Day 31: “Can’t Buy Me Love”

When was it recorded?  Jan. 29 and Feb. 25, 1964

When was it first released, and on which album?  Jul. 10 as a single and later on “A Hard Day’s Night”

Who wrote it?  McCartney (with noteworthy contribution from George Martin)

Have I heard this song before?  Oh yeah

What my research dug up:

“Can’t Buy Me Love” is pretty straightforward – quoth Paul, “The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won’t buy me what I really want.”  Anyone who’s heard the chorus could have interpreted that.

According to the Wiki, “While in Paris, the Beatles stayed at the five-star George V hotel and had an upright piano moved into one of their suites so that song writing could continue. It was here that McCartney wrote ‘Can’t Buy Me Love.’”   Their manager, George Martin, said when he first heard the song, “I thought that we really needed a tag for the song’s ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro. So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said ‘Let’s just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly.'” And they said, ‘That’s not a bad idea, we’ll do it that way.’”

“Can’t Buy Me Love” was written in a twelve-bar blues structure; quote Allan Pollack, “The appearance of any amount of straight-blues in a Beatles’ original is noteworthy in and of itself. A recurring theme in our studies has been Lennon and McCartney’s predilection for bluesy cover material, going back all the way to the Quarrymen era, made ironic by the virtual dearth of such material in their canonical songbook; you’ll find that the number of twelve-bar Beatles’ originals can be counted one less than the fingers of two hands.”

TL;DR?  The Beatles liked to play traditional blues songs but didn’t often write their own.

On Jan. 29, 1964, the Beatles began recording “Can’t Buy Me Love” at the Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris.  The song began with vocal harmonies but after listening to the first take the band decided to ditch them in favor of just Paul singing double-tracked lead.  His final vocals were overdubbed in London in February.  During this session the band also re-recorded Ringo’s cymbal parts and George’s guitar solo, but, well…

“What happened was, we recorded first in Paris and re-recorded in England. Obviously they’d tried to overdub it, but in those days they only had two tracks, so you can hear the version we put on in London, and in the background you can hear a quieter one.” – George Harrison

Two guitar solos for the price of one!

Quoth Wikipedia, “’Can’t Buy Me Love’ became the Beatles’ fourth UK number-one single and their third single to sell over a million copies in the UK.”  When the song reached #1 on American Billboard charts, four music records (pun intended) were set.

  1. It had the biggest jump to number one (number twenty-seven to number one) [until Billboard began using SoundScan for their charts in 1991]
  2. It gave the Beatles three consecutive number-one songs (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” & “Can’t Buy Me Love”), the first time for any artists
  3. When “Can’t Buy Me Love” went to number one (Apr. 4 1964), the entire top five of the Hot 100 was by the Beatles (two through five were “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me”). No other act has held the top five spots simultaneously.
  4. During its second week at number one, the Beatles had fourteen songs on the Hot 100 at the same time.

The song spent five consecutive weeks at #1; Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Can’t Buy Me Love” at #289 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” appears in a segment often cited as the precursor to modern music videos (of which I’m a great admirer, to say the least) in the film “A Hard Day’s Night.”  Quoth Wikipedia, the scene “borrowed stylistically from Richard Lester’s earlier ‘The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film.’”

I had heard “Can’t Buy Me Love” before and thought it was good but nothing special.  I had never seen the ‘music video,’ though, which was a real treat!




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