Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

TMBP Extra: Since he fell out of the womb

Over the years, we’ve celebrated the birthdays of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, looking back at the periods straddling the big days in 1968-1969. Today it’s George Harrison’s turn. It may be the 73rd anniversary of George Harrison’s birth today, or it may be the day after the 47th anniversary of his birth. With Liverpool under bombardment during World War II, keeping the records became confused that day in 1943. But February 25 is the day George celebrated, so it’ll be the day we mark, too.

1968, in India. That's actually a cake for Pattie Boyd, whose birthday was a three weeks after George's.

India, 1968. That’s actually a cake for Pattie Boyd, whose birthday was three weeks after George’s.

George’s 26th birthday came just a few weeks after the Beatles wrapped up the Get Back sessions at Twickenham and Savile Row. It capped a remarkable year in his life and career,  one that could fill a book, much less a blog post.

George’s 25th year began in India, less than 10 days after the Beatles arrived to study Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Their retreat lasted nearly two months (for George, who outlasted the rest of the Beatles), transforming the four men, their music and Western culture along the way.

Starting in May and lasting throughout the summer, the Beatles recorded The Beatles. The double White Album, featuring a career-high four compositions, would be released before the winter. In between, George produced Jackie Lomax and saw the release of his solo LP Wonderwall, which was recorded late 1967 and early 1968. (It’s really great, and worth infinite listens).

With Winter 1968 came another transformative overseas trip, this time on the other side of the earth from India, to upstate New York, where George spent an intimate holiday with Bob Dylan and the Band, playing and writing songs. They were not laying the groundwork for the formation of the Traveling Wilburys about 20 years later, but it’s worth the dream.

That brings us to January 1969, and you can read all about it here and in posts to come. It’s worth noting, George brought Billy Preston into the Beatles’ circle, and then later would produce him for Apple.

What happened next? George had his tonsils out a week after the rooftop concert, and was laid up for about another week.

George breaks up with his tonsils, February 1969. Photo appears in his autobiography, I Me Mine.

George breaks up with his tonsils, February 1969. Photo appears in his autobiography, I Me Mine.

He joined the rest of the Beatles on February 22, 1969, to record the first 35 takes of “I Want You,” essentially beginning the Abbey Road sessions, and that about brings things up to his 26th birthday, on February 25, 1969.

Of course, that’s not it. What about the music? Check out this list of Harrisongs composed or at least worked on seriously between his 25th and 26th birthdays (listed alphabetically, with one obvious omission I’ll explain below): “All Things Must Pass,” “Badge” (with Eric Clapton), “Circles” (eventually released in 1992), “Dehradun,” “For You Blue,” “Hear Me Lord,” “I Me Mine,” “I’d Have You Anytime,” “Isn’t it a Pity,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Not Guilty” (left off the White Album, was released in 1979), “Nowhere to Go” (All Things Must Pass LP outtake written with Dylan), “Old Brown Shoe,” “Piggies,” “Savoy Truffle,” “Sour Milk Sea” (written for Jackie Lomax), “Wah-Wah,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Window, Window” (another All Things Must pass outtake). And there’s probably others we don’t know the origins of that would fall in this timeframe too.

Not too shabby. As a bonus, he finally had his first song to appear on a Beatles single — “The Inner Light” was on the flip side of the “Lady Madonna” single, released while they were in India.

Oh, he bought a Moog, too. More about that later in 1969.

George had a really good year, artistically. It was an important one spiritually, too, and he was expanding his professional horizons and stockpiling compositions. In many ways, he shaped the Get Back sessions by walking out and resetting the parameters under which the group would perform live, plus he brought Billy into the fold. His relationship with Dylan, developed when he was in New York, was a critical moment in his career and his own window into how other artists could interact, and reflecting everything that was wrong with the Beatles. While he was still not quite yet afforded the same global respect given to Paul and John, the Beatles’ junior member’s time would come in 1969, thanks in large part to something.

Sorry, I missed the punctuation. That’s thanks in part to “Something.” 

