Every Cover Version The Beatles Recorded And Released

A comprehensive account of the songs that the Beatles loved enough to cover themselves and, oftentimes, make their own.

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The Beatles
Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Between 1963 and 1970, The Beatles’ catalogue included 25 cover versions – the vast majority included on their albums or EPs up to 1965. But over the last 30 years, many more have come to light. Below is a guide to every cover version recorded and released by The Beatles.

Many of the songs The Beatles covered were similar R&B or rock’n’roll staples to those tackled by most of their contemporaries in Liverpool. But one of the things that set The Beatles apart was the breadth of their taste and repertoire. “A lot of our tracks may not have been ‘cool,’” Paul McCartney later explained. “I think if we’d just been cool, we wouldn’t have made it how we did. But that was a great aspect of us.”

It was certainly noted by the BBC, who recorded them even before they were famous. After the initial 25 songs released during their lifetime, a great number of those listed here were recorded live in session for the BBC, and feature on their two volumes of archive BBC releases.

The remainder were unearthed for their Anthology project in 1994, or for 50th-anniversary deluxe editions of their later-period albums.

Listen to the best of The Beatles on Apple Music and Spotify.

Anna (Go to Him)

Arthur Alexander is one of only a handful of artists covered by both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (the latter doing his “You Better Move On”). As Paul told Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn in 1987, “If The Beatles ever wanted a sound, it was R&B. That’s what we used to listen to and what we wanted to be like… That was basically it – Arthur Alexander.”

Anna (Go To Him) (Remastered 2009)

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A short-lived addition to their live set, “Chains” was George Harrison’s first outing on record as lead vocalist. Written by the Brill Building husband-and-wife partnership of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, “Chains” was a 1962 single for The Cookies, one of a number of US girl groups covered by the Beatles.


Ordinarily, when covering a song by a female artist, the gender would be switched. Not so when the gender is the song’s title. “Ringo always used to do a song in the show,” Paul later remembered. “Back then, he had ‘Boys.’ It was a little embarrassing because it went, ‘I’m talking about boys – yeah, yeah boys.’ It was a Shirelles hit and they were girls singing it, but we never thought we should call it ‘Girls,’ just because Ringo was a boy. We just sang it the way they’d sung it and never considered any implications.”

Baby It’s You

The Shirelles provided two songs for the group’s debut LP, Please Please Me, with Ringo’s “Boys” followed by “Baby It’s You,” which features an impassioned lead vocal from John Lennon. George Harrison’s guitar solo was later overdubbed by producer George Martin following him note-for-note on the celeste.

A Taste of Honey

Paul took the lead on The Beatles’ cover of this standard. He later noted, “‘A Taste Of Honey’ was one of my big numbers in Hamburg – a bit of a ballad. It was different, but it used to get requested a lot. We sang close harmonies on the little echo mikes, and we made a fairly good job of it. It used to sound pretty good, actually.”

Twist and Shout

Sometimes, a cover version becomes the de facto definitive version of a song – “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, or “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, for example. But none extols this virtue more than The Beatles’ 1963 recording of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist & Shout,” characterized by John Lennon’s throat-shredding vocal. It never stops being remarkable.

The Beatles - Twist & Shout - Performed Live On The Ed Sullivan Show 2/23/64

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Till There Was You

A song from the 1958 musical The Music Man, “Till There Was You” endeared itself to Paul McCartney thanks to Peggy Lee’s Latin-tinged version from her 1960 album Latin Ala Lee. It became a staple of their live show, with Paul cheekily introducing it at the Royal Command Performance as being by “Our favorite American group, Sophie Tucker.”

Please Mr. Postman

Those handclaps! It’s not hard to listen to this and imagine the excitement of seeing the fledgling Beatles in the Cavern Club one hot and sweaty lunchtime. This high-energy cover of The Marvelettes’ 1961 single – the first Motown single to top the Billboard Hot 100 – sees John’s double-tracked lead trade call-and-response with Paul and George over a breathtaking two-and-a-half minutes that knocks the original into a cocked hat.

