Having completed my study of documented hours spend in the recording studio on each Beatles album, I can now compile my findings to produce a visual illustration: a bar graph comparing total documented studio time per Beatles album.
Using this example, it is very clear indeed that The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) took the longest time to record by far (about twice as much time as it took the band to record Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, or Abbey Road). This isn't surprising as The White Album is the only Beatles double album, so it makes sense that it would take about twice as long to record.
Lastly, notice that both Let it Be and Yellow Submarine have asterisks next to their number. This is because documentation for those two albums is incomplete. No doubt both albums took more time than shown (probably about twice those figures), but the number listed is what is documented. Any attempt to estimate precise numbers above those shown would be futile.
year.month.day start time - end time = # of hours
1963.07.18 7:00pm-10:45pm = 3.75 hours
1963.07.30 10:00am-1:30pm, 5:00pm-11:00pm = 9.5 hours
1963.08.21 10:00am-1:00pm, 2:00-5:30pm = 6.5 hours
1963.09.11 2:30pm-6:00pm, 7:00pm-10:15pm = 6.75 hours
1963.09.12 2:30pm-6:30pm, 7:00pm-11:30pm = 8.5 hours
1963.09.30 10:00am-1:15pm, = 3.25 hours
1963.10.03 7:00pm-10:00pm = 3 hours
1963.10.17 7:00pm-10:00pm = 3 hours
1963.10.23 10:00am-1:00pm = 3 hours
1963.10.29 10:00am-1:00pm = 3 hours
1963.10.30 2:30pm-5:30pm = 3 hours
Total: 53.25 hours
Lewisohn, Mark. The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970. Harmony Books, a division of Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 1988.
It Won't Be Long
All I've Got to Do
All My Loving
Don't Bother Me
Till There Was You
Please Mister Postman
Roll Over Beethoven
Hold Me Tight
You've Really Got a Hold on Me
I Wanna Be Your Man
Devil in Her Heart
Not a Second Time
Money (That's What I Want)
The Beatles' debut album Please Please Me functioned as a recording of a live show – its purpose to recreate what the Beatles did on stage, but in the comfort a listener's own home. Of course, as the band grew, they would develop into a studio band, and the beginnings of that evolution are first discernible in their sophomore album, With the Beatles.
Overdubbing is the process of recording different parts of the same song at different times. It would make absolutely no sense at all in a concert setting to have, say, Paul play his bassline to “Roll Over Beethoven” as a solo, then when he was done George could sing his lead vocals by himself, then when he done Ringo could play his drums alone, followed by John's rhythm guitar chords. It'd be the equivalent of eating a piece of cake but on the first bite you taste only flour, and on the next only eggs, and the next just sugar. Of course that wouldn't work – whether in music or baking, all of the ingredients must be combined to render the final product. But in the studio, you can do that because the tapes can be combined through overdubbing, the layering of these various components into the final product. While a few minor tracks were overdubbed on Please Please Me, on With The Beatles it was quite heavily. For example, the piano solo in “Not a Second Time” was overdubbed. The Beatles recorded the guitar, bass, and drums, leaving a space for a solo because they weren't sure what that solo would be. Overdubbing allowed the band to come back to the song later and add a solo, in this case played by George Martin.
Another recording tactic used frequently on With the Beatles was double-tracking, which is a particular kind of overdubbing in which the exact same thing is recorded twice, then layering on top of each other so they are heard simultaneously. The Beatles used this trick almost exclusively for lead vocals because the technique supplies reinforcement to whatever was double tracked, and lead vocals need to be strong. Obviously a singer can't sing his lines twice at the same time during a live show, but in the recording studio you can, and double-tracking is how that is accomplished. For example, Paul's singing on “All My Loving” is double tracked. You can tell because there are slight differences between takes – even though he's singing the same lyrics and notes. This is most noticeable on the word “I'll” as in “tomorrow I'll miss you”. The Beatles used double-tracking on 8 of the 14 tracks on With the Beatles ("It Won't Be Long", "All My Loving", "Don't Bother Me", "Little Child", "Please Mister Postman", "Roll Over Beethoven", "I Wanna Be Your Man", and "Not a Second Time")
and would continue to do so throughout the remainder of their recording career.
Additionally, the covers of the two albums showcase this change. Please Please Me's cover shows the four Beatles in a rather creative though quite "standard pop cover shot" pose.
The With The Beatles cover, by contrast, is much more stark and artistic - and heavily inspired by the photographs taken by Astrid Kirchherr in Germany several years earlier.
It's very subtle, but With the Beatles does show a significant change in direction from Please Please Me – a change that would eventually lead to the technical sophistication that so characterized the later Beatles albums.
