‘Things We Said Today’ was written in May 1964, on board a yacht called Happy Days, during McCartney’s holiday in the Virgin Islands with his girlfriend Jane Asher, plus Ringo Starr and his future wife Maureen.
I remember writing ‘Things We Said Today’ in one of the cabins below deck one afternoon on my acoustic guitar. I got away from the main party but it was a bit queasy downstairs; you could smell the oil and the boat was rocking a bit and I’m not the best sailor in the world, so I wrote a little bit of it downstairs and then the rest of it on the back deck where you couldn’t smell the engine. I don’t know why the engine was on, I suppose we were moving.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
That particular day on the boat, I started with an A minor chord. A minor to E minor to A minor, which gave me a sort of folksy, whimsical world. And then in the middle, on ‘Me, I’m just the lucky kind’, it goes to the major and gets hopeful. The thing I always loved and still love about writing a song is that, at the end of two or three hours, I have a newborn baby to show everyone. I want to show it to the world, and the world at that moment was the people on the boat.
I had to remember it, of course, because I didn’t write it down. I didn’t write down music – because I couldn’t. It was all in the head. I have wondered since why it was easy for me to remember these things. When I’ve used a little cassette recorder or some other recording device, I find it hard to remember songs because I haven’t made myself remember them. Looking back, I love the fact that my circumstances were as they were. Years later, as I try to explain why I don’t read music or write it down, I blame my Celtic tradition, the bardic tradition. The people I come from trained themselves to rely on their memories.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
Musically, the song’s mood belies it’s sunny origins: it is rooted in A minor, and only strays into a major key for the brief middle section.
The similarly melancholy lyrics reflected McCartney’s knowledge that his and Asher’s lifestyles would increasingly drive them apart – although they stayed together until July 1968, and in December 1967 announced their engagement.
It was a slightly nostalgic thing already, a future nostalgia: we’ll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future, so the song projects itself into the future and then is nostalgic about the moment we’re living in now, which is quite a good trick. It has interesting chords.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The song briefly became a part of The Beatles’ live repertoire following its release. The group played it during their tours of the US and Canada in August and September 1964, although it disappeared shortly afterwards. George Harrison sang harmony vocals on these live versions.
In the studio
The Beatles recorded ‘Things We Said Today’ on 2 June 1964, at Abbey Road’s Studio Two. It took them just three takes to get right.
McCartney double tracked his vocals, occasionally providing harmony, but mostly singing in unison with himself.
Lennon’s piano part was meant to be omitted from the final mix, but lack of separation between instruments meant that its sound leaked into other microphones during recording. As a result it can be heard on the released version.
‘Things We Said Today’ Today was first released on 10 July 1964. On that day Parlophone issued the A Hard Day’s Night album and single in the UK. The song was on the second side of each release, both of which were chart toppers.
It was also included on the EP Extracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night, which was released on 6 November 1964.
The Beatles recorded ‘Things We Said Today’ twice for BBC radio.
The first was on 14 July 1964 at London’s Broadcasting House, for the Top Gear programme. This version, which was first broadcast two days later, was released in 1994 on the Live At The BBC collection.
In addition to ‘Things We Said Today’, The Beatles also taped new versions of ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, ‘And I Love Her’, ‘I Should Have Known Better’, ‘If I Fell’, and ‘You Can’t Do That’.
The second BBC recording was made on 17 July 1964 at the BBC Paris Studio, London. It was recorded for the From Us To You programme, which was first broadcast on 3 August.
The Beatles recorded eight songs for that edition of the show: ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘If I Fell’, ‘I’m Happy Just To Dance With You’, ‘Things We Said Today’, ‘I Should Have Known Better’, ‘Boys’, ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’, and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.