"We recorded it in France, as I recall," McCartney remembers. "Went over to the Odeon in Paris. Recorded it over there." What Paul was actually referring to was the EMI Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris where they met on January 29th, 1964 for the only recording session of their career outside of London. The intention of this late-morning/afternoon session was to record German versions of two of their previous hit songs, namely "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You." Having accomplished this, they had approximately an hour of studio time left, so they jumped head-long into something they were excited about, which was Paul's newly written "Can't Buy Me Love."
Only four takes of the song were needed to get a suitable version down and ready for overdubs. These fully live performances, with all four Beatles playing their usual instruments while singing, showed that they had the arrangement down quite well, although some adjustments in the arrangement were made along the way.
"I thought that we really needed a tag for the song's ending, and a tag for the beginning, a kind of intro," explains George Martin. "So I took the first few lines of the chorus (bridge) and changed the ending, and said, 'Let's just have these lines, and by altering the end of the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly.' And they said, 'That's not a bad idea, we'll do it that way.'"
A second adjustment was scrapping the background vocals by John and George, which comprised them singing "ooooh satisfied," "ooooh just can't buy," etc., during the verses. McCartney also sang lead vocals with a somewhat bluesy vibe which was toned down in the later takes of the song. The first two takes with the early arrangement were edited for release on the 1996 album "Anthology 1," which comprised the entire Take 2 edited with George Harrison's solo from Take 1.
After an incomplete Take 3, they make it through the song on Take 4, which is the version that was deemed best. This take did feature a guitar solo from George Harrison, but it was viewed as inferior and worthy of attempting an overdub at a later time. As the recording session time ran out, this master tape was taken by George Martin back to EMI for further work.
February 25th was the next chance The Beatles had for recording since they took the majority of February to conquer America. They entered EMI Studio Two on this date from 10 am to 1 pm to add overdubs to the song, which would bring the song to its' final stage. Paul double-tracked his vocals and, according to Helen Shapiro who was in the studio on this day, Ringo added more cymbals "over the top" of the previous recording. Then George Harrison re-recorded his guitar solo, but with a slight problem.
Regarding the song, George Harrison explains: "We took the tapes from that back to England to do some work on them. I once read something that tries to analyze 'Can't Buy Me Love', talking about the double-track guitar - mine - and saying that it's not very good because you can hear the original one. What happened was that we recorded first in Paris and re-recorded in England. Obviously they'd tried to overdub it, but in those days they only had two tracks, so you can hear the version we put on in London, and in the background you can hear a quieter one."
These overdubs were completed approximately by 11 am, which left the final two hours of this morning session to starting and finishing what would become the B-side to their next single, "You Can't Do That."
The next day, February 26th, George Martin and engineers Norman Smith and Richard Langham used the same three-hour time slot (10 am to 1 pm) to create mono mixes for both sides of their next single. The mono mix of "Can't Buy Me Love" made on this day is the same one released worldwide in 1964.
A mixing session was booked for March 10th in the control room of Studio Two, attended by George Martin and Norman Smith, to create the stereo mix of “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Mark Lewisohn’s book “The Complete Beatles Chronicle,” brings out a discovery concerning this mixing session: “An interesting document was uncovered at EMI in 1991 suggesting that a “drummer” participated in this 10 am – 1 pm session with regards to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ – which can only mean that he did some overdubbing. He was paid a Musicians’ Union session fee…but his name was not detailed on the document. This answers one question that has long puzzled some Beatles students: why the drumming on this song’s stereo mix differs slightly from the mono. But it also raises a new question re the drummer’s identity: Ringo’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ shooting schedule would seem to suggest that he had little, if any, opportunity to visit Abbey Road on this day.”
Geoff Emerick’s 2006 book “Here, There And Everywhere” sheds some new light that may very well reveal the identity of this mysterious drummer. Regarding the master tape of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” Emerick writes: “There was a technical problem to be overcome, discovered when the tape was brought back and played at our studios. Perhaps because it had been spooled incorrectly, the tape had a ripple in it, resulting in the intermittent loss of treble on Ringo’s hi-hat cymbal. There was tremendous time pressure to get the track mixed and delivered to the pressing plant, and due to touring commitments The Beatles themselves were unavailable, so George and Norman took it upon themselves to make a little artistic adjustment.”
