This beautiful ballad—surprisingly, a Lennon composition—was released as a single in 1964 and then put on the A Hard Day’s Night album a month later. It’s one of the best early Beatles songs, and the album itself is underrated. Have a look at its tracks:
Side one No. Title Lead vocals Length 1. “A Hard Day’s Night“ Lennon and McCartney 2:34 2. “I Should Have Known Better“ Lennon 2:43 3. “If I Fell“ Lennon and McCartney 2:19 4. “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You“ Harrison 1:56 5. “And I Love Her“ McCartney 2:30 6. “Tell Me Why“ Lennon with McCartney 2:09 7. “Can’t Buy Me Love“ McCartney 2:12
Side two No. Title Lead vocals Length 1. “Any Time at All“ Lennon 2:11 2. “I’ll Cry Instead“ Lennon 1:46 3. “Things We Said Today“ McCartney 2:35 4. “When I Get Home“ Lennon 2:17 5. “You Can’t Do That“ Lennon 2:35 6. “I’ll Be Back“ Lennon with McCartney 2:24
My other favorites on that album are “Tell Me Why,” “Any Time at All,” and the haunting “I’ll Be Back,” which I mistakenly left off my list of songs to be posted (listen to it here; as with “If I Fell,” it has great harmony). We have five more to go.
“If I Fell” is ranked #26 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, and that’s about where it belongs.
This is a rare version recorded in the BBC studios on July 14, 1964.
Some notes from Rolling Stone:
“If I Fell” was Lennon’s first attempt to write a slow, pretty number for a Beatles record. “People forget that John wrote some nice ballads,” McCartney said. “People tend to think of him as an acerbic wit and aggressive and abrasive, but he did have a very warm side to him, really, which he didn’t like to show too much in case he got rejected.”
Lennon said the lyrics — in which he begs a new lover for tenderness after being wounded by the last girl — were “semiautobiographical, but not consciously.” On the surface, they had little to do with his life: He had been with his wife, Cynthia, for years, and their son, Julian, was almost a year old.
And the album version, with wonderful harmony between Lennon and McCartney. I love to sing the harmony part (which is pretty easy) when I’m alone. Note that McCartney’s voice famously breaks on the word “vain”.
Wikipedia gives details about the melody:
The song is notable for its unusual structure, which includes an unrepeated introductory section sung by Lennon, followed by sequential verse sections, each having a slightly expanded form, but with no obvious chorus or bridge section. The demo version (just John on acoustic guitar) from early 1964, does include the introduction, as well as an alternate ending. The remainder of the song features a two-part harmony, sung by Lennon and McCartney together into a single microphone at their suggestion, with Lennon singing the lower harmony while McCartney sings the higher one. It also features intricate chord changes. The key changes from D flat major to D major between the introduction (a series of descending barre chords) and the main song, which uses mainly open chords, including an unusual D ninth.
And a bit more from Rolling Stone:
. . . musically, it was one of Lennon’s cleverest songs to date: The harmonic tricks of its strummy, offbeat opening were miles beyond what other bands were doing at the time, and it was “dripping with chords,” as McCartney said. It also showcased some of the Beatles’ finest singing. Lennon and McCartney shared a single microphone for their Everly Brothers-like close harmonies.
“['If I Fell'] was the precursor to ‘In My Life,’” Lennon pointed out later. “It has the same chord sequences: D and B minor and E minor, those kind of things. It shows that I wrote sentimental love ballads, silly love songs, way back when.”
Lennon was prone to denigrating his early songs (and McCartney’s); there is no way this is a “silly love song.”