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? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
“I’m Wishing,” a song from the 1937 animated Disney film, inspired the title moreso than the melody of “Do You Want to Know a Secret” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” According to John, when he still lived with his mother, Julia, she would sing “I’m Wishing” to him. Awww. Here’s refresher for those of us (myself included) who haven’t seen “Snow White” since we were six.
Her voice is somehow more annoying than I remembered… cute song though.
My favorite quote regarding “Do You Want” comes from Alan Pollack, who noted, “No exaggeration, the lyrics here, which are identical through all three verses, may nose out even ‘Love Me Do’ for skimpiness, though the use of different material in both the intro and the bridge makes up some of the deficit.” Charming.
On “Day 21: Bad to Me,” I talked about Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Long story short, they were a band that shared a manager with the Beatles and sometimes performed material the Beatles wrote but didn’t want. Anyway, BJK and the Dakotas originally recorded “Do You Want to Know a Secret” in Mar. 1963, which became a #1 hit single.
The Beatles recorded their version one month earlier in the much-discussed marathon session for the album “Please Please Me.” Though the Beatles typically had the primary songwriter of original material sing lead, George was the main singer for “Do You Want.”
“Do You Want To Know A Secret was ‘my song’ on the album. I didn’t like my vocal on it. I didn’t know how to sing; nobody told me how to.” — George Harrison (Anthology)
John also noted in 1980 that they had George sing “Do You Want” because “it only had three notes and he wasn’t the best singer in the world” (Wikipedia). He improved, obviously, but I don’t think he was that bad to begin with.
Exactly one year (plus one day) later, America finally got with the program and released “Do You Want” as a single. Though not released in the UK, the single peaked at the #2 spot on the Billboard charts, only kept out of the #1 spot by “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Pollack had another quote regarding “Do You Know” that I enjoyed – “The aesthetic of sentimental shy puppy love and gauzy soft focus is not one to which the Boys were often drawn over the long run; Sweet and Cuddly Moptops notwithstanding, it didn’t suit them as a group. Even here, they manage to rescue this one from drowning in its own clichés only by means of an abundance of interesting details and a modicum of sincerity.” I highlight this quote because I’m finding that the more Beatles music I listen to, the more I enjoy their heavier work. Sweet songs like this are super – I quite enjoyed “Do You Want…” and I’ll admit it – but the psychedelic and hard rock of their later career is more captivating in the long run. They wouldn’t be nearly as interesting to me if they had retained this style of songwriting.