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“THANK YOU GIRL”
(John Lennon - Paul McCartney)
It’s not too often that we here in America were treated to something different in the way of a Beatles song than what was offered in their home country. There were occasions that we received songs here a couple months or more before Britain did, such as with “Long Tall Sally” and “I Call Your Name” from "The Beatles' Second Album." But even more unique is the track “Thank You Girl.” American audiences had the privilege of hearing something quite different than what their British fans heard. This difference is focused on the harmonica parts played by John Lennon on the song.
When US audiences heard the version of the song on CD for the first time on “Past Masters, Volume One” (or possibly on a British import), it was easy to spot a noticeable difference. To American ears, it sounded drab and missing a couple vital ingredients. Because of this, purists will usually prefer to hear the song on their vinyl copy of “The Beatles’ Second Album,” which is now available on “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1” CD box set, or the re-mastered stereo version of "Past Masters." When reviewing the studio sessions in this article under the subheading “Recording History,” we will examine in detail how these differences came about.
The writing of “Thank You Girl” can easily be narrowed down to February of 1963 during their British nationwide tour with Helen Shapiro. Since February 11th was the date for recording of their first British album “Please Please Me,” and the song did not appear on that album, it obviously didn’t exist yet since they would have premiered the song on that day if it had. And since Lennon later confirmed that the song “was one of our efforts at writing a single that didn’t work,” it had to have been written before February 28th, since this was the confirmed date when their next single “From Me To You” was written. Since “Thank You Girl” ended up as the flip side to that British single, it had to have been written sometime between February 11th and 28th of 1963.
Although the song was described by Lennon in 1971 as “just a silly song that we knocked off,” they obviously were proud of it at the time, convinced that this would be the follow up to their recent British number one hit “Please Please Me.” By the time they entered the studio on March 5th to record the song, they presumably were swayed into thinking that their recently written song, “From Me To You” would be a better choice for their next single, since it was recorded first on that day. “Thank You Girl” was therefore relegated to the B-side.
The song was written “head to head” by John and Paul, making it a fairly equal collaboration, although McCartney’s recollections clarify matters even further. “This was pretty much co-written but there might have been a slight leaning towards me with the ‘thank you, girl’ thing,” McCartney recalls, continuing “it sounds like me, trying to appease the mob.”
As to their general intention for the lyrics, both Lennon and McCartney had in mind to acknowledge their female fans in gratitude for their part in the Beatles success up to that point. “We knew that if we wrote a song called ‘Thank You Girl’ that a lot of the girls who wrote us fan letters would take it as a genuine thank you,” stated McCartney in 1988. “So a lot of our songs were directly addressed to the fans.”
Another common practice, continued here, was their using personal pronouns in the titles of their songs to accentuate the connection between the group and their fans. Since this practice was put in force primarily for singles only (which lasted until “A Hard Day’s Night”), it further confirms their original intention of “Thank You Girl” being their next single.
In retrospect, both Lennon and McCartney unfortunately viewed the song with little regard. “A bit of a hack song really,” McCartney stated, “but all good practice.” After stating that the song didn’t work, Lennon continued, “so it became a B-side or an album track.” It was admitted by Paul, though, that the song helped develop their songwriting career. “These early songs were wonderful to learn by and were good album fillers,” he stated in 1994.
With the George Martin/Brian Epstein plan to release a new Beatles single every three months, the group was ushered into the studio on March 5th, 1963, which was their only free day in weeks, to quickly record their next single. “Please Please Me” was still doing great on the British charts and their first album wasn’t even released yet, but the ‘powers that be’ were making sure that The Beatles’ name would continue to be on the minds of British fans.
Two recording sessions in Studio Two at EMI were scheduled on this day, the first (from 2:30 to 5:30 pm) being utilized for recording both sides of their next single. After “From Me To You” was started and fully completed, “Thank You Girl” began at approximately 4 pm. Six full band takes of the song were recorded with the group playing their usual instruments as well as performing all of the vocals. No harmonica parts were performed on this day. The sixth take was considered the best.
The closing of the song needed to be spruced up, so the group, probably at the suggestion of George Martin, performed seven attempts of an edit piece to close the song. The edit piece consisted of the Buddy Holly-like “oh, oh” opening segment of the verses with a Sandy Nelson-like drum solo by Ringo. After this was repeated twice, the “oh, oh” segment appears a third time followed by an energetic accentuated ending. Since Ringo has gone on record as stating that he despises drum solos, he relented and impressively performed the two solo sections. This is not to say that it came easily for him; hence the seven attempts to nail this edit piece. John can be heard on the session tapes between these takes saying that Ringo wasn’t “on the beat.” Nonetheless they eventually got it right, the seventh attempt, or take 13, being the best. A decision was also made to increase the reverb on this ending section of the song, so a noticeable fullness permeates the last measures of the song.
