Day 35: “Chains”

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?  Gerald Goffin and Carole King

Have I heard this song before?  No

What my research dug up:

American songwriting couple Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote “Chains” in the early 1960s.  Here’s why you should know them.

  • Goffin credited with co-writing 7 Billboard chart-toppers and 59 Top 40 hits
  • King credited with writing/co-writing 118 Billboard hits between 1955 and 1999, making her one of if not the most successful female songwriters
  • King also a successful performer but not until the 1970s – has won 4 Grammys and was last year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (the first woman awarded!)
  • Both inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990
  • Both still alive at the time of writing
  • Most noteable hits = “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”; “The Loco-Motion”; “One Fine Day”; “I’m into Something Good”; “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

For a full list of their popular songs check the last link under my sources – I guarantee you know at least one of them.

The Everly Brothers, who were highly influential to the Beatles, originally recorded “Chains.”  However, their demo was never officially released.  In 1962, the American girl group The Cookies released their version of “Chains,” which was a hit in the United States.  The Cookies began as a backing group for Little Eva (who was originally a babysitter for Goffin and King), and the groups’ initial members later became the backing group for Ray Charles (The Raelettes).  According to the Beatles Bible, “Although not a huge commercial success, the song was frequently covered by Liverpudlian bands of the time.”

So given that last Beatles Bible quote and what I’ve already mentioned about the Beatles’, er, compact recording schedule for “Please,” you can draw two conclusions.

  1. “Chains” was one of the songs the Beatles played in their pre-record deal live performances
  2. They covered it for inclusion on their first album

Beatles Bible commenter Nico wrote, “The Beatles learned some of their best moves from the girl groups… and their songwriters… and their producers,” which is strikingly hilarious and true (if you think you’ve read about the last of the Shirelles covers on here, think again).

Quoth Wikipedia, “Music critic Ian MacDonald criticized the Beatles’ performance, writing that it was ‘slightly out-of-tune’ and ‘lacked spontaneity.’”  Again, I’m going to handwave those criticisms since they recorded multiple takes of 11 songs in basically one day.  John’s on the harmonica part and George sings lead vocals, this being the first time he was heard singing lead on recorded and commercially released Beatles track.

That was boring.  I guess I shouldn’t have knocked MacDonald, although I will argue that “spontaneity” and “enthusiasm” are two different styles.  Even a bad song can be enjoyable if the band sounds like they’re having fun; this song isn’t bad, but it’s blah.

The Beatles played the song on BBC radio a number of times, with one version finding its way onto last year’s release “On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2.”  Here’s a live recording with more life in it.



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