When was it recorded? Feb. 11, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? Mar. 22, 1963 on “Please Please Me”
Who wrote it? Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell wrote “Boys” around 1960; at least one of those names should be familiar to you. Dixon also penned “Baby It’s You,” another Beatles cover I wrote about earlier this year. American girl group The Shirelles originally recorded both songs.
Quoth Wikipedia, “’Boys’ was part of The Beatles’ live set from 1961. It had been performed by Pete Best prior to Ringo joining, and remained the band’s main ‘drummer spot’ until 1964.” Coincidentally, “Boys” was also the ‘drummer spot’ song for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the band Ringo drummed for before joining the Beatles.
“Boys” was Ringo’s “vocal spotlight” on the Beatles’ first album, “Please Please Me.” It was Ringo’s first recorded lead vocals and was in fact the first time many fans heard Ringo sing period. It was also recorded in a single take since the boys had to record 10 out of 14 songs in one day.
Apart from changing the gender pronouns, the Beatles didn’t alter too many of the lyrics. Paul has more to say about that than I do.
“Ringo would do ‘Boys’, which was a fan favorite with the crowd. And it was great — though if you think about it, here’s us doing a song and it was really a girls’ song. ‘I talk about boys now!’ Or it was a gay song. But we never even listened. It’s just a great song. I think that’s one of the things about youth — you just don’t give a shit. I love the innocence of those days.” (Rolling Stone 2005)
“Ringo always used to do a song in the show. 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.” (Anthology)
The Beatles recorded “Boys” a whopping seven times for BBC Radio’s live program between 1963 and 1964, but none of those recordings appear on the “Live at the BBC” compilation album. They also recorded a live version for the TV special “Around The Beatles” in 1964; this version was included on “Anthology 1.”
I have to say, these covers are giving me a newfound admiration for the Shirelles. Original aside, I’m surprised how much I prefer the live verison to the PPM recording. There’s a liveliness to it that I think the original Beatles version lacks, though I supposed recording 10 songs in one day will do that to a performer.