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“I SAW HER STANDING THERE”
(Paul McCartney – John Lennon)
“I Saw Her Standing There” has the distinction of being one of the very first Beatles songs heard in the United States, thanks to being chosen by Capitol records as the flip side to their first charted single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (released December 26th, 1963). It was also a very good representation of what The Beatles' music was all about. The Beatles worked hard to absorb, as well as create, the “beat” music craze which swept Liverpool, London and even Hamburg, Germany in the early sixties. This song, unlike most others recorded this early on in their career, is an accurate reflection of the swinging dance sound they were known for at the Cavern Club and other dance halls around their home town. So, while American youth snapped their fingers and sang along to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, when they heard “I Saw Her Standing There”, they got up and danced!
"That's Paul doing his usual good job of producing what George Martin used to call a 'potboiler'," stated John Lennon about "I Saw Her Standing There." George Martin would choose such a song as an opening track to The Beatles' albums, a practice he started here on their British "Please Please Me" album.
The history of the song, as can be determined by deciphering interviews throughout the years, dates back to 1962. "I thought of the idea driving home from a concert in Southport," says McCartney. The Beatles played various times in 1962 in Southport, such as July 23rd or July 26th, but recollections that are related in Mark Lewisohn's book "Tune In" suggest that Paul had to have been remembering the trip back from a performance at Queens Hall in Widnes on October 22nd, 1962.
After gigs, The Beatles would frequent Hurricaneville, the family home of Rory Storm and his sister Iris Caldwell, one of the girls Paul was dating at the time. The inspiration for "I Saw Her Standing There," although unnamed at the time, apparently popped into Paul's head on the way to Hurricaneville on this evening and, upon his arrival, he grabbed an acoustic guitar to figure it out before he forgot it. He had the first two lines sketched in, which were "She was just seventeen / She'd never been a beauty queen," and then he let it ruminate in his mind for awhile. Rory Storm, blown away by witnessing a song being written before his eyes, asked Paul if he could have it exclusively for use with his group "Rory Storm And The Hurricanes" (which formerly included Ringo Starr on drums). Paul said yes, but most likely quickly forgot about this verbal agreement shortly thereafter.
With a couple of free days, Paul and another girlfriend, Celia Mortimer, decided to hitchhike to London together to visit Paul and John's old friend Ivan Vaughan (who had introduced Paul to John back in 1957). In the book "Tune In," Celia remembers the events of this adventure: "We had an amazing time, just wandering streets in the sunshine, looking at London, holding hands and having fun, and Paul had the melody of what became 'I Saw Her Standing There' going round his head all day, humming it and singing it and fleshing out the words. I remember walking around some lovely, elegant squares...while he made up rhyming lines and asked me what I thought of them. He said, 'What rhymes with 'We danced through the night'? and I came up with 'We held each other tight,' which was really quite naff, but he used it. He'd worked out a fair bit of the lyric by the end of the day."
But was there a girl in mind that Paul was singing about? Many suggest girlfriend Iris Caldwell, but Celia feels differently. "I felt like the song was about us, but it wasn't said. It was implicit, but difficult to state openly because it would have made things terribly intimate. But I was very flattered, and it became for me an abiding memory of our trip to London." The reader should know that Celia was indeed "seventeen" at the time and they actually did "dance through the night." Coincidence?
Then, most likely in the final days of November 1962, just before their final Hamburg residency, Paul and John got together at Paul's home on 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool to complete the song. "We wrote it on guitars and a little bit on the piano," Paul related to author Mark Lewisohn in his book "Tune In." The title of the song was reportedly “Seventeen” at this stage, but was inevitably changed to correspond with their established songwriting structure of ending every verse with the title of the song. It also allows the title of the song to contain a personal pronoun (“I”) which they tried to put into their song titles so that their fans could personally relate to the songs.
"'I Saw Her Standing There' was my original," McCartney continued. "I'd started it and I had the first verse, which therefore gave me the tune, the tempo and the key. It gave you the subject matter, a lot of the information and then you had to fill in...With John and me on a song, if I come up with some lines which I know aren't really very good and I'm just hoping to fool him, I know I won't. 'I Saw Him Standing There' was the best example of it...I had 'She was just seventeen,' and then 'beauty queen.' I knew this was rubbish, and that I'd put it down just because it rhymed. When I showed it to John, he screamed with laughter and said, 'You're joking about that line, aren't you?' And I realized that, in fact, I was, and we changed it."