“As I eagerly moved into the engineer’s seat for the first time,” Emerick continues, “Norman (Smith) headed down into the studio to overdub a hastily set-up hi-hat onto a few bars of the song while I recorded him, simultaneously doing a two-track to two-track dub. Thanks to Norman’s considerable skills as a drummer, the repair was made quickly and seamlessly, and I doubt if even The Beatles themselves ever realized that their performance had been surreptitiously augmented.”
The next time the song was heard in the recording studio was not for recording purposes at all. In order to audition a replacement for the ailing Ringo Starr for their upcoming world tour, Jimmy Nicol was invited to EMI Studio Two to run through six songs, including "Can't Buy Me Love," to see if he could fill his shoes. Having passed the audition, they were off to Copenhagen the next day.
With The Beatles out of the country, George Martin, Norman Smith and 2nd engineer Ken Scott assembled in the control room of EMI Studio Three on June 9th, 1964 to create two identical tapes of the finished songs for the "A Hard Day's Night" soundtrack. All eight of these songs, including "Can't Buy Me Love," were duly dispatched to both American record labels, Capitol and United Artists, for release in the US as they saw fit.
Finally, on June 22nd, EMI staffers George Martin, Norman Smith and 2nd engineer Geoff Emerick convened in the control room of Studio One to create stereo mixes of all the songs to appear on the British "A Hard Day's Night" album. This marathon session, running from 10 am to 9 pm, created the stereo mix of "Can't Buy Me Love" that was heard all around the world, presumably featuring the overdubbed drumming of engineer Norman Smith.
This is not to say that there were no more recordings of the song. On August 23rd, 1964, The Beatles played a concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California that was recorded for possible release later that year. The entire concert was produced by Capitol vice-president Voyle Gilmore and George Martin with Hugh Davies engineering. Although this album never came to be, it was duly mixed on August 27th and apparently remains in the vaults somewhere.
On August 29th and 30th of 1965, however, Capitol Records once again attempted to properly record their performances during their return to the Hollywood Bowl. Although the recording made on the first date (produced by Engeman and engineered by Hugh Davies) was unlistenable, the one made on the 30th fared much better. This recording, which was produced by Voyle Gilmore and engineer Pete Abbott, also included "Can't Buy Me Love" and was suitable enough to eventually be released on the 1977 album "The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl," after being cleaned up by George Martin and Geoff Emerick.
One final recording session was held in regard to "Can't Buy Me Love" on January 5th, 1966. Amid some secrecy, The Beatles came to CTS Studios in London to add some touches to their Shea Stadium concert on August 15th, 1965. Paul added a new bass track for "Can't Buy Me Love" to this live recording in preperation for the television film "The Beatles At Shea Stadium."
Sometime in 2015, Giles Martin (son of George Martin) and Sam Okell revisited the master tape in Abbey Road Studios to create of new stereo mix of "Can't Buy Me Love," the result appearing on the re-released version of the compilation album "Beatles 1" released that year.
Written by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 29 January; 25 February; 10 March 1964
Engineers:Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick
Released: 20 March 1964 (UK), 16 March 1964 (US)
Paul McCartney: vocals, bass
John Lennon: acoustic rhythm guitar
George Harrison: lead guitar, rhythm guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Norman Smith: hi-hat
A Hard Day's Night
Live At The BBC
Can't Buy Me Love was The Beatles' sixth British single, released with the b-side You Can't Do That. It was written while the group were in Paris for a 19-date residency at the city's Olympia Theatre.
Personally, I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything, but when someone suggest that Can't Buy Me Love is about a prostitute, I draw the line. That's going too far.
Paul McCartney, 1966The song is believed to have been written at the Hotel George V. The Beatles had an upright piano moved into the corner of their suite, to enable them to work on songs for their forthcoming début film.
Can't Buy Me Love is my attempt to write a bluesy mode. The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well but they won't buy me what I really want. It was a very hooky song. Ella Fitzgerald later did a version of it which I was very honoured by.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Written by Paul McCartney, Can't Buy Me Love became the first of the group's singles to feature just one singer. John Lennon may have felt his position as The Beatles' leader was threatened by the move; following the release of the single, Lennon wrote the majority of songs on the A Hard Day's Night album.
