The Beatles’ eighth single, ‘I Feel Fine’ was recorded during the sessions for the Beatles For Sale album, although it was a stand-alone release.

George and I play the same bit on guitar together – that’s the bit that’ll set your feet a-tapping, as the reviews say. I suppose it has a bit of a country and western feel about it, but then so have a lot of our songs. The middle eight is the most tuneful part, to me, because it’s a typical Beatles bit.

‘I Feel Fine’ was a riff-driven, blues-based number. It was written by John Lennon, possibly during the 6 October 1964 recording session for ‘Eight Days A Week’.

The guitar riff was actually influenced by a record called ‘Watch Your Step’ by Bobby Parker. But all riffs in that tempo have a similar sound. John played it, and all I did was play it as well, and it became the double-tracked sound.
George Harrison

The Beatles had originally intended for ‘Eight Days A Week’ to be their next single, but the plan was shelved once they had completed ‘I Feel Fine’.

The song itself was more John’s than mine. We sat down and co-wrote it with John’s original idea. John sang it, I’m on harmonies and the drumming is basically what we used to think of as ‘What’d I Say’ drumming. There was a style of drumming on ‘What’d I Say’ which is a sort of Latin R&B that Ray Charles’s drummer Milt Turner played on the original record and we used to love it. One of the big clinching factors about Ringo as the drummer in the band was that he could really play that so well.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

‘I Feel Fine’ was part of The Beatles’ live repertoire from 1964 to 1966. It was one of the songs performed during their final tour date on 29 August 1966, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

In the studio

The Beatles recorded ‘I Feel Fine’ on 18 October 1964, in a nine-hour session that also saw them complete ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’, ‘Mr Moonlight’, ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’ and ‘Rock And Roll Music’. They also taped edit pieces for the intro and ending of ‘Eight Days A Week’.

‘I Feel Fine’ was completed in nine takes. The first eight were of the rhythm track only, and the final take was an overdub of the vocals. It was the first Beatles song to have the backing track recorded before the vocals, as John Lennon had trouble singing and playing at the same time.

I wrote ‘I Feel Fine’ around the riff which is going on in the background. I tried to get that effect into practically every song on the LP, but the others wouldn’t have it. I told them that I’d write a song specially for this riff. So they said, ‘Yes, you go away and do that,’ knowing that we’d almost finished the album. Anyway, going into the studio one morning, I said to Ringo, ‘I’ve written this song, but it’s lousy.’ But we tried it, complete with riff, and it sounded like an a-side, so we decided to release it just like that.
John Lennon, 1964

John Lennon played an acoustic Gibson guitar on the recording, although it was amplified to give the impression of an electric guitar. George Harrison used an electric Gretsch Tennessean.

The distinctive opening note was the result of a low A note plucked by Paul McCartney on bass, while Lennon’s guitar pickups were directed towards his amplifier. It was one of the very first instances of feedback being used on a record, and demonstrated the increased confidence of The Beatles as recording artists.

That’s me completely. Including the electric guitar lick and the record with the first feedback anywhere. I defy anybody to find a record – unless it’s some old blues record in 1922 – that uses feedback that way. I mean, everybody played with feedback on stage, and the Jimi Hendrix stuff was going on long before. In fact, the punk stuff now is only what people were doing in the clubs. So I claim it for The Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody. The first feedback on any record.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The use of feedback violated Parlophone’s strict recording policies, and so the band came to downplay it as an accident during recording. In actual fact it was present from the very first take.

John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pick-up on it so it could be amplified. John and George both had them…

We were just about the walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it. He really should have turned the electric off. It was only on a tiny bit, and John just leaned it against the amp when it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!’ And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ ‘Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘ Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

BBC recordings

The Beatles also recorded ‘I Feel Fine’ for BBC radio. The performance was taped at the Playhouse Theatre in London, on 17 November 1964. It was first broadcast on the Top Gear programme on 26 November, and again on 26 December on Saturday Club.

The recording was eventually released on 1994’s Live At The BBC. An outtake from the same 17 November session was included on 2013’s On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2.

Chart success

‘I Feel Fine’ was released in the UK on 27 November 1964. It entered the singles chart at number one, selling more than 800,000 copies within the first five days.

The single remained at the top of the charts for six weeks, and by 11 December had sold over a million copies.

With ‘I Feel Fine’, we were ready to get to number five at first go, and I suppose if we’d have done that, we’d have been written off. Nobody would have remembered that The Beatles had had six number ones on the trot before ‘I Feel Fine’… Coming in at number one was great, because, well, we weren’t sure we’d do it.

‘I Feel Fine’ was released in the US on 23 November, and sold more than a million copies in its first week of release.

It entered the top 40 on 5 December at number 22, and by 26 December it was number one. It stayed there for three weeks, and remained in the top 40 for 11 weeks.

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