One of Lennon and McCartney’s earliest songs, ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ was written in 1959 at McCartney’s family home in Allerton, Liverpool.

I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16. ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ was one of those very early ones. I seem to remember writing it just after I’d had the flu and I had that cigarette – I smoked when I was 16 – the cigarette that’s the ‘cotton wool’ one. You don’t smoke while you’re ill but after you get better you have a cigarette and it’s terrible, it tastes like cotton wool, horrible. I remember standing in the parlour, with my guitar, looking out through the lace curtains of the window, and writing that one.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

A rough home recording of the song exists on bootleg, believed to date from spring 1960. Lasting 1’49”, it was performed by McCartney, Lennon and Harrison on acoustic guitars, with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, without the delicate arrangement of the Beatles For Sale version.

McCartney told Peter Hodgson, from whom he bought the tape in 1995, that it was recorded in the bathroom of his home during a school holiday in April 1960. Intriguingly, it featured different lyrics and music, plus a brief guitar break by Harrison, in place of the section which eventually began ‘And now the time has come, and so my love I must go’. The lyrics are hard to decipher, but appear to be:

Well don’t leave me alone, my dear
I’ll hurry, and call on me my sweet

While never a core part of The Beatles’ live repertoire, Pete Best recalled ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ being played on a piano by McCartney between sets at Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller.

It wouldn’t have been considered good enough [to be performed by the group]. I wouldn’t have put it up. As I said before, we had this R&B image in Liverpool, a rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, hardish image with the leather. So I think that songs like ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, ballads like that, got pushed back to later.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The song was revived during the hurried sessions for Beatles For Sale at the end of 1964, when the group were struggling to find enough songs to fill the album. It was first released in the US on the Beatles ’65 collection.

That’s Paul again. Can’t you tell? I mean, ‘Tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun.’ That’s another early McCartney. You know, written almost before The Beatles, I think. He had a lot of stuff…
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The group also recorded ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ for Top Gear, a BBC radio programme. It was recorded on 17 November 1964, transmitted on 26 November, but wasn’t commercially released until the ‘Baby It’s You’ single in 1995.

In the studio

On 18 October 1964 The Beatles recorded ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ in eight takes. The final version was the only one to feature electric guitar; previous attempts all contained an acoustic guitar break.

John and I wrote this one some while ago, but we changed the middle eight bars before we actually recorded it. John and I sing it, and Ringo played the top of a packing case instead of his drums this time. Just for a change, you know?
Paul McCartney
Disc, 14 November 1964

McCartney later claimed that Starr played body percussion rather than a packing case.

On the record we got Ringo to tap his knees. We were thinking in terms of singles and the next one had to always be different. We didn’t want to fall into the Supremes trap where they all sounded rather similar, so to that end, we were always keen on having varied instrumentation. Ringo couldn’t keep changing his drum kit, but he could change his snare, tap a cardboard box or slap his knees.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now

In July 2008 it was announced that a newly-discovered reel-to-reel tape of The Beatles recording ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ would be sold at auction, with an estimated price of £8,000 to £12,000. It eventually went for £9,800.

Along with ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, the 30-minute tape featured versions of ‘Don’t Put Me Down Like This’, ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘She’s A Woman’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, ‘Honey Don’t’, ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, ‘Nitty Gritty’, ‘Something’s Gotta Hold Of Me’, and ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’.

Previous song: ‘Rock And Roll Music’
Next song: ‘Mr Moonlight’
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