Cover: A moody black-and-white picture taken by fashion photographer Robert Freeman. The boys are lit from the side to give them half-faces.
Best song: Paul’s All My Loving is a joyful pop song full of attack. Remarkably it was never a single in the UK, despite having hit written all over it. I love the vocals beginning a beat before the instruments, the walking bassline bouncing up and down the scale, and George’s short but neat guitar solo. (According to rumour, All My Loving was playing on a radio at Roosevelt Hospital in New York when John Lennon was pronounced dead on 8 December 1980.)
* Side A kicks off brilliantly. Before All My Loving, we get two gems written by John. Firstly there’s It Won’t Be Long with a cute lyric punning on ‘be long/belong’ – it’s energetic stuff, featuring a catchy guitar riff (mixed archly high) and great call-and-response vocals. Then there’s All I’ve Got To Do, a stylish and dramatic aping of Motown’s ballads.
Worst song: I Wanna Be Your Man, sung gamely by Ringo, wears out its welcome quickest. It was written by John and Paul as a commission for the Rolling Stones (John in 1980: “We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”). The Stones version had already been released when the Beatles put this out.
Notable outside contributions: Producer George Martin plays piano on a few tracks.
Review: More consistent than Please Please Me, more confident, and more enjoyable overall – you can sense Lennon and McCartney flexing their musical muscles. Like last time there are six cover versions, the best of which is a terrific take of Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold on Me. It’s really well sung by John, Paul and George, while Ringo’s having fun with his drum fills. I also like the picturesque go at Broadway hit Till There Was You. Meanwhile, George has written his debut song. There’ll be classics to come, but sadly Don’t Bother Me is nothing special.
Eight letters in your sack for me out of 10.