"I helped with a couple of the lyrics," remembered John. Paul elaborates: "We stopped there and both of us cringed at that and said, 'No, no, no. Beauty queen is out! There's got to be another rhyme for seventeen.' So we went through the alphabet: between, clean, lean, mean; 'She wasn't mean; you know what I mean; great! Put that in.' And then the significance of it built as we sang it...people picked up on the implied significance later. It was a good way out of that problem. So it was co-written, my idea, and we finished it that day." The innuendo "you know what I mean," possibly suggesting hooking up with an underage girl, was then added to the lyrics they were scratching out into a Liverpool Institute exercise book, this song containing many scribbled out ideas. Paul's brother Michael has a picture taken on this day of Paul strumming a cheap Spanish acoustic guitar (possibly a Framus model) and John with his newly acquired Gibson J-160E as they both huddled around the exercise book which was on the floor. During a 2018 interview with GQ magazine, Paul related details of the above story and concluded by saying "and that started our songwriting partnership," inferring that "I Saw Her Standing There" was the very first Lennon / McCartney collaboration.
"John and I used to nick a lot," Paul explains, this word being a polite way of saying they stole ideas from other songs. "If you really nick then it's a disaster, but (the way we did) it just gets you into the song, and in the end you never notice where it was nicked from. You put it all together and it makes something original." Author Mark Lewisohn gives some "nick" examples found in "I Saw Her Standing There," one being the lyric "I saw her standing one the corner" from The Coasters' hit "Youngblood," the line "She's too cute to be a minute over seventeen" from Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" (both songs being part of The Beatles' set list at this time) and the melody line of The Beatles' lyric "How could I dance with another / since I saw her standing there" being nearly identical to "I want to be in that number / when the saints go marching in" (a song that Paul learned on the trumpet back in 1955).
Another interesting "nick" was that the bass line that McCartney had written for the song was taken directly from the 1961 Chuck Berry classic “I’m Talking About You.” "I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly," McCartney relates. "Even now, when I tell people about it, I find few of them believe me. Therefore I maintain that a bass riff doesn't have to be original."
This was the first Beatles song released that features a high falsetto “ooh.” This feature became a staple of the earlier catalog of hits, as they closed their eyes, shook their heads, and reached up for the falsetto notes during their performances, which created a frenzied reaction especially from admiring teen girls. Such was the impact on US audiences as they caught their first glimpse of the band on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
The Beatles in the EMI studio control room, 1963
The Beatles at this point had recorded and released two British singles with varying degrees of success. “Love Me Do” had reached number 17 in December 1962, and “Please Please Me” had reached number 2 in February 1963. In order to capitalize on the national success of their recent single, George Martin, their record producer, decided to hastily record an album to satisfy whatever needs their fan base may have had. They were asked by George Martin what could be recorded quickly, as only one day was scheduled at EMI Studios for this purpose. The answer the Beatles gave them was their “stage act”, which by this time contained the five month old “Seventeen”, as the song was still called at that time. They needed to record ten songs to complete the album, which would also include both sides of the two previously released singles, to comprise the standard fourteen songs per album in Britain.
The recording date was February 11th, 1963, and the song “Seventeen” was recorded during the first recording session that day, between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Being that the first song recorded in this session was “There’s A Place” and that they recorded 10 takes of that song, “Seventeen” must have been started around 11:30 am. While John experimented with playing harmonica on the song during rehearsals at the Cavern Club in the later months of 1962, the group reverted to their standard lineup of guitars, bass and drums in the studio on this day. They played the song live along with lead and background vocals, with no overdubs at this point.
The first take of the song was complete and, for all intents and purposes, perfect. What is evident from this is that every aspect of the song was well rehearsed ahead of time, The Beatles having performed this composition repeatedly in their stage act for many months. Interestingly, we see that the production team purposely added a good amount of reverb to George Harrison’s guitar only during his guitar solo. This was their attempt to make the solo stand out as different from the rest of the song and, as soon as the solo was over, they decreased the reverb level to sound as before.
George Martin, though, thought this “take” could be improved upon. After engineer Norman Smith calls out for “take two,” Lennon quietly counts down the song but only he starts playing. Paul then quietly but commandingly counts down the song as planned and everybody follows his lead.
