Just as the band was trying to find an agreeable venue for the concert that would cap the sessions, they likewise were searching for a setlist.
The new songs they were rehearsing were a given — at this early point, it was obvious “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were being worked on to reach that payable point and passed the generally accepted bar of “fast” ones good for a live show.
In a curious admission, George expresses his worry about putting on a TV show of all new songs. Of course, by that point, the critical failure Magical Mystery Tour (the film) was a little over a year old, and it wouldn’t be seen in the United States until 1974, supposedly because of the negative criticism surrounding it.
But they’re still the Beatles! The White Album was in the middle of a nine-week run atop the charts in the U.S., en route to becoming their best-selling record (each sale counted as two). “Hey Jude” was the No. 1 song in the U.S. as recently as six weeks earlier after spending nine atop the Billboard charts, and it was still sitting at No. 15.
Also, they’re the Beatles.
Yet George was still concerned about how new songs would be received.
So of all the songs, George suggests an album track from 1964’s Beatles For Sale.
“We’re not going to do any oldies but goldies for the show?” George asks.
“Dunno, could be” says Paul.
“Cuz I’d like to do it,” George continues, agreeing with someone who says “it would be nice.”
“And also from the selling point of view, in America … maybe it’s all new, or maybe… If they had the album and then saw it, [the concert] a week after. But just to hit… the first initial thing of us singing all completely new … they need something to identify with apart from us. It would be nice to start the show or end the show with a couple of… (then he either cuts himself off of the sound cuts out.)
I’ll tell you which is a good one..
Then George starts playing the beginning to “Every Little Thing.” Paul, the song’s author, joins in with little gusto. We get to see some of this sequence in the 2021 Get Back docuseries.
So of all songs George suggests would be a good kick-start — or capper — to the big concert, it’s not “Hey Jude,” not “Back in the USSR” — which George had been riffing on leading into this suggestion — not his own recent classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or slightly older “Taxman.” He could have suggested “All My Loving,” which opened up the first Ed Sullivan appearance and won over the United States instantly. Or for the idea of going full circle, the first song off their first album in “I Saw Her Standing There.”
But instead it was “Every Little Thing.” A great song! But probably just a tick more familiar as the other new songs they’d debut.
I don’t question the choice from a standpoint of quality. It’s just surprising. And I wonder if it would have done anything to “ease” American audiences.
As it happened, the Beatles would, in fact, find an oldie of theirs to play at the concert that ended the sessions, and they dusted it off earlier in the day on Jan. 3. But while it was an old Beatles song, it wasn’t something that would be at all familiar to fans…