When was it recorded? Jan. 26, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 11 2013, on “On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2”
Who wrote it? Stephen Foster
Have I heard this song before? Everybody in the world has heard this song
What my research dug up:
I know this song. You know this song. Your parents and their parents and your great-grandparents know this song. It’s fucking everywhere in English-language pop culture.
“Beautiful Dreamer” was written by Stephen Foster sometime before 1864 (most likely in 1862) since it was published after his death in March 1864. Apart from the 9/8 time it’s a pretty simple ballad, instrumentally and lyrically. Here’s Roy Orbison’s version — which adheres to the original meter and tempo – that was released the same year the Beatles’ version was recorded.
“Beautiful Dreamer” has been covered to hell and back. I was going to include a list of notable cover versions and times it has appeared in movies and television series but there were just too many examples. Of note though is “doo-wop version, which took considerable liberties with the original” (Wikipedia) re-arranged by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller. This version was a single for Tony Orlando in 1963 and, quoth Wikipedia again, “was a regular part of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes’ live performances.” (For those who missed the memo, Ringo was the drummer for the Hurricanes before joining the Beatles, hence one possible connection.) I like their version, so here’s a video of it (though the About section notes Ringo isn’t the drummer in this particular recording).
The Beatles’ cover was recorded in 1963 for BBC Radio; it was released fifty years later on “On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2.”
As you can hear, it’s the same arrangement as the Hurricanes’ version. I like both of their covers better than the standard version, which tends to plod and come across as treacly. I prefer Storm’s vocals but both bands sound like they’re having fun with this one.