Roll Over Beethoven

All The Beatles loved Chuck Berry, who did the original of this song. John Lennon once remarked: “If you tried to give rock’n’roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” The recording features George Harrison on double-tracked lead vocals.

You Really Got A Hold On Me

A marvelous cover of the Smokey Robinson And The Miracles hit. In his sleevenotes for With The Beatles, Tony Barrow wrote that “The boys have an immense admiration for America’s rhythmic group The Miracles,” continuing: “John and George tackle the wild, relentless vocal with Paul joining them for the chorus.” Producer George Martin joins in on piano.

Devil In Her Heart

The competition between Liverpool beat groups for new material was intense. Each band would do their best to seek out increasingly obscure records to cover, and George’s “Devil In Her Heart,” originally by Michigan girl group The Donays, was as obscure as any they recorded. The classic girl group call-and-response style fitted in perfectly on their second long player, With The Beatles.

Devil In Her Heart (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 25th September, 1963)

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Money (That’s What I Want)

Please Please Me signed off with the raucous “Twist & Shout,” so what could they do to close their second album in similar fashion? The answer came courtesy of Barrett Strong’s 1959 Tamla single “Money (That’s What I Want).” John’s searing vocal highlights why he is, for many, among the ultimate rock’n’roll singers of all time.

Rock And Roll Music

Few songs would last as long in The Beatles’ stage set as this Chuck Berry song. It was first introduced as far back as 1960 at least, and was played countless times at the Cavern, and in Hamburg. It had the distinction of opening the show at their last ever concert, at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, in August 1966.

Mr. Moonlight

Piano Red was a blues piano player who’d worked with the likes of Blind Willie McTell. By the early sixties, he’d restyled himself as Dr. Feelgood, and it was the b-side to his eponymous 1962 single that The Beatles covered for their Beatles For Sale album the following year. An alternate take on Anthology 1 demonstrates the challenge of the opening wail. As John misses the note, Paul comments encouragingly: “Nearly!”

Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey

In 2018, Paul recalled the session for this Little Richard cover: “I remember [John] saying to me, ‘How do you do that, how do you do that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I feel like it just comes out of the top of my head.’” He continued: “And then we had a session once … and I’m about to do ‘Kansas City,’ so I’m on the mic…and I’m going ‘Ka…Kansas City, cough…’ and I’m not making it, I’m not getting it at all. So John comes down and he says, ‘Remember, it comes out of the top of your head!’ I said, OK, ‘KANSAS CITY…’ And that’s the take you hear.”

Words of Love

“Words Of Love” was a 1957 single by Buddy Holly, one of the biggest influences on John and Paul as songwriters. As Paul told Mojo’s Paul du Noyer, “The big attraction with Buddy was that he wrote his own stuff… Buddy seemed to write all his own stuff, and it was three chords. For people looking at this idea of writing our own stuff, which we were starting to do, the three-chord idea was great, cos we didn’t know more than four or five.”

The Beatles - Words Of Love

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Honey Don’t

While the soundtrack to their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night, was the first Fabs LP to feature entirely self-penned numbers, 1964’s Beatles For Sale album returned to the formula of mixing Lennon/McCartney songs with live favorites. John had sung this Carl Perkins cover since they first brought it into their set in 1962, but Ringo took ownership of it during sessions for the album.

Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby

George Harrison was such an admirer of the American rockabilly songwriter Carl Perkins that when the early Beatles adopted stage names for their first tour (backing singer Johnny Gentle on a brief stint around Scotland in 1960), George became Carl Harrison. The two guitar heroes would eventually play the song together on a 1985 TV special.

Act Naturally

The only cover version in The Beatles’ 1960s catalogue not to previously have been part of their live act, “Act Naturally” was a take on a 1963 Buck Owens number, sung by Ringo on the 1965 Help! LP. In 1989, Starr and Owens got together to record a new version of the song, accompanied by an entertaining Western video.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Best known for his 1957 hit “Bony Maronie,” Larry Williams provided three songs to be covered by The Beatles, all sung by John Lennon. For this closer to their Help! album, Lennon’s trademark raucous delivery was in stark contrast to the preceding song, Paul’s ballad “Yesterday.” George’s stinging lead guitar work keeps the track at a frenzied level.

