The Beatles in German: Only once, reluctantly, and after receiving a good scolding

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the Beatles They hated the idea to make recordings In other language that was not his native one. But If they wanted to succeed in Germany, they had to record their hits in German. Or at least, that’s what they were told. It took a while to convince them, but in the end, they had no choice. On January 29, 1964, the four of Liverpool They crawled into a Paris studio. They registered, Not only his first and only single in the language of the Brothers Grimm. Sie liebt said and Komm gib mir deine hand, They were too the only songs that the entire group recorded outside the United Kingdom.

1964 was the year of The Beatles’ first world tour. That of his debut on stages in Oceania or Asia, or that of his first film – A hard day’s night. Also ft was the year in which the Fab Four recorded their first and only songs in a language other than their native one. would have to be excepted some winks or short phrases that they included in some topics. For example, French in Michelle (Michelle ma belle/ Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble), the Hindu in Across the Universe (Jai guru deva) or Spanish in Kiss Me a lotwhich they perform in a somewhat theatrical way and one would even say that in a mocking tone when they say that ‘cha cha pum’.

There was a belief, now ridiculous, that Singing in the language of the potential market was the key that opened the doors to success. And although, even then, the Beatles were international stars and their level of fame was unprecedented, the German division of EMI – Electrola Gesellschaf – was convinced that The only way for the English quartet to sell albums profusely in the German market was for them to make versions of their hits in German.. At that time, Paul, John, George and Ringo They did not have complete control of their work; They were at the mercy of the whims of the industry. They hated the idea of ​​singing in another language. But it didn’t matter. Others had already decided for them: Brian Epstein and George Martin.

The Beatles in Paris

The Beatles in Paris / Harry Benson

The group was in France when it received the “request.” For 18 days, between January 16 and February 4, 1964, they performed at the Olympia Theater in Paris (with two and up to three concerts per day). Initially, The session had been scheduled for January 27, but the group did not appear. She was resisting. George Martin ended up convincing them. He visited them in his suite at the George V Hotel, where they were staying, and gave them a good dressing down. They had to do their ‘duty’. On January 29, 1964, they entered the Pathé Marconi studios in Paris. It was a busy day.

The Beatles’ level of knowledge of the German language was basic. During their time in Hamburg, they had only learned elementary vocabulary. They had help, of course. The translation Camillo Felgen made it hastily (Luxembourgish singer, DJ and television presenter), who often told the story of how they made him fly urgently to Paris and they gave him less than 24 hours to do their job. No only adapted and transcribed the English lyrics into Germanalso he acted as a ‘coach’ so that the pronunciation was correct.

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The Beatles at the Olympia in Paris in 1964

The Beatles at the Olympia in Paris in 1964 / Lipnitzki

Still, even though they recognized words and phrases, They didn’t understand what they were singing. The first song they made was Komm, gib mir deine handa rather rudimentary adaptation of I want to hold your hand. They completed it later 11 shots. They recorded new vocals on the original track. Sie liebt said (She loves you) was the next one. In this case, the initial two-track recording did not existso they had to rerecord the rhythmic base From the beginning. They did in 13 shots, they later recorded their voices in German. The English and German versions contain some differences. The most prominent is Lennon’s rhythm guitar: in the English edition it plays Gibson J-160Ewhile in the German he uses his Rickenbacker 325 Capri.

The sessions They were completed quickly. And the atmosphere that was breathed was that of ‘fulfilling an order’. “The only thing they wanted was end this once and for all. We all loved it,” remembers engineer Mark Lewisohn in ‘The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions’. “I found a strange atmosphere in the studio, the team was strange for anything we were used to doing.” Even so, he gave them time to record the rhythmic basis of a new song, Can’t buy me love, which ended in four takes. And afternoon, They gave their usual pair of performances at the Olympia.

Never more. After these recordings, The Beatles never made versions of their songs in other languages ​​again.. From that day on, the band insisted: All of his songs would be published in English. They also did not record again outside their country.. Of course, it was proven that the record company, the producer and the manager, they were wrong. The Beatles sold millions of records around the world, including in Germany, without having to change languages.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.