Arthur Alexander

Anna (Go to Him)

Song Review by

"Anna" was one of the great early soul ballads, even if its loping groove was closer to a midtempo than a slow ballad. Like several of Arthur Alexande's songs, it would come to be more famous in its cover version than through its original release. And it was actually a small hit when it first came out in 1962, getting to #68 in the pop charts and #10 in the R&B listings. There's an almost Latin lilt to the verses of "Anna," particularly in the playful yet sad ripples of the piano. The lyrical stance of "Anna" is very much in keeping with Alexander's demeanor as a shy, vulnerable singer. He's lost Anna, and she's leaving him for another. But instead of being bitter, he urges her to give back her ring and go with the other fella, if that's what's going to make her happiest. That's not sung in a vengeful fashion, but in a sincere one, as if he has her well-being at the center of his own interest. And truthfully, how many among of us actually do act so gallantly and unselfishly when faced with similar situations? More of the hurt, perhaps, comes out in the soaring bridge, where Alexander reflects on how he's yearned all his life for a girl like Anna, and now she's falling out of his grasp. When he sings "what am I supposed to do?," it's as if he's asking not only the listeners, but the Lord above. A gently cooing female backup chorus adds soothing responses to his misery in the verses. The song has a grand melody the equal of the best of the early-'60s Brill Building tunes, and an unusual, effective jerky, rolling stop-start drum rhythm. The classic was seized upon by the Beatles, who recorded it on their first album in 1963, with John Lennon on lead vocals. In some respects it stayed close to the original version, Ringo Starr faithfully replicating the unusual drum rhythm and high-hat crunches. Lennon's vocal, however, added a tortured pain not present in Alexander's model, particularly when he wailed in his upper register at the conclusion of the bridges. The Beatles' backup harmony vocals, in addition, were superb, and more effective and haunting counterpoints than the backing vocals used by Alexander on his original single. Too, the strings on Alexander's version are absent from the one by the Beatles, who stick to a spare guitar-bass-drums arrangement. And where Alexander's version gracefully fades, the Beatles come to a gloomy cold close, Lennon devising an urgent phrase ("you can go to him, girl!") not heard in Alexander's. Both versions are excellent, and it's a close call, but the one by the Beatles is ultimately a little more memorable. And it's certainly better known, having been included on albums that have sold millions of copies. Echoes of the kind of melodic, emotional songwriting in "Anna" could be strongly heard, too, in early Lennon-McCartney songs in which Lennon was the dominant composer, particularly "All I've Got to Do."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1982
Greatest Hits 1989 Ace 2:53
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: Rock Classics - The Originals 1991
Various Artists
The Beach Music Anthology 1992
Various Artists
Ripete Records 2:48
The Ultimate Arthur Alexander 1993 Razor & Tie 2:46
Rubber Souled 1993
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:43
History of Dot Records, Vol. 2: Come Go with Me 1996
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:42
Girls! Girls! Girls!: A Yearbook of Dream Dates 2003
Various Artists
Ace 2:52
Amazing Early 60s Box: 88 Hard-to-Find Hits 2013
Various Artists
Complete 60s 2:50
She's My Girl: The Boys Sing About the Girls/He's My Boy: The Girls Sing About the Boys
Various Artists
Fantastic Voyage 2:44
Tom Petty: More Petty's Peculiar Picks
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams 2:50