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Do You Want To Know A Secret

The history of this classic Beatles song


The original sleeve for

The original US sleeve for "Do You Want To Know A Secret"

source: rarebeatles.com

Do You Want To Know A Secret

Written by: John Lennon (100%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: February 11, 1963 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: February 25, 1963
Length: 1:55
Takes: 8
Musicians: John Lennon: backing vocal, rhythm guitar (1958 Rickenbacker 325)
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: lead vocal, lead guitar (Gretsch Duo Jet)
Ringo Starr: drums (Premier)
First released: March 23, 1964 (US: VeeJay VJ 587)
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Please Please Me, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1202, PCS 3042, Parlophone CDP7 46435-2p, US: Capitol CLJ 46435)
  • Introducing The Beatles, (US: VeeJay VJLP 1062)
  • The Early Beatles, (US: Capitol (S)T 2309, CDP 0946 3 57498 2 3}
  • Twist And Shout (EP), (UK: Parlophone GEP 8882}
Highest chart position: 2 (US: April 4, 1964)
  • Written by John and based on a song his mother, Cynthia, would sing to him as a child, "I'm Wishing" from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie: "Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell? We are standing by a wishing well." John decided to write a love song based around the lyrics.
  • Although rumors have persisted that John wrote this song about his girlfriend Cynthia, whom he'd just married, evidence remains inconclusive. It is true that he'd gotten her pregnant and was urged by Brian to marry her, yet keep the marriage a secret so as to make him appear available to female fans. But whether the "secret" in question is that John has decided he loves Cynthia, or that their marriage is the secret, is hard to tell. For his part, Lennon always treated it as a generic love song in interviews.
  • This was given to George to sing and was the first recorded Beatles song not sung by John or Paul. It was not, however, written specifically for him. (George and Ringo were often given songs to sing in the early days, so as to reach out to their individual fans.) John has said that "I thought it would be a good vehicle for him, because it had only three notes and he wasn't the best singer in the world. He has improved a lot since then; but in those days, his ability was very poor." Harrison himself appeared embarrassed about the vocal, which is indeed flat in places.
BBC radio versions: 6 (for the BBC radio programs Here We Go, On The Scene, Side By Side, Pop Goes The Beatles and Saturday Club)
  • This was the first "Lennon/McCartney" composition to become a hit for another artist -- in this case, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, who scored a hit with it in the UK (where the Beatles' version was not released as a single).
  • A famous demo exists of John recording this number in a bathroom, complete with toilet flushing in the background.
  • This was voted one of the Five Worst Beatles Songs in a Seventies Village Voice readers' poll.
  • During the 1965 recording sessions for George's song "Think For Yourself," John can be heard singing this song as "Do You Want To Hold A Penis."
Covered by: Count Basie, The Chipmunks, Sonny Curtis, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Bobby Vee, Roger Webb
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