In Spite Of All The Danger

Anthology 1 album artworkWritten by: McCartney-Harrison
Recorded: 12 July 1958
Engineer: Percy F Phillips

Released: 21 November 1995

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, guitar
George Harrison: backing vocals, guitar
John 'Duff' Lowe: piano
Colin Hanton: drums

Available on:
Anthology 1

Along with a version of Buddy Holly's That'll Be The Day, In Spite Of All The Danger was the first recording by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. Both songs were recorded in Liverpool in 1958, and a single 78rpm disc was pressed.

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In Spite Of All The Danger was the Quarrymen's only original song at the time. It was sung by the group's leader, John Lennon, and credited - uniquely - to McCartney-Harrison.

It says on the label that it was me and George but I think it was actually written by me, and George played the guitar solo! We were mates and nobody was into copyrights and publishing, nobody understood - we actually used to think when we came down to London that songs belonged to everyone. I've said this a few times but it's true, we really thought they just were in the air, and that you couldn't actually own one. So you can imagine the publishers saw us coming! 'Welcome boys, sit down. That's what you think, is it?' So that's what we used to do in those days - and because George did the solo we figured that he 'wrote' the solo.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The two recordings showed the group's rock 'n' roll influences, in place of the skiffle that had dominated the Quarrymen's repertoire in 1957. According to McCartney, In Spite Of All The Danger was inspired by Elvis Presley.

It was my song. It's very similar to an Elvis song. It's me doing an Elvis, but I'm a bit loathe to say which! I know which one! It was one that I'd heard at scout camp when I was younger and I'd loved it. And when I came to write the first couple of songs at the age of about 14 that was one of them.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The songs featured John 'Duff' Lowe on piano, a school friend of McCartney's who was recruited for his ability to play the arpeggio at the beginning of Jerry Lee Lewis' Mean Woman Blues. He later recalled the preparation that took place prior to the recording.

I can well remember even at the rehearsal at his house in Forthlin Road, Paul was quite specific about how he wanted it played and what he wanted the piano to do. There was no question of improvising. We were told what we had to play. There was a lot of arranging going on even back then.
John 'Duff' Lowe
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

The recording was made at Phillips Sound Recording Service, a recording facility in the living room of 38 Kensington, a Victorian terraced house owned by Percy F Phillips.

I remember we all went down on the bus with our instruments - amps and guitars - and the drummer went separately. We waited in the little waiting room outside while somebody else made their demo and then it was our turn. We just went in the room, hardly saw the fella because he was next door in a little control booth. 'OK, what are you going to do?' We ran through it very quickly, quarter of an hour, and it was all over.
Paul McCartney
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

According to the studio log book, Phillips charged the group a fee of 17 shillings and three pence to make a disc of their own. The Quarrymen played their two chosen songs live into a single microphone.

The tape was erased after the 10-inch shellac disc was pressed, Phillips' custom practice to keep costs down. However, as the Quarrymen had only 15 shillings between them, Phillips held onto the disc until they returned with the full amount.

When we got the record, the agreement was that we would have it for a week each. John had it a week and passed it on to me. I had it for a week and passed it on to George, who had it for a week. Then Colin had it for a week and passed it to Duff Lowe - who kept it for 23 years.
Paul McCartney

In Spite Of All The Danger by The Quarrymen

In 1981 Lowe had the disc valued by Sotheby's. It was reported by Sunday Times journalist Stephen Pile.

Before midday on that Sunday Paul McCartney had called my mum in Liverpool. I eventually spoke to him on the phone and we had long conversations over the next few days because he wanted to buy it from me. I was living in Worcester at the time and he sent his solicitor and his business manager up. I deposited the disc in a small briefcase at the local Barclay's Bank and we met up in a small room the bank kindly let me use. The deal was done, I handed the record over and we all went home.
John Lowe
A Hard Day's Write, Steve Turner

Lowe is known to have rejected an initial offer of £5,000, although the final amount paid by McCartney was not revealed.

