Day 34: “Cayenne”

When was it recorded?  April 1960

When was it first released, and on which album?  Nov. 20, 1995

Who wrote it?  McCartney

Have I heard this song before?  No

What my research dug up:

Today’s song is an interesting little number.  I’m not sure I like the song itself so much, but there’s a lot of history behind it that fascinates me.

“Cayenne” is an instrumental song written by Paul and recorded in 1960.  Right here we have two interesting notes.

  1. The song is only credited to McCartney, not Lennon-McCartney.  They hadn’t yet agreed on the joint writing credit they used for their Beatles career, because…
  2. They weren’t the Beatles yet.  This song would have been recorded when the band was known as the Quarrymen (although Pete Best isn’t featured on this song).

Wikipedia and the online Beatles Bible both note the song “is an instrumental jam similar in style to that of The Shadows.”  The Shadows were/are (I couldn’t tell from my sources if they’re currently reunited) a British pop-rock band with 69 hit singles released between 1950 and 2000.  They were one of the first bands to use the standard four-man rock band lineup – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums.  Here’s their biggest single, “Apache,” released in 1960.  You probably know this melody, even if it’s from listening to Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump On It.”

According to Paul, “Cayenne” was recorded in the bathroom of his family home (20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool).  Quoth Wikipedia, “At the time they rarely played live, and kept the momentum in the group by writing and recording demos.”  Paul, John, and George all play guitar on the track with Stuart Sutcliffe on bass.

Stuart Sutcliffe was a British writer, artist, and musician.  A friend of John Lennon’s, he was the original bassist for the Quarrymen-turned-Beatles (in fact, he’s credited with helping John coin the name “Beatals,” which became “Beatles,” obviously).  After touring Hamburg with the Beatles in the early days of their career, Sutcliffe voluntarily left the group to focus on his art career at the Hamburg College of Art.

According to Wikipedia, “While studying in Germany, Sutcliffe began experiencing severe headaches and acute sensitivity to light. In the first days of April 1962, he collapsed in the middle of an art class after complaining of head pains. German doctors performed various checks, but were unable to determine the exact cause of his headaches. On 10 April 1962, he was taken to hospital, but died in the ambulance on the way. The cause of death was later revealed to have been an aneurysm.”

“Cayenne” was included along with two other Quarrymen songs on “Anthology 1.”  These three songs are only official Beatles recordings to feature Sutcliffe.

This being the Beatles, bootlegs of the song circulated way before “Cayenne” was officially released.  According to the Beatles Bible, most bootleg recordings clocked in at 2:30 while the “Anthology” version lasted only 1:14.  The Beatles Bible notes, “The Anthology 1 version was slightly sped up and faded out prematurely.”  Thanks to the magic of YouTube, here’s the ‘complete,’ bootleg version of “Cayenne.”

Like I mentioned at this beginning of this post, I find this song middling.  It’s OK, but certainly nothing I would be writing about if it weren’t for its connection to the Beatles.




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