When was it recorded? Jun. 1, 1964
When was it first released, and on which album? Jun. 19, 1964 on the “Long Tall Sally” EP
Who wrote it? Carl Perkins (with noteworthy contribution from Jerry Lee Lewis)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
During a Dec. 4, 1956 recording session, Buck Perkins suggested his son, Carl Perkins (whose career and influence on the Beatles I’ve discussed in multiple previous posts), record a version of the song “Match Box Blues.” The tune is traditional (or basically so old no one remembers who wrote it), but American blues musician “Blind” Lemon Johnson recorded the best-known version on Mar. 14, 1927.
Quoth Wikipedia, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed Jefferson’s 1927 recording ‘Matchbox Blues’ one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.” Such distinctions are probably commonplace when you’re the Father of the Texas Blues.
Buck apparently only remembered a few lines from “Match Box Blues,” which I’m sure Carl found super helpful (/sarcasm). While Carl vamped with the lines his dad knew, his accompanist, American rock musician Jerry Lee Lewis, “who was at that time a session piano player at Sun Studios, began a restrained boogie-woogie riff. Carl began picking out a melody on the guitar and improvised lyrics” (Wikipedia). Wikipedia also noted, “Perkins maintained that he had never heard Jefferson’s ‘Match Box Blues’ when he recorded ‘Matchbox’”; the two songs share the lines “I’m sittin’ here wonderin’, will a matchbox hold my clothes/I ain’t got no matches but I still got a long way to go,” which I assume is what Buck gave Carl to work with originally.
Perkins released “Matchbox” as a single Feb. 11, 1957; it later appeared on his compilation “Dance Album of Carl Perkins.”
The song also appeared on the compilation “The Sun Story Vol. 3.” I honestly only mention this because I found a copy of it for fifty cents at my local thrift store last month. Behold!
(“Glad All Over” from Day 74 and “Honey Don’t” from Day 95 are on the flip side.)
Being the Perkins fans they were (hell, to this day Paul’s publishing company administers the rights to this song), the Beatles covered “Matchbox” live beginning in 1961. The song was one of Pete Best’s vocal spots. Unless I nabbed the wrong version, you can hear him on this live recording.
Another live version of “Matchbox” appeared on “Live at the Star Club in Hamburg” from 1962. John takes the lead on this one.
According to Beatles Books, “The Beatles very much enjoyed reviving classic material for their BBC radio appearances, so they pulled ‘Matchbox’ out of the archives on July 10th, 1963 and gave it to Ringo to sing for the seventh edition of ‘Pop Go The Beatles.’” It aired 20 days later and appeared on 1994’s “Live at the BBC.”
The Fab Four recorded “Matchbox” again on May 1, 1964 for “From Us to You.” It aired 17 days later while the boys were on vacation.
Quoth the Beatles Bible, one month later, “the group [was] considering which songs to record for their third [LP], ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ ‘Matchbox’ was intended to be Ringo’s feature on the album, but was later deemed surplus to requirements and so it appeared on the ‘Long Tall Sally EP.’”
The Beatles recorded five takes of “Matchbox” on Jun. 1, 1964 (though only three takes were complete), the same day Carl Perkins visited Abbey Road studios. According to Beatles Books, “Although rumors abound that he actually played on the track, [Perkins] was merely an observer, although they reportedly did jam together briefly before the tapes rolled.” George Martin plays piano on this one.
The “Long Tall Sally” EP was released in Britain just 18 days after the band recorded “Matchbox.”
“Matchbox” appeared on the American album “Something New” Jul. 20, 1964. At this time, Ringo was proving to be the most popular Beatles in the US (especially after the “A Hard Day’s Night” movie), and Capitol Records decided to try to cash in on this phenomenon. On Aug. 24, the label released “Matchbox” as a single. It peaked at #17 in the US and (oddly enough) #6 in Canada in October.
In the 1985 TV concert “Blue Suede Shoes – A Rockabilly Performance,” Ringo and Perkins performed “Matchbox” together, along with Eric Clapton.