I ended up buying it back for a very inflated price. I have since had some replicas made. I don't want to play the shellac because it would wear out, as demos in those days would. But it's great to have.
Paul McCartney

After taking possession of the single, McCartney arranged for sound engineers to improve the sound quality as much as possible. He then made around 50 copies which he gave to family and friends.

In Spite Of All The Danger was eventually released in 1995, along with That'll Be The Day, on Anthology 1. It is believed that a repeated verse and chorus towards the end were edited out for the album.

The song has since occasionally featured in McCartney's live shows, most notably during his 2005 world tour.

33 responses on “In Spite Of All The Danger

  1. McLerristarr

    Despite the poor sound quality, I actually quite like this song. I didn’t quite understand why in Nowhere Boy, the director made it seem as though John had written the song about his mother.

    1. Mickie

      I don’t think the director did that intentionally. I think it just happened to coincide with the events. John seemed to be upset for quite some time. I think they should have put something in there with Paul trying to write the song or some way to mention that he did write the song (it’s not like they don’t have a source). I actually like the quality of the song. Sometimes, the songs are better when they haven’t been remastered. I think it’s a good reminder of how far they’ve come.

  2. James

    I too was surprised that it was a McCartney composition since in NowhereBoy it so perfectly fit Lennon. Either way I really appreciate that song a lot more due to the movie and now can’t stop listening to it along with Hello Little Girl which was Lennon’s composition.

  3. Vonbontee

    Mean Mr. Philips trying to save a few pence by habitually erasing and reusing the same bit of tape over and over; and so he erases a tape that would’ve sold for thousands of pounds years later! That’s poetic justice.

  4. isiman

    “The tape was erased after the 10-inch shellac disc was pressed, Phillips’ custom practice to keep costs down.”

    I think you were false, writing that it was a shellac disc, because this was a little bit “out” at this time and most sources say, it was an acetate, but of course Mr. Phillips used 78 rpm and it has not been pressed, because it was direct cut into the disc!
    Look at this:

    Cheerio Joachim

      1. Rafael

        Paul says it IS shellac, since the disc still exists, and that will do for me too.

        We must remember that Phillip’s was not a “real studio”, and probably still worked with old — and cheaper — materials.

  5. Al Brint

    Mr. Phillips was not being mean I don’t think. He recorded many people and groups. If he’d saved every tape he would have needed a warehouse to store them all. And the Quarrymen were just another group of local lads to him. It was an acetate they recorded but the term ‘shellac’ is also used. The website has the story from the ‘horse’s mouth’. But both recordings sound really good.

    1. Vonbontee

      True, it’d be unfeasible to have kept every bit of tape, and of course he couldn’t have seen the future. But he could’ve given his customers the option to buy the master for themselves, for the price of a new spool of blank tape.

      1. Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello

        In fact, that’s regarding the verses ONLY, but the chorus, the “oh,oh,oh,oh’s” are also inspired by another song Elvios covered, the Gospel “It is no secret””, which Paul also heard that same year, 1957.

  6. A-mus

    It’s funny what you dig up when you read about songs. Like some others (and as an excuse, i’m only 30) i count myself as a Beatles fan and thier work has influanced mine, i had never heard this song untill i saw Nowhere Boy. Also like others i had taken the sequence as a response to Mr. Lennon loosing his mother. Knowing what i do now, perhaps it could be said that even though he didn’t write it, the director was artisticly postulating that he was finding new meaning in it. And seeing as it’s John’s story (and not nessicaraly Paul’s) I’m sure a little leaniancy can be permitted for the sake of good story telling.
    Admittedly i was hoping for a little more of a story behind the actual writing but this song has a fine story, after the fact. Was kind of lame of Mr. Lowe to make Paul buy the disk back. His turn was long since over. 😛
    All that aside, now that i’ve finaly discovered the song, i feal sorry to have missed it all these years and am adding it to my selection of covers in the hopes that i might be able to help someone else discover it too.

  7. David

    I’ve just learned the song and have been playing it since. Great one! And I would give credits for George’s guitar solo, it’s simple but fits very well. Peace.