Long Tall Sally

This 1956 Little Richard song was a staple of The Beatles’ live set from the very earliest formative years until they stopped touring in 1966. Indeed, it was the last song they played at their final concert at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in August 1966. When Paul and John first met, back in the summer of 1957, “Long Tall Sally” was among the songs Paul played to John, after which, John invited him to join his band, as Paul told Playboy in 1984: “I knew the words to 25 rock songs, so I got in the group. ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Tutti-Frutti,’ that got me in. That was my audition.”

Slow Down

Recorded during the same sessions as the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night, the Long Tall Sally EP featured John’s “I Call Your Name” alongside three covers – “Long Tall Sally,” “Matchbox,” and this Larry Williams number sung by John. Ted ‘King-Size’ Taylor from a rival Liverpool group told Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn how The Beatles came to watch his band, and “all sat in a row and took down one line each of all the songs we did – ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy,’ ‘Slow Down,’ ‘Money,’ all of those – and the next time we saw them they were playing all our stuff.”


One of a number of Beatles covers of Carl Perkins songs, “Matchbox” features Ringo on vocal duties. Perkins himself was invited along to the session, although remained strictly an observer. “Carl came to the session,” the drummer said in 1964. “I felt very embarrassed. I did it just two days before I went into the hospital [with tonsilitis] so please forgive my throat.”

Bad Boy

Recorded at the same session as another Larry Williams number, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Bad Boy” was something of a rarity for British Beatles fans. Released in 1965 on the Capitol US Beatles VI album, it was unavailable in the UK for 18 months, until it appeared on the 1966 compilation A Collection of Beatles Oldies. The Beatles’ version is heavier and more direct than Williams’ original, and is notable for Lennon’s uncompromising vocal.

Maggie Mae

After 1965, The Beatles only recorded and released original songs on their records, until the release in 1970 of Let It Be, which featured a snippet of a traditional Liverpool folk about a prostitute named Maggie Mae, who was deported to Botany Bay after being found guilty of robbing a “homeward bounder,” or a sailor return from a trip. The album credits the song as Trad Arr [traditional, arranged by] Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, meaning the four Beatles would receive equal songwriters’ royalties for the 39-second ditty. A longer version appears on the 50th-anniversary edition of Let It Be.

Maggie Mae (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)

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That’ll Be The Day

In spring or summer 1958, the Quarry Men made their first demo record. As Paul later recalled: “There were five of us: George, John, Colin Hanton, ‘Duff’ Lowe and me. Duff was a friend of mine from school who could play the piano.” The a-side was John singing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.” “When we got the record,” Paul continued, “the agreement was that we would have it for a week each. John had it a week and passed it on to me. I had it for a week and passed it on to George, who had it for a week. Then Colin had it for a week and passed it to Duff Lowe – who kept it for 23 years. Later, when we were famous, he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got that first record.’ I ended up buying it back for a very inflated price.”

That'll Be The Day (Anthology 1 Version)

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Hallelujah, I Love Her So

The only known recordings of the group with original bass player Stuart Sutcliffe were taped during rehearsals at Paul’s house, with John, Paul, and George on guitars to complete the line-up. The surviving tape includes this cover of Ray Charles’ 1956 single “Hallelujah, I Love Her So.” But it’s Eddie Cochran’s 1960 cover that is the clear influence on the young Beatles’ own take.

My Bonnie

Credited to Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers, the first record released by John, Paul, George, and Pete Best (before he was replaced by Ringo in 1962) was as the backing band for the English rock’n’roll singer Tony Sheridan. It was a request for this German Polydor single at his Liverpool record shop, NEMS, that first alerted Brian Epstein to the group. He soon became their manager, eventually securing the group their own recording contract with EMI.

