"Little Child" tends to get classified as a dance throwaway, written for the sole purpose of filling out With the Beatles, the second studio album, with an uptempo number. And, I mean, it's TOTALLY a dance throwaway. Do you care? I don't particularly. I like to dance, especially in my apartment, especially to a Beatles song. John, are you sad and lonely? I will absolutely take a chance with you.
Though this was written by John and Paul for Ringo to sing, he ended up doing "I Wanna Be Your Man" on this album instead, and John sang "Little Child." Which I think is good, because John delivers a vocal that's sort of manic and seductive and potentially dangerous all at once. He's fantastic at singing old-fashioned come-on songs like this. I especially like the raggedy double-tracking in this, which is particularly ragged on the "come on come on come on" of the bridge-- it sounds like his vocal lines are toppling all over each other in their excitement. I don't think Paul's singing on this one at all until the fade out. Even on the "so sad and lo-one-ly" bits it's John double-tracking the harmony. By the way, that line is fun, isn't it? Lends the song a neat sarcastic, ironically melodramatic edge that reminds me of "Misery.
The instruments are no slouches-- that's Paul rocking the piano glissando in the intro as well as the walking bass in the instrumental break, two of my favorite bits. Ringo's drumming is a slice of dancey heaven, too, working perfectly in sync with the piano and bass parts in a way that proves Ringo could have drummed in any dance hall had the whole Beatley thing not worked out. But of course, John's mouth harp is the star-- it's one of the only harp solos he ever had with it, and it's AWESOME. From the intro harp chords on, you know you're going to get some kickass early Beatles with that heavy-harp sound, and that you're going to be out of breath after these not-quite-two-minutes around the dance floor.
As messy and flippant as the song sounds, it was recorded over a series of three days as they tried to work out the right sound, though since I've never heard any of those outtakes (this early, they might not exist) I'm unclear on what they were trying to nail exactly. Maybe their hearts just weren't in it-- after all, this was a fairly workmanlike song, one to fill out the album. But even when they're being a little hacky, I love them so.
"Little Child," released in the U.K. side A track 5 of With the Beatles, November 21, 1963; in the U.S. side B track 2 of Meet the Beatles!, January 20, 1964.