Monthly Archives: April 2013

Jan. 7: Sing a lullaby

With Paul McCartney seated at the piano at Twickenham on the morning of Jan. 7, 1969, the seeds of the Abbey Road medley are planted. Or, at least, unveiled on tape.

Famously pinched, in part, from a poem that was more than 350 years old, “Golden Slumbers” debuted minutes into the Jan. 7 tapes, another of Paul’s performances solo at the piano.

Lyrically and musically, the song is just about what would end up on Abbey Road.

Once there was a way to travel homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling, don’t you cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling, don’t you cry
And I will sing a lullaby

While the song has its origin in a Thomas Dekker poem from 1603, the recollection of a “way back home” is Paul. Here’s the inspiration, the original verse by Dekker:

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy therefore sleep you.

You are care and care must keep you.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

After repeats of the song, Paul transitions right into “Carry that Weight.” Of course, it sounds like the songs are made for each other, but that could be more than 40 years of built-in bias.

It’s unclear if the link was simply improvised that morning, conjured over breakfast or what. But “Carry That Weight” sure did seem to be a standalone piece when brought to the band the day before.

As the piano part winds down, implying “You Never Give Me Your Money” (which is yet to be written), instead he goes right back into “The Long and Winding Road,” the same song Paul began to play prior to “Golden Slumbers.”

Any other day, it wouldn’t strike a chord, no pun intended (really!). But on this morning, “Golden Slumbers” and “The Long and Winding Road,” separated by five months in the studio and eight on vinyl, are pieces of a puzzle that  I didn’t realize existed.

Of course, book-ending “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight”with “The Long and Winding Road” could just as well be coincidence, too. But this context, deliberate or not, sheds light on what sounds like shared DNA.

Paul’s incomplete lyric to “The Long and Winding Road” — truly debuted as the tapes began to roll on Jan. 7, 1969, just moments earlier — spoke of  this sad, Sisyphean journey.

The Long and Winding road that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It always leads me here, lead me to your door.

Having completed that performance, Paul unveils the song’s echo in “Golden Slumbers.”

HL_DDS_9079800pW60Dl5XJ“Golden Slumbers” shares the yearning as “The Long and Winding Road” but, side-by-side, it sounds further removed with a stronger sense of contemplative acceptance to the singer’s situation.

The time has passed: There “once” was a way to get back homeward. So while  “The Long and Winding Road” (as written to this point, at least)  has  a sense of distant, desperate hope, “Golden Slumbers” delivers acceptance but a promise of a better tomorrow via Dekker’s original lyric (“Smiles awake you when you rise”).

It’s Paul’s “All Things Must Pass.”

Bundle “The Long and Winding Road” and “Golden Slumbers” with “Carry That Weight” — not to mention “Let it Be,” which is absent from this sequence but was first played four days prior —  and in Paul you have a man who seems to readily acknowledge and be at peace with the fate of his band more than a year before they would actually split.

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Jan. 7: Still they lead him back

paul-at-pianoA difficult Jan. 6, 1969, did not result in a collapse of the sessions at Twickenham — which were entering just its fourth day — nor a break in the band. Not yet, at least.

So with the promise of optimism any new day delivers — daylight is good at arriving at the right time, after all — Paul was again the first back at the studio Tuesday, Jan. 7. And as was the norm that developed, he kicked off the day’s tapes solo at the piano.

“The Long and Winding Road” had the most brief of debuts at the first full session, Jan. 3, lasting about 10 seconds prior to Paul launching into “Oh! Darling” during his first morning piano jam.

It’s a poignant beginning to this session, on the heels of the rough day prior. Paul has very much alluded that “The Long and Winding Road” is about the splintering of the group — although the song itself wasn’t really new. Instead it was a few months old, a product to the White Album sessions, and one he said he wrote channeling Ray Charles.