However, there are a number of flaws in “take two.” Everything starts out fine but John ends up coming in singing harmony in the second verse with “how could I dance” from the first verse instead of “she wouldn’t dance” like he should have. Then in the third verse, there must have been some confusion by both John and Paul as to what the correct lyrics were, since they both awkwardly stumbled into the line “she wouldn’t dance” instead of “now I’ll never dance” as it should have been. We also can easily determine by this “take” that George’s guitar solo was ad-libbed since it was quite different from the first take although very well performed.
Finally, in their repeat of the third verse, they both get the lyrics right but Paul, probably figuring that they messed up the song too badly, ended the song with a falling note on his bass guitar while John commented to Paul about their mistakes.
Apparently not noticing the obvious vocal errors, George Martin suggested they perform an edit piece to correct the flubbed ending. “Take three,” therefore, was this short edit piece, which consisted of their three-times repeat of “since I saw her standing there” at the songs’ end along with the final conclusion.
Having accomplished this edit piece acceptably, George Martin’s next idea was to have the Beatles perform an edit piece for the guitar solo, but this time without as much reverb and with more excited screams from John and Paul. “Take four” was their first attempt at this edit piece, which began with the last four measures of the third verse as an introduction. George Harrison’s ad-lib guitar solo wasn’t quite as good, so they tried it again as “take five.” After practicing their “wooohs,” they started off “take five” too fast and, although they shouted more during the solo, the actual guitar solo was not very good at all, which rendered this edit piece useless as well.
Having abandoned this idea, a decision was made to just start the song all over again from scratch. Before “take six” begins, Paul concerns himself verbally on how to remember the correct lyrics and how to get the right tempo for the song. After another quiet countdown, “take six” begins but breaks down during the second verse because Paul keeps getting the lyrics wrong. “Yeah, but I mean, it’s too fast anyway,” he tells Norman Smith who called the song to a halt.
Already feeling the frustration of having to do the song so many times, Paul exclaims “and again” before he starts off “take seven,” which he himself stops because he feels it’s going too fast. Showing himself as the perfectionist that he is, Paul explains “and again, I’m sorry, you know, but…” as he tries to demonstrate to the group what the correct tempo for the song should be. “Take eight” begins fine but when Ringo accidentally misses hitting his hi-hat during the first verse, everyone stops which prompts Paul to ask, “What happened?”
Being clearly frustrated, Paul counts down “take nine” with a loud “one, two, three, FAAA,” which propels the group through another complete version of the song. This spirited performance was excellent, they even getting the lyrics correct. Being 1:00 pm already, everyone involved must have felt the song was complete and decided to finally move along to the next, but not before lunch. The Beatles, however, decided to skip eating and stayed in the empty studio to drink milk and practice for the rest of the session.
Little did they know at the time that they would return to the song later that day. At some point, George Martin thought having the group clap their hands throughout the song would create an excited atmosphere, so at about 4:45 pm, the Beatles gathered around a microphone to do just that. “Take ten” was a play back of “take nine” in order for them to perform this overdub but, upon listening to it, George Martin decided that he liked “take one” better after all. So the first take of the song was spooled up for the handclap overdub.
“Take eleven” only made it through the first few measures of the first verse before the tape was stopped because it wasn’t at a loud enough volume. The Beatles kept clapping afterwards which motivated Paul to say “we have to keep Britain tidy” and got them all laughing. The EMI staff started playing “take one” again at the proper volume as the group clapped their hands (with reverb) all the way through the song. This became “take twelve,” which was now considered the new “best.” Therefore, the song was actually complete by about 5:00 pm.
Both the mono and stereo mixes of the song, as well as the rest of the ten songs recorded on February 11th, were created on February 25th, 1963 in the control room of EMI Studio One by George Martin, Norman Smith and 2nd engineer A.B. Lincoln. Before any mixing took place on this day, George Martin decided to edit in Paul’s excited “One, Two, Three, FAAA” countdown of the song from “take nine” onto the beginning of what was now “take twelve.” He felt this would add the desired “potboiler” atmosphere he wanted for the song. After the edit was made, both the mono and stereo mixes were created from this edited master. This became the exuberant kick-off to the soon-to-be-released first British album, entitled “Please Please Me with Love Me Do and 12 other songs.” (The original “take nine” can be heard on the CD single for “Free As A Bird,” which was released on December 31st, 1995.)
