I Call Your Name

Long Tall Sally EP artwork - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 1 March 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 19 June 1964 (UK), 10 April 1964 (US)

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

Available on:
Past Masters

One of John Lennon's earliest compositions, I Call Your Name was the only Lennon-McCartney original on the Long Tall Sally EP. It was likely held off the A Hard Day's Night album due to the similar use of cowbell in You Can't Do That.

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It was given first to Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, another Brian Epstein-managed act, who released it as the b-side to their single Bad To Me, another Lennon-McCartney song, in July 1963.

That was my song. When there was no Beatles and no group. I just had it around. It was my effort as a kind of blues originally, and then I wrote the middle eight just to stick it in the album when it came out years later. The first part had been written before Hamburg even. It was one of my first attempts at a song.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Musically the song is perhaps most interesting for its guitar solo, during which The Beatles fall into a ska rhythm. Lennon in particular particularly loved ska and reggae in later years, although in 1964 it was largely unknown outside Jamaica.

According to Paul McCartney, I Call Your Name was written in Lennon's aunt Mimi's house in Menlove Avenue, Liverpool.

We worked on it together, but it was John's idea. When I look back at some of these lyrics, I think, Wait a minute. What did he mean? 'I call your name but you're not there.' Is it his mother? His father? I must admit I didn't really see that as we wrote it because we were just a couple of young guys writing. You didn't look behind it at the time, it was only later you started analysing things.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

In the studio

I Call Your Name was recorded on 1 March 1964, the same day The Beatles recorded I'm Happy Just To Dance With You and Long Tall Sally, all within a three-hour session.

I Call Your Name was the second song of the day to be taped. Why the group decided to resurrect the song almost a year after Billy J Kramer had recorded it is unknown, but John Lennon captured by the studio microphones before take one, asking: "Do you think it's a bit much doing Billy J's intro and solo? 'Cause it's our song anyroad, innit?"

The Beatles recorded the song in seven takes. Another Lennon vocal and cowbell by Starr was added to the last of these, and the ska section was later edited in from take five.

21 responses on “I Call Your Name

  1. 2much4mymirror

    An oddly underappreciated song, this is actually one of my favorite early Beatles songs. I think I began to pay more attention to it when I heard The Mamas and Papa’s cover. If an estimable songwriter like John Phillips appreciates a song enough to cover it, there must be something to it. Paul’s bass is great too.

  2. Cameron McIntosh

    I originally had the American mono Second Album, and some years later when after I played it until it turn white I purchased the Stereo Version. I appeared to me that the opening licks of this song were different between the two versions. We know the Beatles made two versions of some of their earlier stuff (Stereo and Mono) Can anyone verify this?

    1. John O'Brien

      Almost 3 years later, how’s that for a delayed comment? I agree that the opening part is different between stereo and mono. The fourth guitar note is more pronounced and discrete in the stereo version. In the mono version, George’s guitar slides into the fourth note. I’ll have to dig out Lewisohn’s book to really verify it. I Call Your Name is in my top 5–just love it.

      1. Jeffrey Uleau

        The more obvious difference is the cowbell. On the original UK mono mix, the cowbell starts immediately after the first guitar notes. The UK stereo has the cowbell delayed until John sings “…(^) but you’re not there”. A third version, on the original US stereo ‘Second Album'(and it’s NOT on the new box set!, they missed it!) has the cowbell start at John’s “I (^) call your name”

    2. Good ol Boy

      you are right – they are different. Actually the Mono version is played at a slower pace too. I prefer the mono version on this song – when it is slightly slow, you can really here the pain in Lennon voice. It sounds bluesy’er with that hint of country – luv luv this song!

  3. Rachel

    As is often the case in Many Years From Now, what was originally John’s song becomes merely his idea. Paul wrote it with him of course, before there was a group which would be pre-1957. He wonders what John meant by the lyrics. He ought to know since he helped write them. Or maybe Paul’s suggesting his contribution was the music, John’s early effort at the blues.

    1. paulsbass

      Paul explicitly says “We WORKED on it together”, so he’s not even saying he co-“wrote” it.
      You say it yourself: Maybe he just worked on the arrangement.

      Please keep your bias towards John out of your analysis.
      That’s what Paul is doing, he doesn’t make a single claim in that book that sounds pretentious to me.

      There’s not even a second vocal on “I call you name”, meaning Paul very probably didn’t write any of it.
      And he never claimed he did.

        1. paulsbass

          Well, he explicitly says John wrote the lyrics and he (Paul) didn’t catch their meaning. How much more obvious can it get?

          I wasn’t there, I don’t know who did what, in some cases even the guys don’t remember it.

          For me Paul saying “as we wrote it” can absolutely mean “as we were working on it”.

          He’s not singing at all in this, so he didn’t make a major contribution.
          And he doesn’t claim it. He says “It was John’s idea”.

          It’s YOU reading into this “Oh, John had the basic idea, but I did the real work”.
          Which is not remotely what Paul is saying.

      1. John Wilkinson

        I agree. Paul, as in this case, often gives the ‘impression’ that his contributions to some of John’s songs are greater than in fact they were.

        Sometimes though, Paul doesn’t take enough credit for himself.

        The same could be said of John about his memories of his contributions to some of Paul’s songs. I’m thinking ‘Eleanor Rigby’

        Bottom line they were fantastically generous, gifted and suited collaborators. But they were also fiercely competitive ………….and Paul still is.

    2. Mike

      There were several points in the late ’50s when Paul and John knew and worked with each other but there was no group.
      Also, John EXPLICITLY says he wrote the middle part later for the recording, and Paul certainly could have worked on that. You’re one of these people that just looks for something – anything – to slag-off someone you don’t like, in this case Paul. (Do you also know that John was notable for getting details wrong AND embellishing his stories to make himself look better?)

  4. Ri Heide

    John said himself that he had written most of the song in his pre-Beatles days, but it still needed some work (notably the “middle eight”) to make it complete. When it came time to make the original structure a complete song, John surely taught it to Paul, and let Paul write the bassline for it. That is what Paul meant by “working on it with John”, which is what he actually said in the book. He didn’t take credit as a co-writer. Give the guy a break, and stop creating drama and controversy where there is none,

  5. Johan cavalli

    In the time 1963-1965, or before Yesterday 1965, Lennon was the dominant composer in the Beatles. And that is very, very embarrasing for McCatney. Sometimes he is bluffing and claimed the composed a song that Lennon had composed. But mostly this: If Lennon composed the melody and McCartney helped a little with the harmonies, McCartney said we “wroted it together” in a way that the establishment interpreted is as a co-composition, and that was what McCartney intended, a PR genius.
    After MacDonald´s book Revolution in the Head 1994, McCartney stoped a lot of his half lies.

  6. lillo78

    the chord progression is really nice for being a first attempt kinda song. It’s very enjoyable, it’s amazing how good they were in the early days, without any musical knowledge or anybody guiding their steps as later did George Martin. They did just by ear, instinct and good taste.

  7. David Reynolds

    Well if it didn’t make the cut for A Hard Days Night it should have made the cut for the next album. Here in Aus land would have been Beatles for Sale. Great track.

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