"I'll Be Back" is a John Lennon composition credited to Lennon/McCartney, and recorded by The Beatles for the soundtrack LP to their film "A Hard Day's Night".
John Lennon supposedly created the song around the chords (not the melody) of Del Shannon's "Runaway" which had been a UK hit in April 1961. Author Bill Harry wrote: "He [Lennon] just reworked the chords of the Shannon number and came up with a completely different song".
With its poignant lyric and flamenco style acoustic guitars, "I'll Be Back" possess a tragic air. Unusually for a pop song it oscillates between major and minor keys, appears to have two different bridges and completely lacks a chorus. The fade-out ending is unexpectedly sudden, seeming to arrive half a verse prematurely.
Producer George Martin preferred to open and close Beatles albums (and sides) using dominant material. He wrote: "Another principle of mine when assembling an album was always to go out on a side strongly, placing the weaker material towards the end but then going out with a bang". With this in mind, "I'll Be Back", with its subdued perspective, could be considered an unexpected choice as the album closer. Author Ian MacDonald pointed out: "Fading away in tonal ambiguity at the end of A Hard Day’s Night, it was a surprisingly downbeat farewell and a token of coming maturity". Music journalist Robert Sandall wrote in Mojo Magazine: "'I'll Be Back' was the early Beatles at their most prophetic. This grasp of how to colour arrangements in darker or more muted tones foreshadowed an inner journey they eventually undertook in three albums' time, on Rubber Soul".
The Beatles recorded "I'll Be Back" in 16 takes on 1 June 1964. The first nine were of the rhythm track, and the last seven were overdubs of the lead and harmony vocals, and a guitar overdub by Paul McCartney.
The Anthology 1 CD includes take two of "I'll Be Back," performed in 6/8 time. The recording broke down when John Lennon fumbled over the words in the bridge, complaining on the take that "it's too hard to sing." The subsequent take, also included on Anthology, was performed in the 4/4 time used in the final take.
* John Lennon – lead vocal, acoustic guitar
* Paul McCartney – backing vocals, acoustic guitar, bass guitar
* George Harrison – backing vocals, acoustic guitar
* Ringo Starr – drums
The Canadian band Peter Randall and the Raindogs performed what critics called "a letter perfect rendition" on their 1994 self-titled debut.
American singer Shawn Colvin performs a live version; played at a slow tempo and featuring harmonies.
Album: A Hard Day's Night
Released: 10 July 1964
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, 1 June 1964
Label: Apple Records
Producer: George Martin