Ain’t She Sweet

Another number recorded in Hamburg was a version of Gene Vincent’s “Ain’t She Sweet.” However, The Beatles take on the song shows the influence of their Hamburg audience, as John Lennon explained in Anthology: “Gene Vincent’s recording of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ is very mellow and high-pitched, and I used to do it like that, but the Germans said, ‘Harder, harder’ – they all wanted it a bit more like a march – so we ended up doing a harder version.” They returned to the song in 1969 during the Let It Be sessions (Anthology 3), while a charming ukulele version by Paul, George, and Ringo from 1994 was featured on the Anthology DVD release.


Paul McCartney later recalled how they came by this Coasters number: “A rumor reached town one day that there was a man over the hills who had the record ‘Searchin’’ by The Coasters. Colin, the drummer with John’s skiffle group, knew him and so there was a great trek to find the man, and indeed we found him. And relieved him of it.” It soon became hugely popular with their Cavern Club audience.

Three Cool Cats

Another Coasters number from the pens of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, “Three Cool Cats” was one of a number of songs The Beatles played to audition for Decca Records on New Year’s Day 1962. This selection shows that humor was central to their appeal – George taking the lead, with John and Paul pitching in background vocals, which perhaps show the influence of their beloved Goons comedy troupe.

Three Cool Cats (Anthology 1 Version)

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The Sheik Of Araby

Another number from their 1962 Decca audition, “The Sheik of Araby” was a jazz standard from the early 1920s. “In those days, a lot of the rock’n’roll songs were actually old tunes from the 40s, 50s or whenever, which people had rocked up,” George Harrison recalled. “Joe Brown had recorded a rock’n’roll version of ‘The Sheik of Araby.’ He was really popular on the Saturday TV show Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! I did the Joe Brown records, so I sang ‘Sheik Of Araby.’”

Besame Mucho

This hugely popular Latin-American bolero became a staple of the Beatles’ live set after The Coasters recorded it in 1960. The Beatles played it for their fruitless Decca audition, and again for George Martin at their more successful recording test for EMI in June 1962 (released on Anthology 1). Such was their affection for the song that it bookended their career, featuring in the 1970 Let It Be movie.

How Do You Do It?

Looking for a suitable song for their debut single, producer George Martin earmarked this song, written by Mitch Murray. However, The Beatles had other ideas. They dutifully rehearsed and recorded the song – as can be heard on Anthology 1 – but they weren’t keen (as their somewhat lackluster performance suggests). Instead, they suggested their own “Love Me Do.” The rest is history.

Lend Me Your Comb

Such was The Beatles’ rapid rise to fame that less than a year after signing with EMI, the BBC gave them their own radio series, Pop Go The Beatles. And with their ‘mop top’ haircuts causing such a stir, it was appropriate that they should pick Carl Perkins’ “Lend Me Your Comb” as one of the songs to perform on the show.

Moonlight Bay

The Beatles were loved for their music, of course, but also for their charisma and humor. This short burst of “Moonlight Bay” was recorded as part of a TV skit with legendary English comedy duo Morecombe & Wise in 1963. The Fab Four donned boaters and striped blazers in the music-hall tradition, while comedian Eric Morecombe wore a collarless jacket and Beatles wig. Over 30 years later, Paul picked this as his favorite Beatles TV appearance.

You Know What To Do (Anthology 1 Version)

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Around The Beatles was a 1964 British TV special, which saw the group perform a selection of hits and covers “as live” to a studio audience “in the round.” They included this version of the Isley Brothers 1959 call-and-response recording, which would become a UK hit in the hands of Scottish singer Lulu within a matter of weeks of the show’s broadcast.

Leave My Kitten Alone

Such was their efficiency that very few songs were taped for Beatles records and not released, but one such recording came late during a August 1964 session for their fourth long player, Beatles For Sale. An R&B hit for Little Willie John, “Leave My Kitten Alone,” featuring John on double-tracked vocal, remained unheard until the 1995 release of Anthology 1.