That's Paul's completely. Maybe I had something to do with the chorus, but I don't know. I always considered it his song.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Can't Buy Me Love featured twice in the A Hard Day's Night film. The first was a scene in which they escape from the television studio to fool around in a field; the other involved the group running to and from a police station, with law officers in hot pursuit.
It was the first film for which I wrote the score, and I had the benefit of having a director who was a musician. We recorded the songs for the film just as we would ordinary recordings, and Dick [Lester] used a lot of songs we'd already recorded. Can't Buy Me Love, for example, which was used twice in the picture.
In the studio
Can't Buy Me Love was mostly recorded on 29 January 1964 at EMI's Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris. It was completed in just four takes following the recording of Sie Liebt Dich and Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand, which finished ahead of schedule.
George Martin suggested during preliminary rehearsals that they begin the song with the chorus. The decision was later described by writer Ian MacDonald as a change "so obvious that they would have made it themselves had they tried the tune out earlier".
I thought that we really needed a tag for the song's ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro. So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said 'Let's just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly'. And they said, 'That's not a bad idea, we'll do it that way'.
The first two takes of Can't Buy Me Love, the second of which can be heard on Anthology 1, were recorded in the bluesy style in which the song was originally conceived. Paul McCartney taped a guide vocal which was later replaced at Abbey Road.
John Lennon and George Harrison's backing vocals, in which they sang "Ooh, satisfied", "Ooh, just can't buy" in response to McCartney's lead lines, were swiftly discarded. As was Harrison's original guitar solo, though it can still be heard underneath the version he later overdubbed, due to microphone 'bleed'.
We took the tapes from that back to England to do some work on them. I once read something that tries to analyse Can't Buy Me Love, talking about the double-track guitar - mine - and saying that it's not very good because you can hear the original one. What happened was that we recorded first in Paris and re-recorded in England. Obviously they'd tried to overdub it, but in those days they only had two tracks, so you can hear the version we put on in London, and in the background you can hear a quieter one.
The second solo was recorded on 25 February 1964 - George Harrison's 21st birthday - the same day that McCartney taped his final lead vocals.
The mono mix also included a hi-hat overdub recorded by studio engineer Norman Smith. This was done on 10 March 1964, while The Beatles were filming A Hard Day's Night.
It had the same level of excitement as previous Beatles singles and was quickly slated to be an A-side, but first there was a technical problem to be overcome, discovered when the tape was brought back and played at our studios. Perhaps because it had been spooled incorrectly, the tape had a ripple in it, resulting in the intermittent loss of treble on Ringo's hi-hat cymbal. There was tremendous time pressure to get the track mixed and delivered to the pressing plant, and due to touring commitments the Beatles themselves were unavailable, so George and Norman took it upon themselves to make a little adjustment.
As I eagerly headed into the engineer's seat for the first time, Norman headed down into the studio to overdub a hastily set-up hi-hat onto a few bars of the song while I recorded him, simultaneously doing a two-track to two-track dub. Thanks to Norman's considerable skills as a drummer, the repair was made quickly and seamlessly.
Here, There and Everywhere
By the time Can't Buy Me Love was released, The Beatles were a bona fide worldwide phenomenon. The song topped the charts of almost every country in which it was released.
Issued in the USA slightly earlier than in Britain, it sold over two million copies in its first week, and was awarded a gold disc on the day of release, 16 March 1964.
It set four records on the Billboard Hot 100. The first was the biggest jump to the top spot, up from number 27. The Beatles also held the entire top five positions on the 4 April 1964 chart - Can't Buy Me Love was accompanied by Twist And Shout, She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand and Please Please Me. Such an achievement has never been equalled.
Can't Buy Me Love gave The Beatles a record-breaking three consecutive number one singles, the previous ones being I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. Furthermore, during the song's second week at the top, from 11 April, the group had 14 songs on the Hot 100 simultaneously.
In Britain it broke fewer records, but was still a phenomenal smash hit. Can't Buy Me Love had advance orders of over one million, and became the group's fourth UK number one single.