Tag Archives: Beatles oldies

TMBP Extra: Everybody had a good year — 1st Blogoversary

champagne

Today — Jan. 2, 2013 —  marks the 44th anniversary of the beginning of what would ultimately be known as the Get Back (or Let it Be) sessions. And for me, it’s exactly one year since I began this labor of love.

So with another year over and a new one just begun,  I wanted to quickly look back at a year of posts and share a little bit of what I’ve discovered through 40 posts that have covered 14 hours of music and conversation thus far.

  • Wait — Just 14 hours in?! That’s it? I’m amazed, too (maybe). When I started this blog, I didn’t think after a year’s worth of posts I’d still be on Jan. 6, the third day of the sessions with another 83 hours of tapes (nearly three-and-half-days’ worth) remaining.  Beyond the fact that life indeed is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, I found my interest in what I was listening to increase with every post. I started out planning on a couple of posts per session day, but I’ve eventually found myself writing multiple posts about a single song or even a conversation.
  • And about those conversations… So far, I’m finding them more interesting than the song rehearsals. Not that it should surprise anyone that tw0-plus hours of “Don’t Let Me Down” (in just these 14 hours) gets a bit old . But the decades-old bootlegs that first exposed me (and I’m sure many of you) to the sessions really only featured the band’s wacky covers and oddball originals (in addition to the more definitive and unique takes of the songs to eventually surface on the record and in the movie).  Getting to hear George tell Paul he’ll play if he wants him to play is great. But being able to get the entirety of the context plus the rest of the conversation is gold (that specific example is subject of my next original post, in fact). The discussion they had about Cream plus the lengthy discussion about the potential live show just fascinated me (and, hopefully, you!).
  • Run from, not for, cover: Maybe it’s just because they’re old news by now. But the covers they “play” (so far there haven’t been too many full run-throughs) aren’t all that compelling. Maybe it’s personal taste, but I just don’t care all that much. Although at times they clearly enjoyed performing those more than their originals when it’s the entire band actually playing together. But for something that has long defined these sessions, I’m eager to just get through them.
  • Traffic bait

    Traffic bait

    I’ve just seen a face.  I don’t pay too much attention to site stats, since the blog is purely for fun, not profit. But in a very inexact study of search terms people use to find the blog, people just love searching for Paul’s beard. And I’m happy to oblige.

I have plenty of more observations, but I’ll leave them to this next year’s posts themselves. I do seem to have a tendency to ramble.

So with this blog entering its second year, I simply want to thank you all so much for reading. This is just so much fun to be able to have the chance to virtually talk about such a specific thing with so many knowledgeable people as enthusiastic as I am.  Can’t wait for another year of Beatle posts/tweets/chatter.

As we enter the first few days of January, I’ll be unearthing links to my posts about those days in 1969 on the tapes, starting below with Jan. 2. After we’re caught up with my posts through Jan. 6,  I’ll pick up where I left off on the timeline (that same Jan. 6) with a look at “Two of  Us” and the iconic George-Paul argument that happened within.

Posts about Jan. 2, 1969:

  • Different Feelings: On the first day of the sessions, the band runs down a few different new numbers, with Paul taking charge
  • Revelation 1: Exploring the shared origins of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Sun King”
  • Tell me why: In their rush to begin recording at Twickenham, nobody seems to have an exit strategy.

 A little disclaimer. I’m in the process of a little bit of cleanup. Anywhere that I change content of any substance, or fix a fact, I’ll make that clear. But I won’t waste anyone’s time denoting when I found  better video clip or replaced a dead link, etc.

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Jan. 3: Let you down, leave you flat

Central to the legend of the Get Back/Let it Be sessions is the looseness of the group as they sloppily play covers and fool around with their own old songs. So many weird things, tucked in between a million takes of “Get Back” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” right?

It’s what appealed to me in listening to the Get Back sessions in the first place, so long ago,  when it was available on only curated compilations on vinyl.  And really bad sounding ones, too.  But go to record shows or Beatlefests and scan the back cover, and things seemed like they’d be cool! All these crazy cover songs, all these oldies of theirs, all these outtakes of songs we know and songs we don’t.

But the reality usually didn’t match the fantasy. [This overall theme will absolutely be covered again in this blog, likely ad nauseum].

