092 – I’ll Be Back Nicki Richards

Original version recorded June 1 1964
Ukulele version recorded August 2010

Written by John Lennon
Credited to Lennon/McCartney

Nicki Richards: vocals, synthesizer and drum programming
Hasan Bakr:  kalimba
Ayodele Maakheru: tenor ukulele

Produced and arranged by Nicki Richards for Hydrus Music
Mixed by Nicki Richards for Hydrus Music and Pablo Arraya for Audio Piranha Group, New York, NY


Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. 

Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, trees, clouds, light and shadows. 

But select only things that speak directly to your soul. 

If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.

Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. 

In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

I didn’t write that of course, Jim Jarmusch did. I just stole it from him. It’s mine now Jim. 


So what does Jim Jarmusch’s rant have to do with the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger quote “I’ll Be Back” that The Beatles ripped off 20 years before he said it? 

Well quite a bit actually. Originality is nothing authenticity is everything right?

John in his early years was a big fan of Del Shannon. If you are under the age of 45, you probably won’t know who Del Shannon is so I will tell you.

Born in 1943 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Charles Weedon Westover  was an accomplished ukulele player who was a skilled in the deep arts of country music. Around 1954 he was drafted into the US Army, was sent to West Germany and started a band called “The Cool Flames”.  “The Cool Flames” burnt out quickly, (sorry I couldn’t resist that one) but his desire to create music smoldered within. (err… that’s enough of that)

After leaving The US Army he formed a couple of more bands and finally met Max Crook. Max was a pretty interesting guy. He was a pioneer of electronic music who built his own version of what was to later become the synthesizer. He named this instrument  The Musitron. Max and Charles ended up getting signed to a label in Detroit but they knew that names like Charles Weedon Westover and Max Crook  were not those of which dreams are made. After an evening of discussion mixed with more than a little Jack Daniels they re-named Charles Weedon,  “Del Shannon”.

Using that name they recorded “Little Runaway” which is a pretty cool little tune. The solo has what sounds like a simple one oscillator synth in it which was in fact Max’s Musitron.

The hook of the song is “Run run run runaway…” Hear it more than once and you will be addicted.

John was 20 when “Runaway” was a big hit in England and it cut deep. He loved it. The radio blasted it from every corner-shop and cafe. It was an ear-worm that burrowed deep into his consciousness. There is only one thing to do when a truly great writer hears something that great.


Songwriters are whores. They do this sort of thing all the time. Especially the ones that deny it the loudest.

John’s love for the song was so deep he totally copied the chords to “Runaway” and wrote “I’ll Be Back”.

Unusually for a pop song it oscillates between major and minor keys, appears to have two different bridges and completely lacks a chorus. Not surprisingly “I’ll Be Back” was never a single for The Beatles.

The acoustic guitars are the rhythm section with poor old Ringo barely heard. Neither is Paul’s bass for that matter. The song was recorded by Norman Smith i.e. this was a pre-Geoff Emerick session so the bass is less of an instrument and more of a rumor. 

The lyric, despite being childish is powerful in a schoolyard romance kind of way. 

“If you break my heart I’ll go but I’ll be back again
Because I told you once before goodbye but I came back again”

Ah yes, the complexities and insecurities of love. Leaving so the other person will want you back. 

But they never will want you back. So you’ll have to leave again and again. 

This is not a rational or productive way to conduct a relationship.

But what book says that relationships have to be rational or productive? 

I suspect that this is yet another song about his mother Julia.

I can’t have you so you can’t have me. If I pull away you will want me more then I will come back and you and have more power.

He obviously loves her more than she loves him – that’s why he keeps "coming back". Its like an invisible rope that ties him to her and there is no escape. 

Run run run runaway…

When a very good friend of mine first heard The Ukulele Version of “I’ll Be Back” he said. 
“I didn’t know that Lennon could write like Stevie Wonder.” 
He couldn’t of course. Nicki Richards is both a master and mistress of harmony and rhythm and is also expert at hearing what can not be heard by the untrained ear. She has taken the song to Africa and back with Hasan Bakr stroking and Ayodele Maakheru plucking the kalimba and tenor ukulele respectively. 

It all sounds like an opium dream. The pain and pleasure of the push and pull of love all merge into one bittersweet howl of agony and delight. Not here not there just floating. Not one place or the other. The song drifts from Africa to Europe to Arabia to America, never settling for long, never home for long, always searching.

Run run run runaway…


Originally a Navy Brat, Nicki Richards was always the new straight-A "Cosby Kid" coming into every new school. "It was tough", she says. "Every two years or so I’d walk into a new environment having been exposed to so many different kinds of music, thanks to my parents and to the world. The tough part was trying to fit in with kids who, while very kind and cool, only wanted me to listen to their Who records…. Needless to say most of the time I was not understood, nor was my love for, say, the Isley Brothers or John Coltrane. I quietly developed great respect for the origins of things." 

She knew the clear-red-acetate Japanese import of "A Hard Day’s Night" she permanently borrowed (and scratched from playing constantly) from her father would come in handy as a link between her many worlds one day; she just didn’t know how…. She transitioned from music college to an education in the New York City music scene, where she was embraced and mentored by an amazing cast of world class musicians who inspired her to hone her skills as a performer and artist.

These days, when she’s not touring as a vocalist for the likes of Madonna and Whitney Houston, Nicki is exploring her passion for bass guitar, falling in love with the sound of the kalimba and producing albums on her own. Nicki is proud of her nerdy beginnings and is quick to encourage others to learn more about different styles of music, to be curious about what has influenced the music they listen to, where it comes from and, most of all, to respect excellence in all genres of music.

"For this project, I thought I’d bring a little Africa to the Beatles, just because…. And so what if I’m a Huxtable."

Nicki Richards has recorded and performed over the years with Madonna, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz, Anastacia, Bette Midler, Maxi Priest, the Rev. Al Green, and that’s just scratching the surface…. 

She’s had two of her own albums out ("Naked to the World" and "Nicki") which she wrote and produced. She was a Grand Prize Winner on Star Search. She performs on the children’s television show "Between The Lions" on PBS. 

She currently lives in New York and continues to relentlessly sing, write, produce, arrange, play and perform music.



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