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“DEVIL IN HER HEART”
“Because there were a lot of record companies in America, lots of records seemed only to be distributed on a local basis…However, many of the small companies were affiliated with major labels that had distribution in the UK, so some obscure American records ended up being sold in the UK but unknown in America.”
This explanation by George Harrison sheds considerable light on how an extremely obscure song like “Devil In Her Heart” ended up on a million selling British and American album. The song was originally titled “Devil In His Heart” and recorded by a young girl-group out of Hamtramck, Michigan called The Donays. The record, the only one recorded by the group, was released on the local Detroit label “Correc-tone Records” in mid 1962. This small company, as George Harrison explained above, had an affiliation with a larger label from New York, Brent Records, who picked up the record for national distribution. Although it’s flip-side, “Bad Boy,” received substantial airplay in the Michigan area, the single missed the US charts. The single did get picked up by the UK label Oriole Records and got released there.
“Brian (Epstein) had had a policy at NEMS (record store) of buying at least one copy of every record that was released,” George Harrison continues, “consequently he had records that weren’t hits in Britain, weren’t even hits in America. Before we were going to a gig, we’d meet in the record store, after it had shut, and we’d search the racks like ferrets to see what new ones were there…’Devil In Her Heart’ and Barrett Strong’s ‘Money’ were records that we’d picked up and played in the shop and thought were interesting.”
The Donays performing at the "Twenty Grand" club in Detroit, circa 1962
The Donays were originally a five piece singing group who were school friends. Its members were Janice Guinn, her sister Armie Guinn, Yvonne Singleton, Michelle Ray and Mary (last name unknown). “We were discovered at a high school talent show, Hamtramck High,” relates Janice Guinn. “The song was ‘Please Mister Postman.’” Having acquired managers, they were booked as local performers, one notable show being at the “Twenty Grand” club in Detroit. “According to our managers, after this performance Barry Gordy was interested in signing us up with Motown. However, they decided to go with Correctone Studios’”
Richard Brian Drapkin was a songwriter/ recording artist originating in the Detroit area. He worked in conjunction with one of many up-and-coming record labels coming out of that area, “Correc-tone Records.” His professional songwriting career spans from the time of “Devil In His Heart” (1962) through till the mid ‘70s. His songs were covered by R&B/Soul artists such as Eddie Kendricks (“That’s All Behind You”), The Spinners as well as The Supremes and Four Tops (“Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music”), Larry Santos (“Now That I Have Found You”), Spanky Wilson (“I Think I’m Gonna Cry”) and Barbara Lewis (“That’s The Way I Like It”).
Richard’s recording career has been under the alias Ricky Dee, recording “If That’s What Makes Her Glad” on Big Sound Records in 1965 among others.
The “Correc-tone Records” label was launched in March 1962 with a single entitled “Let Me Be Your Boy” by an up-and-coming 21 year old R&B singer named Wilson Pickett. Shortly thereafter, The Donays were added to the roster. With the departure of Mary, the group was now a quartet, but there was one more change to be made. “My sister Armie Guinn was the lead singer in the group when we were discovered,” continues Janice Guinn, “however Yvonne Singleton was the lead singer on our record.” With this personnel change decided, they were ushered into the recording studio to record two new songs that Richard Drapkin wrote specifically for them: “Bad Boy” and “Devil In His Heart.” “We recorded another song called “You Always Talk About Tomorrow,” Janice recalls, “however it was never released because the group broke up."
After its’ initial release on the Correc-tone label, the single was picked up by the New York record label Brent Records and was released on August 6, 1962. It seemed that another successful “girl group” had just been born. “‘Bad Boy’ was being played a lot, and they were talking about travelling,” Yvonne relates. “The mothers wanted the girls to go to college…Michelle’s mother was leary about the music world, so they dropped out.”
Donays member Janice Guinn explains: “I was the youngest in the group, 15, and still in high school, my parents were interested in our education so my sister and I dropped out of the group. I finished school and my sister moved to California to attend school out there. Michelle Ray also dropped out of the group to further her education, which only left Yvonne who stayed with Correctone for a while.”
So ended the history of The Donays after only one single release. Although the record did not chart in the US, Oriole Records in Britain picked up the single for release overseas. If it weren’t for Brian Epstein buying a copy of the single for his NEMS record store, the Beatles wouldn’t have stumbled upon it and liked it enough to work up a rendition of it, and thereby making it the most successful song in the Richard Drapkin songwriting catalog.
Yvonne Singleton continued a career with Correc-tone, releasing three singles under the name Yvonne Vernee, including the highly acclaimed Tony Clark song “Just Like You Did Me.” After retiring from the music business shortly thereafter, she was recruited to join the Motown group The Elgins in 1971 and toured Britain during their brief resurgence of popularity there.
