When I first heard this song on the Rubber Soul album, I thought so: Michele had interviewed the Beatles on September 7, 1964 when they performed at Maple Leaf Gardens for the first time. (And, knowing how the creative process works, the seed of an idea for the song was planted that day.) This song was finally recorded on November 3, 1965, so the timing is correct. But I could be mistaken.
The initial recording took place between 2.30 and 7pm on 3 November 1965. From 7pm until 11.30pm The Beatles overdubbed extra guitars and their lead and harmony vocals.
“The instrumental music of “Michelle” originated separately from the lyrical concept. According to McCartney:
“Michelle” was a tune that I’d written in Chet Atkins’ finger-picking style. There is a song he did called “Trambone” with a repetitive top line, and he played a bass line while playing a melody. This was an innovation for us; even though classical guitarists had played it, no rock ‘n’ roll guitarists had played it. The first person we knew to use finger-picking style was Chet Atkins … I never learned it. But based on Atkins’ “Trambone”, I wanted to write something with a melody and a bass line in it, so I did. I just had it as an instrumental in C.
“The words and style of “Michelle” have their origins in the popularity of Parisian Left Bank culture during McCartney’s Liverpool days. In his description, “it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing.” McCartney had gone to a party of art students where a student with a goatee and a striped T-shirt was singing a French song. He soon wrote a farcical imitation to entertain his friends that involved French-sounding groaning instead of real words. The song remained a party piece until 1965, when John Lennon suggested he rework it into a proper song for inclusion on Rubber Soul.
“McCartney asked Jan Vaughan, a French teacher and the wife of his old friend Ivan Vaughan, to come up with a French name and a phrase that rhymed with it. McCartney said: “It was because I’d always thought that the song sounded French that I stuck with it. I can’t speak French properly so that’s why I needed help in sorting out the actual words.”
“Vaughan came up with “Michelle, ma belle”, and a few days later McCartney asked for a translation of “these are words that go together well”, rendered incorrectly as: sont les mots qui vont très bien ensemble. When McCartney played the song for Lennon, Lennon suggested the “I love you” bridge. Lennon was inspired by a song he heard the previous evening, Nina Simone’s version of “I Put a Spell on You”, which used the same phrase but with the emphasis on the last word, “I love you“.
“Each version of this song has a different length. The UK mono mix is 2:33 whereas the stereo version extends to 2:40 and the US mono is 2:43. The version available in The Beatles: Rock Band has a running time of 2:50.” (Wikipedia)
Nevertheless, this was one of the Beatles’ songs most covered by others, after “Yesterday”.