“The Sheik Of Araby” is indeed one of The Beatles’ songs from their failed Decca audition tape. The problem with a song like this is that it may please audiences, but in the studio, it didn’t impress Decca Records that day. Be that as it may, the song still has charm and worthy of its place on The Beatles’ “Anthology 1” album.
Recorded: 1st January, 1962
Studio: Decca Studios, London
Format: Rock and roll
Track Duration: 1:41
Songwriters: Harry B. Smith, Francis Wheeler, Ted Snyder
Producer: Mike Smith
** Obviously, at the time of recording, Ringo Starr was not yet a member of The Beatles.
The Sheik Of Araby
In the late 1950’s and 1960’s many songs were cover versions from previous decades and this vaudeville song dates back to 1922. However, The Beatles spruced the song up to match the rock and roll era at the time. In fact, the inspiration came from a version by Joe Brown and The Bruvvers from 1961.
“In those days a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll songs were actually old tunes from the Forties, Fifties or whenever, which people had rocked up. That was the thing to do if you didn’t have a tune: just rock up an oldie. Joe Brown had recorded a rock ‘n’ roll version of The Sheik Of Araby. He was really popular on the Saturday TV show Six-Five Special and Oh Boy!. I did the Joe Brown records, so I sang Sheik Of Araby.”
Many other artists would cover the song but none more important than the Fab Four. On this song we hear George Harrison on lead vocal, of course. However, listen carefully and you will hear someone say “not half” in comic style making it sound like “aha”. This is probably the humour of John Lennon coming through.
Just to point out that “not ‘arf” was one of the catchphrases which DJ Alan Freeman would use. Moreover, Freeman used the nickname “Fluff” and from 1961 would present Pick of the Pops on BBC Radio. Whether the phrase comes from this source or not is unclear.
Brian Epstein chose the tracks for The Beatles’ Decca audition tape and “The Sheik Of Araby” was one of those songs.