Snapshots: Anna (Go To Him), Please Please Me


It’s often that The Beatles are given the label of saving rock and roll, and usually that’s for overblown reasons. Yes, they were incredibly creative, fully embraced technical advancements and managed to propel popular music into a more advanced form.  However, it’s perhaps most important that they always had their own particular identity.

Early rock and roll was largely “race music”– gritty and visceral–often only a few steps removed from blues numbers that had traveled up the Delta.  While The Beatles were influenced by Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran, they were just as much, if not more appreciative, of black artists like Chuck Berry, Arthur Alexander, and Barrett Strong.  

McCartney may have covered “That’s Alright Momma,” but The Beatles covered far more songs from black groups. In fact, all of the covers from Please Please Me (“Chains, "Boys”, “Baby It’s You”, “A Taste of Honey”, “Twist and Shout”, and “Anna (Go To Him)”) were done originally by black artists, and only “Til’ There Was You” a number from the Broadway play The Music Man was an exception to the rule on With The Beatles. Lennon would later recall, “We didn’t sing our own songs in the early days – they weren’t good enough – the one thing we always did was to make it known that there were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could.”

Of particular note is “Anna (Go To Him)” which stands as perhaps my favorite Lennon cover outside of “Twist and Shout”. 

Originally written and recorded by Arthur Alexander, “Anna (Go To Him)” was released on September 17, 1962.

Alexander’s version is maudlin, even slightly off-kilter, given the knee-jerk rhythm and the placid nature of Alexander’s vocal. Though Lennon insisted “it was only natural that we tried to do it as near to the record as we could – i always wished we could have done them even closer to the original,” The Beatles rendition of “Anna (Go To Him) has two distinct differences.

Perhaps most obvious is the piano’s melodic hook being shifted to a very clean guitar hook, and more importantly, they shifted the key up a step to D major.

It was February 11th, 1963, and Lennon was battling a rather nasty case of pneumonia, but this was a time of 4-track tapes and no sure road to stardom.  What remains from this day’s session of recording is probably some of the most passionate singing Lennon has on record.  

It should be noted here that most contemporaries who were doing what The Beatles were doing, e.g. The Rolling Stones, typically tried to emulate the exact vocal performance of the original. "Mercy, Mercy” is a fine example (and originally recorded by the criminally unknown Don Covay).

Already starting around the top of his vocal range, the emotional heft of the song and the strain on his vocal chords bring an additional resonance to Lennon’s delivery–it crackles and wails, pleads and begs. And it’s his own.   

“Twist and Shout” would be the last song Lennon sang that day after chugging a glass of milk to soothe his throat, but that’s a story for another day.

Other Notes:

  • Particularly great vocal harmony work on “Anna (Go To Him)” from the hauntingly sultry “Aaanna” call and response in the beginning to the more traditional backing vocals that try to steady Lennon’s emotional waver in the refrain.
  • Don Covay’s “Mercy, Mercy” would be one of the earliest appearances Jimi Hendrix ever made on a record (though uncredited)
  • Covay would also be responsible for this great hit
  • Most of Lennon’s quotes here come from a quickly scribbled letter he had written on a plane in 1971 in response to a New York Times article titled ‘So in the End, the Beatles Have Proved False Prophets’. While Lennon’s memories were famously suspect, his “P.S. What about the ‘B’ side of Money?” line manages to both reference something he held dear and be relevant to the discussion at hand. The ‘B’ side in question? “Oh I Apologize”.

Doin’ It Right In The Land of 1000 Dances, A Mixtape

Art of the Song presents Doin’ It Right In The Land of 1000 Dances, a free mix for your downloading pleasure! Perfectly calibrated to get those hips shakin’ and feet tappin’, play this on your speakers and get ready to dance the night away!  If you’re feeling lucky, just click the picture for the download, or wait til after the tracklisting to click the link below. 