An interesting side-note is that the song did see the recording studio another time by a former Beatle on July 21st, 1987. Paul McCartney recorded "I Saw Her Standing There" along with 21 other classic rock and roll standards as contenders for an album originally released in Russia entitled "CHOBa B CCCP" (which is Russian for "Back In The U.S.S.R."). The album did receive a worldwide release in 1991, but no version of the album contains this version of the song. McCartney decided not to include it on the album and it remains unreleased to this day.
On June 23rd, 1994, the surviving three Beatles met at George's private studio at his Friar Park home at Henley On Thames, England, to film and record footage for possible inclusion in the "Anthology" television special. With Paul and George on acoustic guitars and Ringo on drums (playing with brushes), they went through a variety of older songs they used to perform with The Beatles in the Cavern days and even back during their Quarrymen period. Anthology TV director Bob Smeaton recalls: "There's a whole lot of that stuff; we were there for a full day...They did a whole lot of rock and roll songs." Producer Jeff Lynne remembers: "It was just a time warp kind of thing. We played some old rock and roll stuff, a couple of Chuck Berry's, even "I Saw Her Standing There.'" Neither the recording nor the film footage have yet to be released.
The following live recordings of "I Saw Her Standing There by individual Beatles as released on live albums are as follows: November 28th, 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York City (John Lennon with Elton John), November 9th, 1989 in Montreal, Canada (Paul), May 17th, 2002 in Sunrise, Florida (Paul), June 27th, 2007 in Hollywood California (Paul) and July 17th, 2009 at Citi Field in New York City (Paul with Billy Joel).
Song Structure and Style
The song was written in one of the most established formulas of popular music of its time. It was written in the 'verse/ verse/ bridge/ verse' style (or aaba) which does not have a repeatable chorus. The songwriting style of many of The Beatles favorite artists of the time have a similar song structure, such as Fats Domino and Arthur Alexander. The title, or hook-line, of the song is found at the end of each verse, which helps listeners remember the title of the song. In this case, The Beatles may very well have not caught on to this established practice, being that they named the song “Seventeen” and had apparently been performing the song in their “stage act” for about five months with this title. We do know that sometime before the release of the British album “Please Please Me” by March 22nd, 1963, the name had been officially changed to “I Saw Her Standing There,” possibly at the suggestion of the all-wise George Martin.
After the rousing count-in by Paul, the song creates anticipation with its two opening instrumental bars in their established “beat” style, leading to the first verse, each verse consisting of 8 bars. Paul also handles the lead vocals, joined by John with lower harmony vocals for the second half of each verse, culminating in the accentuation of the songs title. After the second verse, the chords rise and the harmonies continue as they enter the 5 bar bridge, which creates an illusion of sexual climax before bringing us back to the ground with the third and final verse in the song structure, which satisfies the listener with a happy ending; boy gets girl!
We then are treated to the first guitar solo officially recorded in The Beatles cannon performed by George Harrison. This being only the sixth song recorded with intention of being released on record, Harrison earns his keep as the lead guitarist in the band. (George did perform lead guitar solos in the Hamburg recording sessions of 1961, although these were not released under the “Beatles” name. “My Bonnie” had been released on record before this time, but was billed as “Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers.”) His solo, which is played during the same chord structure as a verse, was recorded live with the rest of the band as they were used to performing the song live. Soon after this, it became common practice to overdub a guitar solo later so as to refine the solo and get the best performance. Because the band was so used to performing the song over the previous five months, George had already refined his solo, as evidenced by listening to take 9 of the song, this being equally well performed.
The song then returns to repeat the climactic bridge and final “boy gets girl” verse, repeating the song's title three times to, inadvertently, drive home the title of the song in our heads. The chords take a surprise left turn at the end to switch things up a bit, before crashing down with a triumphant clang of a guitar chord coupled with a vocal accentuation from its lead singer. A conclusion like this can only encourage applause.
It is interesting to note that in some of their performances of the song during the next year or so, as well as McCartney’s performances in much later years, the second bridge is eliminated. After the solo is performed, McCartney goes right into the final verse. Whether this was intentional has not been confirmed, although it has been suggested that it was shortened during performances by The Beatles in order to move on to newer songs, being that the song may have already been considered “old” by mid 1963, in their minds at least.