Continuing my index of formal structural analyses begun in my Dec 5 post, this one will continue the series by looking at the album With the Beatles. For my loose definitions of structural terms, please review my post from Dec. 5.
FORMAL STRUCTURE OF SONGS ON WITH THE BEATLES
Song Title Section Timing
"It Won't Be Long" Chorus 0:00-0:15
Verse 1 0:15-0:28
Middle 8 0:42-0:56
Verse 2 0:56-1:09
Middle 8 1:23-1:38
Verse 3 1:38-1:51
Coda (independent) 2:00-2:11
Comments: On Please Please Me, every single song had an introduction. The very first track on With the Beatles breaks the pattern: instead of an intro, the song launches straight into the chorus. The coda uses material entirely independent from the rest of the song.
"All I've Got To Do" Intro (independent) 0:00-0:03*
Verse 1 0:03-0:15
Verse 2 0:25-0:38
Middle 8 0:48-1:05
Verse 3 1:05-1:18
Middle 8 1:28-1:49
Coda (verse) 1:49-2:00
Comments: Intro is a single guitar chord (E aug 9,11) that has no relation to anything that comes after it. Chorus uses different lyrics. Second Middle 8 features an extension (it's longer the second time than it was the first), which I've not noticed in a Beatles tune up until this point. Verses 2 and 3 share identical lyrics.
"All My Loving" Verse 1 0:00-0:25
Verse 2 0:25-0:50
Middle 8 0:50-1:02
Verse 3 1:15-1:40
Middle 8 1:40-1:52
Coda (m8) 1:52-2:06
Comments: No introduction, just starts right in with Verse 1. Verses 1 and 3 share identical lyrics. Just like "Not a Second Time", "All My Loving" blurs the line between middle 8 and chorus.
"Don't Bother Me" Intro (verse/independent) 0:00-0:05
Verse 1 0:05-0:17
Verse 2 0:22-0:34
Middle 8 0:40-1:02
Verse 3 1:02-1:13
Middle 8 1:36-1:58 Verse 4 1:58-2:09
Comments: The introduction is similar to the verses, but the motive played by the bass and guitar never appears again, nor does the chord progression. This is probably the shortest chorus so far in a Beatles song. It is also probably the longest Middle 8 of any Beatles song so far. It's also interesting to note that the lyrics in the choruses, while very similar, are not identical. Verses 3 and 4 share identical lyrics.
"Little Child" Intro (verse) 0:00-0:06*
Middle 8 0:31-0:41
Middle 8 1:12-1:23
Coda (chorus?) 1:34-1:44*
Comments: Two-part introduction: first the harmonica riff, second the backing. Both stem from the verses. A la "Love Me Do", the utter simplicity of "Little Child" actually makes its structure somewhat ambiguous. Every verse features identical lyrics, which blurs the boundaries delineating where the verse ends and the chorus starts. For that reason, I've labeled these sections verse/chorus. If the song does feature a chorus, the coda makes use of it. Since song titles often come from the lyrics of the chorus, this tune might have easily been called "Baby take a Chance With Me".
"Till There Was You" Intro (verse) 0:00-0:08
Verse 1 0:08-0:23
Verse 2 0:23-0:39
Middle 8 0:39-0:54
Verse 3 0:54-1:10
Middle 8 1:26-1:42
Verse 4 1:42-1:58
Comments: No chorus, although the line "Till there was you" could be interpreted as such since those are the only lyrics that remain the same from verse to verse. The lack of increased energy, however, prompts me to instead categorize it as part of the verse. The coda draws out the same words, so it could be interpreted as being based on the chorus (if there is one). Otherwise it could be based on the verse. On the other hand, despite the lyrical similarities, the music is largely unrelated to the rest of the song, so it could also been interpreted as independent.
"Please Mister Postman" Intro (bridge) 0:00-0:08
Verse 1 0:23-0:39
Verse 2 1:10-1:26
Comments: Intro based on bridge, which naturally leads to chorus. Bridge sounds very similar to verse. Part of the reason why is that the same chord progression (A, F-sharp minor, D, E) permeates the entire song (whereas bridges will often change the chords slightly to propel the music towards the chorus). Lastly, this song has the longest, most developed coda (three sections, which share the same chord progression as the rest of the song but is otherwise independent) in Beatles recordings to date - even bigger than "Twist and Shout" from earlier that same year, though certainly nowhere near the size and substance of "Hey Jude" five years later.
