“No Reply” is a famous song from the Fab Four on their album, “Beatles For Sale”, of course. The Beatles recorded the song shortly after they came back from their first tour of the United States.
Recorded: 30th September, 1964
Studio: EMI Studios, London
Genre: Folk rock
Track Duration: 2:15
Record Label: Parlophone
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocal, acoustic guitar, handclaps
Paul McCartney: harmony vocal, bass guitar, handclaps
George Harrison: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums, handclaps
George Martin: piano
Written mainly by John Lennon but credited to Lennon-McCartney, they gave the song Tommy Quickly whose manager was the one and only Brian Epstein. However, Quickly declined the offer of recording the song so The Beatles reclaimed it for themselves. Lennon was on holiday in Tahiti with George Harrison in May, 1964, when he had the idea for the song. However, Paul McCartney helped him finish it off when they came back to the UK.
The inspiration behind “No Reply” was the 1957 song by The Rays, “Silhouettes”. Lennon’s song involves a young man who is trying to contact his apparently unfaithful girlfriend at home, although he knows she is home, she will not reply.
“That’s my song. Dick James, the publisher, said, ‘That’s the first complete song you’ve written where it resolves itself’. You know, with a complete story. It was my version of Silhouettes: I had that image of walking down the street and seeing her silhouetted in the window and not answering the phone, although I never called a girl on the phone in my life. Because phones weren’t part of the English child’s life.”
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
“We wrote No Reply together but from a strong original idea of his. I think he pretty much had that one, but as usual, if he didn’t have the third verse and the middle eight, then he’d play it to me pretty much formed, then we would shove a bit in the middle or I’d throw in an idea.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
Paul McCartney had to sing the higher harmony part due to a deterioration in Lennon’s voice at the time.
The Beatles recorded a demo of “No Reply” on the 3rd of June, 1964, then presented it to Tommy Quickly. But, as we know, Quickly didn’t want to record the song. This demo tape became lost and largely forgotten about. However, in 1994, they rediscovered the tape and this demo became a song on the 1995 album, “Anthology 1”.
The demo version sees the band sing “I saw you walk in your face” then one of the band laughs. They done this a few times so it’s well worth listening if just for the humour. Just to point out that Ringo Starr doesn’t appear on the demo because he was ill with tonsillitis. The drummer remains a mystery due to the lack of documentation once the tape “disappeared”.
The Fab Four eventually got around to recording the song again on the 30th September, 1964. They recorded takes 2-8 with the last being suitable for the the rhythm track and tweaking.
Take 2 also appears on the “Anthology 1” album. Just like the demo version, we get to hear the band have a little fun. In fact they also change the words on this track too with “You walked hand in hand with another plank in my place” then the band laugh again.