The first record release for the song was on December 26th, 1963 as the flip side to the first Capitol single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” It was chosen specifically by Capitol records for this position because of its rousing quality in order to make a specific impact on American audiences. Its British flip side, “This Boy”, as good of a song as it may have been, was not what the record company had in mind for the possible first impression they wanted The Beatles to make in the states. Knowing that Vee Jay records had already received this song from Britain many months prior to this didn’t influence their decision to release it, recognizing that the song, as all other previous Beatles songs, was now under license to Capitol.
The single was actually planned for release in January 1964, in order to be better timed with The Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February. But because someone at a Washington D.C. radio station imported the single from Britain, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was already being played on the radio with much response from listeners. In order to satisfy public demand for the song, the single was released sooner, still ending up with great timing for their Ed Sullivan appearance. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was at number one on the Billboard charts when they appeared on the show.
Only a select few of the most popular recording artists in America were capable of having the flip side of a single actually have a placement of its own on the Billboard charts. Elvis surely was one of these, having done it repeatedly throughout his early career. The Beatles proved themselves capable of this feat with their first Capitol single release. “I Saw Her Standing There” received so much attention on American radio that it reached a chart position of number 14 by March of 1964. Evidence of this comes from watching the video footage of The Beatles during their first US visit, as they were being driven around town in the back of their car listening to the transistor radios they received as gifts. The radio is playing “I Saw Her Standing There.”
This could only have made Vee Jay records very happy, as they quickly released the album that they had been sitting on since July 1963, “Introducing…The Beatles.” The first track of the album, like its British counterpart, was “I Saw Her Standing There”, which makes the second official release of the song in America on January 10th, 1964. Being released a mere week and a half after the Capitol single, and being played on the radio as it was, created the impression that the song was the “hit single” from the album. This, no doubt, only added fuel to the fire in the minds of executives at Capitol, who quickly filed suit after the albums release.
Another interesting note is that the song does not have the rousing “One, Two, Three, FAAAA” countdown at the beginning of the song on the Vee Jay album. The reason for this is, when preparing the album for release back in July of 1963, Vee Jay records thought the countdown was left in by accident. “One doesn’t have the countdown of a song on the actual record”, Vee Jay engineers must have thought. So they tried to edit it out of the master tapes they received from EMI Studios. Because the edit of the countdown blended so well with the actual introduction of the music, it wasn’t possible to totally edit it out. So, embarrassingly enough, the first thing you hear when you play the Vee Jay album is Paul McCartney yelling “FAAA.” After all the foresight and work George Martin did to add the rousing introduction to the song, Vee Jay records once again dropped the ball.
The third release of the song in America came only 10 days later with the release of the groundbreaking Capitol album, “Meet The Beatles! The First Album by England’s Phenomenal Pop Combo.” The date of release was January 20th, 1964, meaning that the song was released and available for purchase in America in three different forms within a 26 day period. This over-saturation did not hurt sales one bit, as all three forms sold over a million copies each in 1964. The "Meet The Beatles!" album was finally released on an individual compact disc on January 21st, 2014, both the mono and stereo mixes being contained on a single CD.
Capitol Records released a compilation album entitled “Chart Busters Volume 4” on May 4th, 1964 which also featured “I Saw Her Standing There.” Although the sales of the “Chartbusters” albums were minimal in comparison to their other Beatles releases, it nonetheless became the fourth release of the song.
Vee Jay records then re-released the “Introducing…The Beatles” album, including “I Saw Her Standing There,” in two other forms. The first was the double album “The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons” on October 1st, 1964, which sold quite terribly, only reaching 20,000 copies sold. The second was “Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles” released on October 12th, 1964. This sold more respectfully, reaching a total of 400,000 copies, despite it being a desperate attempt at ripping-off the American record-buying public. This, of course, worked quite well.
The song was released in one other form on a Capitol release, but not until June 7th, 1976. A compilation two-album set was released entitled “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music,” which was viewed as a companion piece to the set of “greatest hit” packages released in 1973 (“1962-1966”- The Red Album, and “1967-1970” – The Blue Album). George Martin created a new mix of the song for this release. The album was extremely popular because of a wave of Beatles nostalgia hitting America at the time, getting the album to the number 2 position on the Billboard album chart. The first album of the two-album set, which featured “I Saw Her Standing There,” was then released by itself in October 1980 as a budget album under the title “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Volume One.”