The song appears to have had the working title “Thank You Little Girl” at this stage, although the word “little” only appears once in the song during the second verse. Since the documentation, which leads many to believe this was the working title, usually consisted of an engineers’ handwritten scribbles on a recording sheet at the time of the recording date, doubt can easily be had as to this title being actually considered by the group. Since the phrase “thank you girl” is repeated nine times in the lyrics without ever including the word “little,” it appears unlikely that they wanted this to be the title of the song. It could easily be concluded that the engineer wrote it down incorrectly on the recording sheet.
The noteworthy harmonica parts on the song were actually recorded over a week later, on March 13th. John Lennon was the only Beatle to be in Studio Two on this day since he was the only one needed to perform this overdub. He could barely perform this overdub the way it was because he was suffering from a bad cold, which had him “croaking and wheezing, blowing his nose every few seconds” according to engineer Geoff Emerick. Lennon’s cold was so bad that he missed The Beatles performance the night before in Bedford during their second national tour with Chris Montez and Tommy Roe. The three-man Beatles had to rearrange the vocals of songs such as “Please Please Me” to cover up for John’s absence.
Nonetheless, John was game to record the harmonica parts necessary to complete the song. Only one problem remained, and that was that he forgot to bring his harmonica. Geoff Emerick remembered that his friend Malcolm Davies, who was employed by EMI and was currently in the mastering room, played harmonica and probably had it with him. John went up to the mastering room to borrow it and the session was on its way.
There were six segments of harmonica needed to fill out the song, but it took 15 takes to get them all recorded. This wasn’t because John was incapable, but only because of his “sneezing and snuffling.” After his work was completed, John went back up to the mastering room to return the harmonica to Malcolm, not thanking him, instead complaining that it “tasted like a sack of potatoes.”
This session started at 10:00 am with John’s overdubs completed probably around 11:00. Afterwards, George Martin and engineers Norman Smith and Geoff Emerick stuck around until 1:00 pm to edit in the harmonica overdubs onto the previously edited song, as well as constructing both mono and stereo mixes of the song. Since usually only mono mixes were required for songs being issued as singles, they may not have been sure at this stage if the song would be released on an album, which did require a stereo mix. Britain didn’t get an album release for the song in the 60’s so the stereo mix was not released there at the time. America did get treated to this stereo mix on “The Beatles’ Second Album.”
When the stereo mix was performed on this day, it included three harmonica segments that weren’t deemed worthy of being included on the mono mix. ‘Tender Loving Care’ usually went into the mono mixes since this was what most record buyers bought and radio stations played. For some reason, they took the extra work of including these other three harmonica segments, two of which occur in the bridge and one at the conclusion of the song. Another difference is with the fifth harmonica segment, which on the stereo mix begins before the one-beat of the measure, strategically covering up the edit previously made between the first and second sections of the song. This edit may have been more noticeable in stereo so they picked a different take of that harmonica segment to cover it up.
This is the version millions of American record buyers were familiar with on “The Beatles’ Second Album.” Since Capitol constructed “mono Type B” versions of Beatles songs taken from the stereo masters received from George Martin, a method which combined both the left and right channels of the stereo mix to create a new mono mix, both the mono and stereo versions of this American album contained these harmonica segments. Capitol was also in the habit of adding reverb to Beatles songs to give them more fullness, and this is what they did to “Thank You Girl.” Since a fair amount of reverb was already present in the closing measures of the song, the ending became extremely full sounding. Although the song previously appeared on the flip side of both “From Me To You” and “Do You Want To Know A Secret” on the American Vee Jay label with the original mono mix, most American Beatles fans were unacquainted with the original mono version without those harmonica segments and added reverb until the “Past Masters, Volume One” CD came out in 1988.
One noticeable difference between the actual session tapes and all of the released versions of the song is the tempo. The song was sped up slightly probably during the mastering process since EMI did not have the “vari-speed” capabilities in 1963 that were utilized later in The Beatles recording career.