"Roll Over Beethoven" Intro 0:00-0:17
Verse 1 0:17-0:29
Verse 2 0:35-0:47
Verse 3 0:54-1:05
Middle 8 1:11-1:23
Verse 4 1:47-1:58
Verse 5 2:04-2:22
Comments: Another "split intro" (where the introduction can be divided into two distinct parts): first the guitar lick, then the backing is added. The former will reappear in the solo, the latter is used in the verses. Three verses before middle 8 (usually it's two). More verses (five) than any other Beatles recording to date (several on Please Please Me use four). The chorus always use similar lyrics ("Roll over Beethoven...") each time except for the chorus following Verse 5, which instead substitutes "Long as she's got a dime the music will never stop". (This might is likely because the coda, which immediately follows, is based on the chorus.) Since the energy levels of the verse and chorus are equal, I would have considered them part of the same section (rather than splitting them into two distinct sections) had the lyrics of the chorus different each time. That is what happens in Verse 5, so to indicate that in the above chart, I've included 2:16-2:22 twice: as part of Verse 5, and also as part of the subsequent chorus.
"Hold Me Tight" Intro (verse) 0:00-0:03
Verse 1 0:03-0:17
Verse 2 0:31-0:45
Middle 8 1:00-1:12
Verse 3 1:12-1:26
Middle 8 1:40-1:52
Verse 4 1:52-2:07
Coda (chorus) 2:21-2:30
Comments: Structurally speaking the busiest Beatles recording so far. Verse 1 and 3 share lyrics, as do verses 2 and 4.
"You've Really Got A Hold On Me" Intro (chorus) 0:00-0:13
Verse 1 0:13-0:35
Verse 2 0:47-1:09
Middle 8 1:22-1:37
Verse 3 1:49-2:11
Middle 8 2:24-2:39
Coda (chorus) 2:39-3:00
Comments: Intro and Coda based on chorus.
"I Wanna Be Your Man" Intro (verse) 0:00-0:01
Verse 1 0:01-0:21
Verse 2 0:310:51
Verse 3 1:16-1:35
Coda (chorus) 1:46-1:58
Comments: very straight forward. The shortest introduction (guitar lick reappears in second verse, right after the line "Love you like no other, baby, like no other can") of any Beatles song to date (of those that use an intro, of course - not all do).
"Devil In Her Heart" Intro (verse) 0:00-0:08
Verse 1 0:08-0:24
Middle 8 0:24-0:42
Verse 2 0:42-0:58
Middle 8 0:58-1:16
Verse 3 1:16-1:32
Middle 8 1:32-1:50
Verse 4 1:50-2:05
Coda (verse) 2:05-2:25
Comments: One of the most structurally primitive Beatles recording so far - a verse, and something to contrast that verse (middle 8 - although in this song it's actually nine measures long, not eight), with a beginning and ending (both using the backing from the verses with an overlaid guitar riff) tacked on. No solo, no chorus.
"Not A Second Time" Verse 1 0:00-0:13
Verse 2 0:13-0:26
Verse 3 1:05-1:18
Verse 4 1:18-1:32
Coda (chorus) 1:51-2:04*
Comments: Verses 1 and 3 same; as are 2 and 4. This one blurs the line between chorus and middle 8: the tonal shifts suggest a middle 8, but the energy is not much different from the verse (middle 8s are often less energetic than the verses - as in "It Won't Be Long" - while choruses are often more energetic - as in "Please Please Me"). Then again the Beatles early recordings have shown quite clearly that their choruses rarely do feature that characteristic increase in energy, which would lend support to calling these sections choruses instead of a middle 8s. Additionally, the title comes from the end of the section in question, which would be unusual for a middle 8, but extremely common for a chorus. For all of those reasons and more, I've opted to label these sections as a chorus.
"Money (That's What I Want)" Intro (chorus) 0:00-0:15
Verse 1 0:15-0:22
Verse 3 0:59-1:06
Verse 4 1:36-1:44
Coda (chorus) 1:59-2:47
Comments: Very short verses, but one of the longer codas (two sections, based on the chorus) in Beatles recordings so far. Verses 3 and 4 share identical lyrics.
All 14 tracks of Please Please Me employed both introductions and codas. On With the Beatles, not every song does: "It Won't Be Long" begins with a chorus, and "All My Loving" and "Not a Second Time" begin with a verse. Every song on With the Beatles does, however, use a coda. Two of these codas ("Money (That's What I Want)", and "Please Mr. Postman") are substantial in size.
Unlike Please Please Me (in which 6 of the 14 tracks did not use a chorus), all but two on With the Beatles ("All My Loving" and "Devil in her Heart") does use a chorus, though two of them ("Little Child" and "Not a Second Time") blur the distinction between middle 8 and chorus.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.