Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney in McCartney’s living room in Liverpool, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was the opening track on The Beatles’ debut album Please Please Me.

I wrote it with John in the front parlour of my house in 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton. We sagged off school and wrote it on guitars and a little bit on the piano that I had there.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

McCartney is said to have come up with the idea for the song while returning from a concert in Southport, although it was completed with Lennon shortly after in September 1962.

Sometimes we would just start a song from scratch, but one of us would nearly always have a germ of an idea, a title or a rough little thing they were thinking about and we’d do it. ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was my original, I’d started it and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of the information, and then you had to fill in… It was co-written, my idea, and we finished it that day.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

The lyrics were written in an exercise book from the Liverpool Institute. Mike McCartney’s book Remember includes a photograph of Paul and John working on the song while reading the book and playing guitars.

We were learning our skill. John would like some of my lines and not others. He liked most of what I did, but there would sometimes be a cringe line, such as, ‘She was just seventeen, she’d never been a beauty queen.’ John thought, ‘Beauty queen? Ugh.’ We were thinking of Butlin’s so we asked ourselves, what should it be? We came up with, ‘You know what I mean.’ Which was good, because you don’t know what I mean.
Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for I Saw Her Standing There

A slightly slower version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, believed to have been recorded during a rehearsal at the Cavern Club late in 1962, is available on bootleg recordings. The recording features no rhythm guitar by John Lennon; instead he played harmonica in the introduction and beneath McCartney’s vocals during the verses.

The recording features laughter from McCartney and Lennon as they sing “Well we danced all night/And I held her tight/And I held her hand in mine” during the second bridge.

A live version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, recorded on 24 October 1963 in Stockholm during The Beatles’ tour of Sweden, was released on Anthology 1 in 1995. Several other live bootleg versions exist, including two from the Star-Club, Hamburg.

Although it was the lead song on the Please Please Me album in the UK, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was first released in the US as the b-side of the ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ single, on 26 December 1963.

In the studio

‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was recorded during the marathon session on 11 February 1963, which yielded the majority of tracks on the Please Please Me LP. It was recorded under its working title, ‘Seventeen’.

That’s Paul doing his usual good job of producing what George Martin used to call a ‘potboiler’. I helped with a couple of the lyrics.

The group recorded nine takes in the morning, just three of which were complete. Take one was judged to be the best, and that afternoon The Beatles overdubbed handclaps.

George Martin later edited in McCartney’s spirited “One, two, three, FOUR” count-in from take nine. The full version of take nine can be heard on the ‘Free As A Bird’ single, released in 1995.

McCartney later revealed that his bass guitar part in ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was lifted from Chuck Berry’s song ‘I’m Talking About You’, a single in February 1961 which The Beatles covered for the BBC on 16 March 1963.

I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. Therefore I maintain that a bass riff doesn’t have to be original.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

BBC recordings

The Beatles recorded ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ eleven times for BBC Radio. The first was a live broadcast for the Saturday Club programme on 16 March 1963, and the final recording took place on 1 May 1964 for From Us To You.

A version recorded on 16 October 1963, for the radio show Easy Beat, was first broadcast on 20 October, and was released commercially in 1994 on Live At The BBC.

Another was included on the 2013 collection On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2. It was recorded for Saturday Club on 7 September 1963 and first broadcast on 5 October

Next song: ‘Misery’
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