Song Structure and Style
At first glance, “Thank You Girl” appears to have the same 'verse/ verse/ bridge/ verse' structure that most of the early Beatles catalog used. At closer examination, though, we see more intricate detail which makes this song unique. This detail encompasses the identification of two elements which are both repeated within the songs’ structure and therefore need to be viewed as separate entities.
The first element we’ll analyze is the introductory four measures. Since this introduction is actually heard three times in the song, it cannot be dismissed as a ‘one-time thing’ to be disregarded within the song’s structure. Also, since the introduction is sometimes heard introducing the verse, this is not always the case, so it cannot be identified as part of the verse. Therefore this four-bar introduction needs to be viewed as a distinct element of the song. We’ll refer to this element as the “introduction.”
The second element under analysis is the four measures that encompass the key phrase “and all I gotta do is thank you girl, thank you girl.” While it may be suggested that this is part of the verse, the bridge also ends with this same four measures, suggesting that this also should be viewed as a distinct element of the song. Since identifying this element as a “chorus” is uncharacteristic due to it's position within the structure of the song as well as the brevity of four measures, we’ll refer to this element as the “refrain.”
All this having been said, the structure of the song turns out to appear as follows: “introduction/ verse/ refrain/ verse/ refrain/ bridge/ refrain/ introduction/ verse/ refrain/ introduction.” (A shortened or abbreviated form would be abcbcdcabca, which of course doesn’t look very abbreviated.) No other Beatles song, nor any other song in the annals of recorded music (I would think), has this structure, which makes “Thank You Girl” very unique indeed.
To complicate matters even more, the four-measure introduction is actually broken down into two distinct sections, two measures each. The first two measures feature Lennon’s harmonica flourish and Ringo’s tom-tom heavy drumbeat. The second two measures feature the appearance of the Buddy Holly-like “oh, oh, mmm” harmony vocals. This leads directly into the first eight measure verse, which features unison singing from John and Paul in the first four measures and higher register harmony singing from Paul in the last four measures. We then hear the distinct four-measure refrain for the first time which hits home the title of the song. Unison vocals return for the refrain except for the strategic word “do” which shows Paul jump to a high register harmony note, which has already become somewhat of a trademark for Beatles songs as of mid 1963.
The verse/refrain pattern then continues, which is performed identically except for a different set of lyrics in this second verse. We now see the bridge appear for its only time in the song, which is eight measures long. The descending quarter note melody line of the bridge appears to be a repeat of the same idea used in the verses of their previous British hit “Please Please Me.” The vocals are sung in unison throughout except for the repeat of the words “way that you do” in the fourth measure. A natural inclination would be to also repeat the phrase “good to be true” in the eighth measure, but this was left blank in order to add that melodic phrase with harmonica at the later recording session. George Martin apparently decided this wasn’t needed for the predominant mono mix, so it was left off during that mixing session.
After we hear another identical refrain and a repeat of the introduction, we enter into the third verse, which is actually a repeat of the first verse performed identically. After the final refrain is heard, we go back to the introduction which actually appears as an extended version which encompasses a whopping fourteen measures. After the first two harmonica measures, the Buddy Holly-like harmony vocals reappear, but this time repeating “oh” three times instead of two. Ringo then treats us to a two-measure “drum solo” accompanied by the rest of the group vamping along. This pattern is repeated, giving us a somewhat different “drum solo” from Ringo. The pattern appears to be repeating for a third time, but after two “oh”s, the group goes in for the dramatic finish ending on the fourteenth measure. Lennon’s harmonica flourish adds a nice touch, but not nice enough for George Martin to include in the finished mono mix.
Lyrically the song can be viewed as pedestrian and with its’ share of clichés, such as “eternally I’ll always be in love with you” and a “love that is too good to be true.” Since the words were quickly written with the intention of thanking their female fans for their support up to that point, the lyrics suit their purpose perfectly. Also, the words were slanted to sound like it was a love song between two people so it could be universally accepted. The irresistibility of the song rests on the arrangement and unique songwriting talents being displayed, not to mention the harmonies.
Lennon is to the fore on this track, harmonica in hand as well as lead vocalist. Although the harmonica parts were overdubbed only in places where John wasn’t singing, it technically could have been performed live in this fashion. Since John apparently didn’t use a harmonica brace on stage until late 1964 when performing songs such as “I’m A Loser,” “Thank You Girl” was never performed live with a harmonica since his hands were busy playing rhythm guitar. The song was retired from their live repertoire well before that time.
