That Means A Lot

Anthology 2 album artworkWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 20 February; 30 March 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 18 March 1996 (UK), 19 March 1996 (US)

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

Available on:
Anthology 2

Although written by Lennon and McCartney for the Help! album, That Means A Lot remained unreleased until 1996, when it appeared on Anthology 2.

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The song was mainly written by Paul McCartney, who sang lead vocals. With a drum pattern similar to Ticket To Ride's, 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.
John Lennon
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.

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 McCartney on vocals and piano, Lennon and Harrison playing guitars and singing backing vocals, and 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.

22 responses on “That Means A Lot

  1. David K. Richard

    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.

  2. Paul Angel

    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.

    1. jennifur Sun

      one of my fav songs by them as well. was so glad someone put this song and Leave My Kitten Alone on that Anthology recording. the thing i liked the most, which they hated, was that Wall Of Sound sound.

  3. TheOneBeatle

    Something also not mentioned here, is that the echoed tape is an Anthology product.
    It’s a tape-echoed fake-stereo version on the anthology CD.
    The original take 1 is on full stereo with drums, guitars and bass on the left, voice in center with back vocals on left and right, double-track voice on the right and piano on right.
    This can be heard on the Anthology DVD when Paul says about the dates where The Beatles we’re acting and they had to complain Brian for a day off; and also we can hear it on bootlegs of the Help! Sessions.

  4. Richard Astley-Clemas

    First time I heard that one-Proby managed by Brian Epstein/
    Sounds like some of his fiction!
    Whatever why are there no Lennon McCartney songs on here recorded by other artists?Many were demoed by the Beatles-One & One is Two had a Beatles demo before the song was given to an Australian act.
    Tip of my tongue seems to have no Beatles demo and the only version in 1963 was by Tommy Quickly
    The Chapter One CD Unheard Songs is a double which includes all known versions at the time going back as far as the Quarrymen

    1. Joe Post author

      I’ve limited the scope of the site to songs recorded and released by The Beatles. One day I may write about other Lennon-McCartney compositions, but there are no current plans to.

  5. David

    Great Macca song. Sometimes the Beatles were unable to see which songs they should release and which they shouldn’t. Dizzy miss lizzy got released and this didn’t…lack of self critical analysis here!

  6. Bill

    I think I agree about the suicide line. Didn’t Paul have a much earlier song titled “Suicide”? Not too sure about the echo being strictly an Anthology thing. My old LP of Ultra Rare Trax has just as much echo on it. I think the echo adds to the song, but I’m biased, because I grew up with the US Capitol LP’s, and I was used to hearing “She’s A Woman” & “I Feel Fine” just awash in echo. It might have been too derivative of “Ticket To Ride” for their liking, but it sounds perfect for early/mid-1965 Top 40 radio…

  7. Bob

    I also agree about the clunky line “Love can be suicide,” as the reason this song was shelved. I can imagine George Martin being less than enthusiastic when discussing this tune, and gently pointing out the inappropriate, unsavory “feel” of that lyric. Rather than admit he was wrong and change it, Paul might have just grumbled “OK then, we’ll drop it,” in a huff. (I take a lot of “creative liberties” in my imagined Beatle-songwriting scenarios.)

  8. RingoStarr39

    The tape echo is not from Anthology, but from the canceled 1985 album “Sessions”. This song was originally going to be on that album and the fake stereo mix on Anthology 2 was made in the 80s for Sessions.

  9. Lennon-Harrison

    The outro, McCartney scream and all, has a very 50s doo wop feel to it. The rest of the song is pretty unremarkable, other than some nice harmonies. Still better than I’ve Just Seen A Face. Not a bad song

  10. kevintimba

    I’ve scoured the internet and am shocked that I see to be the only one who hears the powerful influence this song had on “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”, the theme song of the television series “Cheers”. For example, compare “you know that your love is all you’ve got” to “taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot”. Another bit of subliminal forensic evidence is simply the use of the phrase “a lot”. “Cheers” predated “Anthology” so the P. J. Proby version was probably the source of the (probably subconscious) inspiration. I’m not dissing the Cheers song or its writer – it uses the Beatles hooks as a starting point and adds many more of its own – just saying that this is yet another instance of subsequent pop culture deriving from the Beatles.

  11. PittsburghMike

    I just began listening to Anthology since it was put on spotify and this song was one of the highlights. Its not the Beatles at their best, yet I could easily seeing this on the Help album or as a b side. Like others I see the the lyric suicide in 1965 being to controversial for the Beatles at that point in their career.

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