“If I Fell” recording session flashback of John Lennon

January 24, 2023 3:27 am36 commentsViews: 264

On February 27, 1964, The Beatles returned to Abbey Road Studios in London to record three new songs for the upcoming film. Two of the songs (“And I Love Her” and “Tell Me Why”) occupied the morning session. “If I Fell” was worked on for three hours during the afternoon session, which began at 2:30 PM. According to Lewisohn (1988), the song took 15 separate takes to complete.

"If I Fell" recording session flashback of John Lennon

By their request, Lennon and McCartney elected to sing into the same microphone in order to caress the melody against the lower harmony. In a September 3, 1964, interview, Lennon admitted that he “normally sings lead and [McCartney] sings harmony,” but if he “can’t make it [then McCartney] sings on-tone.” As Lennon’s voice could not handle the higher melody, he sings a parallel matching harmony against McCartney’s lead vocal.

The recording went smoothly. More drums were added after Take 3, and Lennon’s acoustic guitar opening phrases were present by Take 11.

Lyrical and Musical Structure of “If I Fell”

“If I Fell” is an unusual song and composition. Although the lyrics are overtly romantic, Lennon is not singing a conventional love song. The song’s narrator is not saying that he has fallen in love with the anonymous female — only what would happen if he were to fall in love with her.

The idea is not new in popular music. Rodgers and Hammerstein had adopted a similar motif for “If I Loved You” from Carousel. But here, Lennon succeeds in juxtaposing one old romantic heartbreak with the promise of another new love, even while the narrator pleads not be hurt again.

Musically, the song has no true verse or refrain structure. The introductory melody does not appear anywhere in the body of the song. There is no guitar solo in the song, only a few plucked lead guitar notes tacked on at the end. Throughout, minor chords are set against major chord progressions, which provide a gentle background of sadness even though the overall feeling is one of optimism.

A Hard Day’s Night is Released

“If I Fell” appeared as the third song on side one of the British version of A Hard Day’s Night. The U.K. album was released on July 10, 1964. Ten days later, the song was coupled with “And I Love Her” as a 45 RPM U.S. Capitol Records single (number 5235).

A Hard Day’s Night marked a unique milestone in the career of John Lennon as well as that of The Beatles. It was the only album to contain only Lennon-McCartney compositions. Of the 13 songs recorded and released, Lennon wrote nine songs in full and co-wrote three songs (“And I Love Her,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Any Time at All”) with McCartney. Only one song (“Things We Said Today”) was a solo McCartney composition.

Never again was Lennon to dominate a Beatles’ album so completely. The Beatles also would never release another album that was so unreservedly romantic in theme. Although Lennon has often been portrayed as a cynic (and even a misogynist at times), here the more tender Lennon was on display.

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