Beatles By Day

Long time ago when we was fab

Song facts: Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy Me Love was written by Paul McCartney in January of 1964, while The Beatles played a number of shows in Paris. It was released as a single and also appears on A Hard Day's Night.

It has been alleged by some that the song is about a prostitute, but McCartney has strongly denied this.

"I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything, but when someone suggests that 'Can't Buy Me Love' is about a prostitute, I draw the line. The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well, but they won't buy me what I really want." - Paul McCartney
"Can't Buy Me Love is my attempt to write a bluesy mode. The idea behind it was that all these material possessions are all very well but they won't buy me what I really want. It was a very hooky song. Ella Fitzgerald later did a version of it which I was very honoured by." - Paul McCartney
"That's Paul's completely. Maybe I had something to do with the chorus, but I don't know. I always considered it his song." - John Lennon

When The Beatles played Paris in January of 1964, they stayed at the George V Hotel. While there they had an upright piano moved into the room so that they could continue songwriting, despite being on tour. It was there that McCartney reportedly wrote Can't Buy Me Love.

The Beatles at the George V Hotel, Paris, January 1964.

The Beatles at the George V Hotel, Paris, January 1964.

Recording

The song was mostly recorded in Paris, at EMI's Pathe Marconi Studios. The Beatles recorded four takes in France on January 29th, after taping German versions of She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand. 

Producer George Martin had the idea that they start the song with the chorus; a break from how they would normally record a track. John and Paul thought it was a good idea and decided to structure the song this way. Take two from that session can be found on Anthology 1.

"I thought that we really needed a tag for the song's ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro. So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said 'Let's just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly'. And they said, 'That's not a bad idea, we'll do it that way'." - George Martin

The Beatles re-recorded their vocals and George's guitar solo back in London at Abbey Road, on February 25th 1964.

"We took the tapes from that back to England to do some work on them. I once read something that tries to analyse Can't Buy Me Love, talking about the double-track guitar - mine - and saying that it's not very good because you can hear the original one. What happened was that we recorded first in Paris and re-recorded in England. Obviously they'd tried to overdub it, but in those days they only had two tracks, so you can hear the version we put on in London, and in the background you can hear a quieter one." - George Harrison

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
  • John Lennon – acoustic rhythm guitar
  • George Harrison – double-tracked twelve-string lead guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums
  • Norman Smith – hi-hat
Can't Buy Me Love/You Can't Do That single sleeve, 1964.

Can't Buy Me Love/You Can't Do That single sleeve, 1964.

Release

As well as being issued on A Hard Day's Night, Can't Buy Me Love was released as a single in the US on March 16th 1964, and in the UK on the 20th. John Lennon's You Can't Do That was included as the B-side on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Chart success

The single sold over two million copies in the US in its first week alone, and on April 4th 1964, Can't Buy Me Love reached number one the US Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles also held the other four slots of the top five.

On April 2nd 1964, it became The Beatles' fourth UK number one single, before being displaced by Peter and Gordon's A World Without Love; a song written by Paul McCarntey.