In the world of The Beatles’ well-dissected catalogue, so-called “unreleased songs” became a source of fascination for the most intense Beatlemaniacs. Although today one of the only notable tracks that has not yet seen the light of day is the experimental recording ‘Carnival of Light’, forged amid a time when The Beatles had an entire archive of material that was just dying to be released.
That’s where the Anthology series comes in. Along with the television programmes that told the band’s story, three albums of outtakes and unreleased tracks were released as well. Most of the material was outtakes of previously released songs, but on Anthology 2, there was a famous (or, more accurately, infamous) unreleased song called ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’.
“I recorded a song for the Help! album that was never released – ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’,” Ringo Starr, the song’s lead singer, explained during the Anthology sessions. “George Martin found it in the vaults of EMI studios.” For a band as enormous as The Beatles, why would a complete recording be kept in hiding for so long? As it turned out, none of the band members ever planned to let the song get released.
The story goes that The Beatles were recording Help! when the issue of Starr’s song came up. Starr hadn’t sung on A Hard Day’s Night, but otherwise always had at least one lead vocal on every album. Starr had just sung a cover of ‘Honey Don’t’ on Beatles for Sale the previous year, so John Lennon and Paul McCartney dusted off one of their originals to see if Starr was the right man for the job. The results were less than inspiring, and Starr decided to go with another cover, ‘Act Naturally’, instead.
Everything about ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’ finds The Beatles at their worst: the haphazard arrangement, the lazy lyric writing, and especially the pitiful guitar solo thrown out by Harrison. Ringo calls out for somebody, anybody to take a solo, and Harrison’s response is easily one of the worst things he ever put to record. It’s no wonder he completely washed his hands of the song during his interviews for the Anthology series.
“We’ve just come across that, and it’s the most weird song,” Harrison claimed. “I’ve no recollection of ever recording it. It’s got stupid words and is the naffest song. No wonder it didn’t make it onto anything.” For historical purposes, ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’ landed on Anthology 2, but the track is purely of interest for only the most devoted and the most curious.
Listen to the discarded final version of ‘If You’ve Got Trouble’ down below.