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'What Goes On'-demo sold for $13,600


A rare, unreleased demo of The Beatles song “What Goes On” has been sold for $13,600. The demo was auctioned on Ebay and is bought by an anonymous bidder.
This 1963 demo version predates the Beatles recording sung by Ringo Starr and released on the Rubber Soul album in 1965. This earlier version is sung by John Lennon and features different lyrics.

‘What Goes On’ first appeared on the UK edition of ‘Rubber Soul’ in December 1965. It eventually surfaced in the U.S.A. in June 1966 on the ‘Yesterday and Today’ LP. However, the origins of the song go way back to the days before the Beatles. The song was of one of John Lennon's earliest compositions and originally written in the late 1950’s for his pre-Beatles group, The Quarrymen. 





This recording has never been released and the original tape is presumed lost. The demo is on a 1-sided 7" lacquer-coated metal disc bearing a red and white typewritten 'Dick James Music Limited - Demo Disc' label on one side. It was given by George Harrison to his brother Harry, or another member of his family, who sold it among other items at an auction in December 2012. The disc contains the original home demo version recorded by John & Paul in early 1963. 

Lennon sings lead and plays acoustic guitar on this demo, backed by Paul McCartney on harmony.  The recording reveals Lennon's original lyrics to the first verse with the familiar 'What goes on...' hook. The recording also contains a second verse which too has different lyrics.

Audio What Goes On (snippet): 





The Beatles wanted to record What Goes On during a session on 5 March 1963, after finishing From Me To You and Thank You Girl, but they run out of time. Finally the group resurrected the song and re-worked it towards the end of the ‘Rubber Soul’ sessions in 1965. Leaving the main ‘chorus’ of the song intact, Paul, with a little help from Ringo, re-wrote the verses and George added a solo. It was then recorded in one take on November 4th 1965. The song is uniquely credited to Lennon-McCartney-Starkey, although according to Ringo Starr his contribution was “about five words”. Ringo plays the song regularly with his All Starr Band:

Video: What Goes On, Ringo Starr Live:




The auctioned demo recording of 'What Goes On’ is one of the rare tracks by The Beatles which has never been released either officially or unofficially. The sale will end Oct. 1.

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André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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