When was it recorded? Jul. 18 & 30, 1963
When was it first released, and on which album? November 22, 1963 on “With the Beatles”
Who wrote it? Meredith Wilson
Have I heard this song before? You betcha!
What my research dug up:
American composer and playwright (Robert) Meredith Willson wrote “Till There Was You” for his 1957 musical, “The Music Man.” The show was a smash hit at the time, winning five Tony Awards and the very first Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Recording. (The high school I went to stages it like every ten years, but that’s mainly because we live in Iowa. Stubborn.) Here’s the original Broadway actress Barbara Cook’s version.
(…I feel like that’s exactly the Marion costume we had at my school.)
Many musicians soon covered the song, but it was the version by American jazz musician and actress Peggy Lee that brought the song to the Beatles’ attention. According to Wikipedia, her cover “was a minor hit” in March 1961.
Paul’s cousin Bett Robbins (who I actually mentioned yesterday too) introduced him to Lee’s discography.
“I could never see the difference between a beautiful melody and a cool rock ‘n’ roll song. I learnt to love all the ballad-y stuff through my dad and relatives – ‘Till There Was You,’ ‘My Funny Valentine’ — I thought these were good tunes. The fact that we weren’t ashamed of those leanings meant that the band could be a bit more varied. And there was a need for that, because we played cabaret a lot. Songs like ‘Till There Was You’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ would be the late-night cabaret material. They showed that we weren’t just another rock ‘n’ roll group. The Lennon/McCartney songwriting collaboration was forming during that period. We went on from ‘Love Me Do’ to writing deeper, much more intense things. So it was just as well someone didn’t come up and tell us how uncool ‘Till There Was You’ was.” — Paul McCartney (Anthology)
Lo and behold, “Till There was You” had staying power in the Beatles’ catalogue. They performed it at their failed Decca Records audition Jan. 1, 1962.
It was part of their early live shows, such as this one from 1962 at the Star Club in Hamburg.
The Fab Four recorded three takes of “Till There Was You” Jul. 18, 1963. They weren’t satisfied with these takes and tried again Jul. 30, recording four more takes.
The Beatles recorded “Till There Was You” a whopping eight times for BBC Radio.
A version from Jul. 30, 1963’s “Pop Go the Beatles” appeared on last year’s “On Air – Live at the BBC Vol. 2.”
Their final version from Feb. 28, 1964’s “From Us to You” appeared on 1994’s “Live at the BBC.”
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “The Beatles performed ‘Till There Was You’ at their famous appearance at the Royal Command Performance on 4 November 1963. It was later released on 1995’s Anthology 1.”
For a cute live version, I like watching this footage from 1964’s Royal Variety Performance.