The Beatles' Second Album (1964)
Updated: May 9
The Beatles’ Second Album
Released April 10, 1964
Recorded March 5, 1963 - March 1, 1964
Following the release of Introducing… the Beatles and Meet The Beatles! Along with a victorious invasion into America, everyone was infected by the Beatles bug (not sure they have medication for that). Since they were incredibly marketable, it was quickly decided by Columbia and The Beatles' management to release more material in America as quickly as possible. Since the group had a backlog of recorded materials and tracks issued in the U.K. but not in the U.S., a quick compilation album called The Beatles Second Album was released. Of course, it's not actually "the second album," but it is the second Beatles release in America by Capitol Records. I think they just enjoyed confusing us.
One would imagine that an album of primarily unreleased works and quickly thrown-together covers might not be of artistic merit, but not when it came to the Beatles. At the time, they could work swiftly and efficiently and had just come off of years of playing a ridiculous amount of lengthy live performances, and therefore they had a lot of material. After two weeks of release, the album climbed to #1, knocking off Meet The Beatles, which had an 11-week run at the top of the charts. The album would eventually go 2x Platinum with over two million units sold!
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1-" Roll Over Beethoven" is a rock and roll hit anthem written by Chuck Berry. Lyrically, Berry states that rock and roll is ready to surpass the old school, even if it causes classical masters like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to roll over in their graves. It's a song about defiance and generational divide, which is the basic attitude of rock and roll. Berry's version hit #29 in 1956. The Beatles' version was never released as a single in the U.S., but it did chart at #68. It is interesting to note that the Beatles covered more Chuck Berry songs than any other artist. Harrison, who sings lead vocals on this one, kind of messes up the guitar intro on this, and his solo is decent, but Berry is a way better blues guitarist. The hand claps on this one are a little distracting. It's a strong cover, but nobody played Chuck Berry tunes better than Chuck Berry. (+)
Track 2- "Thank You Girl" was the B side to the single "Do You Want To Know A Secret." The song was intended to be a thank you to all of their female fans, and they had many. Lennon double-tracked his vocals on this one. The Beatles thought the song was good enough to be a single, but the label did not. The label was correct. Ringo gets to shine with some pretty explosive drum fills near the end of the piece.
Track 3- "You Really Got A Hold On Me" is a Motown classic written by the great Smokey Robinson and was a top ten hit for his group the Miracles in 1962. It's another tune that shows The Beatles' connection to Motown music. George Martin plays piano on this one. It's a solid cover with strong vocals by Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney. More needs to be made of the fantastic blend between their voices. (+)
Track 4-" Devil in Her Heart" was written and recorded by an artist known as Ricky Dee (Richard Drapkin) in 1962. It was a relatively unknown song when the Beatles decided to record it. Harrison takes the lead vocals on this one. It is a forgettable Beatles track. The last (surprise) chord is pretty cool, though.
Track 5-" Money" (That's What I Like). Recorded in 1959 by Barrett Song the tune was the first hit connected to Motown. Lennon takes the lead on this one. George Martin plays piano on the track. It would be a solid cover, but some seriously out-of-tune guitars make the song difficult to enjoy. The Beatles made a lot of "money."
Track 6 -"You Can't Do That" is a Lennon tune he claims was inspired by Wilson Pickett. Once again, the theme is that of a jealous lover. Lennon appeared to be having some issues. Harrison offers some notable guitar work on this driving R+B. Despite its somewhat misogynistic nature, it is a great tune. Another example of a U.S. B side that could have been a hit if promoted as a single. (+)
Track 1- "Long Tall Sally" was a hit for Little Richard in 1956. The Beatles greatly admired Richard, a masterful singer, pianist, and performer. It was a song the Beatles had often covered in the past, and to complete the album, they needed tunes, so they recorded this one about a month before the release. McCartney does a great job on lead vocals, especially since Little Richard songs are challenging to sing. Harrison offers some of his best early solos on the track. Ringo also plays some fiery drum parts toward the song's finale. One of the Beatle's most substantial covers. (+).
Track 2- "I Call Your Name" was written by John Lennon. The song was initially given to a group called the Dakotas, another Liverpool band, in 1963. Lennon did not like their recording, so he had the Beatles do it. Harrison plays his Rickenbaker electric 12-string on this. Ringo's overdubbed a cowbell on the track, which sits a little too prominently in the mix. The group rushes heavily during Harrison's solo. Many have been left to wonder whose "name" Lennon was calling. His mother, his father, a woman?
Track 3-" Please Mr. Postman." is another Motown-related cover by the group. The tune was initially a #1 hit (Motown's first) for the all-girl group the Marvelettes in 1961. The song was unknown in the U.K. before the Beatles recorded their version. The Beatles nailed it with this cover and did a solid job singing falsettos (+)
Track 4- "I'll Get You." was the B side to the megahit "She Loves You." The song was written by John Lennon and was a favorite of McCartney's. The piece begins with only voice, bass, and handclaps before kicking in. The first lyric, "imagine," was a word and theme Lennon would repurpose, particularly in his post-Beatles hit "Imagine." It's a somewhat forgotten Beatle tune. The original master of the tapes has been lost.
With abundant cover material, the album has a certain element of laziness, except that the Beatles did cover versions well and chose great ones. Add in "She Loves You" and "You Can't Do That," and you have a solid record that was insanely successful. Awards and Positions (#1 on the Billboard Charts, 2X Platinum)