“Just my attempt at writing one of those three-part harmony Smokey Robinson songs," John Lennon once casually said about This Boy, the gorgeous ballad he knocked out in a hotel room with Paul McCartney in September 1963. Of course, you can’t have three-part harmony without a trio of top-notch singers, and over gently strummed electric and acoustic guitars, Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison make miracles happen.
Already, the tune’s got everything going for it - it’s about as perfect as any song can be - and then Lennon steps forward, opens up his throat and lets loose with a gut-wrenching lead vocal that’s raw, volcanic and this-close to being unhinged. It’s right in the range of his shattering, career-high lead singing on Twist And Show. But whereas that tune was a wild sexual celebration, This Boy is an anguished tale of heartbreak and regret, with Lennon distilling a world of hurt in his final two-measure wail of the word “cry”.