"Live 1962, Hamburg Germany" was a double album released on the Hall Of Music record label in 1981. It contained a version of "I Saw Her Standing There" that was recorded on December 31st, 1962 in Hamburg on a portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Sometime in 1982, the label Collectables released the same Hamburg recording of the song as the A-side of a single with "Can't Help It, Blue Angel (actually "Reminiscing") as the B-side. This short lived single is quite rare today.
The original British "Please Please Me" album, featuring "I Saw Her Standing There" as the opening track, was released on compact disc on February 26th, 1987. This disc was released only in mono at the time, but the remastered version of the CD came out on September 9th, 2009 in stereo.
On June 30th, 1992, Capitol released the box set "Compact Disc EP Collection," which featured "I Saw Her Standing There" because of its inclusion on the original British EP "Beatles No. 1," which came out in their home country on November 1st, 1963 and reached #2 on the British charts.
This then takes us to December 6th, 1994, to the release of “Live At The BBC,” which features their live performance of the song at the Playhouse Theatre in London on October 16th, 1963. This album peaked at number three on the Billboard charts and sold well over 2 million copies. A remastered and re-packaged version of this album was released on November 11th, 2013. Next came “Anthology 1,” which was released in America on November 21st, 1995, and was reported as selling over 1 million copies in the first week. A total of 4 million copies of the double album have been sold as of this date. This album features the song as performed at Karlaplansstudion in Stockholm, Sweden on October 24th, 1963.
November 15th, 2004 saw another release of the song on the box set "The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1." The original "Meet The Beatles" album, in both stereo and mono, were included in the set.
On September 9th, 2009, the box set "The Beatles In Mono" was released, featuring an extremely clear remastered version of the mono "I Saw Her Standing There."
Also released on September 9th, 2009, in promotion of the remastered Beatles catalog, the "09.09.09 Sampler" was distributed to retailers and radio programmers, "I Saw Her Standing There" being featured therein. This has become quite the find for collectors.
Then on November 11th, 2013, a BBC sequel entitled "On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2" was released. This featured yet another version of the song as recorded for British radio, this one recorded on September 7th, 1963 for the fifth anniversary of the show "Saturday Club." This was a truncated version of the song (omitting the second bridge) but features an excellent guitar solo from George, one arguably better than what was officially released on the "Please Please Me" album.
Interestingly, two samplers for the above album were released at that time for promotional purposes, a five-song sampler and a fourteen-song sampler. Both included this newly available BBC recording of "I Saw Her Standing There."
"I Saw Her Standing There" also saw much life in live releases by Paul McCartney. It was featured on the following live albums: "Tripping The Live Fantastic," "Tripping The Live Fantastic: Highlights!" and "Back In The US." Duets of the song with Billy Joel appeared on Paul's album "Good Evening New York City" and Billy Joels's album "Live At Shea Stadium: The Concert." The song was also featured on a 2007 four-song vinyl release entitled "Amoeba's Secret" which comprised songs Paul performed live at Amoeba Music in Hollywood, California. "I Saw Her Standing There" from this release was nominated for a Grammy Award under the category "Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance." The "Amoeba's Secret" EP was released in February of 2009 just in time for the Grammy Award broadcast, and was then released as a full album entitled "Amoeba's Gig" on July 12th, 2019, this release containing all 21 songs he performed at this California show.
A live performance of the song by John Lennon with Elton John's band on November 28th, 1974 also came out in the US on various releases. It was first featured as the b-side of Elton's single "Philadelphia Freedom," this being released on February 24th, 1975. Then came a four-CD compilation set entitled "Lennon," which came out on October 30th, 1990. Sometime in 1992, Elton's single "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" was re-released on the Collectables label on red vinyl, the live Lennon performance of "I Saw Her Standing There" appearing as the b-side here as well. The song also appears as a bonus track on the 1995 reissued CD release of Elton's live album "Here And There, as well as on the CD Single for Elton John's song "Made In England," which also saw a 1995 release.
