When was it recorded? Oct. 18, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Dec. 4, 1964 on “Beatles for Sale”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
Paul wrote “I’ll Follow the Sun” with John at 1959 at his home in Allerton, Liverpool.
“I wrote that in my front parlour in Forthlin Road. I was about 16. ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’ was one of those very early ones. I seem to remember writing it just after I’d had the flu and I had that cigarette – I smoked when I was 16 – the cigarette that’s the ‘cotton wool’ one. You don’t smoke while you’re ill but after you get better you have a cigarette and it’s terrible, it tastes like cotton wool, horrible. I remember standing in the parlour, with my guitar, looking out through the lace curtains of the window, and writing that one.” — Paul McCartney (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
In 1960, the Quarrymen recorded a demo of “I’ll Follow the Sun” that was widely bootlegged in recent years. Stu is on bass, with John, Paul and George on guitars. According to Paul via the Beatles Bible, “it was recorded in the bathroom of his home during a school holiday in April 1960. Intriguingly, it featured different lyrics and music, plus a brief guitar break by Harrison, in place of the section [that] eventually began ‘And now the time has come, and so my love I must go’.” According to Alan Pollack, the demo is also in the key of G while the final album version is in the key of C.
The Quarrymen didn’t perform this number in their live shows, but Paul reportedly played it between sets in Hamburg.
“It wouldn’t have been considered good enough [to be performed by the group]. I wouldn’t have put it up. As I said before, we had this R&B image in Liverpool, a rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, hard-ish image with the leather. So I think that songs like ‘I’ll Follow The Sun,’ ballads like that, got pushed back to later.” — Paul McCartney (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “The song was revived during the hurried sessions for ‘Beatles For Sale’ at the end of 1964, when the group [was] struggling to find enough songs to fill the album.” Rolling Stone noted, “By the time they did record it for their fourth LP, the rhythm had changed from a rockabilly shuffle to a gentle cha-cha. And Ringo Starr kept the beat by smacking his palms on his knees.”
“We were thinking in terms of singles and the next one had to always be different. We didn’t want to fall into the Supremes trap where they all sounded rather similar, so to that end, we were always keen on having varied instrumentation. Ringo couldn’t keep changing his drum kit, but he could change his snare, tap a cardboard box or slap his knees.” — Paul McCartney (Many Years From Now)
The Beatles recorded “I’ll Follow the Sun” in eight takes.
According to Wikipedia, “The song is somewhat of a cult favorite; it was released as a mono extended play 45 in 1964 on Parlophone/EMI and in 1995 as a B-side to ‘Baby It’s You.’”
The Beatles also performed “I’ll Follow the Sun” for the BBC program “Top Gear” on Nov. 17, 1964. That’s actually the version that appeared on the “Baby It’s You” single (and on last year’s “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2” compilation).
I like “I’ll Follow the Sun” a lot (it’s quite pretty), but while I was listening to the “Beatles for Sale” version I couldn’t stop wonder how would it work as an acoustic ballad. Given the advent of YouTube, I’m sure such a thing exists online, and so I am off to find a delicate cover to tickle my fancy.