The Beatles' Only German Recordings

The Beatles
Photoshot / Getty Images

Did you know that The Beatles recorded in German? It was common in the 1960s for artists to record for the German market, but the lyrics also needed to be translated to German. Though only two recordings were officially released, it is interesting to see how two of the band's most popular songs sound in another language.

The Beatles Sang in German with Camillo Felgen's Help

On January 29, 1964 in a Paris recording studio, The Beatles recorded two of their hit songs in German.

The instrumental music tracks were the originals used for the English recordings, but the German lyrics had been hurriedly written by a Luxembourger named Camillo Felgen (1920-2005).

Felgen often told the story of how EMI's German producer, Otto Demler, had desperately flown him to Paris and the Hotel George V, where The Beatles were staying. The Beatles, in Paris for a concert tour, had reluctantly agreed to make two German recordings. Felgen, who was then a program director at Radio Luxembourg (now RTL), had less than 24 hours to finalize the German lyrics and coach the Beatles (phonetically) in German.

The recordings they made at the Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris on that winter day in 1964 turned out to be the only songs The Beatles ever recorded in German. It was also the only time they ever recorded songs outside of London.

With Felgen's guidance, the Fab Four managed to sing the German words to “Sie liebt dich” ("She Loves You") and “Komm gib mir deine Hand” (I Want to Hold Your Hand).

How The Beatles Translated into German

To give you a bit of perspective on how the translation went, let's take a look at the actual lyrics as well as Felgen's translation and how that translates back into English.

It's interesting to see how Felgen managed to keep the meaning of the original lyrics as he worked the translation.

It is not a direct translation, as you can see, but a compromise that takes into account the rhythm of the song and the syllables required for each line.

Any student of the German language will appreciate Felgen's work, especially given the amount of time he had to complete it.

The Original First Verse of "I Want to Hold Your Hand

Oh yeah, I'll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I'll say that something
I wanna hold your hand

Komm gib mir deine Hand (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”)

Music: The Beatles
From the CD “Past Masters, Vol. 1”

German Lyrics by Camillo FelgenDirect English Translation by Hyde Flippo
O komm doch, komm zu mir
Du nimmst mir den Verstand
O komm doch, komm zu mir
Komm gib mir deine Hand
O come, come to me
You drive me out of my mind
O come, come to me
Come give me your hand (repeats three times)
  
O du bist so schön
Schön wie ein Diamant
Ich will mir dir gehen
Komm gib mir deine Hand
O you are so pretty
as pretty as a diamond
I want to go with you
Come give me your hand (repeats three times)
  
In deinen Armen bin ich glücklich und froh
Das war noch nie bei einer anderen einmal so
Einmal so, einmal so
In your arms I'm happy and glad
It was never that way with anyone else
never that way, never that way

These three verses repeat a second time. In the second round, the third verse comes before the second.

Sie liebt dich (“She Loves You”)

Music: The Beatles
From the CD “Past Masters, Vol. 1”

German Lyrics by Camillo FelgenDirect English Translation by Hyde Flippo
Sie liebt dichShe loves you (repeats three times)
  
Du glaubst sie liebt nur mich?
Gestern hab' ich sie gesehen.
Sie denkt ja nur an dich,
Und du solltest zu ihr gehen.
You think she only loves me?
Yesterday I saw her.
She only thinks of you,
and you should go to her.
  
Oh, ja sie liebt dich.
Schöner kann es gar nicht sein.
Ja, sie liebt dich,
Und da solltest du dich freu'n.

Oh, yes she loves you.
It can't be any nicer.
Yes, she loves you,
and you should be glad.

  
Du hast ihr weh getan,
Sie wusste nicht warum.
Du warst nicht schuld daran,
Und drehtest dich nicht um.
You have hurt her,
she didn't know why.
It wasn't your fault,
and you didn't turn around.
  
Oh, ja sie liebt dich. . . .Oh, yes she loves you...
  

Sie liebt dich
Denn mit dir allein
kann sie nur glücklich sein.

She loves you (repeats twice)
for with you alone
can she only be happy.
  
Du musst jetzt zu ihr gehen,
Entschuldigst dich bei ihr.
Ja, das wird sie verstehen,
Und dann verzeiht sie dir.
You must go to her now,
apologize to her.
Yes, then she'll understand,
and then she'll forgive you.
  
Sie liebt dich
Denn mit dir allein
kann sie nur glücklich sein.
She loves you (repeats twice)
for with you alone
can she only be happy.

Why Did the Beatles Record in German?

Why did The Beatles, however reluctantly, agree to record in German? Today such an idea seems laughable, but in the 1960s many American and British recording artists, including Connie Francis and Johnny Cash, made German versions of their hits for the European market.

The German division of EMI/Electrola felt that the only way The Beatles could sell records in the German market was if they made German versions of their songs. Of course, that turned out to be wrong, and today the only two German recordings the Beatles ever released are an amusing curiosity.

The Beatles hated the idea of doing foreign-language recordings, and they did not release others after the German single with “Sie liebt dich” on one side and “Komm gib mir deine Hand” on the other. Those two unique German recordings are included on the "Past Masters" album, which was released in 1988. 

Buy The Beatles "Past Masters, Volumes One & Two" at Amazon.com

Two More German Beatles Recordings Exist

Those were not the only songs that The Beatles sang in German, though the following recordings were not officially released until much later.

1961: "My Bonnie"

The German version of "My Bonnie"  ("Mein Herz ist bei dir") was recorded in Hamburg-Harburg, Germany in the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle in June 1961. It was released in October 1961 on the German Polydor label as a 45 rpm single by "Tony Sheridan and the Beat Boys" (The Beatles).

The Beatles had played in Hamburg clubs with Sheridan, and it was he who sang the German intro and the rest of the lyrics.

There were two versions of "My Bonnie" released, one with the German "Mein Herz" intro and another only in English.

The recording was produced by the German Bert Kaempfert, with "The Saints" ("When the Saints Go Marching In") on the B-side. This single is considered the very first commercial record by The Beatles, although The Beatles barely got second billing.

At this time, The Beatles consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Pete Best (drummer). Best was later replaced by Ringo Starr, who had also performed in Hamburg with another group when The Beatles were there.

1969: "Get Back"

In 1969, The Beatles recorded a rough version of "Get Back" ("Geh raus") in German (and a little French) while in London working on songs for the "Let It Be" film. It was never officially released but is included on The Beatles anthology that was released in December 2000.

The pseudo-German of the song sounds pretty good, but it has numerous grammatical and idiomatic errors. It was probably recorded as an inside joke, perhaps in remembrance of The Beatles' days in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1960s when they got their real start as professional performers.

Buy The Beatles Anthology at Amazon.com

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Flippo, Hyde. "The Beatles' Only German Recordings." ThoughtCo, Mar. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-beatles-only-german-recordings-4075314. Flippo, Hyde. (2017, March 30). The Beatles' Only German Recordings. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-beatles-only-german-recordings-4075314 Flippo, Hyde. "The Beatles' Only German Recordings." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-beatles-only-german-recordings-4075314 (accessed November 18, 2017).