When was it recorded? Feb. 25-26, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Jul. 10, 1964 on “A Hard Day’s Night”
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
According to Wikipedia, “In January 1964, during a three-week engagement at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, the Beatles first became aware of American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan.” George purchased “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” (released May 27, 1963), which the Beatle boys listened to “continuously” (Wikipedia). For reference, here’s “Blowin’ In the Wind,” which appeared on “Freewheelin’” and was released as a single in Aug. 1963.
The group also met Dylan in Feb. 1964 while vising New York. Dylan inspired John in particular during this era, and “I Should Have Known Better” was a product of his admiration.
According to the Beatles Bible, “‘I Should Have Known Better’ opens with an approximation of Dylan’s harmonica style. The song was one of The Beatles’ last to feature the instrument, which had been prominent on their earlier hits Love Me Do, Please Please Me and From Me To You.”
The Beatles began recording “I Should Have Known Better” Feb. 25, 1964 (the same day they started work on “And I Love Her” and “You Can’t Do That”). According to the Beatles Bible, “At this stage the song was quite different to the final version, containing a Dylanesque harmonica solo and ending on a lead guitar line. Only one of the three takes was complete; the second attempt was a false start, which ended when Lennon collapsed into hysterics over his harmonica playing.” The group recorded 18 takes the next day and used Take 9 to build the album version. John sings double-tracked vocals.
According to Wikipedia, “The mono and stereo versions have slightly different harmonica introductions. In the stereo version, the harmonica drops out briefly.” It’s noticeable, but only for a few beats, which I don’t think merits two separate video posting. Here’s the mono version.
Here’s a brief history of the release of “I Should Have Known Better.”
- Jun. 26, 1964 = In the US on the album “A Hard Day’s Night”
- Jul. 10 = In the UK on the album “A Hard Day’s Night”
- Jul. 13 = In the US as the B-side to the “A Hard Day’s Night” single
- 1970 = In the US on the compilation album “Hey Jude”
- 1976 = In the UK as the B-side to the “Yesterday” single
As the B-side to “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Should Have Known Better” peaked at #53 on American music charts. The song was also released as a single in continental Europe, hitting #1 in Norway and #6 in West Germany.
“I Should Have Known Better” appears in the film “A Hard Day’s Night.” Though set on a train, the scene was filmed in a van at Twickenham Film Studios on Mar. 11, 1964. Fun Fact — one of the extras in this scene is Pattie Boyd (the future Mrs. George Harrison). Also, “Paul McCartney is seen singing along both in the train scene and in the live performance at the end of the film, despite not singing in the recording” (Wikipedia). Oh Paul.
Additionally George Martin scored an orchestral version of “I Should Have Known Better” that can be found on the North American release of the “A Hard Day’s Night” album.
Isn’t that version great? Ah, this is just a swell song in general. Now I want to go rewatch “A Hard Day’s Night” though.