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The history of this classic Beatles song


A 1964 EP from Holland

A 1964 EP from Holland

source: rateyourmusic.com

No Reply

Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: June 3 and September 30, 1964 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 16 and November 4, 1964
Length: 2:15
Takes: 8
John Lennon: lead vocal (double-tracked), acoustic rhythm guitar (1964 Gibson J160E), handclaps
Paul McCartney: harmony vocal, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1), cowbell
George Harrison: acoustic rhythm guitar (1964 Gibson J160E)
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig)
George Martin: piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")
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)
  • A leftover from the sessions for A Hard Day's Night, this John original was written sometime in the middle of May 1964 while John was on vacation; its somber nature, however, probably kept it off the film's soundtrack (much like the snide "You Can't Do That"). John recorded a demo of the song on June 3 of that year for singer Tommy Quickly, a fellow Brian Epstein client, but John apparently heard something he liked here, for it was quickly withdrawn.
  • Paul McCartney has said he may have helped John finish the song, a not uncommon practice. This is unlikely, but the first line of the middle eight ("If I were you...") is a possibility, since it lies in a range too high for John, which is why Paul sings top harmony. However, that line is also reminiscent of John's "When I Get Home," so...
  • "No Reply" was written as an exercise of sorts, with John attempting to pen something similar to the Rays' 1957 hit "Silhouettes," a story about a man who mistakes a shadow of two lovers to be his girlfriend and another man. In John's story, the girl is home, yet refuses to acknowledge it, and unlike the Rays song, there is no happy ending.
  • Perhaps because of its dark tone, its placement as the opener on Beatles For Sale has always struck many Beatles fans as odd, especially since the song begins "cold" with no intro other than John's voice. (This appears to be the first time a Beatles song opens with one voice and no music whatsoever.) With the inclusion of "I'm A Loser" and "Baby's In Black" right after it on the album, the three songs make up what is referred to as a John "trilogy" of lost love.
  • Although the released version of "No Reply" has a trendy bossa nova sort of beat, it was originally envisioned as a waltz.
  • This was recorded at the fourth session for Beatles For Sale, just after "What You're Doing" was completed.
  • For his part, John has said the events of "No Reply" have no relation to his life -- the subject calls his girl on the phone, hence the title, yet neither John or most other working-class lads in early-Sixties England grew up with telephones. Actress Sandy Dennis however, insisted it was about her, and even tried to secure some of the royalties from it!
  • The Beatles' song publisher, Dick James, liked this song and told John it proved he was "getting better" at songwriting, since it told a complete story. Quite a portrait of prevailing musical attitudes!
  • That June 3 demo is one of the more obscure pieces of Beatle legacy, because it contains drums, and yet on June 3, 1964, Ringo was suffering from tonsillitis; Jimmy Nicol, the stand-in drummer for the section of the tour the Beatles were about to play, may be the performer, but all accounts say he wasn't there, either. So who was it? Or was the date of the demo actually later?
  • The first two takes of the final session for "No Reply" also feature John and Paul clowning around with the lyrics, mixing up the lines to comic effect ("I saw you walk in... your face"). The overall feel of the song is poppier and lighter. (Take 2 can be heard heard on Anthology 1.) On take 5, the middle eight is repeated, making the track a full minute longer than the final version.
    Covered by: Boxer, Ray Hamilton
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