Did Any of The Beatles Play Piano on ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’?

While The Beatles has their set roles in the band, you couldn’t be certain you were hearing, say, George Harrison play a guitar solo even though he was the Fab Four’s lead guitarist. Over the group’s recording run, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney stepped in with the occasional guitar solo.

The instrumental switches didn’t end there. On “She Said She Said,” you get an example of Harrison taking over on bass after McCartney left the studio following a “barney” of sorts. And on “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” you had multiple Beatles on drums after Ringo Starr walked out on the band.

But it can be even trickier to figure out who’s playing piano on Beatles songs. Later on, McCartney would be pounding the keys on tracks such as “Lady Madonna” and “Martha My Dear.” Yet you don’t hear him tackling the piano solo on “Lovely Rita,” recorded the previous year.

George Martin, the Parlophone Records chief who produced The Beatles, took the “Lovely Rita” solo, just as he’d done on Lennon’s “In My Life” in ’65. When the band recorded “You Really Got a Hold on Me” in ’63, Martin had also taken the piano part.

Producer George Martin played piano on The Beatles’ ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’

“The Beatles” pose for a portrait in the studio with their producer George Martin, circa 1964. | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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After featuring two Shirelles covers on their debut album, The Beatles covered more Black American artists on With The Beatles (1963). The list included a version of The Miracles’ ’62 hit “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” which featured Smokey Robinson, the songwriter, on lead vocals.

In the Fab Four version, the “You’ve” got swapped for “You” and Lennon took the lead vocal. If you’ve heard the original, you know The Beatles follow the original quite closely — especially in the beginning piano intro and guitar countermelody.

For those bars (and the rest of the track), George Martin handled piano duties while Harrison took the lead guitar part. Lennon played rhythm while McCartney (bass) and Ringo (drums) handled their usual duties. Behind Lennon, McCartney and Harrison supplied the backing vocals.

While the powerhouse Lennon vocal stands out, don’t sleep on the backing vocals. McCartney might belt out a “Baby!” a bit too strongly at 2:22, but other than he does fine work.

The Beatles would drop the piano part at live performances of ‘You Really Got a Hold of Me’

The Beatles at the piano | Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

With Martin as the band’s piano player on “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” The Beatles needed to rethink live arrangements. Not long after the July ’63 recording session for the track, the Fab Four ran through the number at the BBC.

On that occasion, you hear the piano part removed. Instead of the rhythm guitar doubling the piano line, it plays alone to Harrison’s lead guitar line. Though it works, it doesn’t have the same richness as the studio version.

Had The Beatles continued touring into the late ’60s, the group would have found itself facing a number of challenges in attempting to recreate its studio recordings.

In their final live set on the roof of the Apple building, they had an excellent solution in Billy Preston on keyboards. Early on, George Martin was their go-to man for the tough keyboard parts.