- Published on 1964
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 1 on “Beatles For Sale“
JOHN 1972: “I remember (Beatles music publisher) Dick James coming up to me after we did this one and saying, ‘You’re getting better now– that was a complete story.’ Apparently, before that, he thought my songs wandered off.”
JOHN 1980: “That’s my song. That’s the one where Dick James the publisher said, ‘That’s the first complete song you’ve written that resloves itself,’ you know, with a complete story. It was sort of my version of ‘Silhouettes.’ (sings) ‘Silhouettes, silhouettes, silhouettes…’ I had that image of walking down the street and seeing her silhouetted in the window and not answering the phone, although I never called a girl on the phone in my life. Because phones weren’t part of the English child’s life.”
PAUL circa-1994: “We wrote ‘No Reply’ together but from a strong original idea of his. I think he pretty much had that one, but as usual, if he didn’t have a third verse and the middle-eight, then he’d play it to me pretty much formed. Then we’d shove a bit in the middle or I’d throw in an idea.”
About “No Reply”
The song was written mainly by John Lennon who gave the song to another artist managed by Brian Epstein, Tommy Quickly, in June 1964, but Quickly decided not to use it. The Beatles recorded the track in London soon after returning from their first full tour of the United States. The lyrics typify Lennon’s more introspective and mature songwriting on the Beatles for Sale album.
John Lennon began writing “No Reply” in May 1964 while in Tahiti, where he was on holiday with his Beatles bandmate George Harrison and their respective partners, Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Boyd. Once back in London, Lennon finished writing the song with some assistance from Paul McCartney. On 3 June, after the Beatles had completed the recording for their album A Hard Day’s Night, they taped a demo of the track at EMI Studios. In the description of author John Winn, the performance was lighthearted, with Lennon and McCartney joking as they sang. Ringo Starr had been hospitalised earlier that day and was therefore absent for the recording. Winn writes that the line-up on the demo was most likely Lennon on guitar, McCartney playing drums in place of Starr, and Harrison on bass.
The demo was then passed on to Tommy Quickly, a singer who was signed to NEMS, the agency owned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. By late September, Lennon and McCartney were stuck for new material for the Beatles’ new album, and since Quickly had not issued a recording of the song, the Beatles decided to reclaim “No Reply” and record it themselves. According to the liner notes for Beatles for Sale, the song was a candidate for the band’s next single before it was supplanted by “I Feel Fine“.
“No Reply” is about a young man who is unable to contact his apparently unfaithful girlfriend, although he knows she is home. Lennon had intended to sing the higher harmony part, as this was the original melody. However, his voice had deteriorated due to excessive use, forcing McCartney to sing the part, and relegating Lennon to the lower harmony line.
Meaning of “No Reply”
The song is a reflection on a failed attempt at communication and the emotional pain that can result from it. In the lyrics, the narrator expresses his frustration and sadness over a situation where he tries to reach out to someone, but receives no response. The absence of a reply leaves him feeling abandoned and heartbroken. The song’s narrator wonders why he didn’t receive a response and contemplates the possibility that the person he’s trying to reach has moved on or found someone else.
Overall, “No Reply” is a poignant exploration of unrequited love and the feelings of rejection and loneliness that can accompany it. The song’s emotional depth and relatable themes have made it a memorable and enduring piece of The Beatles’ catalog.
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, acoustic guitar, handclaps
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass guitar, handclaps
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, handclaps
- George Martin – producer, piano
- Norman Smith – engineer