McCartney performs his usual excellent job as lead vocalist on the track, popping into harmony in strategic places throughout the song. His bass work is rudimentary on the song, which indicated that not much time had been spent working out one of his usual impressive bass parts. He later redeems himself as expressive bass runs begin to surface during live performances of the song such as noted on the version appearing on the “Live At The BBC” album.
Ringo plays pretty straightforward throughout the song, riding on hi-hats and accenting the tom-toms on whenever the introduction is heard. That is to say, until the two “drum solos” appear at the end of the song. The only other occurrences of anything close to a drum solo on a Beatles record would be on “Long Tall Sally,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day In The Life,” “Birthday” and of course “The End” from the “Abbey Road” album.
Since no guitar solo was required for the song, George Harrison takes somewhat of a backseat, playing rhythm guitar along with John throughout. Very simple yet proficient chords are played throughout the song except whenever the introduction of the song is heard. Harrison then slips into a thumping rocking style which adds the right degree of excitement to the song, especially when performed on stage.
May 27th, 1963 was the first release of the song in the states, although it was unbeknownst to most of us. This was as the B-side to their second failed US single “From Me To You” on Vee Jay Records. This mono version was the same as released in Britain, which did not contain the extra harmonica overdubs.
Since Vee Jay decided to rerelease “From Me To You” as the B-side to “Please Please Me” on January 3rd, 1964 to capitalize on The Beatles’ newfound US success, its original B-side “Thank You Girl” was overlooked temporarily. February 26th, 1964, saw the second release of the song and this time on an album, although not on an official Beatles album. “Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage” was released on Vee Jay. The album only included four Beatles songs, which comprised their first two failed Vee Jay singles including “Thank You Girl.” All the songs were, of course, not live recordings at all, but previously released studio recordings of both The Beatles and Frank Ifield.
The third release of the song was on March 23rd, 1964 as the B-side to the Vee Jay single “Do You Want To Know A Secret?”. With the immense popularity of The Beatles at this time, not only did the A-side make the charts (#2) but “Thank You Girl” made the charts as well, peaking at number 35 on the Billboard singles charts.
A somewhat puzzling but gutsy move was Capitol including the song on their second Beatles album “The Beatles’ Second Album” on April 10th, 1964. It was gutsy because of the song being currently licensed to Vee Jay records and currently released on a Vee Jay single. Capitol was in the middle of litigations as to who owned the rights to these early songs but decided to go ahead and put one of them on their newest album anyway. As it stood at the time, Conrad Publishing, a Vee Jay subsidiary, had the exclusive US copyright to “Thank You Girl” which meant that Vee Jay records received two cents for every copy of the album that sold. Nonetheless, this marks the fourth release of the song in America. On January 21st, 2014, this album was released as an individual compact disc for the first time, the mono and stereo mixes being contained on a single CD.
As a companion to this album, Capitol released a "Compact 33 Disc" for use in juke boxes across the country. This six-song EP contained "Thank You Girl" as the lead-off song on side one. This rare disc would be the fifth release of the song, which occurred in April of 1964.
Also in April, Capitol released "The Beatles' Second Open-End Interview" disc to be sent to radio television stations to simulate an interview with The Beatles. This EP contained taped answers to questions, while the record sleeve contained the questions that disc jockeys could ask. Three Beatles songs from the "Second Album" also appeared on the disc, including "Thank You Girl."
In August of 1964 the seventh release of the song occurred as the “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” single was reissued on the Oldies 45 label. This was done to all of the major Vee Jay singles (including the Tollie releases) to secure their place in the “oldies” section of record stores after Vee Jay had relinquished their rights to The Beatles catalog.
On October 10th, 1964, Vee Jay tried one final attempt at cashing in on The Beatles’ fame by re-releasing the Frank Ifield compilation retitled “The Beatles And Frank Ifield On Stage.” The cover was changed to a more suitable group portrait, but sold very poorly and has become a huge collectors’ item today. This marks the song's eighth US release.
Capitol then made sure that the early Beatles singles would still be available to the public through their Star Line budget label. On October 11th, 1965, they released the familiar “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” single with “Thank You Girl” once again as the B-side, making this the ninth US release of the song.
Sometime in 1967, Capitol released Beatles music on a brand new but short-lived format called "Playtapes." These tape cartidges did not have the capability to include entire albums, so two truncated four-song versions of "The Beatles Second Album" were released in this portable format, "Thank You Girl" being on both of these releases. These "Playtapes" are highly collectable today. Also released in 1967 was the 8-track version of their 1964 album "Something New" which featured "Thank You Girl" as a bonus track in order to even out the playing time of the songs between the four tracks on the tape.
