The original working titles of The Beatles’ most famous songs

Every iconic rock band always has to start at ground zero. No matter how larger than life they might seem when they are recording or playing in a stadium, every rock band has the same starting point of roughing it out in a garage and fine-tuning their songs. That means rewriting until you find something good, and The Beatles were woodshedding on most of their iconic songs.

From as far back as the late 1950s, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were cutting their teeth trying their hand at songwriting, always writing ‘another Lennon/McCartney original’ in their schoolbooks as they started on another song. Though both Lennon and McCartney worked independently from each other, it was when they worked as a team that they created magic.

On the band’s first song, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, the original working title was ‘Seventeen’, taken from the line where McCartney namechecks his girlfriend’s age. While the working title was more concise, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ offers a bit more intrigue, making you dig a bit deeper for what McCartney is getting at. From day one, McCartney understood the importance of having just the right song title, as he explained: “If you hook them in with the right title, you’re halfway there. You can say that your song is called ‘I’m Heading Out to Party With You Babe’ and people will nod. But if you have a song called ‘Eight Days a Week’, people will be a little more intrigued”.

When they had the right tune in your head, though, The Beatles were content to use placeholder words and fill in the rest later. While ‘Yesterday’ rolls off the tongue much easier these days, McCartney originally couldn’t find a title, using the placeholder words ‘Scrambled Eggs’ until the sad song of regret fell out of his head. Despite the iconic status of the song, it is a missed opportunity that we never got to hear McCartney’s conceptual song about breakfast foods.

Looking back on some of their biggest songs, however, some of the working titles were equally as intriguing as what they went with. Though ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was lifted from one of Ringo’s famous malapropisms, the working title of ‘Mark 1’ said it all for the song. Seeing how the entire track is about expanding your mind, the title ‘Mark 1’ makes the track feel like the beginning of a new side of consciousness.

For all of the fantastic songs that they made, some of the working titles were subtle in-jokes between the rest of the band. ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ began life as the song ‘Badfinger Boogie’, due to the fact that Lennon had an injured finger when working on the track. Although that working title got folded into the Apple hopefuls Badfinger, songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ were completely different, going under the name ‘Miss Daisy Hawkins’ before the band worked out the lyrics as a group.

While every song comes down to having a good melody, the proper leg work that the Beatles did in crafting these songs is what made them timeless. It might take years of practice to capture a good melody, but when they put the right words to it, the rock world adopted these stories as integral parts of their lives.

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