The hour and a half spent listening to the Beatles rehearse “All Things Must Pass” (that includes their chatter before and after playing) on the second day of the Twickenham sessions are interesting (and aggravating) enough to warrant multiple posts. Count this as post No. 1.
Like Let it Be’s opening sequence, there was a bit of symbolism in the film’s portrayal of the “All Things Must Pass” rehearsals.
Don’t remember hearing the song in the movie? Well, they never quite got to the song itself.
About 5 1/2 minutes in — after a performance of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” from a different day — there’s a sequence lasting just under a minute of George getting a load of feedback speaking from his microphone, and the crew working to fix it.
Hilarity ensues after George exclaims, “Fucking hell… shocktric shocks.” He insists “I’ve just got a belt, man” as far as what could possibly be causing the feedback. “I’ve got rubber shoes as well,” he says before Michael Lindsay-Hogg (I believe) chimes in, “And you’re made of wood” to laughter.
Naturally George tries again to touch the mic only to get shocked again.
Paul wraps the scene by looking into the camera and saying, “If this boy dies, you’re going to cop it.” And we’re off to a later take of “Two of Us.”
So here we have the lone moment in the movie of “All Things Must Pass” and it’s simply aborted, merely comic relief.
In the movie, it was truly just a blip between songs. In reality, the technical problems lasted… well, I don’t know how long it lasted. But based on the remainder of that take in the tapes (“All Things Must Pass 3.101, for those keeping score), there was more feedback, more mic maneuvering for more than two minutes, more poking fun at George, then the tapes cut off. We’re back as they begin a subsequent take of the song, immediate issues already resolved.
The scene was edited for the film, as the dialogue didn’t quite happen in the order it was presented.
Knowing now what the song is actually being attempted — and we never do actually get to it in the film (or recorded for the album) — is an awful, awful tease. But that was really just part and parcel of the rehearsals of the song on Jan. 3 (and, I suppose, of how John and Paul treated the song overall, dismissing it at every turn).
George has a really difficult time teaching the band how he wants the song to sound (“Tell us the bits of which you’re most unsure of it,” he asks the band. “Or all of it.”). They sound clumsy and distant.
You hear phones ringing in the background at times. The equipment doesn’t work. The band is distracted — Paul argues about recording equipment with Mal Evans during one of the takes. There’s plenty of this throughout the sessions at Twickenham, I’m sure (I’m just on Day 2). but this is, in the immortal words of Paul years later, a drag, isn’t it?
After hearing a few songs sound close in pretty good shape (“Don’t Let Me Down,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and “One After 909” — that last one is cheating, I know) and other new songs with more polish (“Two of Us” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”) in those first two days, I hoped for more from the initial rehearsals for “All Things Must Pass,” some remote acknowledgement that this song was a keeper and should be thrown in the pile of songs for the performance and album they were working on.
Instead, it’s an aggravating listen, kind of the classic Beatles “with their trousers down” that the sessions were always labeled as. I do know the song gets better, having heard rehearsals from later in the sessions. I just got greedy wanting more early. And it’s made worse with the hindsight that ultimately, the song wouldn’t end up going much further than it already was.
More on the song — and the discussions the band had during rehearsals of it — in the next few posts.