Released in 1963, ‘From Me To You’ was The Beatles’ third single, and their first to top all the UK charts.
It could be done as an old ragtime tune… especially the middle-eight. And so, we’re not writing the tunes in any particular idiom. In five years’ time, we may arrange the tunes differently. But we’ll probably write the same old rubbish!
We were on tour with Roy Orbison [sic] at the time we wrote this. We were all on the same tour bus, and it would stop somewhere so that people could go for a cup of tea and a meal, and John and I would have a cup of tea and then go back to the bus and write something. It was a special image to me, at twenty-one, to be walking down the aisle of the bus and there on the back seat of the bus is Roy Orbison, in black with his dark glasses, working on his guitar, writing ‘Pretty Woman’. There was a camaraderie, and we were inspiring each other, which is always a lovely thing. He played the music for us, and we said, ‘That’s a good one, Roy. Great.’ And then we’d say, ‘Well, listen to this one,’ and we’d play him ‘From Me To You’. That was kind of a historic moment, as it turned out.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
McCartney’s recollection of the song’s genesis is incorrect. The Beatles toured with Roy Orbison in May and June 1963, and ‘From Me To You’ was recorded in March and released the following month.
The song was actually written while the band were on tour with Helen Shapiro. Its title was inspired by From You To Us, the letters section of the New Musical Express.
The night Paul and I wrote ‘From Me To You’, we were on the Helen Shapiro tour, on the coach, travelling from York to Shrewsbury. We weren’t taking ourselves seriously – just fooling around on the guitar – when we began to get a good melody line, and we really started to work at it. Before that journey was over, we’d completed the lyric, everything. I think the first line was mine and we took it from there. What puzzled us was why we’d thought of a name like ‘From Me To You’. It had me thinking when I picked up the NME to see how we were doing in the charts. Then I realised – we’d got the inspiration from reading a copy on the coach. Paul and I had been talking about one of the letters in the From You To Us column.
The Helen Shapiro tour took in 14 shows, mostly in theatres, and lasted from 2 February to 3 March 1963. Other names on the tour were Danny Williams, Kenny Lynch, The Kestrels, The Red Price Orchestra, The Honeys and MC Dave Allen.
I remember John and Paul coming up to me to ask if I would like to hear a couple of songs that they had just written. They were looking for opinions because they were undecided about which should be their next single. We crowded around a piano and Paul played, while the two of them sang their latest composition. One was ‘Thank You Girl’, and the other was ‘From Me To You’, which I liked best.
The genesis of ‘From Me To You’ was later recounted by Roger Greenaway of The Kestrels.
The Beatles at this time had had their first number one, and John and Paul were writing songs at the back of the coach. Kenny Lynch, who, at this time, fancied himself as a songwriter, sauntered up to the back of the coach and decided he would help John and Paul write a song. After a period of about half an hour had elapsed and nothing seemed to be coming from the back, Kenny rushed to the front of the coach and shouted, ‘Well, that’s it. I am not going to write any more of that bloody rubbish with those idiots. They don’t know the music from their backsides. That’s it! No more help from me!’ The song that John and Paul were writing at this time was a track called ‘From Me To You’.
Although The Beatles had planned to release ‘Thank You Girl’ as their next single, they swiftly changed their plans after writing ‘From Me To You’.
We’d already written ‘Thank You Girl’ as the follow-up to ‘Please Please Me’. This new number was to be the b-side. We were so pleased with it, we knew we just had to make it the a-side, ‘Thank You Girl’ the b.
There was a little trick we developed early on and got bored with later, which was to put I, Me or You in it, so it was very direct and personal: ‘Love Me Do’; ‘Please Please Me’; ‘From Me To You’ – we got two of them in there…
That was a pivotal song. Our songwriting lifted a little with that song. It was very much co-written. We were starting to meet other musicians then and we’d start to see other people writing. After that, on another tour bus with Roy Orbison, we saw Roy sitting in the back of the bus, writing ‘Pretty Woman’. It was lovely. We could trade off with each other. This was our real start.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Lennon and McCartney were particularly pleased with the song’s middle section.
That middle eight was a very big departure for us. Say you’re in C then go to A minor, fairly ordinary, C, change it to G. And then F, pretty ordinary. But then it goes, ‘I got arms…’ and that’s a G minor. Going to G minor and a C takes you to a whole new world. It was exciting.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Another key feature of ‘From Me To You’ was the falsetto “Whoo!”, which swiftly became a Beatles trademark. Although the group had previously used the motif on ‘Twist And Shout’, on the Please Please Me LP, ‘From Me To You’ was the first single to feature it. The group repeated the trick on their next single, ‘She Loves You’.