She’s A Woman

Past Masters album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 8 October 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 27 November 1964 (UK), 23 November 1964 (US)

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

Available on:
Past Masters
Live At The BBC
Anthology 2

Written primarily by Paul McCartney, the bluesy She's A Woman was first released as the b-side of the I Feel Fine single.

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I have a recollection of walking round St John's Wood with that in my mind so I might have written it at home and finished it up on the way to the studio, finally polished it in the studio, maybe just taken John aside for a second and checked with him, 'What d'you think?' 'Like it.' 'Good. Let's do it!'
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Played on the off-beat, Lennon's choppy guitar chords drive the song, although McCartney's roaming bass and soulful vocals make it a strong team effort. George Harrison did not perform on the rhythm track, but overdubbed his lead guitar part in the evening of 8 October 1964.

John did a very good thing: instead of playing through it and putting like a watercolour wash over it all with his guitar he just stabbed on the off-beats. Ringo would play the snare and John did it with the guitar, which was good, it left a lot of space for the rest of the stuff.
Many Years From Now

She's A Woman was perhaps the first Beatles song to contain a drugs reference. The Beatles had been introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan on 28 August 1964. "Turn me on when I get lonely" was supposedly Lennon's line; he later said he was pleased it wasn't picked up by the censors.

That's Paul with some contribution from me on lines, probably. We put in the words 'turns me on'. We were so excited to say 'turn me on' - you know, about marijuana and all that, using it as an expression.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The Beatles also performed the song live for the BBC's Top Gear radio programme. It was recorded on 17 November at London's Playhouse Theatre and first broadcast on the 26th.

The recording later appeared on the Live At The BBC album. Prior to the performance, Lennon told host Brian Matthew how they'd had "about one verse and had to finish it rather quickly" in the studio.

Another version, recorded at the Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo on 30 June 1966, appeared on Anthology 2. Their show had been recorded by Japanese broadcaster NTV.

In the studio

She's A Woman was recorded in seven takes on 8 October 1964, in a session lasting from 3.30-5.30pm. The sixth take was the best, and became the basis for further overdubs.

These were added during a second session, from 7-10pm. McCartney overdubbed piano and vocals, Harrison added lead guitar, and Starr recorded the sound of a chocalho, a cylindrical metal shaker.

32 responses on “She’s A Woman

  1. Dave

    Although many writers (even Ian MacDonald) suggest this song as influencing the Texas Rock sound of that era, even saying that Sir Douglas Quintet was instructed to mimic this song on their hit “She’s About A Mover”, they need to listen to the 1964 single “Sugar Bee” by Sir Douglas that was released prior to the Beatles recording session for “She’s A Woman”. The introduction to this song appears to have inspired the Beatles, not the other way around!

    1. Joseph Brush

      Sir Douglas Quintet’s version of Sugar Bee was a flop but there were several versions of Sugar Bee prior to 1964.
      The original 1960 Cleveland Crochet recording of Sugar Bee is apparently the only version of Sugar Bee that charted in the Billboard Top 100.
      Huey P. Meaux was the producer of Sir Doug and Meaux studied the Beatles drum beats which reminded him of Cajun beats.
      Put On Your High Heel Sneakers was another hit song in 1964 that featured the same off beat.

    1. vonbontee

      Yeah, I’ve always been sure it was George, as well. That solo’s built upon the kind of rockabilly lick that George was particularly fond of around 1964-65. (Compare with “I’m a Loser” or “What Goes On”, to name two.) Also, why would Paul try to tackle bass, piano AND lead guitar all by himself while leaving George unoccupied?

  2. Happiness is a warm gun

    Perhaps my most loathed of the Beatles’ original compositions, if only for the half-a**ed lyrics. “My love don’t give me presents/I know she’s no peasant” Really? Seriously? Every time I here those lines I can’t believe Paul went into the studio and recorded them. Or that no one tried to stop him.

    I really like Paul’s piano on this though.

  3. David Lee Fairey

    Rare for the Beatles, but She’s A Woman is a hack job, poorly recorded and with the exception of George’s shimmering rockabilly solo – poorly played.

    Assumming it’s Lennon with the off-beat chord stabs, he misses a key change at least once and his barring is quite poor in places.

    The lack of any backing vocals is another pointer that Paul aside, the Beatles weren’t really interested in this song.

    Lennon’s I Feel Fine, the single’s true a-side almost puts She’s A Woman to shame.

    1. AlbertCunning

      I wouldn’t disagree that ‘I Feel Fine’ is the major achievement, but at the same time I have a feeling that most single A-sides outrank their respective B-sides with much more than this one does with ‘She’s A Woman’.

      Of course, sometimes the B-side is the major achievement, but this particular case probably isn’t one of them.

  4. Fan

    Why such loathing toward this two lines? It’s an ironic opening, especially coming from a man to a woman? It’s kinda the same statement as Can’t Buy Me Love. You don’t give me anything but love!!! Now, is that fair? Tongue in cheek.

  5. James Ferrell

    My daughter loves this song. Me not so much; presents/peasant was always tough for me to take.

    But this and “I Feel Fine” are two valid stabs at a return to R&B after the wonderful pop of Beatlemania. And then onward…

    The American releases of both songs has a ridiculous amount of reverb on them. It was eye-opening then to hear the original cleaner mixes.

