"Chains", like "Anna"
before it on Please Please Me
, is a cover song: this time written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It's also another indication of the band's diverse musical tastes. Apart from Big Chuck, Little Richard et al
, the R&B boom had also thrown up a host of great girl bands, with a pile of great songs , which The Beatles were more than happy to dig into. In this case, it was The Cookies (the basis of Ray Charles' 'Raelettes') who'd first recorded it the previous year.
As George Harrison's first lead stint behind an EMI mike, it was an ambitious choice: but he gave it his best shot, in spite of the nerves and the runny nose. Anyway, John and Paul back him up so tightly during the verses that he didn't really have too much chance to stray out of key — and he had had the chance to 'demo' it previously, during a radio session for the BBC.
Everything else links in nicely enough behind him, too, from Lennon's whopping wailing harmonica intro to Ringo's laid-back beats. Guitars and bass are similarly in synch. Yet, somehow, it doesn't quite come off as well for me as the other covers on the album. I think it has more to do with the song than the performance: Goffin and King fully deserve their legendary reputation as composers — but the slightness of the lyric and predictability of the musical shifts here suggests that they rattled off "Chains" just a little too quickly. The Cookies had barely scraped into the Top Forty with it, which just about says it all.