The Beatles

The story behind The Beatles’ two German singles

It’s hard to imagine a time when The Beatles didn’t assert complete artistic control over their work. But before Beatlemania truly spread across the world, the Fab Four were still subject to the whims of the global music industry. If it seemed like they could get an edge in somehow, Brian Epstein was willing to pitch just about anything to the band. That included singing in a foreign language.

The Beatles have a special connection with Germany. In their nascent days as teenage performers, all four members had slub residencies in Hamburg – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison with the Beatles and Ringo Starr with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. A brief bit of German was learned in order to get what they needed, like beer and uppers, but none of the members actually became fluent in the language in the short time they were in the country.

By 1964, the band had reached a new peak of popularity, but the German branch of their record company wasn’t convinced that German audiences were going to buy English-language records. Electrola Gesellschaft, the German branch of EMI, proposed an idea to The Beatles: re-record two of their biggest songs in German.

The Beatles were in France when they received the request. They were wary, but German television presenter Camillo Felgen came to the band with translations ready for ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’. They ducked into EMI’s Paris studio, where they also recorded the basic track for ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, and set about re-recording the songs from scratch.

The sessions were completed quickly, and although outtakes can be found of Lennon and McCartney cracking up at trying to phonetically sing the translations, the atmosphere was one of simply completing an assignment. “They were extremely pleased to get it over with. We all were,” engineer Norman Smith recalled in Mark Lewishon’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “I found the studio very odd to work in, the equipment was alien to anything we were used to.”

‘Sie Liebt Dich’ and ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’ wound up being the only German single that the group would record. From that point forward, the band insisted that all their songs be released unmodified.

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