Please note that it’s a zip file, and won’t have the proper track order, but if you put all the songs on your itunes, then click the Doin’ It Right In The Land of 1000 Dances.m3u file, iTunes does the work for you. Now that’s what I call Doin’ It Right!

Doin’ It Right In The Land of 1000 Dances :

1. Hang Fire – The Rolling Stones
2. Coming Back to Me Baby – James Carr
3. Pressure Drop – Robert Palmer
4. Keep On Movin’ – King Tuff
5. Doin’ It, Right – Cheers Elephant
6. Hit and Miss – The Tins
7. 100 Yard Dash – Raphael Saadiq
8. Black Snake – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
9. Soulless- Fake Problems
10. I’ve Got To Convince Myself – Allen Toussaint
11. Morning Crimes – Theme Park
12. Caught Me Thinkin’ – Bahamas
13. Fantasized – Robert Cray
14. Happy Pills – Norah Jones
15. Land Of 1000 Dances – Wilson Pickett
16. Shotgun – Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
17. Ophelia (from The Last Waltz) – The Band
18. Act Nice & Gentle – The Black Keys
19. The Night Before – The Beatles
20. Please Be It – The Generationals
21. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – B.B. King & Eric Clapton 

Doin’ It Right In The Land of 1000 

Summer Gems Part II: An End of Summer Compilation

To commiserate/celebrate the end of summer, here’s your friend Summer Gems Part II.


1. You Turn Clear In The Sun – Telekinesis
2. Hypnotic Winter – JEFF the Brotherhood
3. Before The Dive – St. Lucia 
4. Henrietta – Yeasayer
5. Falling Out – Body Language
6. The Look – Metronomy
7. Waiting On A Friend – The Rolling Stones
8. Just My Imagination – The Temptations
9. I Want To Hold Your Hand – Al Green
10. Where I’m Going – Cut Copy
11. I’m Goin’ Down – Bruce Springsteen
12. Time To Run -Lord Huron
13. Little Garcon – Born Ruffians
14. Private Affair – The Virgins
15. The Village – Boy & Bear
16. Don’t Deny Your Heart – Hot Chip
17. Everything All The Time – The Outfit
18. New Coat – White Denim
19. More Of This – Vetiver

 Just click the picture to download.

(Photo via We Are Handsome) 

Heartache, Heartbreak


1. One Rainy Wish- Jimi Hendrix

One Rainy Wish- Jimi Hendrix

2. Back To Where I Started- Derek Trucks Band

Back Where I Started- Derek Trucks Band

3.  Promises- Eric Clapton

Promises- Eric Clapton

4. Caught by the River- Doves

Caught by the River- Doves

5. Every Night- Paul McCartney

Every Night- Paul McCartney

6. So You’re Leaving- Al Green

So You’re Leaving- Al Green

7. Jealous Guy- Donny Hathaway

Jealous Guy- Donny Hathaway

8. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)- Otis Redding

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)- Otis Redding

9. Love In Vain- The Rolling Stones

Love In Vain- The Rolling Stones

10. Have You Ever Loved A Woman- Derek and the Dominoes

Have You Ever Loved A Woman (Live)- Derek And the Dominoes

11. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart- Al Green

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart- Al Green

12. Baby, Baby, Baby- Aretha Franklin

Baby, Baby, Baby- Aretha Franklin

13. I Want You- Bruce Springsteen

I Want You- Bruce Springsteen

14. Burning of the Midnight Lamp- Jimi Hendrix

Burning of the Midnight Lamp- Jimi Hendrix

15. Layla- Derek and the Dominoes

Layla- Derek and the Dominoes

16. This Love of Mine- Frank Sinatra

This Love Of Mine- Frank Sinatra

17. Breakin Up- G. Love

Breakin Up- G. Love

18. Oh Darling- The Beatles

Oh! Darling- The Beatles

19. In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning- Frank Sinatra

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning- Frank Sinatra