John Lennon and Paul McCartney started writing this in McCartney's living room after they skipped school one day, with Paul writing the majority of this song in September of 1962.
Paul McCartney in Observer Music Monthly October 2007 on the early days of his songwriting partnership with John Lennon: "Those early days were really cool, just sussing each other out, and realizing that we were good. You just realize from what he was feeding back. Often it was your song or his song, it didn't always just start from nothing. Someone would always have a little germ of an idea. So I'd start off with [singing] 'She was just 17, she'd never been a beauty queen' and he'd be like, 'Oh no, that's useless' and 'You're right, that's bad, we've got to change that.' Then changing it into a really cool line: 'You know what I mean.' 'Yeah, that works.'"
The Beatles frequently played this at the Cavern Club, where they often played between 1961-1963. In fact, it was because of the crowd reaction to their live shows that George Martin decided to have them simply record their live show in the studio for their first album. That's why he kept Paul's "1, 2, 3, 4" count at the beginning, which was taken from the 9th take and edited on to the first. The title was originally "Seventeen" until it was changed for the album.
The Beatles performed this on their first two Ed Sullivan Show appearances, which took place a week apart in February 1964. Getting on the show was a really big deal because it had a huge audience. About 73 million people watched the first show, which made The Beatles household names.
This wasn't released as a single in England. In the US, it was released as the flip side of "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which was their first hit in the America. The Beatles were famous in England about a year before they caught on in America.
This became the first Beatles song performed on the TV series American Idol when Jordin Sparks won in 2007 and sang it on the finale with runner-up Blake Lewis. The first line of the song - "She was just 17" - was fitting, as that was Sparks' age.
Chuck Berry was a big influence on The Beatles, and the bass line of this song borrows from Berry's track "I'm Talking About You."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
This was the last song John Lennon performed for a paid audience. He played it at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974 when he took the stage at an Elton John concert. Elton released this version as the B-side of "Philadelphia Freedom" the following year. This was the only live duet ever recorded between Elton John and John Lennon, who were good friends.
The pop singer Tiffany covered this song on her 1987 debut album, which was released when she was just 15. Her version of the song, with the gender flipped to "I Saw Him Standing There," was released as a single at the peak of her powers, following two #1 singles, "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Could've Been."
Tiffany's rendition rose to #8 in the UK and #7 in the US. Among female artists, this is the highest chart position for any Beatles cover in either territory.
"The Beatles are so sacred to a lot of people and you're really playing with fire if you go out there and it's not well received," Tiffany told Songfacts. "But I think that we did a great version on it. The mentality was just exposing my age group to The Beatles in a different way. That happened naturally with a lot of my friends later on, but not when you're 14, 15 and 16.
With 'I Think We're Alone Now' and 'I Saw Him Standing There,' we were taking that risk of having kids listen to a song that their parents already knew, and you just don't know how that's going to end up. But, through the production and through the fun videos and I think just the songs themselves, it worked, because the kids could relate to it."
At the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, McCartney went to one of the games at Yankee Stadium and was shown between innings singing along as this played in the stadium. It was McCartney's second visit to Yankee Stadium, and he saw The Yankees win that day, although they eventually lost the World Series.
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman sing this song during a very powerful scene in the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man.
Suggestion credit: Ariel - Rehovot, Israel
The Who, Daniel Johnston, Santo & Johnny, and The Tubes all covered this song.
Suggestion credit: Airk - Skagway, AK
With Dave Grohl playing drums, Paul McCartney played this at the Grammy Awards in 2009.
Jennifur Sun from RamonaRead a book this year written about the guys by a man who helped do all their music for a long time (sound engineer I think). Any how he states that Paul used to casually date Rory Storm's sister (who was a dancer) and this song was kinda about her.