Rip It Up

During the Get Back sessions, which would eventually be released on the Let It Be album and film, the group spent large chunks of their time playing old numbers from their Hamburg and Liverpool days, including “Rip It Up” as part of a medley of old rockers released on Anthology 3.

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

No self-respecting rock’n’roll band in the late 50s and early 60s would have been without this standard. While blues shouter Big Joe Turner first released the song in 1954, it was another version released that year by Bill Haley and the Comets that made it such a staple.

Blue Suede Shoes

Paul McCartney recalled to Paul du Noyer how this song had been in their set before they’d even played at the Cavern Club: “In the early days, the Cavern only booked jazz and blues artists and frowned upon upstart rock and rollers like ourselves. We fibbed about our repertoire and managed to get a date there, where we proceeded to announce songs like ‘Long Tall Sally’ as being written by Bind Lemon Jefferson, and ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ the famous creation of the legendary blues artist Leadbelly!”

Rip It Up / Shake, Rattle And Roll / Blue Suede Shoes (Medley / Anthology 3 Version)

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Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues

Buddy Holly was one of the biggest influences on Lennon and McCartney. As Paul explained, “John I started to write because of Buddy Holly. It was like, ‘Wow! He writes and is a musician.” Having recorded Holly’s “Words of Love” for their 1964 Beatles For Sale album, it was only fair that they should record this, the flip side, albeit as an unreleased studio jam during their Get Back sessions.

I Got A Woman

Recorded by everyone from Bobby Darin to Peggy Lee, it was most likely the Elvis Presley version of this Ray Charles song that brought it to The Beatles’ attention. John takes lead vocal on this version, recorded at the BBC Paris Theatre in London on July 16, 1963.

Too Much Monkey Business

At various points in their career, at least 15 Chuck Berry songs are known to have been in The Beatles’ repertoire. As John Lennon said in 1972: “In the 50s, when people were virtually singing about nothing, Chuck Berry was writing social-comment songs, with incredible meter to the lyrics. When I hear rock, good rock, of the caliber of Chuck Berry, I just fall apart and I have no other interest in life.”

Keep Your Hands Off My Baby

Little Eva’s smash hit “The Loco-Motion” was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and the same singer and writers teamed up for the follow-up, “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby.” John Lennon is quoted as saying that he and Paul wanted to be “the Goffin-King of England,” and they recorded a number of the New York couple’s songs, including “Chains” from their debut LP, Please Please Me.

Young Blood

The b-side to The Coasters’ 1957 hit “Searchin’,” “Young Blood” was part of The Beatles Cavern set. It was a constant battle to find new songs for their sets, as Paul McCartney explained, “That was how we found things out – going on a bus somewhere to see a man with a record, or to teenage parties. Kids would come with a handful of 45s – a little shopping bag full of them. And great villainy went on then, of course. As people got more and more drunk, we used to nick their records.”

Young Blood (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 11th June, 1963)

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A Shot of Rhythm & Blues

John Lennon was a particular fan of the American R&B singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander, whose “Anna (Go To Him)” they covered on Please Please Me. “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” was the b-side to “You Better Move On,” which would, in turn, be covered by The Rolling Stones in January 1964,

Sure To Fall

Another Carl Perkins favorite, which revealed the group’s love of country and western music. Paul McCartney takes lead vocal here, but in 1981, Ringo Starr covered it on his Stop And Smell The Roses album. The producer on that occasion? Paul McCartney.

Some Other Guy

The earliest TV footage of the complete Beatles lineup was filmed at Liverpool’s now-legendary Cavern Club on August 22, 1962. It features the four playing “Some Other Guy,” an obscure Richie Barrett number beloved nowhere but in Liverpool, where a number of groups played it, including The Big Three and The Searchers.


Playing long sets in Hamburg, The Beatles learned countless songs, such as this 1958 hit for Chuck Berry. “We never thought to write our own songs over there,” said Paul. “There was so much other stuff. I had written a couple of little things but I didn’t dare show them to anyone because they were little. There was always a Chuck Berry song instead.”

