Day 169: “Misery”

When was it recorded?   Feb. 11 and 20, 1963

When was it first released, and on which album?   Mar. 22, 1963 on “Please Please Me”

Who wrote it?   Lennon/McCartney

Have I heard this song before?   Apparently

What my research dug up:

According to John, “[‘Misery’] was kind of a John song more than a Paul song, but it was written together” (All We Are Saying). Most of my sources credit it as a straight Lennon/McCartney collaboration, which is how Paul remembers it, too.

“It was our first stab at a ballad and had a little spoken preface. It was co-written. I don’t think either of us dominated on that one, it was just a job, you could have called us hacks, hacking out a song for someone.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)

The Beatles Bible wrote that John and Paul started writing “Misery” “backstage before The Beatles’ performance at the King’s Hall, Stoke-on-Trent on 26 January, later completing at McCartney’s family home at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool.” The duo intended “Misery” to be for British singer Helen Shapiro. (I wrote a good deal about her on Day 70: “From Me to You” if you’re interested in her connection to the band.)

While touring the UK with Shapiro in Feb. 1963, her manager, Norrie Paramor, “was looking for new material for a country and western album [Shapiro] planned to record in Nashville, Tennessee and suggested that the Beatles compose a song especially for her” (Wikpedia). Paul was interviewed about the track soon after writing it, and said, “We’ve called it ‘Misery’, but it isn’t as slow as it sounds, it moves along at quite a pace, and we think Helen will make a pretty good job of it.”

Paul spoke too soon – Paramor deemed the lyrics unsuitable (probably too pessimistic, as the Beatles noted in later years) and nixed it for Shapiro’s use. John and Paul then gave the song to fellow tour-mate, British singer Kenny Lynch. Lynch, who is still rocking and rolling today, was one of the few black British pop singers in the early 1960s. Though he did record a number of covers, Lynch wrote most of his own early tunes.

Lynch thus became the first performer to record a Lennon-McCartney composition (though his single version didn’t chart anywhere – sorry, Kenny).

Quoth Wikipedia, “When the Beatles needed original material for their ‘Please Please Me’ LP they recorded it themselves.” The Fab Four recorded 11 takes of “Misery” during their Feb. 11, 1963 marathon session.  The first six takes have circulated on bootlegs for a number of years.

George Martin added a piano part nine days later.

The Beatles recorded “Misery” at least once for BBC Radio. A version taped for Mar. 12, 1963’s “Here We Go” appeared on last year’s “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to a Beatles’ song I had heard before then forgotten about, but there ya’ go.  I like this one, but it’s not in my Top 10 by any means.




2 thoughts on “Day 169: “Misery”

    1. I agree, Thom — while a lot of their later output is stunningly produced, there’s always something about the rawness and energy in the Beatles’ early numbers that is captivating. Thanks for commenting!

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