Although written by John Lennon and Paul McCartneyHelp! album, ‘That Means A Lot’ remained unreleased until 1996, when it appeared on Anthology 2.
‘That Means A Lot’ was mainly written by McCartney, who sang lead vocals. With a drum pattern similar to that on ‘Ticket To Ride’, and an arrangement plastered with tape echo and vibrato, on their first attempt The Beatles created a wall of sound arrangement quite unlike anything else they’d previously recorded.
The song is a ballad which Paul and I wrote for the film but we found we just couldn’t sing it. In fact, we made a hash of it, so we thought we’d better give it to someone who could do it well.
New Musical Express, 1965
‘That Means A Lot’ was given to American singer PJ Proby, who had become friends with the group after taking part in the TV special Around The Beatles in April 1964.
Released in September 1965, Proby’s version – slightly slower than The Beatles’, and with a string arrangement written and conducted by George Martin – reached number 30 in the UK singles chart.
Normally I’d try and bury these songs and not put them out but there was so much pressure from people, they’d say, ‘Have you got anything?’ I’d say, ‘I have, but you really don’t want to see them.’ They’d say, ‘I do! Believe me, I think I can make a good job of it, and your name on it would be a big plus.’ So PJ Proby, a friend of ours that we met during the Jack Good television show that we did, Round The Beatles, wanted to do it, so I gave it to him. He had a minor hit with it.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In the studio
The Beatles attempted to record ‘That Means A Lot’ on two separate occasions. The first was on 20 February 1965, just two days after they abandoned another Lennon-McCartney song, ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’.
The Beatles rehearsed the song four times, before recording a single take of the rhythm track, with Paul McCartney on vocals and piano, John Lennon and George Harrison playing guitars and singing backing vocals, and Ringo Starr on drums. They then overdubbed more guitars and vocals.
Although the group briefly considered it suitable for the Help! album, a remake was begun on 30 March. Following a light-hearted swing run-through, they began with take 20, and recorded four attempts.
Take 20 of ‘That Means A Lot’ was a country-rock performance, played slightly faster than the previous version, and transposed from E major up to G major. The following take was similar, though without the guitar flourishes previously added by Harrison.
For take 22 the group revived the original arrangement and key, performing it this way through to take 24. However, all the day’s attempts were incomplete, and The Beatles took the song no further.
The 20 February version of ‘That Means A Lot’ was released in 1996 on Anthology 2. The second session’s attempts, however, are available only on unofficial bootleg releases.
I always felt one reason the song wasn’t released at the time was it had the line “Love can be suicide”. I figured the suicide bit wouldn’t do for a Beatle lyric in 1965.
I’ve always love that song. When I heard it on the bootleg ‘Unsurpassed Masters’, I was so astonished by how great this song was. I was 7 around this time. It took me years to research why it was unreleased. I can envision it being part of side two of Help! album, or become a b-side to some other song. In america, I see it part of maybe Yesterday …And Today, or on Hey Jude. Till this day, its my all time favorite songs of the beatles.