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John Lennon didn’t write a ‘complete’ Beatles song until album four

By 1964 The Beatles had been writing and recording songs together for almost a decade. John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned the beginning of some iconic tracks when they were just teenagers in Liverpool. But their songwriting had improved massively by the time they released Beatles For Sale in ’64. And Lennon pointed at one song in particular as a turning point for him: No Reply.

No Reply is a sultry rock track that told the story of a man besotted with a woman who is simply not interested in him. In 1972 Lennon recalled being approached by the band’s music publisher, Dick James, who praised him for his writing on this track. He said: “I remember Dick James coming up to me after we did this one and saying: ‘You’re getting better now – that was a complete story.'”

Lennon explained how, before that, James “thought his songs wandered off”.

In 1980 Lennon revisited the topic of No Reply by revealing where the inspiration for the song came from. He told journalist David Sheff: “That’s my song. That’s the one where Dick James the publisher said: ‘That’s the first complete song you’ve written that resolves itself.’ … It was sort of my version of [The Rays’] Silhouettes.” Lennon then explained how he envisioned the loss of a relationship as inspiration for the lyrics to No Reply.

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McCartney has also spoken about writing No Reply with Lennon in the early days of the band’s formation. He remembered in 1994: “We wrote No Reply together but from a strong original idea of his.” However, he noted how Lennon brought it to him because he didn’t have an ending to it just yet. He said: “I think he pretty much had that one, but as usual, if he didn’t have a third verse and the middle-eight, then he’d play it to me pretty much formed. Then we’d shove a bit in the middle or I’d throw in an idea.”

No Reply did not chart in the UK or USA but reached number five and six in Germany and Netherlands respectively. The singles’ album, Beatles for Sale, on the other hand, hit number one in the UK Album Charts, as well as the German and Australian charts. It also went on to sell 2 million units at the time, and included such iconic hits as Eight Days a Week and Every Little Thing.

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