When was it recorded? Jul. 18, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 22, 1963 on “With the Beatles”
Who wrote it? Richard Drapkin
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
“Devil in His (Her) Heart” was one of the first (and most successful) songs Richard Drapkin wrote, presumably in May 1962. Drapkin was an American singer-songwriter who performed under the name “Ricky Dee.” Despite writing and recording a number of popular songs in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Drapkin never personally scored a hit single. I had trouble finding much more information on Drapkin, especially his later years, although a post in a chat room from one of his daughters (linked below) seems to indicate he is still alive.
Drapkin worked for Detroit-based company Correc-tone Records, who gave the song to American girl group The Donays. Originally a quintet of high school friends, the group lost one member before recording two songs before disbanding entirely, with the lead singer joining Mowtown group The Elgins.
New York City label Brent picked up their single of “(There’s a) Devil in His Heart” in August 1962, which was then released by UK label Oriole. All this label jumping is important to the story, I swear.
“Because there were a lot of record companies in America, lots of records seemed only to be distributed on a local basis… However, many of the small companies were affiliated with major labels that had distribution in the UK, so some obscure American records ended up being sold in the UK but unknown in America.” – George Harrison
“Devil” was not a hit on any label. It was, however, discovered by George, who “took an immediate liking to the song” (The Beatles Rarity). This great quote from Beatles Music History! nicely summarizes why the band makes it work.
“The Beatles, being true aficionados of the American “girl group” music of the early sixties, were attracted to this powerful, albeit obscure, example of songwriting craftsmanship. Listening to the original version, you can hear what appeal the song had on George Harrison in particular, especially the guitar flourishes as well as the interplay between the lead and background vocalists. Listening to the Beatles version, you can hear that they put a lot of thought, as well as time and effort, into depicting the true essence of the song in a fully convincing manner.” – Beatles Music History!, “Devil in Her Heart”
The Beatles originally covered “Devil in Her Heart” on Jul. 16, 1963 for BBC Radio’s “Pop Go the Beatles.” You’ll notice they’ve consistently changed the pronouns throughout.
Recording for the band’s second album “With the Beatles” began two days later, and they decided “Devil” would be a good inclusion (since they had practice playing it and all).
The Beatles recorded “Devil” again for “Pop Goes the Beatles” on Sept. 3, 1963. Quoth the Beatles Rarity, “This performance of the song ended up on the fifteenth and final edition of the program, which aired initially on September 24th, 1963.” This version was a rare bootleg for many years before turning up on last year’s album “On Air – Live at the BBC, Vol. 2.” I don’t think it sounds that much different, but I’ll link it here anyway. TGIF.
I know I always say I prefer the originals to the covers (except that one time we don’t talk about), and I think my preference holds true here. The Beatles’ version is great, but I’m intrigued by The Donrays and find myself kind of wishing they had recorded more songs. No matter who sings “Devil” though, I think it’s a well-crafted song all around. I definitely won’t get sick of listening to it.