Few songs managed to stretch across the entire decade-long history of The Beatles. The group evolved at such a rapid pace that there was almost no room for nostalgia or looking back into the past. That was countered during the Get Back sessions, most notably through the inclusion of ‘One After 909’, but once the band began work on Abbey Road, most of these covers and snippets weren’t returned to.
While The Beatles were messing around with ‘Sun King’ and ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’, John Lennon used a break in the action to play a brief rendition of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’, a track that had regularly been included in the band’s repertoire during their earliest years. In fact, ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ was a favourite song to play during their years in Hamburg to show off the diversity of their playing abilities.
“A lot of our tracks may not have been ‘cool’,” Paul McCartney explained in Anthology. “I think if we’d just been cool, we wouldn’t have made it how we did… The fact that we weren’t ashamed of those [cabaret] leanings meant that the band could be a bit more varied. And there was a need for that, because we played cabaret a lot. Songs like ‘Till There Was You’ and ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ would be the late-night cabaret material. They showed that we weren’t just another rock ‘n’ roll group.
“Gene Vincent’s recording of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ is very mellow and high-pitched and I used to do it like that, but the Germans said, ‘Harder, harder’ – they all wanted it a bit more like a march – so we ended up doing a harder version,” Lennon also shared in Anthology.
The band had actually recorded the song at their very first recording sessions, backing up Tony Sheridan in June of 1961. Although they were there to provide instrumental accompaniment to Sheridan, The Beatles were given the opportunity to record without him for two songs – one was the instrumental ‘Cry for a Shadow’, and the other was a cover of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ sung by Lennon.
Almost exactly eight years later, The Beatles found themselves once again recording ‘Ain’t She Sweet’, although this time as a tossed-off studio outtake. When both versions appeared on the Anthology series of albums, with the original 1961 version on Anthology 1 and the 1969 version on Anthology 3, ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ provided a nice bit of symmetry to bookend the band’s entire career.
Check out both versions of ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ down below.