    1. Joe Post author

      According to this site, the studio log book mentions a skiffle group recording on 12 July 1958 (a Saturday, which would make more sense than the following Monday), with it pressed straight to disc. There’s a photo of the log book on the page. It’s not definitive proof that that’s the date, but the one on the plaque does appear to be incorrect.

      Perhaps it was an unseasonably cold day. Where did the group mention wearing scarves? I’d be interested in reading their account.

      1. Jonathan

        Hi Joe

        Re; scarves
        This is what the Savage Young Beatles site says:

        It has recently been drawn to my attention that this is NOT the
        date of this session. A source close to “Duff” Lowe says Lowe recalls
        that the session was in cold weather, perhaps October or November,
        and specifically remembers the band having to wear scarfs. Also, in The Quarrymen by Hunter Davies, a similar story is related by Colin Hanton. Clearly, this indicate later in the year.
        I’ve left this page at this date simply because it is the “announced” date.

        1. Jonathan

          re: scarves
          There`s also this:

          “After recording “That’ll Be the Day” (Lennon suggested that Hanton put a scarf over the snare drum to lower the volume), ”

          ^ “The Beatles story, Liverpool: The Quarrymen and Skiffle — the United Kingdom Years”. PR News wire Europe Limited. Retrieved 2 July 2008.

      2. Jonathan

        Hmmm .. I can see that it does say 17 and 6 in the book which matches the following quote:

        ” They asked for some time to rehearse, but Phillips refused, saying, “For seventeen and six 17/6d you’re not here all day”.”

  8. Jeff Allen

    Has Paul ever commented on why The Beatles never chose to rerecord this as part of one of their early albums? Is it because Duff kept it and Paul simply forgot about it (out of sight out of mind)? There are some incredible harmonies hidden in here and I would love to see how that song would have sounded with the full weight of The Beatles including Ringo and George Martin.

  9. Bill

    Interesting to see how good they were at 3-part harmony so early on. I always wished that this song had been worked up for commercial release, if not by them, at least by one of the other artists they gave early songs to. This song is actually more advanced than some of their early EMI recordings. Maybe that has something to do with the song that directly influenced it…

  10. Mocker

    What strikes me about it is George’s ‘aah-aahs’. There are several comments made by Lennon and such which put down George’s singing ability and this would’ve been 4 years later. I know he isn’t singing but I think this song shows that he was always a good harmoniser/backing vocalist. The other part that strikes me is the change in Lennon’s voice as he goes into the bridge ‘I’ll look after you’ – his voice goes several octaves higher at this point, so much so that initially I thought it may have been Paul taking over the lead vocal. Historical moment in the Beatles’ history – beautiful stuff.

    1. cmjrblucas

      Paul made a comment in Rolling Stone Magazine, July 17, 2014, that differs from prior comments that he made regarding this song. He said, “Like, this whole idea of the first song we recorded, “In Spite of All the Danger,” being John’s ode to his mother. That’s not true, but in a film (Nowhere Boy), it works better. I remember the session, and I remember all the circumstances around that – and we wrote it together.” Wow! I had thought that Paul wrote the song with George. Paul had also said that he really wrote it alone. Now he says that he and John wrote it.

    2. Guillermo F. Perez-Argüello

      The “oh,oh,oh,oh’s” are inspired by the chorus in a song Elvis covered,the gospel “It is no secret””, which Paul also heard that same year, 1957.

  11. Bill

    It’s well-known that Pete Best received a windfall in royalties due to the release of Anthology 1. What about Colin Hanton & Duff Lowe? Did they get royalties for the release of both sides of this acetate on Anthology 1 also?


    For me, the Elvis song that inspired “In Spite of All the Danger” is “Playing For Keeps”, the B-side to his “Too Much” single in early 1957 (it charted #6 in the UK).

  13. Alanna

    During the part of the song that had the high pitched “Ahh ahh ah ahhhh,” who’s singing? I’ve heard it’s George but it really sounds more like Paul to me.

  14. Graham Paterson

    A lovely song, even though not written by John it is sung by him and suits his voice. Like others I love this in the film “Nowhere Boy”. A McCartney-Harrison composition, though the evidence can be a bit contradictory,( and it was a long time ago),McCartney may have wrote most of it.

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