  6. Bill

    Growing up with “Beatles ’65”, I was used to hearing this & “I Feel Fine” just awash in echo for years. When I heard the first CD remasters in the late ’80’s, they sounded so bare to me. Now, after hearing them properly for so long, the old Capitol versions sound really odd, although I’ll occasionally pull them out for old time’s sake. There’s something really cool about playing this old Capitol single on my 1960 Seeburg jukebox.

  7. Art

    I always liked the song. It’s scruffy in parts and that’s probably how they heard it – although there’s something about the shift from the verse to the chorus that sounds really exciting. As for those lyrics, I don’t think the songwriters were terribly self-conscious at that particular moment. Maybe it was the weed. Plus we have no idea, but John might have liked that nonsense and encouraged Paul to leave it in. It’s only as bad as “the movement you need is on your shoulder” and in the context of those songs quite a bit less so. And the lyric “She’s a woman who understands” always resonated and piqued my interest even as a prepubescent boy – hmm, there are women who understand and women who don’t? My grasp of what they may or may not understand was formative and vague (still vague at times) but I got that whatever it was was important.

  8. Dreww

    Always loved this one ever since I was about 9 or 10. When I was a kid I always confused by the line “I know that she’s no peasant”. It always seemed kind of profound to me. Even now I love the words, though I realize they are not very sophisticated.

    Pauls screamers are among my favorite type of songs they do. Too bad they made so few after 1965.

  9. DarrenS

    Granted, the first lines are a bit hacky, but they actually do mean something. She has money to spend, but doesn’t buy him presents because she knows that’s not what is important to him. It’s about love, trust and being faithful. Certainly, those lines aren’t any worse than things like “love you till the cows come home” or “I look at the floor and I know it needs sweeping”.

    Plus, the sound and drive of the song is so different from anything else they had done. The jarring chords by Lennon really drive it, and it’s really fun to play.

    Great site. Been lurking for a year.

  10. Hildy

    I loved the song when I first heard it. The off-beat Lennon chords add to it and I still enjoy listening to it today. With the Beatles, when you bought their records, you often enjoyed the B side as much as the A side.

  11. Graham Paterson

    Basically a Paul McCartney song which I love. Great vocals by McCartney and as earlier contributor said John Lennon’s off beat chords add to it. A great B side.

  12. Paul

    I love this song much more now than when I was a kid; I thought it was a throwaway number then, Now I can’t get it out of my head some days. Think about it, there’s really a lot going on here: Even though the boy feels “she the one who understands…she’s the woman who oves her man.” Still, he’s frustrated that “my love don’t give me presents! I know that she’s no peasant! (Why no presents?!) Angst, insecurity? Rage? The Beatles kept you thinking- the boys loved leaving it for us to figure out and we love them for it.

  13. Peter Downunder

    Have not heard this song for a while but always liked it along with I Feel Fine. I always thought John wrote and sang it. How wrong can you be. Very interesting site. Thanks for all your research Joe and any one else.

  14. Barry

    The Hollywood Bowl performance of “She’s A Woman” is the definitive version. Whereas the studio version is rather stiff, the live rendition is full of energy. And Paul’s vocals are amazing, especially at the end of the song.

  15. matt sarconi

    I love the sound of this record. The licks and energy. It’s a great record in all ways but one: the strained lyrics. One of the very few Beatles’ songs that felt mailed in lyrically. Could’ve should’ve would’ve been an all-time great.

  16. OldFartBassPlayer Walt

    It’s been said Lennon missed a chord- to me, that is SOOO cool. His insistent chops of rhythm
    drive the song, never missing, except for that one ‘hole’ in the sound. Its almost like a little
    challenge to find the place (kind of like the old US cartoon game of ‘where’s Waldo’ or for you
    Brits, ‘where’s Wally?’).

    Pardon my obsessing, but we Beatle fans tend to do this.

    I just don’t get the negativity for some- its a driving, melodic fun rock song, well performed, sonically interesting (no drums for verses) piece of music. And how cool is it how your sense
    of rhythm is thrown off by starting the song with only the guitar backbeat, and then having the rest of the instruments come in. (ok the ‘peasant’ rhyme IS unfortunate).

  17. Arno Luyendijk

    I heard this song first on the Rarities-LP. The thing I remember it from nowadays is the jazzrock version Jeff Beck made of it on his album “Blow by blow”. Another sign that this song is cherished as a little jewel amongst other musicians.

  18. johnnylivewire

    Yes it does come from that period (his “Help” songs “Another Girl” and “The Night Before” I would include in that category) that probably weren’t Paul’s most inspired moments. I still love it though!

  19. Ray Pitcher

    ,She,s a woman, is one of the most iconic songs of the 60’s, not that easy to replicate either from a musicians point of view, to get every pulse and note in the right order takes skill on this one and I,ve been studying every tablature for Bass produced for this track. Most people miss the obvious and comb through it incorrectly, but this is an over looked work of genius, I hope one day to have it properly off pat particularly the key change etc. The sound of this recording is indeed one of a kind and deserved the ‘A’ side, but with commercial audiences, a pointless explanation here. Regarding the lyrics which upset people with their simplistic terms i.e. ‘I know that she’s no peasant’ was a very common Liverpudlian saying back then which basically meant that the girl was not a complete philistine or unaccustomed to knowledge, this slang alone was one of the many traits that made the Beatles who they were, unique in everything they recorded.

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