That’s Alright Mama

For his 1987 Soviet-only album of rock’n’roll covers, entitled Choba B CCCP (Back In The USSR in Russian), Paul revisited this Arthur Crudup number that had provided the debut single for Elvis Presley. In Anthology, Paul recalled the impact of the first Elvis album: “It was so fantastic we played it endlessly and tried to learn it all. Everything we did was based on that album.”

That's All Right (Mama) (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 16th July, 1963)

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Soldier Of Love

Another Arthur Alexander song. “I remember having several records by him, and John sang three or four of his songs,” George recalled in Anthology. “Arthur Alexander used a peculiar drum pattern, which we tried to copy; but we couldn’t quite do it, so in the end we’d invented something quite bizarre but equally original. A lot of the time we tried to copy things but wouldn’t be able to, and so we’d end up with our own versions.”


Following a dispute over money, a number of members of Bill Halley’s Comets split and set up their own group. The Jodimars were named after the first letters of their founders – Joey Ambrose, Dick Boccelli, and Marshall Lytle. “Clarabella” was an obscure recording of theirs from 1956. Perhaps this band influenced a short-lived early Beatles name, when John, Paul, and George were billed as the Japage 3.

I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry Over You

The Beatles recorded three covers of songs from Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut LP Rock’n’Roll for the BBC, including “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry Over You.” But Elvis’s version was itself a cover of the 1954 original by Roy Hamilton, an American singer whose mixture of semi-operatic and traditional gospel singing was a huge influence on Elvis’s own vocal style and delivery.

Crying, Waiting, Hoping

The b-side to the posthumously released Buddy Holly single “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” was actually only demoed by the Texan singer-songwriter at his Manhattan home. The finished recording saw musicians and backing singers overdubbed onto Holly’s home recording. The Beatles copied the song faithfully, with George singing lead.

To Know Her Is To Love Her

“To Know Him Is To Love Him” was a number one hit produced by Phil Spector for the Teddy Bears in 1958. A quick switch of gender saw The Beatles introduce it into their stage set, and later record it in session for the BBC in London. John Lennon, who sang lead on it for The Beatles, would return to the song as part of his Rock’n’Roll album, released in 1975 and produced by Spector.

To Know Her Is To Love Her (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 6th August, 1963)

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The Honeymoon Song

The theme to the 1959 movie Honeymoon, “The Honeymoon Song” was performed in the film by the Italian group Marino Marini and his Quartet. Whether any Beatles saw the group when they performed in Liverpool is hard to say, but we do know that their show inspired Paul’s classmates to give their new group the Italian-sounding name The Remo Quartet – later changed to The Remo Four.

Johnny B. Goode

The Beatles all loved Chuck Berry, and would all continue to cite him as a favorite for years to come. As Paul said in Anthology in 1994, “Chuck Berry was another massive influence with ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ We’d go up to John’s bedroom with his little record player and listen to Chuck Berry records, trying to learn them. I remember learning ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ up there.”

Memphis, Tennessee

Yet another Chuck Berry number, this time with a peculiar twist in the lyric. John Lennon called Berry “one of the all-time great poets; a rock poet, you could call him. He was well advanced for his time, lyric-wise. We all owe a lot to him, including Dylan. I’ve loved everything he’s done, ever. He was in a different class from the other performers.”

Sweet Little Sixteen

The Beatles appeared on more than 50 BBC radio shows between March 1962 and June 1965, and the surviving recordings include dozens of otherwise-unavailable songs from their stage repertoire – including this favorite Chuck Berry number. As George explained, they would fit BBC sessions in around their busy touring schedule. “After the Hamburg period, we were driving up and down, doing gigs at the BBC in London a lot. We got a better van and made more money and then a better van still.”


Although Paul generally sang the Little Richard songs they covered, all The Beatles loved the Macon, Georgia star. The Beatles shared a bill with him in Hamburg, where they became friends. John Lennon said of Richard in 1969, “The first time I heard him a friend of mine had been to Holland and brought back a 78 [rpm record] with ‘Long Tall Sally’ on one side, and ‘Slippin’ And Slidin’’ on the other. It blew our heads – we’d never heard anybody sing like that in our lives, and all those saxes playing like crazy.”

