One of the obvious delights of surveying the Beatles’ catalogue is coming across unheralded gems, like “Baby It’s You”. Written by Burt Bacharach, Luther Dixon, and Mack David, this cover of the much-covered 1961 Shirelles’ hit shares the same lazy-groove, R&B gait as “Anna (Go to Him)” and, also like that Arthur Alexander tune, showcases the Beatles in precociously assured form. They sound seasoned and not at all burdened by the pressures of a debut album. And coupled with their casual command, they also come off (to no surprise) as naturally joyful performers who recognize that their art can benefit from an influx of good humor.
As the song’s lead singer, John especially radiates this mix of authority and amusement. Over glinting guitars and a sturdy, medium-boil rhythm (both of which are well-proportioned), he issues a vow of devotion that ranges, in tonal quality, from calmly resigned to mocking to battered. It’s a versatile vocal, and John navigates the changes so loosely, so fluidly, almost as if he’s just engaging in regular conversation. The way he lightly massages the word “heart” in the song’s first line, the spring in his voice on the transitional “uh-ohs”, and his aching confession “Don’t want nobody, nobody” are among the highlights.
Elsewhere, John, flanked by the “sha-la-la”-ing Paul and George, sets aside his straight-up, shtick-free manner in favor of showy flourishes and interjections that might seem somewhat audacious coming from the very green Beatles (as opposed to the more established Shirelles who perform the same parts). But the Fab Four bask in these moments and appear to acknowledge their own youth by almost consciously overacting. To memorable effect, John follows the original’s use of repetition on lines like “Many, many, many nights go by” and “They say, they say you never, never, never ever been true”, but he adds more playful emphasis than the Shirelles did. Such confident poses for a mere 22-year-old. However, his smirkingly clipped delivery of “cheat, cheat”, which Paul and George echo, is probably the finest demonstration of the Beatles’ joy of craft on “Baby It’s You”. It’s an infectious spirit that helps to make for an infectious pop treat.