Originally recorded in 1959 by Barrett Strong, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was the thrilling closing track on The Beatles’ second album.

First released in August 1959, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. In June 1960 became the first hit record for Gordy’s Motown label, having previously been a hit in the midwest. The single reached number two on the US R&B chart and number 23 on the pop chart.

Brian [Epstein] had had a policy at NEMS of buying at least one copy of every record that was released. If it sold, he’d order another one, or five or whatever. Consequently he had records that weren’t hits in Britain, weren’t even hits in America. Before going to a gig we’d meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we’d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there… ‘Devil In Her Heart’ and Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ were records that we’d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.

The Beatles’ version of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was a clear attempt to emulate the success of ‘Twist And Shout’, the show-stopping finale of Please Please Me.

The Beatles took Strong’s original and lowered it from the key of F to E, added a searing vocal from John Lennon, close harmonies from George Harrison and Paul McCartney, and turned it into a thundering powerhouse. Much of this was down to the climactic final chorus, driven along by Ringo Starr’s eight-to-the-bar bass drum – a sound which would soon become characteristic of early 1960s beat music.

The cover songs recorded for With The Beatles were chosen by whoever liked them. It was interesting that when I joined The Beatles we didn’t really know each other, but if you looked at each of our record collections, the four of us had virtually the same records. We all had The Miracles, we all had Barrett Strong and people like that. I suppose that helped us gel as musicians, and as a group.
Ringo Starr

Lennon’s cry of “I wanna be free” was from the heart: after many long years on the road, and despite the promises of greater riches in their sights, The Beatles nonetheless anticipated their success only lasting a short time in the early 1960s – a typical career for pop stars at the time was just a few years. When it looked as though they would enjoy more lasting fortunes, McCartney countered the song’s desperate materialism with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’.

In later years McCartney would lament the way that Lennon tended to be viewed as the Beatle with the rock ‘n’ roll edge. This song, along with ‘Twist And Shout’ and ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’, showed precisely why. Although McCartney came close, most notably on ‘Long Tall Sally’, Lennon got there first, and in 1963 audiences had heard nothing like this before.

In the studio

The Beatles recorded ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ in seven takes, on 18 July 1963. Twelve days later, on 30 July, George Martin added the song’s piano chords.

The piano overdub was completed in seven attempts, numbered 8-14. An edit of takes six and seven was made on 21 August, from which a mono mix was made the same day.

Martin recorded more piano overdubs on 30 September, while The Beatles were holidaying abroad. Stereo mixes were made on 29 and 30 October, ahead of With The Beatles22 November UK release.

Alternative versions

The Beatles first recorded ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ at their audition for Decca Records on 1 January 1962. Although the music lacked the primal energy of the Abbey Road version, it nonetheless featured a powerful vocal from Lennon.

The Anthology 1 album contains a live version of ‘Money’, recorded on 24 October 1963 at the Karlaplansstudion in Stockholm, Sweden. This show was broadcast live on Swedish National Radio on 11 November that year.

The only known live performance on film was captured during the UK television special It’s The Beatles. It was filmed at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre on the afternoon of 7 December 1963, and screened by the BBC later that evening.

BBC recordings

The Beatles also recorded ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ six times for BBC radio.

The first attempt was on 21 May 1963 for the Saturday Club programme, which was recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in London and first broadcast four days later. The other songs recorded in the session were ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’, ‘Boys’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, and ‘From Me To You’.

The second BBC recording was released in 2013 on the digital album Bootleg Recordings 1963. It was made on 1 June 1963 for Pop Go The Beatles, and was broadcast on 18 June.

This was the first recorded instance of Lennon exclaiming “I wanna be free!” in the final verse. The Beatles also performed ‘A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues’, ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, ‘A Taste Of Honey’, ‘Sure To Fall (In Love With You)’, and ‘From Me To You’.

The Beatles’ fourth Saturday Club appearance took place on 24 June 1963, and was broadcast five days later. In addition to ‘Money’, they performed ‘I Got To Find My Baby’, ‘Memphis, Tennessee’, ‘Till There Was You’, ‘From Me To You’, and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.

The fourth BBC recording of ‘Money’ was for the 12th edition of Pop Go The Beatles. It was taped on 1 August 1963 and broadcast on 3 September 1963. The other songs were ‘From Me To You’, ‘I’ll Get You’, ‘There’s A Place’, ‘Honey Don’t’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Lucille’, and ‘Baby It’s You’.

The first episode of From Us To You was recorded on 18 December 1963, and broadcast on Boxing Day. The Beatles performed ‘She Loves You’, ‘All My Loving’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Till There Was You’, ‘Boys’, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’, and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. The versions of ‘Money’ and ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ were released on 2013’s On Air – Live At The BBC Volume 2.

The final BBC recording was for The Beatles’ eighth Saturday Club session. It was recorded on 7 January 1964 and broadcast on 15 February. The other songs performed were ‘All My Loving’, ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Johnny B Goode’, and ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’.


The best things in life are free
But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees

Now give me money (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want) yeah
That’s what I want

Your loving give me a thrill,
But your loving don’t pay my bills

Now give me money (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want) yeah
That’s what I want

Money don’t get everything it’s true
What it don’t get I can’t use

Now give me money (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want (that’s what I want) yeah
That’s what I want

Well, now give me money (that’s what I want)
Whole lot of money (that’s what I want)
Whoah yeah, I wanna be free (that’s what I want)
Oh, money (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want, yeah (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want

Well, now give me money (that’s what I want)
Whole lot of money (that’s what I want, whoo)
Whoah, yeah, you know I need money (that’s what I want)
Now give me money (that’s what I want, whoo)
That’s what I want, yeah (that’s what I want)
That’s what I want

Previous song: ‘Not A Second Time’
Next album: A Hard Day’s Night
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