Although the song has been covered numerous times (by artists such as Jerry Garcia, The Tubes, Bob Welch, Cliff Richard, The Chipmunks and even George Martin himself), the most noteworthy is a cover version by teen superstar Tiffany, whose version, titled “I Saw Him Standing There” peaked at number 7 onthe Billboard pop chart in 1988. This would be the highest placement of the song on the charts, making it a confirmed top ten hit. In spite of the popularity of this version at the time, there is no doubt that the original Beatles version has made the greater impact on American audiences to date.
The Beatles performing in Hamburg, Germany
There is no doubt that The Beatles performed the song in their “stage act” shortly after its writing was complete, even though they hadn't quite decided on the song's title yet. Beatles fan Sue Houghton remembers Paul introducing the song at the Cavern in Liverpool saying, "We're gonna do that 'I saw her standing there' one which we do." An early rehearsal of the song that was recorded at the Cavern in September or October of 1962 reveals John playing harmonica throughout, but this was dropped in favor of a full guitar arrangement shortly thereafter. The song was definately performed in Hamburg, Germany, during their late 1962 dates (Dec. 25th, 28th and 31st), as evidenced in the song’s inclusion on the British version of the album “Live! at the Star Club, Hamburg, Germany; 1962”, recorded December 31st, 1962, but released May 2nd, 1977. The US version of the album did not contain the song, probably due to avoiding royalty payments or copyright infringement due to the song being a McCartney/Lennon composition. In 1981, the American record label Hall Of Music apparently felt no such pang of conscience in their release of the "Live 1962, Hamburg Germany" album mentioned above, which included "I Saw Her Standing There."
They continued to perform the song after its British album release in 1963 as they toured other countries. They performed the song at their legendary first US concert at Washington Coliseum on February 11th, 1964, and again at Carnegie Hall the next day (Feb. 12th). They also played the song on various June dates during their world tour in mid 1964, such as on June 4th in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 6th in The Netherlands, June 12th and 13th in Adelaide, Australia, and June 15th through 17th in Melbourne, Australia. They apparently discontinued performing the song shortly after June 1964, as their Fall 1964 dates do not show the song in their set list.
This song proved to be a popular choice for their BBC radio appearances throughout 1963 and 1964, there being eleven performances. The first was a live performance on “Saturday Club” which aired on March 16th, even before the song was released in Britain. The second performance was on April 1st on the show “Side By Side,” which aired on April 22nd. Then came a dual recording on May 21st, one performance appearing on “Saturday Club,” which aired on May 25th, and the second appearing on “Steppin’ Out,” which aired on June 3rd. On June 17th, they recorded the song for the show “Pop Go The Beatles,” which aired on June 25th. Then to July 17th, with a performance on “Easy Beat,” airing on July 21st. Then to September 3rd for the “Pop Go The Beatles” show, airing on September 24th. On September 7th, they recorded the song for the fifth birthday edition of “Saturday Club,” which aired on October 5th. October 16th brought the recording for “Easy Beat,” airing on October 20th. They also appeared on Sveriges radio on the show “Karlapansstudion, Stockholm Pop ‘63” performing the song on October 24th and airing on November 11th. December 18th brought the song to the show “From Us To You,” which aired on December 26th. The last radio recording of the song was on May 1st, 1964, for the show “From Us To You,” airing on May 18th.
As for television appearances, The Beatles performed "I Saw Her Standing There" a total of seven times in various countries. The first was on May 12th, 1963 on the British show "Thank Your Lucky Stars," a mimed performance that aired on May 18th of that year. Then they mimed it again on June 23rd of that year for "Lucky Stars (Summer Spin)," this broadcast on June 29th. Then came the Swedish show "Drop In" which was filmed on October 30th, 1963 and aired on November 3rd in that country. A live concert at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool on December 7th, 1963 that featured the song became part of a TV show entitled "It's The Beatles!" which was broadcast later that same evening. Then to America with two performances of the song on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the first live broadcast from New York City on February 9th and the second from Miami on February 16th, 1964. And finally, a live concert featuring the song on June 17th, 1964 in Melbourne, Australia was broadcast in that country on July 1st, the show being called "The Beatles Sing For Shell."
The performing history of the song now goes to November 28th, 1974, as John Lennon makes his final concert appearance as a guest performer at an Elton John Concert. Of the three songs Lennon performed on this day, “I Saw Her Standing There” was the last, making it the last song John Lennon ever performed on stage. Lennon introduced the song as written by “an old estranged fiancé of mine called Paul.” Ironic considering the song's lyrics, John was reunited with his wife Yoko Ono backstage after the show.
