Happy 70th birthday Paul McCartney! In honor of Sir Paul’s special day, here’s a post about his and his mate’s prolific songwriting careers. You may know the hits but what about the songs The Beatles gave away? You have to remember that there was a time where that Lennon-McCartney signature meant instant hit status and everybody wanted a piece of that Fab Four gold. This list details how other artists got their hands on the overflow of Beatles material and how it ultimately shaped Beatles’ history.
Signed by Brian Epstein, Tommy Quickly (originally Thomas Quigley) was carefully groomed for his place in the British Invasion but never lived up to the expectations of his management or producers. His Lennon/McCartney tune was “Tip of My Tongue” a standard pop song. Yet even with that Lennon-McCartney label “Tip of My Tongue” was a complete flop. In fact, it was the only original Lennon-McCartney A-side to never make it on the charts. Tommy would continue to struggle in the biz until a mental breakdown led to his retirement in 1965. That all aside “Tip of My Tongue” is a pleasant pop song and an intriguing part of the early Beatles’ catalog.
Originally performed by The Beatles at their unsuccessful 1962 audition for Decca records, “Like Dreamers Do” eventually ended up in the hands of UK beat group The Applejacks. Though The Beatles did record a version they decided the tune would be better suited for release by another group and handed it over to The Applejacks. Unfortunately, The Applejacks version barely reached #20 on the UK charts and the group later disbanded in the middle of the decade.
Cilla Black, unlike some of the other artists on this list, has had a long and successful career in music. She scored a string of hit singles in the 60s including the theme to the film Alfie and had a steady career in the following decades. Supposedly, Lennon and McCartney were inspired to write this song after hearing Black’s song “Anyone Who Had a Heart” so who better to sing their new song than Cilla Black? Produced by George Martin, “It’s For You” made the top ten in the UK charts, though only for a few weeks. “It’s For You” is interesting in that it doesn’t sound anything like an early Lennon-McCartney song but hey, those guys could do anything.
Mary Hopkin was one of the first artists signed to The Beatles Apple label in the late 60s and thus received an early boost with a Beatles penned tune. “Goodbye” was written and produced by Paul McCartney and definitely has that poppy McCartney sound. You could almost picture a song like this showing up on the White Album with it’s percussive claps and “doot doot” vocal interludes. McCartney was very hands on with Mary Hopkin even appearing in the promo video for the song. Hopkin had previously had a minor hit with the McCartney produced “Those Were the Days” but eventually withdrew from the music scene in the early seventies.
The only song of the lot to be penned by George Harrison. “Sour Milk Sea” surfaced during the The White Album sessions but was set aside. The song eventually resurfaced not long after in the hands of Apple artist Jackie Lomax. Lomax’s version would include backing from writer/producer Harrison on guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, Eric Clapton on guitar, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. Not only does it feature an all-star lineup, but it was one of the few non-Beatles songs to feature at least three members of the band.
Recorded by a couple of different artists (including the one following this entry) Chad and Jeremy recorded what is arguably the best version of this Lennon-McCartney tune. From what I could find “From a Window” just happened to be one of the many Beatles’ tunes that wasn’t up to the high standards of Lennon and McCartney. You may know Chad and Jeremy from their soothing classic “A Summer Song” along with a string of other moderately successful songs.
Billy J. Kramer was another one of those artists that only seemed to exist because The Beatles had too many songs. Managed by Brian Epstein, a great deal of Billy’s material was table scraps left by the group. “Bad to Me” was his biggest leftover as it went on to be a top ten single in the states. As for Billy his career peaked in 1965 and he never quite found the same success as when he was riding the boot-tails of The Beatles.
This may have been my favorite discovery when compiling this list. “I’m in Love” is very, very, Beatle-ish right down to the tight harmonies and Harrison-esque snappy guitar. Regarding the band it’s the same old story; band gets involved with Brian Epstein, gets to record an unreleased Beatles song with George Martin, has some minor success, and then disappears into obscurity. I guess it must be a tough mistress when your followup single has to be as good as one written by Lennon and McCartney.
Signed to Apple as The Iveys, these guys were put under the wing of Paul McCartney, renamed Badfinger, and introduced to the charts with the McCartney penned hit single “Come and Get It.” The catchy tune was originally used in the soundtrack to the Peter Sellers/Ringo Starr comedy The Magic Christian and would prove to a big boost for the group. With the exception of James Taylor, Badfinger was one of the few groups signed to Apple records to have a significant career.
Badfinger would go on to score a string of hit singles in the early seventies before financial woes and the suicide of bandleader Pete Ham cut their career short in 1975. Still they have developed a following as one of the key artists of 1970s power pop. I was even fortunate enough to see guitarist/vocalist Joey Molland (the only living member) perform this song with his current incarnation of Badfinger a few years ago.
This classic staple of oldies radio is not only my number one choice for its pleasing poppy-ness, but for the fact that it was a number one single. Yes this song went to number one on the charts and there’s no doubt in my mind that The Beatles could have taken it there as well. Recorded by English duo Peter and Gordon “A World Without Love” became the group’s signature song and a key part of the Beatle’s songwriting history.
Supposedly, McCartney had written the song many years before but he and Lennon never thought it was up to Beatles’ standards. Lennon particularly mocked the line “Please lock me away and throw away the key.” So it was put aside until it ended up into the hands of Peter and Gordon, the rest is rock n’ roll history.