The Beatles (White Album) artworkWritten by: Starkey
Recorded: 5, 6 June, 12, 22 July 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott

Released: 22 November 1968 (UK), 25 November 1968 (US)

Available on:
The Beatles (White Album)
Anthology 3


Ringo Starr: vocals, drums, piano, sleigh bell
Paul McCartney: piano, bass
Jack Fallon: violin

Ringo Starr’s first recorded composition was written several years before its 1968 release on the White Album.

Don’t Pass Me By was mentioned by the group on 14 July 1964, during an introduction to And I Love Her for the first edition of the BBC radio music series Top Gear. Starr was asked if he had plans to write songs, and replied that he had written one. McCartney then interjected by singing “Don’t pass me by, don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue”.

In June 1964, during a radio interview in New Zealand, Starr playfully urged the rest of the group to “sing the song I’ve written, just for a plug”. Other press reports from as early as 1963 mention the song.

I wrote Don’t Pass Me By when I was sitting round at home. I only play three chords on the guitar and three on the piano. I was fiddling with the piano – I just bang away – and then if a melody comes and some words, I just have to keep going. That’s how it happened: I was just sitting at home alone and Don’t Pass Me By arrived. We played it with a country attitude. It was great to get my first song down, one that I had written. It was a very exciting time for me and everyone was really helpful, and recording that crazy violinist was a thrilling moment.
Ringo Starr

The fact that Don’t Pass Me By was ignored until 1968 says much about The Beatles’ willingness to record any available material after their trip to India. George Martin has since revealed that he urged the group to trim the double album down to a single, high quality collection, but was vetoed by the others – possibly as Lennon and McCartney wished to fulfill their contractual requirements as songwriters as soon as possible.

Strangely, despite the song’s lengthy gestation, Don’t Pass Me By was recorded with the working titles Ringo’s Tune (Untitled) and This Is Some Friendly. It also briefly featured an orchestral introduction, written by George Martin and recorded at the 22 July 1968 session for Good Night.

It was for John that I did an off-the-wall introduction, because we hadn’t a clue what to do with Ringo’s song. In the event, the intro was too bizarre for us to use, and the score was scrapped.
George Martin

The introduction was eventually released as A Beginning on the 1996 collection Anthology 3, after McCartney, Harrison and Starr chose not to complete the John Lennon demo Now And Then.

In the studio

The recording of Don’t Pass Me By was begun on 5 June 1968, as Ringo’s Tune (Untitled). Three takes of the rhythm track were taped, with McCartney on piano and Starr on drums. Onto the third take was overdubbed another piano part and a sleigh bell. Starr also recorded his lead vocals and McCartney two bass parts, although these were later wiped.

On 6 June recording continued, under the new working title This Is Some Friendly. Starr replaced the previous day’s bass with two lead vocals, and McCartney taped a new bass part.

A new mix of Don’t Pass Me By was included on Anthology 3, made from the basic rhythm track and Ringo’s vocals from 6 June.

Between 3pm and 6.40pm on 12 July, session musician Jack Fallon taped his violin part, after which more bass was recorded by McCartney and Starr added another piano track.

George Martin had jotted down a 12-bar blues for me. A lot of country fiddle playing is double-stop [two notes played simultaneously] but Paul and George Martin – they were doing the arranging – suggested I play it single note. So it wasn’t really the country sound they originally wanted. But they seemed pleased. Ringo was around too, keeping an eye on his song.
Jack Fallon
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

When the White Album was released in 1968, there were a number of variations between the mono and stereo versions. The mono mix of Don’t Pass Me By was significantly faster than the stereo version, and contained more improvised fiddle playing at the end.

I thought that they had had enough so I just busked around a bit. When I heard it played back at the end of the session I was hoping they’d scrub that bit out, but they didn’t, so there I am on record, scraping away! I was very surprised they kept it in, it was pretty dreadful.
Jack Fallon
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

On 22 July the orchestral introduction, later issued as A Beginning, was recorded. However, another overdub from the session did make its way into the final mix: a tinkling piano introduction which was later edited from 45 seconds down to just eight.