Lucille (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 17th September, 1963)

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Lonesome Tears In My Eyes

Johnny Burnette And The Rock’n’Roll Trio were among the best of the rockabilly groups around in the 1950s, and this song was taken from their 1956 eponymous debut album for Coral Records. The Beatles version features John Lennon on vocals, and some great floor-tom work from Ringo.

Nothin’ Shakin’ (But The Leaves on the Trees)

All The Beatles have spoken of the impact of the 1956 movie The Girl Can’t Help It, and this may have been where they first encountered the rockabilly singer Eddie Fontaine, who did the original of this rocker in 1958. George Harrison excels as the singer on this performance – he was a lifelong fan of rockabilly music.

The Hippy Hippy Shake

By the time they came to make records, The Beatles had a repertoire of hundreds of numbers. “We had too much material anyway,” said Paul. “We couldn’t record it all when we did get a deal, so other groups took songs from our act and made hits out of them – like The Swinging Blue Jeans with ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake,’ which was one of my big numbers.”

Glad All Over

Not to be confused with the 1964 number one by London’s Dave Clark Five, this Carl Perkins number later featured in the rockabilly singer-songwriter’s 1985 TV special that saw George and Ringo reunited on stage for the first time since the 60s, with a band that also included Eric Clapton, Roseanne Cash, and Dave Edmunds.

I Just Don’t Understand

A minor hit in 1961 for the Swedish heart-throb Ann-Margaret, who was nominated for a Grammy in 1962 as Best New Artist. In an August 1964 interview with John and Ringo, Ann-Margaret’s name came up as an example of the silly rumors flying around about the band members, with Ringo denying there was anything between them: “I’ve never met the girl or anything, there’s all this big thing, Ringo and Ann-Margaret going steady and all.”

I Just Don't Understand (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 20th August, 1963)

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So How Come (No One Loves Me)

Taken from the hit 1961 LP A Date With The Everly Brothers, this was another song recorded live in session for BBC radio. Their debut on the BBC was broadcast on March 8, 1962 – before they’d secured a recording contract. Peter Philbeam, the BBC producer who first booked the group remembers their audition: “I wrote on their audition report: ‘An unusual group not as rocky as most, more country and western with a tendency to play music.’”

I Forgot To Remember To Forget

George took lead vocal duties for this cover of Elvis Presley’s first nationwide hit. “The music papers were saying that Presley was fantastic, and at first, I expected someone like Perry Como or Sinatra,” John Lennon said in 1971. “He turned out to be fantastic. I remember rushing home with the record and saying, ‘He sounds like Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray and Tennessee Ernie Ford!’”

I Got To Find My Baby

Dating as far back as 1941 under the name “Gotta Find My Baby,” this Peter Clayton-penned number was covered by BB King and Little Walter, but it was most likely Chuck Berry’s 1960 version that influenced The Beatles. John’s harmonica solo is noteworthy on this recording for its similarity to his break on his own “Little Child,” from With The Beatles.

Ooh! My Soul

“Ooh! My Soul” was one of four Little Richard numbers recorded by The Beatles at the BBC. In 1969, John Lennon shared a bill with Richard at the Toronto Rock’n’Roll Revival, and said of the American singer, “The most exciting thing about early Little Richard was when he screamed just before the solo – that was howling. It used to make your hair stand on end when he did that long, long scream into the solo.”

Don’t Ever Change

Another Goffin and King song, this was a top-five hit in the UK in 1962 for Buddy Holly’s former backing group, The Crickets. This recording from August 1963 is a rare instance where the lead vocal is a harmony duet by Paul and George.

Don't Ever Change (Live At The BBC For "Pop Go The Beatles" / 27th August, 1963)

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I’m Talking About You

As a rule, The Beatles would pre-record their performances for BBC radio programs, but as John had previously been suffering from a heavy cold, they performed their March 16, 1963, set for Saturday Club live – including this cover of a song from Chuck Berry’s 1961 studio album, New Juke Box Hits.

