Teddy Boy

Anthology 3 album artworkWritten by: McCartney
Recorded: 24, 28 January 1969
Engineer: Glyn Johns

Released: 28 October 1996

Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar
John Lennon: vocals
George Harrison: lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Anthology 3

Although destined for Paul McCartney's début solo album in 1970, Teddy Boy was recorded on two occasions by The Beatles during the Get Back sessions in January 1969.

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McCartney began writing the song in 1968 in Rishikesh, India, although it was completed upon his return to Britain. A light-hearted - and musically lightweight - tale of a boy whose mother tells him about his soldier father, Teddy Boy was clearly disliked by John Lennon, who sabotaged McCartney's early attempts to teach it to the group.

McCartney eventually recorded Teddy Boy for his debut solo album. He recorded the basic track on his four-track home studio in late 1969 or early 1970, with further overdubs added at Morgan Studios in February 1970.

In the studio

The Beatles recorded six versions of Teddy Boy on 24 January 1969, although a brief snippet of the song had been played two weeks before at Twickenham Film Studios.

One of the versions from this day, lasting nearly six minutes, was mixed by Glyn Johns for the aborted Get Back album. When Teddy Boy eventually surfaced on Anthology 3, however, it was an edited version comprising parts of this version and another from 28 January.

We've now put together a version, an edit of one of the takes of us trying it, which sounds interesting. You can hear on it that the band wasn't very interested in it. I don't know why. Maybe I hadn't finished it enough or something. Maybe it was just tension coming in. The bit I'd like to keep actually was John sort of making fun of it. He starts towards the end of it, going, 'Grab your partners, do-si-do,' so we've kept that on. And while it was, in some way, indicative of friction, it was good-humoured friction.
Paul McCartney, 1996

McCartney revived the song on 28 January, taking The Beatles through a further two attempts. The longer of the two was used for the first part of the Anthology 3 edit.

Another version of Teddy Boy was recorded the towards the end of the following day's session, after The Beatles had performed a number of rock 'n' roll oldies, McCartney chose to lead the group into a final rehearsal. This arrangement was more rock-oriented, in contrast to the acoustic-based earlier attempts.

On 31 January, during final filming for the Let It Be movie, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg runs through a potential list of songs to include. He suggests filming the group playing Teddy Boy, although is promptly disabused of the notion by a regretful McCartney.

Teddy Boy is actually... that's as far as it's gonna get. I thought maybe we can come back after a week or something...
Paul McCartney

But there was no return to the Get Back project. The Beatles gladly moved on to new recordings, and never again attempted Teddy Boy.

On 10 March Glyn Johns made a stereo mix of a 24 January performance of the song, considering it a potential contender for the Get Back LP.

Phil Spector also mixed the song. He evidently thought it suitable for the Let It Be album, although it was never used. On 25 March 1970 Spector made two stereo mixes: the first was faithful to the 25 January recording; the other was an edited version lasting 3'10".

11 responses on “Teddy Boy

  1. Paul Angel

    In my opinion, I love the original Get Back version than the Anthologized version. I feel that the Anthology version took away its purity as to the original 1969 Glyn Johns mix. I also love the Get Back version to the McCartney lp version. I guess cause it was the first original attempt of the song and that it had the Beatles on it. I suggest buying the unreleased Get Back album on CD and judge for yourself.

  2. Stephen Anderson

    After hearing the uncut version (from either 24 or 25 January 1969, two dates given in this article and I don’t have the Recording Sessions book right now to look it up) I prefer the Anthology edit. The intro is much superior to that of the full take I think, with even more Lennon goofing. Wonder how the second half sounds? Though a few caveats about the Anthology version: from a musical perspective, it sounds weird fading out on a full lyric like it does. If I recall correctly one whistling part is removed, why not tack that on and fade on whistling? Or cut to the real ending? Beatles nerd-ery, oh my!!!

  3. GeorgeTSimpson

    I wanna hear the spector mix. Yes I don’t like him but Spector always did mixes for le it be which sound like normal songs and i want to hear a version of teddy boy by the beatles which does this

  4. James Ferrell

    The McCartney version is delicate, beautiful, haunting. I especially like the descant. The Beatles versions sound uninspired, casualties of the Let It Be ennui.

  5. Billy Shears

    I disagree with the masses on this one. It is even one of the weaker songs on the” McCartney” album. I think that the Beatles made the right choice in leaving it off an LP. I have a bootleg with the long version – it is meandering and searching for a hook of some sort. I think that John was bored and wanted it to end.

  6. Bungalow Bob

    I always thought Teddy Boy was one of McCartney’s most forgettable tunes, and the lyrics didn’t do the song any favors, either. I can see why the other Beatles were less than enthusiastic about it. I’d really like to hear Spector’s trademark treatment of the song, if only for a laugh. There is only so much a “Wall Of Sound” can do to take a sad song, and make it better.

  7. stuartgardner

    Apart from singing “Do-si-do,” just how did John sabotage McCartney’s early attempts to teach it to the group?
    I love the tune.
    Nothing said here, perhaps because it’s so obvious, of the song being a poke at the Teddy Boy subculture.

    1. stuartgardner

      Perhaps an irritant for John was the subject matter. A song about a boy and his mother dealing with an absentee father could have been painful for him. The subtext of the Teddy Boys might have made two calls back to unhappier days in one song for him.

  8. rosefromthegallery

    I have always thought that Teddy Boy was unquestionably about John Lennon. And knowing how John was affected by the entire scenario in his life about his mother – not just her death; if all else had been right he could have mourned his mother’s death normally – it made sense that he would just want to put his hands flat on his ears and block this song from entering his mind. In real life, he simply mocked it out loud and continuously until he couldn’t hear it. It is a marvel how closely knit John and Paul must have been for John to act the way he did and for Paul to simply digest all of John’s rude behaviour as if it was only the wild behaviour of one of his own (Paul’s) strands of hair.

    Another thing I have always thought is that Paul McCartney never finished the lyrics to Teddy Boy. The lyrics distinctly start with a “story” to be told, yet there is clearly no ending to the tale, even the music evokes chaos and questions as to the fate of “Ted”, on the album McCartney.

    John had often wondered at Paul’s ability to write songs that described him (John). This one just struck the target in the bull’s eye.

    1. Eric Thespian

      I agree entirely with you, Rose – Ted is John, and that’s why he hated the gut-wrenching pathos of that song, which was way too close to the bone – the old Lennon-McCartney pact of “don’t get real with me, man”. Good point too about the song story not ending – perhaps he could already sense there was tragedy ahead of some sort for his alter ego. (For his part, Paul would have hated the trivial version of himself portrayed in the film “Nowhere Boy” – how unfair was that, whether intentional or inadvertent).

      The irascible schizoid self-loathing Lennon was the unrequited love of McCartney’s life, as he was (to a less extent) of Harrison’s and Starkey’s. Jude of course was also Lennon – acknowledging and forgiving both himself and Cyn being pushed aside for a new muse. And who was Macca thinking of in LAWR when he plucked up the courage to say, “Anyway, you’ll never know, the many ways I’ve tried.” It was “Here Today” two decades ahead of time.

      Dear, but many us are going to cry a lot when Paul passes away – so much of our own dreams and lives subconsciously buried in the legendary teamwork of those young scouse lads… weren’t they fantastic? The ultimate male fantasy.

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