‘It Won’t Be Long’ kicked off The Beatles’ second UK album, With The Beatles. It heavily featured the band’s distinctive “Yeah, yeah” signature established with ‘She Loves You’, this time in a call-and-response style between John Lennon on lead vocals, and Paul McCartney and George Harrison doing harmonies.

The song was written mainly by Lennon, with help from McCartney. They were especially proud of the juxtaposition of ‘be long’ and ‘belong’, which McCartney compared to the wordplay that influenced ‘Please Please Me’.

I was doing literature at school, so I was interested in plays on words and onomatopoeia. John didn’t do literature but he was quite well read, so he was interested in that kind of thing. Like the double meaning of ‘please’ in a line like ‘Please, lend a little ear to my pleas’ that we used in ‘Please Please Me’. We’d spot the double meaning. I think everyone did, by the way, it was not just the genius of us! In ‘It won’t be long till I belong to you’ it was that same trip. We both liked to try and get a bit of double meaning in, so that was the high spot of writing that particular song. John mainly sang it so I expect that it was his original idea but we both sat down and wrote it together.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

‘It Won’t Be Long’ wasn’t The Beatles’ most polished studio performance; nor was it a fixture of their live set. It was, however, an attention-grabbing start to With The Beatles, proving to listeners that Please Please Me and ‘She Loves You’ had been no flash in the pan.

The Beatles were more intellectual, so they appealed on that level, too. But the basic appeal of the Beatles was not their intelligence. It was their music. It was only after some guy in the London Times said there were aeolian cadences in ‘It Won’t Be Long’ that the middle classes started listening to it – because somebody put a tag on it.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In actual fact, in his article What Songs The Beatles Sang, The Times’ music critic William Mann mentioned aeolian cadences in ‘Not A Second Time’, rather than in ‘It Won’t Be Long’. Lennon, however, mentioned it once more in his 1980 interview with Playboy‘s David Sheff.

‘It Won’t Be Long’ is mine. It was my attempt at writing another single. It never quite made it. That was the one where the guy in the London Times wrote about the “Aeolian cadences of the chords” – which started the whole intellectual bit about The Beatles.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

The song was completed during the second day’s recording for With The Beatles. On 30 July 1963 they did two sessions, bisected by a BBC recording and rehearsal for the Saturday Club show.

In the morning The Beatles recorded 10 takes of ‘It Won’t Be Long’, and a further seven in the afternoon. They then recorded five edit pieces, numbered 18-23; the final song was a combination of 17 and 21, spliced together on 21 August 1963.

Previous album: Please Please Me
Next song: ‘All I’ve Got To Do’
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