For The Beatles, it was the last minute. They were down to their final song after spending the whole day writing and recording songs for their debut album, Please, Please Me. John Lennon would have to shout at the top of his lungs, so the band left their rendition of The Top Notes’ “Twist and Shout” for last.
Engineer Norman Smith remembered, “Someone suggested they do ‘Twist and Shout’ with John taking the lead vocal. But by this time all their throats were sore; it was 12 hours since we had started working. John’s, in particular, was almost completely gone so we really had to get it right the first time.”
Smith reflected, “The Beatles on the studio floor and us in the control room. John sucked a couple more Zubes (a brand of throat lozenges), had a bit of a gargle with milk and away we went.”
John Lennon was coughing during the recording sessions since he was congested with a cold at the time. When the band came to “Twist and Shout,” Lennon was on the verge of losing his voice, so he pulled off his shirt to be ready.
Engineer Cris Neal looked back and said, “John was stripped to the waist to do this most amazingly raucous vocal, The next morning Norman Smith and I took a tape around all the studio copying rooms saying to everybody: ‘What the hell do you think of this!'”
“I knew that ‘Twist and Shout’ was a real larynx-tearer and I said, ‘We’re not going to record that until the very end of the day, because if we record it early on, you’re not going to have any voice left, So that was the last thing we did that night. We did two takes, and after that John didn’t have any voice left at all. It was good enough for the record, and it needed that linen-ripping sound,” producer George Martin remembered.
Despite Martin’s recollection, there was only one take that was known to have been recorded. Lennon’s voice had entirely disappeared by the time the second try had begun. The Beatles only ever recorded one take of “Twist and Shout” in the studio, which is the version that can be found on Please, Please Me.
Lennon later remembered, “The last song nearly killed me. My voice wasn’t the same for a long time after; every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best.”