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Mr. Moonlight

The history of this classic Beatles song

By

The original UK sheet music for

The original UK sheet music for "Mr. Moonlight"

source: rarebeatles.com

Mr. Moonlight

Written by: Roy Lee Johnson
Recorded: October 18, 1964 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 27 and November 4, 1964
Length: 2:35
Takes: 8
Musicians:
John Lennon: lead vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar (1964 Gibson J160E)
Paul McCartney: backing vocal, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1), organ (Hammond)
George Harrison: lead guitar (1962 Gretsch 6122 "Country Gentleman"), percussion (African drum)
Ringo Starr: percussion (guitar case)

Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Beatles For Sale, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1240, PCS 3062; Parlophone CDP 7 46438 2)
  • Beatles For Sale (EP), (UK: Parlophone GEP 8931)
  • Beatles '65, (US: Capitol (S)T 2228, Capitol CDP 7243 8 66874 2 5)
History:
  • This cover of a 1962 b-side by a group called Dr. Feelgood and the Interns (in actuality blues legend Piano Red under an alias) is usually considered notable only for the fact that many Beatles fans consider it the worst song released in the band's lifetime (depending, one supposes, on whether or not you consider "Revolution 9" a song, or think it should be).
  • Some of this notoriety probably has to do with the production, as the original (Okeh 4-7144) was merely an inoffensive slice of light R&B with a slight Latin feel common in pop music at the time. The group keeps much the same but makes the dubious decision to lay the harmonies on thick and add a roller-rink organ solo by Paul, both of which considerably up the lounge factor on what is, at heart, no more offensive a tune than some of the Beatles' other covers of old-timey pop songs ("Red Sails In The Sunset" comes to mind, as does "Ain't She Sweet").
  • In fact, "Mr. Moonlight" was included on Beatles For Sale precisely because it was so popular among "beat" groups of the era: the Beatles played it regularly in Hamburg, and the Hollies recorded a similar version that was released at almost the same time. The Beatles were apparently big fans of the Doctor: you can hear them spontaneously covering "Right String But The Wrong Yo-Yo" on the Let It Be session outtakes, for example. The good Doctor was covered by several Sixties bands, including the Lovin' Spoonful, and Aretha Franklin used his song of the same name as inspiration for her own, different hit.
  • Despite the song's dubious reputation, John's fevered vocal performance is considered one of his absolute best, surprising even he on the recorded outtakes. Some say it saves the song from its otherwise obvious shortcomings.
  • This track was originally attempted on August 14, in four takes, but tabled and then re-recorded in four more takes during the sixth session for Beatles For Sale, just after Paul's medley of "Kansas City / Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" and just before work began on the non-album single, "I Feel Fine." (Note the extreme similarity in the sound of the harmonies!)
Known live versions:
August 3, 1962 (Grafton Rooms, Liverpool, England); December 18-24 and 26-31, 1962 (Star-Club, Hamburg, Germany)

Trivia:
  • The original August 14 version of this song featured a wild, almost experimental slide guitar solo by George instead of the eventual organ solo; this version can be heard on Anthology I.
  • Ringo is credited with "bongos" on this track, but closer listening reveals that he almost certainly thumping a guitar case for percussive effect.
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