Beautiful Dreamer

Perhaps the oldest number in their songbook, “Beautiful Dreamer” was already some 100 years old when The Beatles covered it. Updating old standards was one method of scoring a fresh hit, and Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller gave “Beautiful Dreamer” that treatment for Tony Orlando in 1962.

St. Louis Blues

WC Handy was known as the Father of the Blues, thanks to the way he popularized the genre, and took it to a wider audience. During a June 30, 1968 session for “Hey Jude,” The Beatles broke into a jam around Handy’s landmark “St. Louis Blues,” which had first been published back in 1914, and recorded by the likes of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, to name but two.

(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care

Among the many treasures on the 50th-anniversary deluxe edition of The White Album was this storming cover of a Lieber and Stoller number from Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock. The high-octane cover served as a warm-up before they began recording “Helter Skelter,” on September 9, 1968, and features Paul on guitar and vocals, John on bass, George on guitar and Ringo on drums.

Blue Moon

The Beatles would often break recording sessions up by fooling around with old numbers. While recording “I Will” for The White Album on September 16, 1968, Paul and Ringo burst into a gentle bossa nova version of the old standard “Blue Moon,” a song they would have known inside out from the moody version recorded by Elvis Presley at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1954.

Blue Moon (Studio Jam)

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Wake Up Little Susie

The Everly Brothers were a big influence on The Beatles, both in terms of their songwriting and, perhaps even more so, their harmonies, as George testified in Anthology: “When you think back to early rock’n’roll there was always stuff like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Everly Brothers, The Platters. Everybody had harmonies. It was natural to sing a harmony sometimes – with the Everlys, it was a permanent thing.” During their January 1969 sessions, a snippet of this song is heard before they work on George’s “I Me Mine.”

The Walk

The Beatles spent much of January 1969 at Twickenham Film Studios and then at their own Apple Studios in the basement of their HQ at 3 Saville Road, London. During these sessions, they regularly jammed songs by their rock’n’roll heroes, and more obscure old favorites, such as “The Walk,” a 1958 hit in the US for Jimmy McCracklin.

Without A Song

The Beatles were joined for much of their January 1969 Apple sessions by American keyboard sensation Billy Preston, fresh from playing with Ray Charles at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The Beatles had known Billy since their Hamburg days, and enjoyed what he brought to the band so much that he was given a credit on their 1969 “Get Back” single. Here, John and Ringo back Billy on a song recorded by Bing Crosby in 1929.

I’m Ready

Fats Domino was one of the many American artists who influenced The Beatles – “Lady Madonna” is often cited as having been written in his style, for example. During recording sessions for “Don’t Let Me Down” in January 1969, they included Domino’s “I’m Ready” in a jam medley, alongside The Drifters’ “Save The Last Dance For Me.”

Save the Last Dance For Me

Written by the legendary American songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, The Beatles jammed “Save The Last Dance For Me” during a January 22, 1969 recording session for “Don’t Let Me Down.” It featured on the aborted Glyn Johns-produced Get Back album, which was finally released on the box set to mark the 50th anniversary of their 1970 Let It Be album.

Medley: I’m Ready (aka Rocker) / Save The Last Dance For Me / Don’t Let Me Down (1969 Glyn...

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Eric Smith

    March 1, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    Terrific page on the Beatles’ covers! However, the description of “How Do You Do It?” conflicts with the way George Martin later told the story. Martin said in an interview that “Love Me Do” came out first and only did middling well (#17 in the UK as I recall). EMI wanted the Beatles to release “How Do You Do It?” next, but they protested that they wanted to do another of their own songs. Martin told them to bring him something as good as “How Do You Do It?” and they reworked “Please Please Me,” which previously had been more of a slow ballad, with a more uptempo version. On hearing the reworked “Please Please Me,” Martin told them “there’s your first #1.”

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