Songs You May Have Thought the Beatles Wrote, But Didn't
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Songs You May Have Thought the Beatles Wrote, But Didn't

While nothing does an old child-of-the-60s heart more good than to see yet another generation of youth embracing the Beatles and their music. in recent months, numerous articles have appeared on sites like Factoizd, referencing supposed “Beatle” songs, that actually weren’t written by the Fab Four at all. Here is a little clarification as to what the Beatles’ actual contribution to music was--and wasn’t.

I think I speak for many of my generation when I say that nothing does an old child-of-the-60s heart and soul more good than to see yet another generation of youth around the world embracing The Beatles and their music.  For those of us who lived through that era--from their momentous appearances on the Ed Sullivan show to the announcement of their break-up--we know well the monumental impact they had not only on the world of music, but culture, religion, politics, as well as many of the seeds of change that have come to fruition over the last forty years. 

While I certainly don’t wish to in any way dampen that ongoing and resurgent enthusiasm for the band that by most definitions was the greatest and most influential musical force of the 20th century, I have read numerous articles in recent months on sites like Factoizd and Associated Content, mistakenly referencing “Beatle” songs that while performed by the Beatles, and in many cases are most remorable by the Beatles, actually weren’t written by the Fab Four.  And I feel that I would be remiss as both a musician and representative of the 60s if I didn’t provide a little factual clarification as to what the Beatles’ actual contribution to music was--and just as importantly, wasn’t.

This would seem best achieved by singling out those songs many believe the Beatles wrote, but in fact, didn’t.   In that the Beatles respected these songs and their creators enough to do cover versions, it seems unlikely that they would want credit for their creation. For convenience and continuity, I have listed them chronologically in order of the American albums on which they appeared .  This does not cover the dozens of cover versions they performed in concert or ended up on bootlegs, or those albums released in Britain.

*Meet the Beatles:

"Till There Was You" is a song written by Meredith Willson for his 1957 musical play The Music Man, and which also appeared in the 1962 movie version.

*The Beatles Second Album:

"Roll Over Beethoven" is a 1956 hit single by Chuck Berry originally released on Chess Records.  The lyric of the song mention rock & roll and the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music.  The song has been covered by many other artists, with Rolling Stone magazine ranking it #97 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"You've Really Got a Hold on Me" is a 1962 single by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles for the Tamla (Motown) label.

"Money (That's What I Want)" is a 1959 hit single written by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and became the first hit record for Gordy's Motown enterprise.

"Devil in His Heart" is a song written by Richard Drapkin, who recorded under the name Ricky Dee.  The song was originally recorded as "Devil in His Heart" by The Donays for Correc-tone Records. The song was later picked up by the New York City label Brent and was re-released in August 1962 as "(There's a) Devil in His Heart" with the B-side "Bad Boy,” another Beatle cover.

"Long Tall Sally" is a rock and roll 12-bar blues song written by Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, Enotris Johnson, and “Little” Richard Penniman, recorded by Little Richard in March 1956.

"Please Mr. Postman" is the debut single by The Marvelettes, written by William Garrett, for the Tamla (Motown) label, notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.

*Something New:

"Slow Down" is a 12-bar blues written by Larry Williams.  Released as a single in 1958, it was a rhythm and blues hit that influenced the growing Rock & Roll movement (including John Lennon and Paul McCartney) of the time.  It was released by The Beatles in 1965 as a single along with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," in 1964..

"Matchbox" is a Rock-a-Billy song written by Carl Perkins and first recorded by him at Sun Records in December 1956 and released on February 11, 1957 as a single on Sun Records. It has become one of Perkins' best-known recordings although many Beatle fans aren’t aware Perkins actually wrote it.

*Beatles ‘65:

"Rock and Roll Music" is a song written and originally recorded by Chuck Berry which became a hit single in 1957, reaching #8 in the U.S. charts, and was later covered by both The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

"Mr. Moonlight" is a song written by Roy Lee Johnson, but best known as a cover version by The Beatles which first appeared on the 1964 albums Beatles for Sale (United Kingdom) and Beatles '65 in the United States. The first known recording of the song was by blues pianist Piano Red, recording as "Dr. Feelgood and the Interns.”

"Honey Don't" is a song written by Carl Perkins, originally released on January 1, 1956 as the B-side of the famous "Blue Suede Shoes."  It has been covered by more than 20 other artists, including The Beatles, Ronnie Hawkins, and Johnnie Rivers.

"Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is a song composed by Carl Perkins adapted from a similar song by songwriter Rex Griffin in 1936. Perkins recorded the song in 1957, changing the music and adding his own lyrics.

*Beatles VI:

"Kansas City" is a 12-bar rhythm and blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952.  The song was first recorded by Little Willie Littlefield that same year, under the title, "KC Lovin'.”

