian Epstein. Lennon recorded a demo while in a Hamburg nightclub’s toilet; he claimed it was the only place quiet enough to record in. At the end of the demo, now sadly lost, he pulled the lavatory chain.

The Dakotas recorded it at their debut session at Abbey Road on 14 March 1963, and later that year it reached number one in the singles charts.

The Beatles’ recording, meanwhile, was released as a single on 23 March 1964 in the USA, with ‘Thank You Girl’ on the b-side.

In the studio

‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was recorded along with nine other Please Please Me songs on 11 February 1963. It was the fourth song to be recorded that day.

‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ was ‘my song’ on the album. I didn’t like my vocal on it. I didn’t know how to sing; nobody told me how to.

The final version was take six, which also included an overdub of the harmony vocals and two drum sticks being hit together during the middle eight. With the overdubs, this final version became known as take eight.

The Beatles also performed ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ six times for BBC radio shows, all within a four-month period.

The first performance was for Here We Go, recorded on 6 March 1963. This was included on the 2013 digital release Bootleg Recordings 1963, as was a version for Saturday Club recorded on 21 May 1963.

Other performances of ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ were for On The Scene on 21 March; Side By Side on 1 April; and Pop Go The Beatles on 24 May 1963.

The Beatles’ sixth and final BBC performance of the song was recorded for Pop Go The Beatles on 10 July 1963. It was included on the 2013 album On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2.

Previous song: ‘Baby It’s You’
Next song: ‘A Taste Of Honey’
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