An amazing show-stopping performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” was performed by a huge star-studded group at the 1988 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York City. Both George Harrison and Ringo Starr played on stage with the likes of Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys and many more. Jeff Beck jumped in with the guitar solo while lead vocals were split between Billy Joel, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen, sometimes with George joining in. George even performs the trademark Beatles ‘head shake’ during the verses.
“I Saw Her Standing There” has been a mainstay in all of Paul McCartney’s live tours from 1989 through 2004, including his triumphant return to the Liverpool Cavern Club on December 14th, 1999 (as seen on the concert film “Paul McCartney Live At The Cavern Club”). He also performed the song as his encore at the "Party At The Palace" event in London on June 3rd, 2002 during the "Grand Jubilee Of Queen Elizabeth II," the Queen herself being in attendance. The song has been included in six live releases from Paul as outlined above. He then retired the song from his set lists as of 2005 with the exception of his “Los Angeles Secret Show” at Amoeba Music on June 27th, 2007 (which appeared on his “Amoeba Secret” EP and "Amoeba Gig" album) and its subsequent performance on February 8th, 2009 for the 51st Grammy Awards Show. He then periodically included the song in his "Out There!" tour of 2013, his "One On One" tour of 2016/2017, and his "Freshen Up" tour of 2018/2019.
Paul and Ringo have also teamed up onstage to perform the song as well. On April 4th, 2009, they appeared live at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for a David Lynch benefit to encourage education in Transcendental Meditation in public schools. After Paul introduced Ringo to sing “With A Little Help From My Friends,” the two of them performed “I Saw Her Standing There” together on stage for the first time since 1964.
Paul twice performed "I Saw Her Standing There" as a duet with Billy Joel, once on July 16th, 2008 at Billy's Shea Stadium concert in New York City, and then in July, 2009 at Citi Field in New York City.
Paul then paid a surprise visit to Bruce Springsteen and The E. Street Band's performance at the 2012 Hard Rock Calling show to perform two songs, "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist And Shout."
On January 27th, 2014, Paul and his band performed "I Saw Her Standing There" at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which was aired on CBS on February 9th of that year.
A Florida wedding band who call themselves "Phase5" got the surprise of their career when, at a graduation party they were hired for on May 8th, 2015, attendee Paul McCartney jumped up on stage with them. They first performed an impromptu blues song that Paul made up the lyrics for on the spot dedicated to the graduate, and then launched into a shortened version of "I Saw Her Standing There" with "Phase5" as his backup band. Paul then complemented the group and thanked them for the opportunity to sing with them. They said, "No, thank you!"
In retrospect, this song was a definitive representation of The Beatles' sound. The Beatles, with this song, set on vinyl the excitement created in Liverpool of the “beat music” craze, while we here in the states naturally recognized this as the epitome of good old “rock and roll”, but with a twist. We acknowledged the exotic young Liverpool accents as a British phenomenon unlike anything heard before, and saw in it a distinctiveness that we dubbed the “British Invasion.”
But for The Beatles themselves, they were just that…themselves. They were only reflecting what was happening around them back home musically. They just liked the music that they liked, and played the music that they played. It finally became evident that the timing was NOW right for The Beatles to make an impact on the United States. And that they did, with the help of the irresistible “I Saw Her Standing There.”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
Written by: Paul McCartney / John Lennon
- Song Written: October 22nd - November 1962
- Song Recorded: February 11, 1963
- First US Release Date: December 26, 1963
- US Single Release: Capitol #5112 (B-side to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”)
- Highest Chart Position: #14
- First US Album Release: Vee Jay #VJLP 1062 “Introducing…The Beatles”
- British Album Release: Parlophone #PCS3042 “Please Please Me”
- Length: 2:52
- Key: E major
- Producer: George Martin
- Engineers: Norman Smith, Richard Langham
Instrumentation (most likely):
- Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1), Handclaps
- John Lennon – Rhythm Guitar (1958 Rickenbacher 325), Harmony Vocals, Handclaps
- George Harrison – Lead Guitar (1957 Gretsch Duo Jet), Handclaps
- Ringo Starr – Drums (1960 Premier 58/54 Mahogany), Handclaps
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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