When was it recorded? Oct. 17, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 29, 1963 as the B-side to “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
“Just my attempt at writing one of those three-part harmony Smokey Robinson songs. Nothing in the lyrics; just a sound and harmony.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
OK, I won’t look too deeply into the lyrics then.
John and Paul wrote “This Boy” in a hotel while on tour in 1963. Quoth Alan Pollack, “‘This Boy,’ with its tight three-part harmonies, jumping triplet rhythm, cliché chord progression, and climactic bridge section for the vocal soloist, is a stylized update of the late fifties genre sometimes described as ‘the slow wall climber.’”
“It was very co-written. We wanted to do a close-harmony thing, we liked harmonies and we were quite good at them. …We wrote it in two-part harmony and then put the third part in for George to sing; we’d never actually tried to write something like that.” — Paul McCartney (Barry Miles, Many Years From Now)
According to Wikipedia, John cited The Miracles’ “I’ve Been Good to You” as a specific inspiration as it “has similar circular doo-wop chord changes, melody and arrangement.” I posted this one on Day 209: “Sexy Sadie,” but here it is again for reference.
Paul, on the other hand, cited the Teddy Bears’ 1958 song “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (written by Phil Spector) as a specific inspiration.
Furthermore, Wikipedia wrote, “The tune and arrangement also has an uncanny resemblance to ‘You Don’t Understand Me’, a B-side to a Bobby Freeman single.”
There’s your refresher course on 1950s pop for the night.
The Beatles recorded 15 takes of the rhythm track for “This Boy” on Oct. 17, 1963. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “The incomplete takes 12 and 13 of the song were released on the ‘Free As A Bird’ single in 1995.”
Two overdubs (mostly the vocal harmonies) were added to the track the same day. According to the Beatles Bible, “The arrangement was largely in place before they began. One difference, however, was the inclusion of a guitar solo in the middle eight, which was later dropped. The song also had a full ending, although it was given a fade-out during the mixing stage.”
George Martin scored an instrumental version of “This Boy” for the film “A Hard Day’s Night.” Since this tune appeared in the scene where Ringo’s adventuring around the city, the song garnered the title “Ringo’s Theme (This Boy).” It also peaked at #53 on the American Top 100 chart as a single.
A number of live performances of “This Boy” have been released over the years. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “A live version from the Morecambe And Wise Show, recorded on 2 December 1963, was included on Anthology 1.”
A version recorded for Dec. 23, 1963’s “Saturday Club” appeared on last year’s “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”
I know that’s already a shit-ton of videos, but I’m intrigued by one of Alan Pollack’s notes. He wrote, “One of my favorite video clips of the group is from their February 1964 concert at the Coliseum in Washington DC at which, forced by a combination of the primitive audio equipment of those days and the pandemonium of the crowd, [John, Paul & George] perform ‘This Boy’ with the three of them huddled uncomfortably close around a single microphone in order be able to hear themselves.” I have to see this, and fortunately for me this is a concert with lots of footage available (how did I survive before YouTube?).
Obviously, I really like this song. It’s really got ahold me.