Rotunda from Tulsa, OkIt's great to know that a newer generation of rockers appreciate rock history and it's great stars & influences like The Beatles. I was a pre-teen in 1964 when The Beatles hit big in the U.S. and was taken in by Beatle-mania really bad. There was so much hype by the American DJs and the media, but the songs were so great. Throughout The Beatles' career, I stayed a fan in the Sixties & early Seventies when I was young and I saw their influence spread and other forms of rock developed in the following decades. My how time flies!!! I stayed a rocker thru the decades even tho' I'm now a grandma. I'm not the only "old" rocker who won't give up their "rocking shoes" and I'm not gonna believe in ever stopping my interest in rock music. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane, Starship, etc.) once said that there shouldl never be any old rockers. Well, Grace can go to hell for all I care. Chuck Berry, the father of Rock & Roll is still rocking it out with us and he's in his Eighties. So remember, rock and roll is a state of mind not confined to age! Rock on people.
Zero from Nowhere, NjAnd Mr. Joel also accompanied on vocals, of course.
Zero from Nowhere, NjWhen I saw Paul McCartney in 2011 in Yankee Staduim Billy Joel came out and accompanied on piano when he sang this song. And that IS creepy David from youngstown I never thought about it that way, I wonder how The Who can still sing the line "I hope I die before I get old," with a straight face.
Faith from Brooklyn, NyThis is just lovely. They seem as if they are having a great time and enjoying each other. Too bad it couldn't stay like this. My darling Paul is the cute Beatle for a reason as he's singing he is shaking his whole body in the non-overly sexual Elvis way but classy. This is Paul and John at their best and George and Ringo showing us it was no accident they were in the band.
Joe from New York, NyAs long as I can remember I can hear note for note George Harrison's guitar solo in my head.It was on that Black GRETSCH Roc-Jet guitar that George played contrary to his GRETSCH Country Gentleman guitar which he did NOT own at the time of the recording in 1963.It stays with me with that echo twang sound sort of like a Duane Eddy sound....a thin semi - hollow body sound that I love so much.God Bless George Harrison and Gretsch guitars.......Joe Nania a.k.a. Hollywood Joe www.hollywoodjoe.com
George from Belleville, NjWhat a wild high energy rocker this is.What a way to start off their first album of their career.This song bursts with energy and melody.It sounds exciting but simple compared to their more complex pieces of music they wrote a few years later,but there's a certain charm to those early Beatles tunes.
Cafepuya from Bayamon, Puerto RicoDid you know that in the Lyrics when John & Paul sings "and i held her hand in MINEEEE EEEEEEE" in that "MINEEEEEE" John is the one who does the high vocals!!!!
David from Youngstown, OhDavid from Glendale, who apparently can't spell his own name: the supposed original line isn't in the version that was recorded. Also, it's kind of creepy that a guy nearly 70 years old is still singing about wanting to have sex with a 17-year-old girl. He could easily be the grandfather of a teen-age girl. This is one of the best early Beatles songs. But wouldn't it be nice if Paul sang something else in his vast music catalog in concert every now and then?
Jeff from Austin, TxI've been listening to this song on repeat for the past hour or so and I have a new favorite part...John's little "Whow!!" after the last bridge, just after the solo. It's slightly off mike and I have to think it was a sincere display of enthusiasm. I remember reading that this was John's favorite song Paul had written in the very early days. Just a straight up rocker!
Bobbi from Newington, CtYou have it backwards, Lawrence. Paul sings lead on this, with John on backup.
Adam from Los Angeles, CaWhat a pot-boiler this one is!! great little number.
Lawrence from Erie, PaGary in Newburg, Or. John Lennon sings lead for this song and Paul sings back up and screams. This was the first song I ever heard by the Beatles, I have been a follower ever since. Oh Yeah! Paulo in NY, NY. This song was way before the group turned to drugs and Krishna....
Daevid from Glendale, CaDavid from youngstown------the origianal line was "and she looked like a beauty queen"
Daevid from Glendale, CaActually the count-in from Take 9 was edited on to Take 12, which is the version that was commercially issued on both the album and the single release.