He says as much on the brand-new official Let it Be … Naked site (in an interview that was probably from the record’s original release in 2003, not from 2013, I’d guess), repeating the point about “writing as” Ray Charles, but stopping short of saying “The Long and Winding Road” is about his relationship with the group.

On the heels of saying that people read a lot into “Two of Us” being about him and John when it was actually written for Linda, Paul does leave the door open about what exactly “The Long and Winding Road” was about:

It’s to do with your personal situation at the time. You don’t always realize it.

While the song had been demoed months earlier, the song this day is in nascent form.

He plays for about five minutes, with the skeleton of the piano part in place, but just few lyrics.

The Long and Winding road that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It always leads me here, lead me to your door.

Many times I’ve been alone, and many times I’ve cried. …

And that’s all we hear, beyond a few scatted lyrics to what was the eventually vocal melody.

We hear the song one more time later in the day — it’s a 30-second instrumental, straight out of a short rehearsal of “Oh! Darling” right after Paul moves to the piano in advance of a lengthier session on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” It’s just a time-filler as everyone else tunes up.

Even without the later, tacit acknowledgement, it’s very easy to read his struggles with the rest of the group in what few lyrics he did have written for “The Long and Winding Road.”  And it’s illuminating to know he felt this same sense of desperation already during the White Album sessions. It’s just another reinforcement to the thought that the Get Back/Let it Be sessions were part of the road to the breakup, not necessarily the vehicle for it.

George is confrontational and about 72 hours away from quitting the group. John is drugged, distant and tethered to Yoko. Ringo keeps a great beat but is otherwise not much of an active participant. But still, what they mean to Paul brings him back to Twickenham’s door.

The song ultimately would become a lightning rod, the most flagrant example of Phil Spector’s fingerprints on the final release and in a bit of a legal sense, the song that technically broke up The Beatles.

Listen to “The Long and Winding Road” on its own, and it’s a somber, beautiful song about not much in particular. Apply your own dysfunctional relationship here to what could be another typically McCartneyesque vague lyric.

Listen to it on this the morning after the fractious Jan. 6 sessions,  and at this moment, the fact it’s about the band — and Paul’s feeling of helplessness, which runs counter to the bossy image he’s developed — is inescapable.

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TMBP Extra: Let it Be … Naked on iTunes; what’s next?

In some pretty great, and somewhat unexpected news (to me), Let it Be … Naked has been sprung into the iTunes store. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person thinking about the January 1969 sessions at this moment in history.

Better news: That means the “Fly on the Wall” disc (well, digital music file) and all the random studio chatter and song clips within is also now on iTunes, albeit as part of the iTunes LP experience (ie., you can’t buy it as an individual track).

Yet better news: The iTunes LP, which includes all the songs, plus “Fly on the Wall,” appears to have the Get Back book in its entirety, legitimately available for the first time in the United Sates. Furthermore, videos for”Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” with beautiful remastered footage in the Naked edits, are now on sale, too.

The best news? There’s more to come.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be celebrating Let It Be… Naked in a few ways.  We are launching a series of five special podcasts featuring tracks from the album, original archive sound from the making of Let It Be, and interviews with Paul, George and Ringo reflecting on that period in The Beatles’ career.

The podcasts will be featured on the Let It Be… Naked site, or alternatively catch them on Facebook and Twitter. The complete version should be available for download on the iTunes podcast store shortly. It will be annnounced at thebeatles.com

Renewed attention to Let it Be and the sessions? This can only be a good thing.

But what does it all mean?

It could just be they’re filling in the gaps with their apocryphal material. The Anthology compilations weren’t in the first wave of albums to reach iTunes, and after this, Live at the BBC could be next to go digital.

Maybe they’re just marking 10 years since LIBN. The footage for the videos, for instance, was already remastered long ago for Anthology and perhaps more recently for LIBN.

But a big promotional push for The Beatles “as nature intended”? Maybe, just maybe, that Let it Be DVD/BluRay isn’t too far behind.

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