From me to you

50 years ago this month The Beatles released a song that marked a major turning point for the young band. “From Me to You” was the tune that convinced producer George Martin that The Beatles were destined to be great—and deserved his full attention.

The record became the group's first #1 hit in Britain. (Their previous single, “Please Please Me,” made it to #2.) It also happened to be the first key change in a Beatles' composition, a sophisticated songwriting trick (for a rock & roll band) that would later become part of their aural brand. For music critics paying attention in Britain, the song served notice that these Liverpool rockers were breaking new ground in popular music. They were defiantly original, passionately engaged, and dramatically distinct. (Think there’s a business lesson in there somewhere?)

Here’s Walk Off the Earth’s take on the tune, adding their own innovative spin to it.

Singer Del Shannon—who always had an eye for talent and would later produce musical acts of his own—heard The Beatles perform “From Me to You” at the Albert Hall in April 1963 and released a version of the song two months later in the US, becoming the first performer to dent the American charts with a Beatles’ tune. The Fab Four themselves could not achieve that feat for another six months.

For those taking notes, “From Me to You” was one of the few Beatles' songs that was co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney side by side, “eyeball to eyeball.” Usually John or Paul would write the song by himself—though it would always be a joint credit. Occasionally one would write most of the song and toss it to the other to finish. But a few were co-written real time, such as “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Yes, reading this blog may actually help you ace that History of Pop Music exam.

For more on Walk Off the Earth, read here. For more on Del Shannon read here.

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  1. I remember hearing one of the pair, John or Paul, responding to the question "Who writes the words and who writes the music?" (I was, like, 9 at the time.) He just said "It's not like that. We both write whatever we write."

    It intrigued me, because "words/music" seemed so logical to me even as a kid, yet these guys who obviously knew what they were doing just weren't worried about "how it's done" they were more concerned with GETTING it done.

  2. Joel, they were concerned about who got his name listed first in the credits. It was "McCartney-Lennon" on "Please Please Me" and "From Me to You" but then it was "Lennon-McCartney" after that. John, being two years older than Paul, apparently got his way. The competition between them was fierce but they harnessed it well. Cooperative competition.

  3. Our old pal Tom Peters has always been fond of quoting a McKinsey mentor of his who pointed out that doing the study for the client was the easy 2% of the job and the difficult 98% was the implementation of the report. It's probably a different ratio in music, but I still think the key point with The Beatles was that one guy came to the studio with the framework of a song and the 5 of them (I count Sir George Henry Martin CBE as an honoury 'studio Beatle') would then arrange / re-arrange / develop it into something that was probably far better than what the original writer would have managed on his own or with a lesser team.

    Compare and contrast them with another of my favourites, Pink Floyd. 'Meddle' then 'Dark Side...' then 'Wish You Were Here' were made, pretty much, as a band and are truly fantastic albums. Then, on 'Animals,' Roger Waters starts to really dominate the band and the quality slips. 'The Wall' is mixed and 'Final Cut' may as well be a solo album.

    The takeaway for me - and this doesn't only apply to songs - is that as important as the writing is, who and how you choose to arrange and record it with will make or break the song.

    1. Agreed. With songwriting, the hook or some other seed that makes the song is usually serendipitous. That's the 2% (or 20%.) Even though it almost always comes out of ether, it's usually the bit that sticks (speaking only from my experience and the songwriters I know.)

      The hard work is filling in the rest in a way that doesn't become cliche and doesn't lose the seed under a bunch of mulch.

      Dreaming comes naturally to a lot of us. Implementing is what makes the difference.

    2. Yeah, it’s an interesting contrast between their Beatles output and their post-Beatles output. John and Paul wrote solo in their later Beatle years and, except for some songs that Paul co-wrote with his wife, wrote solo afterwards. Yet there’s an astonishing decline, post-Beatles, in the quality of both John’s and Paul’s output. (At a time when they were HIGHLY motivated to out-achieve each other.) Not that their post-Beatles output was terrible, but it just couldn’t match their earlier work. Chalk that up to the creative contributions of the Beatles’ TEAM, including the brilliant work of George Martin and his recording engineers.

  4. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that groups/corporations have a productivity and creative energy curve that flatlines after a while. You can't maintain the magic forever. It's just not new anymore. The excitement is diminished. The market is flooded with your genius products, and there are copycats and natural plateaus. Apple is there. Google is there. Facebook is there. The Beach Boys got there. The Beatles got there.

    Note this is not the usual syndrome for the individual who is free to re-invent himself. Clapton, James Taylor, David Bowie, they kept it fresh. Yet even the individual must be careful to not fall into stale reverie and egotistic solipsism. Unfortunately, Paul McCartney is a prime example. Perhaps he should change his name to McCan'tney. Not any more he can't.

    So businesses take heed. There will come a time for inevitable burnout, the stale doldrums endemic to the ways of the market. And you will need to find a bold re-purposing and re-visioning to keep the flame alive, or be McCan'tneyized forever. Same old products, playing the same old tune, reflexively lost in past glory when it all seemed so easy.

  5. Just want to interject here what a pathetic moment in pop music we have arrived at that the tunes and performances are so painfully generic and soundalike that the artists have to announce their own names inside the song just so you'll have some idea who's performing. In 1965 you always knew the cars, and the artist.

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