The Songs The Beatles Gave Away

The story behind the hits, the misses and the demos that the group never released

Broadcasted on BBC Radio 2 on 28th November 2009

Almost as soon as they picked up their first guitars, John Lennon and Paul McCartney started writing songs and when McCartney joined Lennon’s band The Quarrymen in 1957, it was not long before the two of them were sharing their early, individual efforts- Helping one another with words, phrases, additional verses and middle- eights…

By 1963 Lennon and McCartney had written so many songs, they simply could not all be accommodated on just their own Beatle releases…so it made artistic and economic good sense for them to be offered to other artists for recording and the ‘Mersey-Beat boom’ of 1963 and 64’ gave them a tailor made outlet. It was also an excellent way to help promote The Beatles brand when they were not in the charts themselves…whoever was singing them!

This is the story behind those songs…the hits, the misses and the demos that the group never released…The Songs the Beatles Gave Away.


‘As part of radio 2’s Great British Songbook, Bob Harris investigates the songs The Beatles gave away. The most popular group in the world for over 45 years, a recent issue of the re-mastered albums saw four top 10 entries in the UK chart, while their compilation ‘1’ looks set to be America’s biggest album this decade. The fevered excitement that accompanied every release in the 1960’s is well documented but less is known about the music written, though not necessarily recorded or released, by the Beatles during the same decade.

Whilst the Beatles were constantly in the charts, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were also supplying other artists with a number of hits…and the occasional miss! Bob Harris delves into these recordings by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Mary Hopkin, The Foremost, Cilla Black, Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy and others. Along the way he uncovers some forgotten gems, such as the theme tune for a TV series starring Stanley Holloway; Music from a Boulting Brothers film called The Family Way; and hears first hand from Paul McCartney about being contacted by Frank Sinatra for a song. Paul also talks at length about this approach to writing in the 1960’s; the songs given to Tommy Quickly, Peter and Gordon, Chris Barber and PJ Proby; as well as those written exclusively for Cilla Black.

Amongst other interviews recorded specially for the programme, Mary Hopkins talks about recording with McCartney in the studio; Johnny Gentle (who was backed by The Beatles on his 1960 tour) recalled Lennon’s contribution to I’ve Just Fallen For Someone; Billy Hatton of the Fourmost remembers John and George’s version of the groups debut hit ‘Hello Little Girl; and Billy J. Kramer admits to the fatal error of turning down a song that would eventually become one of the most performed works in recorded history.

These interviews are accompanied by BBC archive material of George Harrison describing how ‘Badge’, the song he co-wrote for Cream, got its name. The programme also features new interviews with Sir George Martin, the producer of a number of these records, and Cilla Black, whose demo recording of ‘Step Inside Love (featuring Paul on guitar) receives a rare outing on radio. We also hear George Harrison’s early recorded performance of ‘SourMilkSea’, the song he gave to Jackie Lomax’


Narrator           Bob Harris

Writer              Bob Harris

Researcher      Colin Hall/ Trudie Myerscough-Harris

Production      Bob Harris/Neil Myners


Sir Paul McCartney

Sir George Martin

Johnny Gentle

Billy J. Kramer

Billy Hatton

Cilla Black

Mary Hopkin

Jackie Lomax


John Lennon

George Harrison

Exclusive Demos

‘Step Inside Love’ with Paul McCartney on acoustic guitar

‘SourMilkSea’ courtesy of Olivia Harrison

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