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What was the first song The Beatles wrote together?

In the second half of 1962, The Beatles became one of the first British bands to release a debut single they had written themselves from scratch. The song ‘Love Me Do’ was one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s earliest joint songwriting efforts, worked out together by the two of them from a song idea McCartney had had during their 1961 residency in Hamburg.

“I do know he had the song around, in Hamburg, even,” Lennon later confirmed to Beatles friend and biographer Barry Miles. “Way, way before we were songwriters.”

Except that wasn’t quite true. Although they hadn’t yet reached the prolific heights of their professional songwriting careers, Lennon and McCartney were already songwriters way, way before McCartney came up with ‘Love Me Do’. What’s more, they were already a songwriting team.

At some point in 1956 or 1957, aged just 14 years old, Paul McCartney wrote his first song on guitar, entitled ‘I’ve Lost My Little Girl’. The piece was a simple piece of teenage balladry lamenting the loss of a loved one. In fact, it was really a song of mourning, over the sudden death of his mother following cancer surgery.

Soon after, Lennon produced his first songwriting effort, ‘Hello Little Girl’. This would continue to be one of the songs he was most proud of for several years, and it was recorded during The Beatles’ audition for Decca Records on New Year’s Day 1962. This version, which failed to impress the Decca executives, ended up on the official bootleg album Anthology 1 in the 1990s. The track also became a top ten hit in the UK for fellow Merseybeat band The Fourmost in 1963.

But these songs were both solo compositions, without any real collaboration between Lennon and McCartney. The first song that the band’s two primary songwriters wrote together comes from the same period as ‘I’ve Lost My Little Girl’ and ‘Hello Little Girl’, with Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn placing its arrival in early 1958.

McCartney has confirmed that ‘Too Bad about Sorrows’ was the first one that he and Lennon penned. He’s referred to the school exercise book in which the two used to write the lyrics of their early compositions to back up his claim.

The song was thought to be completely lost until, miraculously, it turned up during the making of Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary Get Back. As Jackson was trawling through the hours of video footage from the Get Back studio sessions, he picked out two moments in which first Lennon and then McCartney try out partial renditions of an old song. These moments both end up in Jackson’s final documentary.

In a session on January 8th, 1969, Lennon was fiddling around his guitar before he strummed some off-key chords and sang jokingly over the top:

Too bad about sorrows
Too bad about love
There’ll be no tomorrow
For all of your love

This is the first verse of the very first song he and McCartney wrote together. In a later session on January 21st, the band had a semi-serious go at demoing the song, with McCartney crooning the lyrics before he and Lennon began wailing, and the demo broke down. However, this version includes a second verse, too:

You said you were sleeping
But I can’t forget
The troubles you’re leaving
Don’t be like that

Likely the only person alive who knows how the rest of the song goes is McCartney. It may be that these two snippets from Get Back are the only glimpses we get of how the greatest songwriting partnership in the history of modern music began. Still, we can be thankful that we have hundreds of records showing how it developed from there.

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