We Can Work It Out
|"We Can Work It Out"|
US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|Released||3 December 1965|
|Recorded||20 and 29 October 1965
EMI Studios, London
|Label||Parlophone (UK), Capitol (US)|
|The Beatles UK singles chronology|
|The Beatles US singles chronology|
"We Can Work It Out" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. It was first issued as a double A-side single with "Day Tripper" in December 1965. The release marked the first time in Britain that both tracks on an artist's single were promoted as joint A-sides. The song was recorded during the sessions for the band's Rubber Soul album.
"We Can Work It Out" is a comparatively rare example of a Lennon–McCartney collaboration from this period in the Beatles' career, in that it recalls the level of collaboration the two songwriters had shared when writing the group's hit singles of 1963. This song, "A Day in the Life", "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and "I've Got a Feeling", are among the notable exceptions.
McCartney wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus, with lyrics that "might have been personal", probably a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher. McCartney then took the song to Lennon:
I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: 'Life is very short. There's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.' Then it was George Harrison's idea to put the middle into 3/4 time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.
With its intimations of mortality, Lennon's contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney's cajoling optimism, a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as "Getting Better" and "I've Got a Feeling". As Lennon told Playboy in 1980:
In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you've got Paul writing, 'We can work it out / We can work it out' – real optimistic, y'know, and me, impatient: 'Life is very short, and there's no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.'
Based on those comments, some critics overemphasised McCartney's optimism, neglecting the toughness in passages written by McCartney, such as "Do I have to keep on talking until I can't go on?". Lennon's middle shifts focus from McCartney's concrete reality to a philosophical perspective in B minor, illustrating this with the waltz-time section suggested by George Harrison that leads back to the verse, possibly meant to suggest tiresome struggle.
Music critic Ian MacDonald said:
[Lennon's] passages are so suited to his Salvation Army harmonium that it's hard to imagine them not being composed on it. The swell-pedal crescendos he adds to the verses are, on the other hand, textural washes added in the studio – the first of their kind on a Beatles record and signposts to the enriched sound-palette of Revolver.
The Beatles recorded "We Can Work It Out" at EMI Studios (later Abbey Road Studios) in London on 20 October 1965, during the sessions for their Rubber Soul album. Along with Lennon's "Day Tripper", the song was earmarked for the non-album single that would accompany the release of the new LP. The band taped a satisfactory basic track in just two takes. With nearly eleven hours dedicated to the song, however, it was by far their longest expenditure of studio time up to that point. A vocal overdubbing session took place on 29 October.
No record exists of the band members' exact contributions to the recording, leading to uncertainty regarding the playing of some of the instruments. Reduced to a single track in the final mix, where it was placed hard left in the stereo image, the group's initial performance consisted of acoustic guitar, bass, tambourine and drums. While musicologist Walter Everett credits these parts to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr, respectively, authors Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin suggest that McCartney, as the song's main composer, was the acoustic guitarist and Lennon instead played bass. Two harmonium parts were overdubbed, using EMI's Mannborg harmonium.
For the first time for one of their singles, the Beatles filmed promotional clips for "We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper". Subsequently known as the "Intertel Promos", these clips were intended as a way to save the band having to appear in person on popular British television shows such as Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops, and also ensured that the Beatles reached their large international audience.
Filming took place at Twickenham Film Studios in south-west London on 23 November 1965, with Joe McGrath as director. The Beatles made a total of ten black-and-white promos that day, filming clips for the new songs as well as for their previous hit singles "I Feel Fine", "Ticket to Ride" and "Help!"[nb 1] Three of the films were mimed performances of "We Can Work It Out", in all of which Lennon was seated at a harmonium.
The most frequently broadcast of the three was a straightforward performance piece with the group wearing black suits. In the description of Rolling Stone journalist Rob Sheffield: "At first, they're playing it all straight in their suits, until John sets out to make Paul crack up on camera. He makes it impossible for anyone else to keep a straight face – by the end, he's playing the organ with his feet." Another clip shows the group wearing the stage suits from their Shea Stadium performance on 15 August. The third clip opens with a still photograph of Lennon with a sunflower in front of his eye.
In a discussion about which of the two songs should be the A-side of the new single, Lennon had argued for "Day Tripper", differing with the majority view that "We Can Work It Out" was a more commercial song. On 15 November, EMI announced that the A-side would be "We Can Work It Out", only for Lennon to publicly contradict this two days later. As a result, the single was marketed as the first-ever "double A-side". Lennon's championing of "Day Tripper", for which he was the principal writer, was based on his belief that the Beatles' rock sound should be favoured over the softer style of "We Can Work It Out". Airplay and point-of-sale requests soon proved "We Can Work It Out" to be the more popular of the two sides.
The single was released on EMI's Parlophone label in Britain (as Parlophone R 5389) on 3 December 1965, the same day as Rubber Soul. The two releases coincided with speculation in the UK press that the Beatles' superiority in the pop world since 1963 might be coming to an end, given the customary two or three years that most acts could expect to remain at the peak of their popularity. "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out" entered the UK Singles Chart (at the time, the Record Retailer chart) on 15 December, at number 2, before holding the top position for five consecutive weeks. The single also failed to top the national chart published by Melody Maker in its first week – marking the first occasion since December 1963 that a new Beatles single had not immediately entered at number 1. Although the single was an immediate number 1 on the NME's chart, the Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers both published articles highlighting the apparent decline. The record was the Beatles' tenth consecutive chart-topping single in the UK and the band's fastest-selling single there since "Can't Buy Me Love", their previous McCartney-led A-side. As of 2012, it had sold 1.39 million copies in the UK, making it the group's fifth million-seller in that country.
