The recording sessions for songs recorded by The Beatles were always lively affairs. Unlike the strenuous and laborious pace that most albums are made at today, the records made by the Fab Four were cranked out in quick succession and with a fair amount of back and forth to keep the energy up. Even during the most difficult sessions, like those recorded for Let It Be, jokes and general goofiness were commonplace in between the more serious a studious recordings.
The band members themselves were known for their appreciation of good humour. John Lennon was an ardent reader of the more whimsical nonsense poems of Lewis Carrol, a passion which often bled over into his lyrics for songs like ‘I Am the Walrus’ and ‘Glass Onion’, and his proclivity for wordplay was captured in his books In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works. All of the members had strong comedic foundations with The Goon Show, and their association with acts like Monty Python and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band bled over into their own interactions.
There are endless compilations you can find on YouTube collecting some of the best and strangest jokes thrown around by The Beatles throughout their recording sessions. Whether it was in their earliest recordings or right up to the very end of the band’s existence, off the cuff humour and comedic remarks were just part of The Beatles experience, and it helped keep them friendly even as their business woes and diverging personal lives were driving a wedge between their creative connection.
If someone blew a vocal note, missed a cue, dropped a stick, or goofed up in one way or another, you could count on the take devolving into an improvised comedy routine. As the band became a studio-exclusive outfit, long takes and exhaustion were often countered with made up songs and light banter back and forth. If too many takes of ‘Let It Be’ were wearing the band down, Lennon could be counted on to ask: “Are we supposed to giddle in the solo?”
During the band’s mop-top early days, it wasn’t uncommon for the group to descend into unstoppable laughing fits. Unused takes of ‘No Reply’ find Lennon and Paul McCartney repeating “your face” like a couple of schoolboys finding the most benign observation uproariously funny. The recording of ‘This Boy’ was notorious for the group being unable to link up on the proper lyrics, and a quick pivot between “this boy” and “that boy” created a new amalgam of “thas boy” uncorking the laughter that was barely being contained.
Other times the scenario was just so ridiculous that they couldn’t help but chuckle their way through the song. While visiting Paris on tour and during the impromptu recording of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, the band were convinced to record ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’ in German, much to their own amusement. Upon their return, during the initial recording of ‘I Should Have Known Better’, Lennon’s voice is so shot that every sustained note is an exercise in hilarious futility.
McCartney wasn’t afraid to be bold in his attempts to keep the atmosphere up. Different sessions found McCartney alternately adopting an American accent, putting on a faux-petulant snottiness in response to a bass playing suggestion, and pointing out mistakes made by his bandmates. McCartney later got a bad reputation for taking over sessions in an autocratic fashion, but his cutting remarks and admonishments mainly come off as an extension of his silliness.
While recordings could get tense, for the most part, outtakes reveal that The Beatles were a tremendously goofy enterprise throughout and through. No band that puts out ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’ or counts off a take of a song with “One, two three, Bread!” is taking themselves too seriously, and their recording bits remain a major example of why these rambunctious Liverpudlians were given films and TV specials to star in: their ability to conjure up comedic material was nearly unmatched.
Check out some of the goofier moments caught on tape down below.