Chloe from St. Louis, Mohey liliana from il, im a 13-year-old fan. thats an understatement- i have an obsession.
Chloe from St. Louis, Mowhat the heck, michael from oxford? i dont think paul could have recorded anything that could be defined as 'racket' if he tried.
John from Cranston, RiThis song just flat out rocks. It defines Beatles rock n roll greatness.
Mark from Dublin, Irelandcheck out cliff richard version on his 1967 album "dont stop me now"
Kayla from Nashville, TnI love this song and im 17 so when he says "she was just 17" i always say hmm im 17!LOL anyways love the song and i love it when paul screams it sounds like they were having a lot of fun
Michael from Oxford, -Evidently those Black Sabbath guys were right when they said people enjoy being scared, then...
Jeff from Austin, TxI think Paul's scream is the best part of this song. It just exemplifies the energy these guys had. Especially when you take into consideration that it was the 9th take. There's a great performance clip of this song on YouTube. It was recorded in Sweden in 1963, which is pretty cool because the crowd was still relatively reserved at that point. When Paul let that scream out, the girls got a bit crazy though. Anyway, this is definitely one of my top 5 Beatles songs.
Eric from Beaverton, OrI don't think "you know what I mean" is supposed to mean statutory rape. I've always interpreted that line, and this song in general, as being from a young male's point of view who is perhaps also 17; this song is about young love. Besides, age of consent is defined differently in different countries, and I believe age of consent is 16 in England.
Michael from OxfordWhat a shame that, in the middle of an otherwise great song, Paul McCartney has to let out a blood-curdling scream; and I wonder: What sort of IDIOT makes a racket like that?
Unless it's meant to capture what is arguably the most terrifying thing in life?
Pougff from Manchester, MsThere are 2 things I have to say. #1 Jordin and Blake didn't sing this very well on American Idol. And #2 Paulo how could this song be about drugs?
Krissy from Boston, MaI love this song. Stop trying to classfid their songs as sexual or grug meaning. There just songs but an phoemnal band.
David from Youngstown, Oh"And you know what I mean." Actually I do. It's called statutory rape in the United States. Great line though.
Mike from Verona, VaEven though this was not the first 45 I ever bought (Johnny Angel by Shelly Fabres was the 1st), I play the living snot out out this song and its flip side "I Want To Hold Your Hand." I didn't have a guitar then and the air guitar had not yet been invented, so I played the broom guitar much to the approval of all my imaginary 5th grade girlfriends.
Chelsea from Sydney, Canadacan't wait till I'm 17, so I can do a little dance and get all done up and fait over Paun McCarteny... The world isn't all bad, the Beatles happened... I used to think it was my dad's music (complete old stoner/hippie) but then I got right into it and now I'm so hooked I wouldnt have it any other way!!
Allen from Bethel, AkCome to think of it, ANYTHING can be made "suggestive" when you add "you know what I mean"! Watch, "I like potatoes...you know what I mean!" or "Snowball fights are fun...you know what I mean!" and finally, "Writing Java code is fun...you know what I mean!"
Keith from San Francisco, CaIn 1964 when Beatlemania overtook America, I was 8 1/2 and this was the first Beatles song I can remember hearing (yeah, I know some were released before, but I was 8, give me a break). I totally got into the The Beatles after that and I remember when they played Candlestick Park in 1966 (I am a San Francisco native) I wanted to go, but the cheapest ticket was $5.50 (I think, can anyone help me out on that?), a LOT of money in 1966, so I decided to save up and see them "next time"...Who knew at the time it would be their last concert
Kurt from Hamilton, NjDon't remember where I heard this, but I heard that way back in their early days Mick Jagger called this the greatest Rock & Roll song ever recorded.
