Words Of Love

Beatles For Sale album artworkWritten by: Holly
Recorded: 18 October 1964
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 4 December 1964 (UK), 14 June 1965 (US)

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

Available on:
Beatles For Sale
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2

Written and recorded by Buddy Holly in 1957, Words Of Love was the only of his songs to be recorded by The Beatles.

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A number of Buddy Holly's songs had been performed live by The Beatles from their earliest days. These included That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday, It's So Easy, Maybe Baby, Think It Over, Raining In My Heart, and Crying, Waiting, Hoping.

The Beatles' name was partly inspired by Holly's backing group, The Crickets. All four members were keen Holly fans, and in 1976 McCartney bought the publishing rights to his songs.

The group had performed Words Of Love between 1958 and 1962, with Lennon and Harrison singing. For the Beatles For Sale recording, however, Lennon and McCartney shared vocal duties.

Buddy Holly was completely different; he was out of Nashville, so that introduced us to the country music scene. I still like Buddy's vocal style. And his writing. One of the main things about The Beatles is that we started out writing our own material. People these days take it for granted that you do, but nobody used to then. John and I started to write because of Buddy Holly. It was like, 'Wow! He writes and is a musician'.
Paul McCartney

Words Of Love was first released in the UK on the Beatles For Sale album, the group's fourth. In the US it was included on the Beatles VI collection.

Although Words Of Love was the only Buddy Holly song in The Beatles' canon, they did busk a version of Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues during the Get Back sessions in 1969. While not written by Holly, the song was originally released in 1957 as the b-side to Words Of Love. The Beatles' version was eventually included on Anthology 3.

In the studio

Words Of Love was the final song recorded on 18 October 1964, during which they recorded seven songs in nine hours in a rush to finish the album.

The Beatles recorded the song in two takes, along with a vocal overdub. Ringo Starr played a suitcase along with his drums, in homage to Jerry Allison's performance on Holly's Everyday.


Hold me close
And tell me how you feel
Tell me love is real

Words of love
You whisper soft and true
Darling I love you

Let me hear you say
The words I long to hear
Darling when you're near

Words of love
You whisper soft and true
Darling I love you

39 responses on “Words Of Love

    1. Joe Post author

      I beg to differ. If you listen to the mix on Beatles VI (Capitol remasters box set) it sounds a lot like muted drums. It’s a far clearer mix than the muddy EMI (pre-2009 remasters) one. Listen for when the guitar bridge occurs at the one-minute mark: when the bass and percussion come back in, it sounds like two different drum sounds (snare then bass, though neither are miked up particularly well).

      Ian MacDonald claims that the packing case was actually used on Mr Moonlight, not Words Of Love. Listening to the two songs, I’m inclined to agree.

      1. Sergey

        “Words of Love”:
        1. Bass, Ringo’s drumming on packing case
        2. John’s Capri
        3. John / Paul vocal duet with handclaps in eighths
        4. George’s Tennessean
        Starr slaps a packing case with a loose fastening, a noise resembling out-of-time clapping.
        I think Everett is right.

          1. jennifur Sun

            loved his guitar. this is the only other Holly song that i like the cover verson better than the origional one. the other is Loves Made a Fool Of You, by Bobby Fuller Four

  1. Dan

    I remember how frustrated I was as a kid, listening intently, trying to pick out a sound that might be unfamiliar, but only ever hearing bass, drums, guitar, vocals and handclaps.

    Then, one day as I was listening to “I’ll Follow The Sun”, it struck me: there it is! That gentle, mysterious tapping of hands on an unidentified object.

    Derek Taylor had made a mistake in his liner notes, probably scrambling to make a deadline, or perhaps misinformed by someone as to which of the two songs recorded that day had this unusual feature.

    For decades I have read noted authors’ comments, lavishing praise on the sound, the performance, the brilliant idea, even going as far as claiming that the handclaps are the sound of a loose fastening.

    Gentlemen, it’s all in your mind, there is no packing case. It quietly beckons from another song…

  2. Vonbontee

    That clapping during the instrumental break (when it’s most apparent) always kinda irritates me for some reason (or no reason.) Polite little golf-claps, four to the bar, with no real dynamics or differentiation between fore- and backbeat – they just make the track (already pretty fey) sound downright fussy. I still like it, but ultimately, I prefer Buddy’s original. But I do approve of the unconventional percussion experiments throughout the album as a whole. (And “No Reply” and “Eight Days a Week” have got some GREAT handclaps.)

    1. Sergey

      Geoff Emerick (“Here, There and Everywhere”):
      “They were clearly flagging by the time they got around to it, yet John, Paul and George sang beautiful three-part harmony, gathered around a single mic.
      “Lennon and Harrison sang the song live but the credits for this track show Harrison replaced by McCartney (though the actual sound suggests otherwise).”
      Maybe John and George (or Paul and George) sang in unison?

    2. Suzanne

      I seriously hear George’s vocals in there. I hear John and George, and not Paul at all. It’s been 52 years..I think I got the voices down by now. No doubt, no doubt at all.

      1. Joel

        yeah, I certainly thought I heard george’s vocals, and I stick to that theory. Paul and George’s vocals are very different. While they can both make their voices high or low if they want, you can tell who your listening to if you just listen.

