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Song of the Week #152 – “We Can Work It Out”

Written by admin on May 8, 2013 – 8:27 am -

The Beatles We Can Work It Out singleThe Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” is Song of the Week on Classic Pop Icons.

“We Can Work It Out” was released as a double A-side single with “Day Tripper” in December 1965. The following year it was featured on the US compilation, “Yesterday and Today,” and the oddly-titled UK compilation “A Collection of Beatles Oldies”.

Early on in their songwriting career, John Lennon and Paul McCartney established the convention of attributing all their Beatles compositions to Lennon-McCartney, even when only one played a significant role. “We Can Work It Out” was an example of a true collaboration. McCartney wrote the verses and chorus, apparently as a direct message to his girlfriend Jane Asher, and he then worked with John Lennon on the excellent bridge. In an interview for Barry Miles’ 1997 book “Many Years from Now,” McCartney recalled:

“”I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session”.

McCartney’ melodic verses and simple, catchy chorus, already had the makings of a hit, but the musical contrast of Lennon’s bridge, and Harrison’s inspired time-signature suggestion, are great examples of the Beatles working brilliantly as a unit to create magic. This is true of both the composition and performance stages, with Lennon and McCartney’s trademark harmonies working particularly well on the bridge.

The recording is also notable for the use of Lennon’s harmonium (reed organ) which underpins the bass and acoustic guitars very pleasingly on the verses.

The Beatles 1965

The promo film made for “We Can Work It Out” at Twickenham Film Studios in November 1965 is considered one of the first music videos.

“We Can Work It Out” – The Beatles


“We Can Work It Out” was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

Recording date/location

Work on “We Can Work It Out” began on October 20, 1965 at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London. The band recorded the rhythm track in the afternoon and then vocals and harmonium in the evening. The song was completed on October 29 with the overdubbing of vocals by McCartney and another harmonium part by Lennon.

The other side of the single, “Day Tripper,” was recorded on October 16.

The Beatles were also busy recording their sixth album “Rubber Soul” during these weeks. “Rubber Soul” was released in tandem with the “We Can Work It Out” single in December and is rightly regarded by many critics as one of the finest albums of all time.


The following musicians appeared on “We Can Work It Out”:

  • Paul McCartney – lead vocals, bass guitar
  • John Lennon: harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonium
  • George Harrison – acoustic guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine.

Chart performance

“We Can Work It Out” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 8, 1966. This was the band’s sixth consecutive US number one, following “I Feel Fine”, “Eight Days a Week”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Help!”, and “Yesterday”.

The Beatles - We Can Work It Out Hot 100

The single also topped the UK singles chart.

Notable other versions

“We Can Work It Out” – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder’s funky cover of “We Can Work It Out” featured on his 1970 album “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered,” and was also a hit single the following year for the star. Credit goes to Wonder for crafting an original arrangement and for his Grammy-nominated vocal. In 2010, Wonder performed his arrangement of the song for Paul McCartney during a White House gala that celebrated McCartney’s receipt of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize.

“We Can Work It Out” – Crooked Still

The versatility of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership and the strength of the melodies at the heart of their songs has been highlighted time and again by the vast number of covers across a broad range of musical genres. Crooked Still’s 2011 cover of “We Can Work It Out” is a great example, with the Beatles’ classic turned into a toe-tapping, lively bluegrass song. They featured the song on their seven-track EP “Friends of Fall.” (

The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” is available on the 2009 remaster of “Past Masters”.


Past Masters (CD)

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