Andy from Florida, FlIf you haven't already, get the DVD of The Beatles in concert at Washington DC in 1964. When you see them actually playing this song to thousands of screaming teens, and their disapproving parents, it's truly a rush. When Paul introduces the song, he instructs the audience to "stamp your feet, clap your hands" while John imitates these motions...Hilarious, and at the same time a sign of those times when kids actually had to be told it was o.k. to loosen up, move around and enjoy a high energy rock song (again, with the disapproving parents sitting closeby!)
Steve from Fenton, MoThis is just a great song. A rock and roll band could have had a very successful career just using the B sides of Beatles singles.
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScIf you notice on one of the Ed Sullivan performances, the miikes are completely off-balance, and you can hardly hear Pauls vocals. You can hear John's vocals clearly though. Btw, the version on the anthology is cool.
Lee from Clearwater, FlThe song is classic. Nothing could be done to make it better. Personally, I think it is the greatest rock and roll song ever written, and performed. I absolutely love Georges guitar bridge in the middle. No one has ever been able to reproduce it flawlessly. Close, yes, but George has his signature on it. This played a very large part in making the Beatles in the beginning. I couldnt believe that they ok ed the idea of putting I want to hold your hand on one side of a record, and I saw her standing there on the other. The record world had never seen that before. The flip side was always crapamundo. They could have doubled their sales if they would have done the norm.
Barry from New York, NcAt the Thanksgiving show at Madison Square Garden in 1974 (preserved on the expanded CD version of Elton John's "Here and There" album) John Lennon introduced this number by saying it was written "by an old estranged fiancee of mine called Paul."
Angelica from La Puente, CaCody, this song was performed at the 2004 Grammys by Pharrell Williams on drums, Sting on bass, Dave Matthews on rythym guitar and Vince Gill on lead guitar.
Kristen from Aurora, IlI am 17 and every year a have a song of the year relating to how old I am so this year I picked this one. I grew up listening to the Beatles and I think they are way better than some of the crap out there now.
Alan from City, MiThis was one of the Beatle's first drug songs. The "her" was really heroin and "standing" referred to the grade of the heroin, i.e. "sitting" was a little better high with "laying down like a dead man" being the best. (P.S. Jus' Kidding!!)
David from Waco, TxThis was really a McCartney song that he wrote when he was very young. I believe that at the concert in New York in 1974, that Lennon introduced it as a song written by "an old flame". Lennon was at the concert to pay a bet he had with Elton John. They had written "Whatever Gets You Throught The Night" together and Elton John said it would be a #1, Lennon said it wouldn't, so Elton said if it is will you sing it on stage with me. I read an interview with Elton John and he said that Lennon came to the show he did the night before they performed together. He said he went back stage to change some outlandish costume and Lennon just stared at him and said "So this is what its' all about now".
Debby from Taichung, TaiwanI got a version of the song by Sting and The Dave Matthew's Band. Perhaps that's the performance at the Grammys, but I'm not sure.
Mia from Elk River, MnPaul did the lead singing...and what a voice..::faints::
Gary from Newberg, OrWho did the lead singing on this song...Lennon or McCartney?
Paulo from New York, NyThis song is by the Beatles; it must be about drugs. ;)
Scott Baddwin from Edmonton, EnglandI Did Karaoke To This Down At The Rivera Maya,Mexico.Everyone Was Cherring For Me, And I Won A Bottle Of Tequila,For My Dad! 2ND PLACE!WOO-HOO!
Cody from New York City, NyDoes anyone know who covered this song live at the Grammy's in 2004? I think it was Pharrell from the Neptunes and Sting, but not sure of the rest.
Dominic from Pittsburgh, PaThe second song entered into the Songfacts database.
Shirley from Ocean, NjSteve, 17 and mean rhyme. I think that was there only intention. You know what I mean!
Tavers from Mesa, AzWho cares, the song is classic and it always will be.
Steve from Willmar, MnThe one line that turned that song from a pop hit ,to one with suggestive lyrics--"she was just 17,you know what I mean!