      2. The man with the foolish grin

        I agree with Suzanne. I can’t hear Paul’s voice at all, either.
        I haven’t listened to this in a long time, but I just heard it and without looking up Joe’s notes (which I do almost every time I hear a Beatles song) I thought, “Ah, yes, another John/George harmony song, like You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.”
        It’s odd that everyone’s got this one wrong for so long (possibly by assuming that Paul sang the low harmony). But George’s slightly “dirty” vowels are definitely there, alongside John’s voice.

        1. metzgermeister77

          Listening very closely, that’s definitely George on the top harmony, but the lower vocals sound double-tracked and I can definitely hear Paul’s singing somewhere in the mix. I suspect Paul and John sang it in unison.

  3. Bill

    I’m a huge Holly fan also. Interesting thing about the original version, Buddy’s the only one on it, overdubs on top of overdubs, on mono tape, no less. One Holly song The Beatles did was not mentioned in this article, “Reminiscing”, which is on the Star-Club tapes…

  4. Bill

    While digging through my record collection (which can take quite a while, believe me!), I decided to pull out my mono LP of Beatles VI & play “Words Of Love” back-to-back with Holly’s original Coral pressing. It’s amazing how close they sound, especially the timbre of the lead guitar licks (Holly’s original has just a touch more acoustic rhythm guitar in the mix). I think that as far as EMI studio recordings are concerned, this is one of the boys’ most respectful cover versions (if not THE most respectful)…

    1. walrusgumboot

      AMAZING version! Struggled to figure out, as I learned to play this as a wee lad, how in the hell George got his guitar to make that sound! I was 8 years old and had yet to discover the exotic wonders of the 12-string….

  5. bobby clementine

    john, paul, and george harmonize in three parts. john on key, paul as minor note, george as third. very basic and tight but blended in and out for their own amusement it seems. quite lovely. drums drowned out by complex clapping but still audible as a metronome.

      1. Math Person

        Wow. See my comments below on this. I know later on vinyl, John and Paul do the major singing. But it’s really hard to tell here what’s up, as I mention below, for me, anyway. All help is invited, although you say already it’s George on top, John below here. See my humble comment relating to all this below if you like. Thanks for your good ear for vocals, Baggio!

  6. Bill Collins

    In some obscure time of my latter life I read, perhaps conjured up, the phrase, “Handclaps by Paul.” True or not, I say that phrase each time I hear “Words of Love”. And, don’t forget, without Holly’s influence, from song writing style, the use of strings (orchestra), even to the “borrowing” of the name of Holly’s backup musicians, The Crickets, The Beatles would have not been as great as they were.

  7. Peter Stergakos

    If you listen to the mono mix, you definitely hear that it’s Paul on the high harmony upon the fade-out “Ahh’s”…now the question is, who is doing what below his high part? for the life of me, I only hear the lower harmony AND CANNOT MAKE OUT A THIRD PART IN THE MIDDLE. The BBC performances definitely ONLY feature John and Paul on vocals.

    1. Baggio

      Yes, on the BBC performances that’s John and Paul only and I think that they sound very different from the Beatles for Sale recording and more like regular Lennon/McCartney harmonies…

      I could hear what you heard – Paul’s voice on the fade out and it’s indeed there.
      I do hear three voices towards the end of the song…
      You can hear the higher and lower harmony sort of humming… On the third repetition you hear some vocals that get more proeminent and are a bit more “ahhhh” than “mmmmm” and I think that’s on the same key as the higher part. I definitely hear George on this part as well.

      I wish there was some recording of this somewhere with the vocals only.

  8. Joe C

    Hello. I really like the web site and all the work you put into this. I wanted to point out what several other people pointed out already, George Harrison should be also credited for vocals. Is there a reason why he isn’t? If Mark Lewisohn is your point of reference, he may have been mistaken or maybe the notes from the studio for the session that he had access to are not correct. This could be why he wrote “vocals by John and Paul” in Recording Sessions. 3 sources – Geoff Emerick (Here, There and Everywhere) an eyewitness states John, Paul and George as does Richard DiLello, assistant to Derek Taylor at Apple (“The Longest Cocktail Party”); the entry from “Revolution In The Head” by Ian MacDonald is above.

    1. Joseph Brush

      Since the entire global market place was overwhelmed by the success of the Beatles, it is pure fantasy to speculate that Buddy Holly alone, had he lived, could have negated the success of the Beatles.

  9. Math Person

    Usually John sings the lower parts and Paul the higher parts when they harmonize. But my ear for vocals is not as good as it is for keyboards and guitars. Is this the case on “Words of Love” as recorded once George dropped out as a key vocalist? Or does John actually sing the higher part and Paul the lower part? They blend so well and beautifully that I can’t tell. I shiver with awe when I hear the Beatles version of “Words of Love”. All answers welcome. Thanks!

  10. SouthofReality

    You listen to this song and then Honey Don’t and then Twist and Shout and you realize that not only were the Beatles the best band of all time, they were also the best COVER band of all time.

  11. elias

    George os singing through out The song .and you can hear hum specialy towards The end of mono mixing singing loud ahhh ahhh ahh aah. Before that John and paul uhhhhhhhhhhhh and then George ads ahvhhhhh. You can hear it clearly in The mono mixing that its longer then The stereo. Its a three part harmony song . They breathe The song. It s unique

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