To begin with, “Mr Moonlight” is a Fab Four cover song on their 1964 album, “Beatles For Sale”. Before signing up to a record label, The Beatles would use this song regularly for their live acts. Takes 1 and 4 are also on their 1995 album “Anthology 1”.
Recorded: 14th August & 18th October, 1964
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Folk rock
Track Duration: 2:38 – also 2:41 (US stereo version)
Record Label: Parlophone
Songwriter: Roy Lee Johnson
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
The earliest known recording of this track is by “Dr Feelgood and The Interns”, but their song title was “Mister Moonlight”. This was actually a B-side to the “Dr Feel-Good” single which eventually gave the British band, “Dr Feelgood”, its name. The original singer was a blues/R&B artist whose real name was Willie Lee Perryman aka Piano Red. He and his band had a minor hit with his record during 1962 in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The Merseybeats recorded “Mr Moonlight” before The Beatles, this was also a B-side to “I Think Of You”. In fact, that record got to number 5 in the UK charts (most labels have the B-side as “Mister Moonlight”). The Hollies also recorded the song before The Beatles and their version is on the January 1964 album, “Stay With The Hollies”.
Although The Beatles were late in recording this song compared to some groups, they did sing it as part of their live repertoire for a while beforehand.
John Lennon sings the song passionately and it’s a very tuneful track. The backing vocals from Paul McCartney and George Harrison also perfectly match the song. However, McCartney’s Hammond organ solo is a bit of a let down. Be that as it may, The Beatles have always been playful with instrumentation which also shows here through the use of Harrison’s African drum.
Perhaps this track is the Fab Four doing a “tongue-in-cheek” number for fun or even just an album filler. Either way, the song is on the band’s 4th album “Beatles For Sale” from 1964.
Before the instruments begin playing, John Lennon screams out the title of the song lasting around 4 seconds. Not surprisingly there was many takes to get that part right. The version on their Anthology 1 album has takes 1 and 4 from the sessions on the 14th August, 1964. That version doesn’t have the cheap sounding cheesy organ solo but a quivering guitar solo from Harrison instead.
The Beatles began recording “Mr Moonlight” on the 14th August, 1964, in Studio Two in the EMI Studios, London, during the 7.00pm-9.00pm session. The Fab Four recorded 4 takes that day.
They re-made the song on the 18th October in the same studio during the 2.30pm-11.30pm sessions. They also recorded 4 takes on that day too (takes 5-8). Take 8 being suitable for further tweaking and releasing on the album, “Beatles For Sale”.