“Unfortunately we never received any royalties for the song that was released on the Beatles album,” Janice concludes. “We didn’t even know they recorded the song until one morning my sister Armie and I were watching the Beatles’ cartoons on television and heard our song ‘Devil In His (Her) Heart.’ Boy were we shocked!”
While “Devil In His Heart” by The Donays may never have been a hit anywhere, it has been a sought after record for decades because of the Beatles version. It began to pop up in reissues in the 80’s and can now be found on compilation discs, such as the 2000 ACE release “Rockin’ On Broadway: The Time, Brent, Shad Story.”
The Beatles in EMI studio two, 1963
Having just recorded “Devil In Her Heart” for the BBC radio show “Pop Go The Beatles” two days earlier (July 16th, 1963), the Beatles thought the song would be a good contender for being a track on their second album as they entered EMI studio two on July 18th, which was their first day of recording for the album.
This evening session, which ran from 7 to 10:45 pm, started off with starting and completing “You Really Got A Hold On Me” and then laying the groundwork for “Money (That’s What I Want).” At approximately 9:00, they started “Devil In Her Heart” as their third song of the evening. Three live takes were made of the complete song with all four group members playing their usual instruments with all lead and background singing. Take three was deemed the best.
Three overdubs were then performed on top of take three, which included extra guitar flourishes from George Harrison, double-tracked lead vocals during the verses, and Ringo playing maracas. This took the song to take six, which completed the song as we hear it today. The song was completed by approximately 10:00 pm, which freed them up to attempt to record the ballad “Till There Was You,” although they ultimately left this for another time.
The mono mix of the song (from take 6) was performed on August 21st, 1963, as was the rest of the album that was completed by that point. Only producer George Martin and engineers Norman Smith and Geoff Emerick were present for this session. The stereo mix was made on October 30th, along with the rest of the album, in a quick three-hour session by the same three recording personnel, along with the unnamed B.T.
January 7th, 1969, saw the Beatles return to the song in Twickenham Film Studios during the rehearsing for the "Get Back/Let It Be" film. This was a brief impromptu run-through, only done because the song they were rehearsing at the time, “Don’t Let Me Down,” featured George Harrison playing guitar work that was similarly phrased to what he did on “Devil In Her Heart.” It therefore reminded them of the song and they reminisced.
Song Structure and Style
The structure of this song is a unique one for the Beatles thus far. We see here a back-and-forth pattern between a refrain and a verse. Each refrain and verse contains subtle changes in lyrics so there is no constant unchangeable “bridge” or “chorus” as we’re used to hearing in the Beatles catalog thus far. So what we end up with is a 'refrain/ verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain' structure (or abababa), the final refrain extended for an appropriate conclusion.
After a percussive count-in from Ringo and a four measure introduction featuring “Latin” sounding guitar phrases, we delve right in to the first eight-measure refrain with harmonic warnings from John and Paul to the lead singer (George) about the dangerous relationship he is in. George replies to every warning with disbelief, as he does twice in the first refrain alone. Also of note is the ‘break’ that occurs before each refrain, something that is featured in most Beatles songs of this era.
Because of the chord structure of the verses, they actually act as a bridge between each refrain. Bold background harmonies are heard against George’s double-tracked lead vocals throughout the verse until the last line, which brings all three vocalists harmonizing together “she’s an angel sent to me.” The verses are actually nine measures long, extended during this last line to create an adequate segue back into the refrain.
This segues into another refrain identical in structure except for different replies from George in his answer lyrics. Then into another verse which also is identical in structure and style apart from different lyrics. This time the background vocals chime in on the final line “listen can’t you see.”
A third refrain is then heard, which is identical structurally and lyrically to the second refrain except for a couple extra “no”s in George’s lead lines. The third verse which follows changes things up a bit by having the background vocalists (Paul to the fore) sing the first four measures alone, while we get back to the regular three vocalist format for the last five measures, going back to the last line of the first verse, “she’s an angel sent to me.”
The final refrain is completely identical to the third refrain except that it is extended to sixteen measures to act as a suitable ending. The final four measures continue the “warning/disbelief” dialog lyrically while we hear a return of the introductory “Latin” guitar phrases at the same time. Instead of the fade-out ending of the original version by The Donays, the group puts a “Beatle ending” to the song by tagging on a major ninth/seventh chord.
As stated earlier, the lyrics are depicting friends warning the singer that his new love interest has a reputation of breaking hearts while the lead singer counters with disbelief and claims “she’ll never hurt me.” The clever use of lyrics was no doubt a feature that attracted the Beatles to the song, one example being the repeated “devil” and “angel” comparisons. Another is the clever rhyming of “don’t take chances if your romance is,” which is similar to many songs in the Lennon McCartney catalog, such as “it won’t be long till I belong to you.”