"Bad Boy" is a song written by Larry Williams, one of several The Beatles covered during their career.  Along with "Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” "Bad Boy" was recorded by The Beatles on May 10, 1965, (Larry Williams' birthday), and was originally intended for a solely American release.

"Words of Love" is a song written by Buddy Holly and recorded by him on April 8, 1957.  Though it was not a notable hit for Holly, both The Diamonds and The Beatles made considerable hits of it.

"Dizzy Miss Lizzie" is a song composed and sung by Larry Williams in 1958, sharing many similarities with the Little Richard song “Good Golly Miss Molly.”  (John Lennon was especially fond of this song and frequently performed it during his solo concerts.)


Act Naturally" is a song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison, originally recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, whose version reached number 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in 1963.

*Yesterday and Today:

"Act Naturally" is a song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison. (See Help!.)

*Let it Be:

"Save the Last Dance for Me" (“Rocker”) is the title of a popular song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by Ben E. King with The Drifters.


Personal Beatles Album Collection (links)

Images via personal collection and


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Comments (24)

Interesting write. I had a babysitter that used to love to sing me "Yellow Submarine" I was afraid I was going to see that on the list...but overall, I think I fared pretty well. If it you gave me a pop quiz, I would have scored 100%! Yay me :)

Ranked #4 in Music & Musicians

Excellent discussion. I'd be surprising if anyone mistook 'Roll Over, Beethoven' for a Beatles original, since no one could write rhythmic lyrics like Chuck Berry. 'Please, Mr. Postman' proves that even when the Beatles cover your song, the originals are sometimes best.

Michael, I think you'd be surprised at how American/British music is perceived in some parts of the world, especially by those who are hearing it for the first time.

Ranked #4 in Music & Musicians

I guess some of the black artists who inspired the Beatles, Stones and others weren't appreciated by the mainstream until later.

You also have to factor in that in many parts of the world where the Western influence was intentionally kept out, our music has only penetrated since the advent of the Internet. In some parts of the world, there's little distinction between Coldplay, Aerosmith, Beatles, and Elvis in terms of time. They did not experience the progression or evolution.

Ranked #4 in Music & Musicians

Very true. It's also interesting to read your work to see how the Beatles were received in the US. So what's your favourite Beatles track? I have a thing about 'Don't Let Me Down' - not their greatest, but I love Lennon's vocals on this one.

No favorites. They all blow me away even after a thousand listens. But this may interest you:

Good and interesting article. I think kids are discovering some of the Beatle songs for the first time all of the time. I would have to say my favorite would either be Don’t Let Me Down or Two of Us, both on the Let It Be album. There is a neat live version on a rooftop of Don’t Let Me Down with Billy Preston on the keyboard.

Yep, I'm with ya Sam! Love that "garage" band sound.

Good and interesting article. I think kids are discovering some of the Beatle songs for the first time all of the time. I would have to say my favorite would either be Don’t Let Me Down or Two of Us, both on the Let It Be album. There is a neat live version on a rooftop of Don’t Let Me Down with Billy Preston on the keyboard.

Wonder how I posted twice? There is a good studio live version of Two of Us you can see on youtube, it is a faster version with Lennon and Mcartney goofing around. It is the Twickenham Rehearsal version. A Taste of Honey is another old song I remember the Beatles doing.

Taste of Honey with Paul's famous speech impediment.

Yup when I think of it (being in Canada, and more familiar with American music than most from the UK might be) some of these make total sense now - especially the Chuck Berry Songs.

Magnificent info about the Fabulous Four song writings. "Till there was you" was a memorable piece.

Great discussion... Did they write Maxwell's Silver Hammer? I like it because it's quirky, but once you get it stuck in your head, you can't get it out! I got my first taste of the Beatles from my six older brothers. I think they must have had almost every album between them all.

nice article

Yes, nice

Thanks man, I know some of those songs weren't written by the Beatles like Long Tall Sally. Some songs were good covers and I thought they were theirs. Thanks for the information =D

Yes, Sharla, Maxwell's Silver Hammer is the Beatles' (as well as all the others I didn't list, unless one got by me). Thanks, Gerald, Lucia, Abdel-moniem, Ron, Brenda, Sam, Michael, and all! This old Hippie feels better now!

A lot of these pieces are new to me but I know... 'Till there was you'. Heard so many versions of it but the Beatles version was my fav. Well, I guess it wasn't theirs in the first place. Another interesting read, James. Thank you.

I knew the Beatles sang some songs that weren't theirs, but had no idea there were so many. To me, "You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me" sounds so much like what they would have written. My all time favorite was one of their first ones, though, "Come, Let Me Hold Your Hand." Their focus changed so much over time, but thankfully, their sound didn't change as much.

Ranked #4 in Music & Musicians

Have you ever visited Liverpool, James? A lot of Beatles landmarks to see, if not.

I am greatful for your wisdom in setting the record straight about these songs.

Thanks, Roberta. Being a fan for almost 50 years would seem to have is worth!