It Won’t Be Long

With The Beatles album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 30 July 1963
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 22 November 1963 (UK), 20 January 1964 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
With The Beatles

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 Lennon on lead vocals, and McCartney and Harrison doing harmonies.

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The song was written mainly by John Lennon, with help from Paul 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 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 programme Saturday Club.

In the morning they 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.

22 responses on “It Won’t Be Long

    1. TheOneBeatle (From Youtube)

      From the same mix. Only that is rechanneled and remixed with the masters of that takes and not of the masters final mix. What i mean they maybe took the masters of Take 17 and 21 instead the combination on Anthology.
      It could be. But i think is a tie for both.

    1. Gustavo

      In “Many Years From Now”, Paul claims he was the producer, the arranger, the musical director; he made statements abouts his contribution to every song in this planet. If it was for him, he created the whole universe.

  1. AlbertCunning

    “[D]oes anyone else notice how selfish John Lennon is? He always has to make a point of saying a song is his with no recognition for Paul.”

    I wouldn’t say ‘always’, but I notice it as well occasionally.
    But it’s not unusual for two people to have disparate recollections of the same events.
    John probably remembers it was his original idea, which, usually, is enough for him put his own stamp on it.

    The Wikipedia-article about this song interprets Paul’s comments about ‘It Won’t Be Long’ as him pursuing the role of an arranger rather than an actual co-writer.
    Sometimes it’s hard to determine where the line between writer/arranger goes, especially on John Lennon songs where Paul helped out — and maybe even finished the song.

    John didn’t mention Paul’s input in any of the interviews I know[Hit Parader 1972, Playboy 1980], while Paul’s comments may lead you to believe the song was about 60/40 in John’s favour.

    I’m perfectly happy to go with 80/20.
    For people like me, who are into numbers, twenty percent for McCartney is sufficient for him to be acknowledged as co-writer of this excellent Lennon/McCartney song.

  2. BaBaLou

    It is fairly easy to tell which Beatle wrote what. Their individual personalities are clearly reflected in the individual tunes. For instance “You’ve Got To hide Your Love Avay” vs.”Here There and Everywhere”. Not always crystal clear but a pretty good educated guess. Love them all, it was a magical alliance!

  3. MyTwoCents

    Many of Lennon’s comments as to particular Beatle songs were pulled from the same interview, in which he was asked to provide a little background as to who was the primary writer. When read as a whole, he seems to give equal credit to both Paul and himself. The interviewer chose the songs and Lennon commented from the top of his head. He gives equal praise and equal criticism as to what he thought good and bad in the bands catalog.

  4. Johan

    Magical middle 8 here – showing the creativity and genius of the songwriting.

    A nice chromatic run down in a major key (E) – playing off the standard run down in a minor key (e.g. Michelle, Cry Baby Cry). Gorgeous. And the excitement in the singing matches it perfectly.

  5. kabochan

    I was so impressed to see George was smiling with a bird on his hand with this song on Anthology video. He was so adorable! I wonder what kind of bird it was? A sea gull? I have no idea. If anyone knows it, please kindly answer me. Thank you!

  6. David Fernandez

    Can anybody tell what George and Paul sing in the back exactly? I mean the part: youuu left me here on my owwwn… Now you’re coming on hooome… Yes… ???

    1. Mariah

      Paul and George sing:

      You left me here on my oooooown
      Now you’re coming on hooooome, I should, coming on hooooome

      At least that’s what I hear! I looked it up on other Beatles forums, etc., and they say the same thing. I hope I helped! 🙂

  7. Dave

    Hello,i heard a great soulful/Tamla Motown style cover version to ‘it won’t be long’ by the The Beatles,does anyone out there know who did this great cover version?

  8. Bongo

    Love this song. Especially on the Canadian: “Beatlemania! With The Beatles” mono LP. It is so much louder than the UK version LP and I rarely like to give Capitol records credit for anything!

  9. Pablo Castro

    Although there is a video of the Beatles playing it in some tv program, they were only dubbing, and never really perfomed it live.

    It´s annoying because it´s the first song on the album and it´s commercially strong, and an interesting composition in the harmonic aspect , starting on the relative chord of the key, with occasional minor key borrowed chord ( C in E major) , and the marvelous chromatic descent on the bridge, which is actually more complicated than in Micchelle, Cry Baby Cry and even Fixing a Hole, because is the chromatic descent of two notes, in four chords in sequence, rather than just only one.

    The energy and the cleverness of the lyrics makes it even more interesting, and it´s as powerful as I Want to Hold Your Hand and She Loves You.

    1. Dan L

      I have exactly the same reaction. It Won’t Be Long, such a firecracker; All I’ve Got To Do, so brooding and exquisite. What a one-two punch to open the album!

  10. Johan cavalli

    Yes, Gustavo and Joseph Bruch. One has to differ c o m p o s i t i o n from a r r a n g e m e n t. During the years 1963-1965, or before Yesterday, Lennon was the dominant composer, and that embarrasses McCartney enormously. Therefor, when Lennon was the composer of a song, and McCartney had added something, McCartney claims “it was co-written”. And all musicwriters believe he meant a ” co-composition”. It´s obvius that McCartney highly admires Lennon´s compositions, and perhaps is afraid that his own songs cannot age as well as Lennon´s.

    1. DarrenS

      ” It´s obvius that McCartney highly admires Lennon´s compositions, and perhaps is afraid that his own songs cannot age as well as Lennon´s.”

      And yet it is clearly the case that they do. Odd.

      BTW, love this song. It is the song that brought me back to the Beatles 5 years ago.

  11. Graham Paterson

    John Lennon in the David Sheff interview says how it was his attempt to write a single and like so many of their songs,(not released in that format), it would have made a great single. A collaboration, but mainly Lennon’s. It was a great way to kick start “With the Beatles”. I instantly loved this song when I first obtained this album.

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