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What Goes On

The history of this classic Beatles song

By

The original US 45 sleeve for

The original US 45 sleeve for "What Goes On"

source: rarebeatles.com

What Goes On

Written by: John Lennon (60%), Paul McCartney (30%), Richard Starkey (10%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney-Starkey)
Recorded: November 4, 1965 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: November 9, 1965
Length: 2:44
Takes: 1
Musicians: John Lennon: harmony vocals, rhythm guitars (1964 Gibson J160E)
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1961 Hofner 500/1)
George Harrison: lead guitar (1962 Gretsch 6119 "Tennessean")
Ringo Starr: lead vocals, drums (Ludwig)
First released: February 15, 1966 (US: Capitol 5587, b-side of "Nowhere Man")
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Yesterday and Today, (US: Capitol (S)T 2553)
  • Rubber Soul, (UK: Parlophone PMC 1267, Parlophone CDP 7 46440 2)
Highest chart position: 81 (US: March 12, 1966)
History:
  • An old John number from the Quarrymen days (specifically, 1957), this Carl Perkins-inspired rockabilly nugget was rescued rom obscurity when a Ringo-sung number was needed for Rubber Soul. (Capitol was always very conscious about giving Ringo, America's favorite Beatle, a vocal spotlight on each album.) Paul's contribution is thought to have been crafting new second and third verses for the existing song, with som help from Ringo -- though the drummer claims he only added "about five words."
  • Because of the input from Ringo, this is the only Beatles track credited to "Lennon-McCartney-Starkey," although the drummer made other contributions to songs like "Eleanor Rigby" that were not reflected in the songwriting credits.
  • This was completed in one take, having been a song the band already knew well; the only other recording at this session was the jam "12-Bar Original," which only saw the light of day (edited severely) on Anthology 2.
Trivia:
  • Early pressings of the 45 do not include the "Starkey" credit, perhaps out of sheer habit.
  • After Ringo sings "Tell me why" for the second time, John says "I already told you why" in the background. It's the first of what would be several Beatles ad-libs left into official recordings. Ringo can also be heard humming during the solo, and repeating the phrase "in your mind" during the outro, in order to keep his place!
Covered by: The Charles River Valley Boys, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Seldom Scene, Sufjan Stevens
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