March 7th, 1988 was the date of the next release of the song, on the compilation disc “Past Masters, Volume One.” The original mono mix from 1963 was still used on this album to correspond with the version originally released in Britain. Then on September 9th, 2009, both volumes of "Past Masters" were combined and re-mastered in stereo into one volume simply entitled "Past Masters." On this release we finally find the stereo mix made by George Martin on March 13th, 1963 available for all to hear. With the added clarity of re-mastering, and without the additional reverb given by Capitol, both Britain and America can enjoy the stereo mix as it was intended to be heard.
June 30th, 1992 was its next US release, this being the box set “Compact Disc EP Collection.” This set comprised all of the British EP’s, each on its own compact disc, the September 6th, 1963 released EP “The Beatles’ Hits” featuring the mono version of “Thank You Girl.”
The next release was on December 6th, 1994 on the highly anticipated “Live At The BBC” double disc. The BBC performance of the song was recorded before a live audience at the Playhouse Theatre in London on June 19th, 1963, which was while the newly released single was current on the British charts. A remastered and re-packaged version of this album was released on November 11th, 2013.
On November 15th, 2004, Capitol released the box set “The Capitol Albums, Volume 1,” which included both the stereo and mono mixes as originally heard in the US on “The Beatles’ Second Album.”
For those who want to hear the original mono mix of the song with the best clarity possible, the September 9th, 2009 released box set “The Beatles In Mono” is for you. The CD “Mono Masters,” which is contained in this set, includes the newly re-mastered “Thank You Girl.”
As was their habit, The Beatles would extensively promote both sides of their latest single through performances on stage, radio broadcasts and on television. Once their national tour with Tommy Roe and Chris Montez was completed in March, they wasted no time promoting their third single, performing it first on April 1st, 1963 for the BBC radio show “Side By Side,” which was premature of the single being released on April 11th. Since the show wasn’t broadcast until May 13th, the radio audience was no doubt familiar with the song by then.
“Thank You Girl” became a comfortable fixture of their live sets for the next few months. One noteworthy performance was on their first national BBC network TV show “The 625 Show,” which was filmed on April 13th, 1963 and broadcast on April 16th, this program billed as featuring “up and coming young talent.” Their last known performance of the song was on August 31st, 1963 at the Odeon Cinema in Southport.
August 23rd, 1963, was the release date of their fourth single “She Loves You” and all focus left off of promoting the B-side to their previous single at this point. That being the case, even with the song reaching the top 40 in America in the spring of 1964, it was never performed on US shores.
BBC radio broadcast “Thank You Girl” three times. The first was recorded on April 1st, 1963, for “Side By Side” and was broadcast on May 13th. The second was recorded on May 21st for the show “Steppin’ Out,” which was aired on June 3rd. The final taping was the one that made it onto the “Live At The BBC” album, which was recorded before a live audience on June 19th and broadcast on the show “Easy Beat” on July 23rd, 1963.
This thumping rocker has the vibrancy that epitomized the early Beatles sound in 1963 Britain and 1964 America. Although it was only a minor triumph on the charts, it showed that Lennon and McCartney took songwriting very seriously. No filler B-sides were ever considered for Beatles singles. They took pride in what they included on their singles. Every B-side The Beatles ever released was considered “top-notch” by the band. While some may point to weaker B-sides, such as “What Goes On?” and “Slow Down” as evidence of the contrary, one must remember that these were US singles only. The Beatles had nothing to do with the release of these songs as singles. From 1962 to 1970, every original single released by The Beatles had B-sides that were strong enough to stand on their own. From “This Boy” and “Rain” to “Come Together,” only the best was good enough for Beatles singles.
“Thank You Girl”
Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Song Written: February, 1963
Song Recorded: March 5 and 13, 1963
First US Release Date: May 27, 1963
First US Album Release: Vee Jay #VJLP 1085“Jolly What!”
Highest Chart Position: #35
British Album Release: Parlophone # PCM 1001 “Rarities”
Key: A major
Producer: George Martin
Engineers: Norman Smith, Richard Langham, Geoff Emerick
Instrumentation (most likely):
John Lennon - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (1958 Rickenbacker 325), Harmonica (Hohner Chromatic)
Paul McCartney - Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
- George Harrison - Lead Guitar (1957 Gretsch Duo Jet)
- Ringo Starr - Drums (1960 Premier 58/54 Mahogany)
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski
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