Concerning the lyrics, the Beatles purposely made the gender change from "Devil in His Heart" to "Devil In Her Heart" with all the necessary alterations throughout the song. There was one inadvertent error made as well due to them trying to decipher the lyrics from the original 45. "No, not me will he deceive" mistakenly became "no, no, nay will she deceive." Interestingly, they sang the correct line during their BBC performance two days earlier, but changed it to “no, no nay” when recording it properly in EMI studios. And when the Beatles returned to the song six years later (January 7th, 1969) for an impromptu run-through of the song, Lennon is heard correcting McCartney's remembrance of the lyrics, still insisting the lyrics included "no no nay."
George Harrison gets the nod as the true highlight of the song, with his “Latin” guitar phrasings and suitable lead vocal work. Ringo also impresses with his Latin-sounding “bam-boom-boom” drum fills that introduce the song as well as each refrain. His drum style throughout has a rumba rhythm which, with the maraca overdub, creates a convincing Latin feel. His open hi-hat sound, common with early Beatle songs, gives the song a fullness and drive that is lacking on the original version.
Also noteworthy is the background vocals of John and Paul, which emphasize an effective ‘nagging’ quality that is appropriate to the lyrics of the song. Although the rhythm guitar and bass are rudimentary throughout, Lennon and McCartney provide these essential ingredients to create the full picture and round out an impressive cover version of an obscure song.
“Devil In Her Heart” was premiered in America on April 10th, 1964 as the fourth track on side one of the million selling Capitol album “The Beatles’ Second Album.”
A second release also occurred in April of 1964 with Capitol's release of the "Compact 33" version of the "Second Album" intended for juke box use throughout the country. This rare disc contains six songs from the album, the second on side one being "Devil In Her Heart."
February 26th, 1987 saw the US release of the original British "With The Beatles" album on compact disc in mono, which featured the song. The stereo version was finally released on the remastered CD on September 9th, 2009.
Since no compilation album contained the song throughout the years, we had to wait until March 23th, 1995 to see another official release of the song. As a promotional tool for the recently released “Live At The BBC” album, Apple released a four song EP entitled “Baby It’s You.” This EP contained the version of “Devil In Her Heart” that the Beatles recorded for the BBC show “Pop Go The Beatles,” which they recorded on July 16th, 1963, two days before their official album version was recorded on July 18th. The EP, which highlighted the version of “Baby It’s You” that appeared on the “Live At The BBC” album, peaked at number 67 on the Billboard singles chart.
The song is also featured on the November 15th, 2004 released box set “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1” in stereo and mono as originally heard on "The Beatles' Second Album."
On September 9th, 2009, the box set “The Beatles In Mono” was released which features an excellently clear mono re-mastered version of “Devil In Her Heart.”
The Beatles recording in the BBC studios, 1963
Although all evidence suggests that the Beatles never performed this song at any live appearance, they did record the song twice for BBC radio. As indicated above, July 16th, 1963 saw them record the song for “Pop Go The Beatles,” which aired on August 20th and appears on the EP “Baby It’s You.” They also recorded the song on September 3rd, 1963 for another “Pop Go The Beatles” program, which aired on September 24th. As for providing George Harrison a vocal spot in their stage shows at that time, they chose instead to feature the other Harrison cover song on the “With The Beatles” album, “Roll Over Beethoven.”
The Beatles, being true aficionados of the American “girl group” music of the early sixties, were attracted to this powerful, albeit obscure, example of songwriting craftsmanship. Listening to the original version, you can hear what appeal the song had on George Harrison in particular, especially the guitar flourishes as well as the interplay between the lead and background vocalists. Listening to the Beatles version, you can hear that they put a lot of thought, as well as time and effort, into depicting the true essence of the song in a fully convincing manner.
"Devil In Her Heart”
Written by: Richard Drapkin
- Song Written: May, 1962 (approx.)
- Song Recorded: July 18, 1963
- First US Release Date: April 10, 1964
- First US Album Release: Capitol #ST 2080 “The Beatles’ Second Album”
- US Single Release: Apple #58348 “Baby It’s You” EP
- Highest Chart Position: n/a
- British Album Release: Parlophone # PCS 3045 “With The Beatles”
- Length: 2:27
- Key: G major
- Producer: George Martin
- Engineers: Norman Smith, Richard Langham
- George Harrison – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar (1962 Gretsch 6122 Country Gentleman)
- John Lennon - Harmony Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (1958 Rickenbacker 325)
- Paul McCartney - Harmony Vocals, Bass Guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
- Ringo Starr – Drums (1963 Ludwig Downbeat Black Oyster Pearl), Maracas
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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