The song was a collaboration between Lennon and Paul McCartney, with Lennon taking the lead.
That’s my first attempt to write a ballad proper. That was the precursor to ‘In My Life’. It has the same chord sequence as ‘In My Life’: D and B minor and E minor, those kinds of things. And it’s semi-autobiographical, but not consciously. It shows that I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back when.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
The Beatles mimed to ‘If I Fell’ during the A Hard Day’s Night film. The scene takes place while the crew are setting up equipment prior to The Beatles’ ‘studio performance’. Amusingly, Lennon sings the love song to Ringo Starr.
The song became a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire in 1964. As the only ballad performed by the group at the time, it often suffered for their inability to hear themselves above the screams of Beatlemaniacs.
The live versions were typically faster than the studio recording. Bootleg recordings also often show Lennon and McCartney vainly attempting to suppress laughter while singing the song – occasionally it was jokingly introduced as ‘If I Fell Over’.
On 8 April 1988 John Lennon’s lyrics for ‘If I Fell’, written on the back of a Valentine’s Day card, were sold at Sotheby’s in London for £7,800.
People tend to forget that John wrote some pretty nice ballads. People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him really which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected. We wrote ‘If I Fell’ together but with the emphasis on John because he sang it. It was a nice harmony number, very much a ballad.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Among McCartney’s contributions was the introduction, featuring a musical motif that appears nowhere else in the song.
I was a big fan of the preamble in my early days, which you find in lots of ’50s songs. A first verse that goes: ‘I was living in Kentucky when I did, did, did and I dud-dud-dud, and then I said…’ [breathes in deeply]… then you break into the bit of the song you want everyone to know. One song I wrote a little after ‘Please Please Me’ was my best attempt at a preamble: ‘If I Fell’. [Sings] ‘If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be truuue…’ Then after the line, ‘just holding hands’, the song properly gets going. [Raises voice] That’s it, everyone!
Q, May 2013
In the studio
The song’s acoustic introduction – which is not repeated elsewhere in the song, musically or lyrically – made its first appearance on take 11. However, home demos recorded by John Lennon early in 1964 contained the passage.
The two-part harmony vocals was sung by Lennon and Paul McCartney into a single microphone. Lennon took the low harmony, allowing McCartney to dominate the verses.
The Beatles recorded ‘If I Fell’ twice for BBC radio. The first was taped on 14 July 1964 at Broadcasting House, London, and was transmitted two days later on the Top Gear programme. The second performance took place on 17 July at the BBC Paris Studio, London, and was first broadcast on 3 August. Neither rendition was included on the Live At The BBC collection.
‘If I Fell’ performed better in Norway, where it was a chart-topping single in its own right.
A rare UK single, with ‘Tell Me Why’ on the b-side, was pressed in the UK by EMI and released on 4 December 1964. It was made for export purposes, but a number of record dealers began shipping the discs back into the UK for resale. The catalogue number was Parlophone DP 562.