In the United States, where the single was issued by Capitol Records on 6 December (as Capitol 5555), both songs entered the Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending 18 December. On 8 January 1966, "We Can Work It Out" hit number 1 on the chart, while "Day Tripper" entered the top ten at number 10. "We Can Work It Out" spent three non-consecutive weeks at number 1, while "Day Tripper" peaked at number 5. The song was the band's eleventh US number 1, accomplished in just under two years since their debut on the Hot 100. It was their sixth consecutive number 1 single on the American charts, a record at the time.[nb 2] The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, for sales of 1 million or over, on 6 January 1966.
The Beatles performed "We Can Work It Out" on their final UK tour, which took place on 3–12 December 1965. In 1991, McCartney played an acoustic version of the song for his MTV Unplugged performance, later released on Unplugged (The Official Bootleg). One of the November 1965 promo films was included in the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1, and two were included in the three-disc versions of the compilation, titled 1+.
|"Exposition/We Can Work It Out"|
|Song by Deep Purple|
|from the album The Book of Taliesyn|
|Songwriter(s)||Beethoven, Ritchie Blackmore, Nick Simper, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Lennon–McCartney|
Deep Purple covered it on their second album The Book of Taliesyn, from 1968. The band drastically reworked it, as they always did with covers. The first three minutes of the song is a fast, progressive instrumental jam incorporating themes from classical music (notably Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet) called "Exposition", which drifts over into the Beatles song.
Such overblown arrangements and attempts at making a rather simple song sound epic was normal for Deep Purple in this period, and they had already followed the same structure on their covers on the debut album (such as The Leaves' "Hey Joe"). Reportedly, the band recorded their version of the song because McCartney had stated that he was impressed with their previous Beatles cover, "Help!", which was featured on Shades of Deep Purple.
|"We Can Work It Out"|
|Single by Stevie Wonder|
|from the album Signed, Sealed & Delivered|
|B-side||"Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer"|
|Stevie Wonder singles chronology|
In 1970, Stevie Wonder covered the song on his album Signed, Sealed & Delivered, and released it as a single in 1971. The single reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Wonder's version earned him his second Grammy Award nomination in 1972, for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
Wonder performed the song for McCartney after the latter was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. In 2010, after McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress, Wonder again performed his arrangement of "We Can Work It Out" at a White House ceremony held in McCartney's honour. Wonder performed it a third time in January 2014, at the 50th anniversary tribute of the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
- In 1966, Petula Clark recorded a version of "We Can Work It Out" for the My Love album.
- In 1969, Dionne Warwick recorded a version on her Soulful album.
- In 1971, Valerie Simpson covered the song on her album Exposed.
- In 1975, Humble Pie interpreted the song in the blues style on their album Street Rats.
- In 1975, Mike Harrison covered the song on his album Rainbow Rider.
- In 1976, The Four Seasons did a cover version of the song for the musical documentary All This and World War II.
- In 1978, Melanie covered the song on her album Phonogenic – Not Just Another Pretty Face.
- In 1981, Chaka Khan covered the song on her album "What Cha' Gonna Do for Me".
- In 1981, Stars on 45 covered it as part of an eight-song Beatles medley in their hit "Stars on 45", which hit #1 that June.
- In 1990, Tesla covered the song on their live album Five Man Acoustical Jam.
- In 1995, PFR released a cover of the song with Phil Keaggy for the various artists tribute CD Come Together: America Salutes The Beatles.
- In 2002, Heather Nova recorded a version for the I Am Sam soundtrack.
- In 2004, Beatallica recorded a mashup of the song and Metallica's "Hit the Lights" called "We Can Hit the Lightz", on their second EP Beatallica.
- In 2006, Plain White T's recorded a cover of the song for the deluxe version of their album Every Second Counts.
- In 2008, Chris de Burgh recorded a cover version of the song on his album Footsteps.
- In 2009, The Slackers recorded a reggae version of the song on their album Lost & Found.
- In 2011, Crooked Still recorded a bluegrass version of the song for their EP Friends of Fall.
- In 2012, Big Time Rush recorded the song for their television film Big Time Movie.
In popular culture
- The song is mentioned in the 1967 film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, starring Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy.
- Denis Leary's character in National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 quotes the lyric "life is very short, and there's no time for fighting or fussing, my friend" during a war of words with William Shatner's character.
- Bad Religion quoted the lyric "there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend" in their song "You" on the No Control album. The same song references McCartney's solo hit "Maybe I'm Amazed".
According to Walter Everett, the line-up of musicians on the Beatles' recording was as follows:
- Paul McCartney – double-tracked lead vocal, bass guitar
- John Lennon – harmony vocal, acoustic guitar, harmonium
- George Harrison – tambourine
- Ringo Starr – drums
In his personnel list for the song, MacDonald notes that some sources attribute the tambourine part to Harrison, yet he considers it more likely that Starr played the instrument. Everett credits Harrison, citing the tambourine's placement in the stereo image with the three other instruments recorded as part of the basic track. Guesdon and Margotin also credit Harrison.
Charts and certifications
Stevie Wonder version
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"The Carnival Is Over" by The Seekers
|UK number one single (The Beatles version)
16 December 1965 (5 weeks)
"Keep On Running" by Spencer Davis Group
"The Sounds of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel
|Billboard Hot 100 number one single (The Beatles version)
8–21 January 1966 (2 weeks)
29 January – 4 February 1966 (1 week)
"My Love" by Petula Clark