The second song on the Please Please Me album, ‘Misery’ was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney during The Beatles’ tour with Helen Shapiro in late January 1963.
It was kind of a John song more than a Paul song, but it was written together.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
They began writing ‘Misery’ backstage before The Beatles’ performance at the King’s Hall, Stoke-on-Trent on 26 January 1963, later completing it at McCartney’s family home at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool.
It was our first stab at a ballad and had a little spoken preface. It was co-written. I don’t think either of us dominated on that one, it was just a job, you could have called us hacks, hacking out a song for someone.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The Beatles originally hoped that ‘Misery’ would be recorded by Shapiro herself, but her manager Norrie Paramor considered the lyrics unsuitable.
She turned it down. It may not have been that successful for her because it’s a rather downbeat song. It was quite pessimistic.
Instead, they gave it to singer/actor Kenny Lynch, who was on the same tour. As a result, Lynch became the first performer to cover a Lennon-McCartney composition.
He was another lad with an eye for an opportunity, and he had a minor hit with it. He used to do it on tour with us… not amazingly well.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In the studio
The Beatles recorded ‘Misery’ in 11 takes during their marathon 11 February 1963 session, during which the bulk of Please Please Me was put to tape.
The song was recorded with the tapes running at double speed – 30 inches per second – to allow for a piano overdub to be laid down at the slower speed at a later date. This was added on 20 February by George Martin, without The Beatles being present.
The Beatles also recorded ‘Misery’ on seven occasions for BBC radio shows.
The first was for Here We Go on 6 March 1963, which was first broadcast on 12 March. The recording of ‘Misery’ was included on 2013’s On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2. Other songs recorded for the show were ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘Please Please Me’, and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.
The second BBC recording was for Saturday Club on 16 March 1963, and was broadcast live. The Beatles also taped versions of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, ‘I’m Talking About You’, ‘Please Please Me’, and ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’.
‘Misery’ was one of three songs recorded for On The Scene on 21 March 1963, and broadcast one week later. The other songs were ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ and ‘Please Please Me’.
The Beatles’ fourth BBC recording of ‘Misery’ was for Side By Side. The session took place on 1 April 1963, and was broadcast on 22 April. The other songs recorded for the show were ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘Baby It’s You’, ‘Please Please Me’, and ‘From Me To You’.
During an edition of Easy Beat recorded on 3 April 1963 they performed ‘Please Please Me’, ‘Misery’, and ‘From Me To You’. The episode was broadcast on 7 April 1963.
The last two BBC recordings of ‘Misery’ were both for Pop Go The Beatles. The first was made on 24 May 1963, and was first broadcast on 4 June. The Beatles also performed ‘From Me To You’, ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’, ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’, and ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’.
The final BBC version was made on 3 September 1963, and broadcast two weeks later. The Beatles also performed versions of ‘Chains’, ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’, ‘Lucille’, ‘From Me To You’, and ‘Boys’.
I find it strange that I am the only one to bring this up. “Misery” has a backing vocal that is not one of the Beatles’ voices. Check it out. At the beginning of each line, there is a voice that chips in and punctuates each line. “I’M the kind of guy”, “SEND her back to me.” I have listened to the Beatles for decades, and regardless of what the liner notes say, this is just not one of their voices. My guess? Well, my guess is that when George Martin overdubbed the piano, he also punched up the vocals by adding his voice. After all, Martin had a lot of control in those early days and it seems quite likely that he “fixed” this recording. As we all know, even Clapton was not credited for playing the guitar on one of Harrison’s songs until years later. Credit to other musicians just was not acknowledged back then. Does anyone out there have any recordings of George Martin singing, so we can confirm this? Thanks, Steve Ogg.