This week on #askNat we are hearing from Stew Hall in Phoenix, AZ who writes:
Not sure if this one’s been asked yet… What do you know about “A Taste Of Honey?” Was it Paul McCartney’s idea or Brian Epstein’s to record and play it live, since it was recently on the hit parade (’62)? Also, the instrumental versions (namely Herb Alpert) are in cut time 2/2. The Beatles play the intro/outro & verses in 3/4 & 4/4 only on the choruses. I like both versions and was just hoping that you had some more info.
Interesting question Stew. I’ll tell you what I can.
Although I’ve no doubt that Brian was fond of The Beatles version of the song, it was very likely Paul’s idea to add it to their stage act and record it later for their first album. The song was actually a favorite of Paul’s who recalls in the Anthology documentary that they used to get a lot of requests for it and it was one of his big numbers in their Hamburg performances. Despite it’s slow and sentimental mood in comparison with other harder edged and faster paced Beatles performances of the time (e.g. “Long Tall Sally” or “I Saw Her Standing There”), it showed that the Beatles were a versatile band and also skilled at close harmonies.
The earliest known Beatles recording of the song was taped on October 25th, 1962 at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester, U.K. before a live audience for the BBC radio program Here We Go. This was only the third time The Beatles performed for the BBC and the first with their new drummer, Ringo Starr, in the band.
The Beatles version was adapted from American pop singer Lenny Welch’s version of the song which had only been released a month earlier on September 17th, 1962. The song was originally written by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow as an instrumental for the 1960 Broadway version of the play A Taste Of Honey. A couple artists preceded Lenny with instrumental versions (Eddie Cano, Martin Denny). Lenny’s version of the song was the first to have any vocals and the single credits an additional writer by the name of Lee Morris. Although it doesn’t state this in the credit, it stands to reason that Morris must have written the words since early recordings of the instrumental by the others do not credit him.
The timing and arrangement of The Beatles version is not much different than Lenny’s other than his account has a verse that The Beatles version does not include and Lenny sings “a taste much sweeter than wine” while Paul McCartney substitutes “tasting much sweeter than wine.” Otherwise, the two arrangements of the song are very similar. The Beatles version also did not undergo any noticeable change between the time they first performed it in October 1962 and when they recorded it on February 11th, 1963 for their Please Please Me debut LP.
The Beatles also performed the song at their Star Club gigs in Hamburg, Germany over the Christmas/New Years holidays at the end of 1962 as well as on the BBC several times in 1963. Along with their Please Please Me LP in the U.K., it appeared on their first Parlophone English EP Twist And Shout. In the U.S., it first appeared on the Vee-Jay LP Introducing The Beatles and on a Vee-Jay EP called Souvenir Of Their Visit To America. It later appeared on the Capitol LP The Early Beatles in 1965. A live version recorded at Hamburg’s Star Club appears on the 1977 LP Beatles Live At The Star Club in Hamburg Germany, 1962. A BBC recording of the song made on July 10th, 1963 for the Pop Go The Beatles program appears on the 1994 Apple compilation Live At The BBC.
The instrumental Herb Alpert arrangement was not recorded until later for the 1965 LP Whipped Cream & Other Delights. This version was also released as a single. The altered timing and crispness in the brass give it a very lively sound that is unquestionably different than any of its slower predecessors.
That’s about all I have on this one, Stew. I hope that helps. Thanks for writing in and to everyone else for reading. For the sake of comparison, the Lenny Welch and Herb Alpert versions of “A Taste Of Honey” should be easy to find on YouTube and I invite anyone reading to tell us your favorite version of this song or to share anything else that would add to the discussion in the comments section below.
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Don’t forget that Beatles music, literature and influences make great holiday gifts. Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
1) Please Please Me – 2009 CD (or vinyl) remaster of original 1963 stereo LP. Includes finalized mix of “A Taste Of Honey.”
2) Live At The BBC (Remastered) – 2013 2-CD remaster of original 1994 Apple compilation of Bealtes recordings made for the BBC between 1963 and 1965. Includes July 10th, 1963 recording of “A Taste Of Honey” made for BBC program Pop Go The Beatles.
3) Whipped Cream & Other Delights – 2005 CD remaster of original 1965 Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass LP featuring new instrumental arrangement of “A Taste Of Honey.”
4) Since I Fell for You – 1995 remastered CD of original 1963 Lenny Welch LP Since I Fell For You featuring his original 1962 recording of “A Taste Of Honey.”