And on Jan. 3, they did indeed have some fun with some oldies and originals. It’s not great. And really, I think things like this add to the generic resentment toward these sessions by Beatles fans. The band doesn’t care, so why should we?

Really, not a bad point. But it is interesting so long as you accept it for what it is. It’s no different than those of us who have office jobs spending a few minutes doodling on a notepad between taking care of real work, right? Their office happens to be the studio, and their doodles, songs. And if we’re eager enough to listen to their doodles as big enough fans, well… this is what we get.

So while the band didn’t spend all that much time the first few days genuinely going over their old songs,  in addition to a poke at Every Little Thing and the reintroduction of “One After 909,” the band on Jan. 3 went into the back catalog for “You Can’t Do That” — after a take of  Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike,” a song that seems to have inspired the song off A Hard Day’s Night.

It was pretty much 3 a.m. bar-band quality. The song breaks down about a minute in, during the “everybody’s green” part. John keeps singing, Paul keeps in there, too, and eventually the song sort of comes back to life.  They make it through the instrumental portion of the song before things completely break down for good.

More fun and somewhat historic, I suppose, was when Paul took the mic for a more significant take of “I’m So Tired.” Obviously, this was not meant to be anything beyond a bit of fun. Again, more 3 a.m. bar band. But perhaps even moreso. At least, here we got through the song. And even with an attempt at the backmask!

There’s no context, by the way, for why they went into this take. The tapes I’m listening to (A/B Road) just go from an unidentifiable jam cut straight into “I’m So Tired.”

They stick with the White Album (flip from side 2 to 1 if you’re so inclined) for the next song they roll right into.  As on the record, Paul takes the lead on “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” — kicking things off with the bass line — but it doesn’t take very long for John to take over.

And with Marmalade’s version of the song presently sitting atop the British singles charts (while the White Album was the best-selling LP), why wouldn’t the McCartney/Lennon songwriting team enjoy themselves all the way through the song?

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Jan. 3, 1969: Traveling on that line

When we last left you on the Nagra Tapes timeline, George wondered aloud whether it was practical for the Beatles to perform a concert consisting only of new songs, without throwing the audiences — especially the American one — a bone with an “oldie but goldie.”

They had, in fact, rehearsed such a song a few hours earlier. Well, it may not have been a goldie, but it was an original Beatles oldie dating all the way back to the days of the Quarrymen.

And while they did in fact record “One After 909” in 1963 — in fact, it was 49 years ago today, on March 5, 1963 (the same day they cut “From Me To You”) — that original recording didn’t see an official release until Anthology in 1995.

The band attacked their first take of the song (in presumably five-plus years) with much of the same gusto they gave covers of the same era during the sessions. How do we know they enjoyed playing it? They actually finished the song.

Following that first run-through, which was replete with stumbles but seemed to have John and Paul remembering all the words, the band — especially Paul — collectively marveled at the simplicity of the lyrics.

“I always meant to just change the words a bit,” John said. Paul chimed in that “it’s great,” before giving a spoken-word run-through of first verse, to George’s laughter. Then George, ever eager still to actually have a focus here, asks if the band should rehearse the song more.

A bit of that dialogue appeared in the Let It Be film, and decades later, on a podcast promoting the Let It Be … Naked release on iTunes.

“Or maybe we should do it without practicing. You know, practicing will fuck it up,” he said.

The band in fact, did return to the song — after first running through a take of the presumed John oldie “Wake Up in the Morning/Because You Love Me So.” And like the prior run-through, this take of “One After 909” was closer in spirit and pacing to the Quarrymen version than the 1963 recording.

Also like the prior take, the band continues to poke fun at the lyrics once the song is over. John bemoans, “We always thought it wasn’t finished.”  And George goes further, suggesting “Most people don’t give a shit what the words are
about, as long as it’s popping along.”

It’s rock and roll, and it’s a song, written in 1957, that is indeed seminal rock. It was a Beatles song, not a John song/Paul song/George song as the bandmates had been bringing to the sessions otherwise — and you can hear the harmony (literally and figuratively) while they play.  Really, it’s the perfect song for what they were trying to achieve during these sessions: developing a loose, off-the-cuff presentation of their songs.

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Jan. 3, 1969: No little thing

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.

(I can’t find a copy freely available online, but if you have Let It Be … Naked, it appears about seven minutes in on the bonus disc).

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…

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