There are lots of dumb ways to spend a birthday in your 20s, but recording a few demos at EMI Studios on Abbey Road isn’t one of them.  February 25, 1969, saw George cut solo acoustic versions of “Old Brown Shoe” (first debuted during the Get Back sessions) and “All Things Must Pass” (from 1968, and rehearsed extensively in January 1969). The final song he worked on that day was “Something”, the seeds of which were planted in 1969, but he hadn’t completed as late as the final days leading to the rooftop concert on January 30, 1969.

You can find takes of all three songs on Anthology 3.

The commercial and critical success of the Abbey Road release of “Something” (finally, his first A-side) — earning high praise, finally, from Lennon and McCartney — plus the LP’s “Here Comes the Sun,” changed how George Harrison, Songwriter, was viewed. The time and efforts he spent between his birthdays in 1968 and 1969 propelled him to that point.

3 Comments

Filed under Extra

Jan. 6: Et cetera

What a day!

Six hours of tapes that inspired 12 posts — and this one makes it a baker’s dozen. Some songs are introduced, others tortuously rehearsed and the proposed live show is discussed at length for the first time.

So before ripping off the desk calendar page and welcoming Jan. 7, 1969, I wanted to tie up some loose ends and look at a few songs and moments that were important enough to mention but not so much to warrant standalone posts.

One After 909” wasn’t the only unlikely John Lennon song resurrected in the first few days of the sessions. “Across the Universe” was recorded 11 months prior — a pre-White Album contemporary with “Lady Madonna,” “The Inner Light” and “Hey Bulldog” — and sat finished but not yet released as of January 1969.

There’s more than enough to say about the song at this point to justify its own post — and it will. Once the song has a more prominent role, in the next day’s session, I’ll do more than offer this brief mention.

While George had introduced other songs,”All Things Must Pass” remained the primary Harrisong to this point the band was rehearsing. Jan. 6 saw just a smattering of takes running about 20 minutes on the tapes, barely memorable. Frankly, the song sounds like a dirge at times thanks in part to John’s unimaginative organ droning.

It’s such a great song, and I keep telling myself — “This is The Beatles doing ‘All Things Must Pass,’ for heaven’s sake” — but I don’t find myself caring, which pretty much puts me on par with the rest of the group. That sentiment was encapsulated in a brief exchange at the end of what would be the day’s final run-through of the song.

Paul: Wanna to do it again, George?

George: Not really.

Simple as that, they moved onto the final properly rehearsed song of the day: “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.”

This was the song’s introduction to the sessions, and with the day nearing an end, it was a brief one, lasting just 15 minutes on the tapes. The song’s pretty well crafted at this early stage, as far as structure and lyrics. It took only a few takes and just a couple of minutes for the band to pick up the chords and string together a few reasonably decent takes.

It’s nice to hear the voices of George and John deliver harmonies, since we’re used to Paul double-tracked on the recorded Abbey Road version.

Eventual Abbey Road medley mate “Carry That Weight” was a Paul suggestion as a vehicle for Ringo, and he wasn’t alone thinking about giving a song to the drummer. It’s just that Paul was the only one who wrote a song that endured.

John offered up about half a minute of the upbeat “Annie,” which sounds just barely sketched out enough not to be an improvisation. There’s not much meat to the bones, but it’s pleasant enough and very easy to hear Ringo singing it.

Not to be left out, George immediately followed with a new song he likewise said was for Ringo. More fleshed out than “Annie” — or “Carry That Weight,” for that matter — “Maureen” was credited to Bob Dylan, according to George.

Maureen and George in India, Februrary 1968

Maureen and George in India, Februrary 1968

It’s folky and laid back, and there’s no reason necessarily to think it’s not a product of the November ’68 Harrison-Dylan sessions in upstate New York, if you accept the premise Dylan was writing songs named for Ringo Starr’s wife in George’s style and less his own. As it would happen, George and Maureen did have a lengthy affair, but Pattie Boyd’s autobiography only pins it to the early 1970s. But who knows what was going on before that — I don’t, and I’m drifting badly off-topic in discussing band members’ infidelity.

What the song does do, like so many other random bits of music that passed through Twickenham, is add another curio to sessions replete with such oddities we’d never hear from again.

The group tackled a few covers, but of course they did. It’s a hallmark of these sessions, and a wildly overrated and overstated hallmark to boot.

One of the memorable covers of the day was an oldie they had mastered in the past and was so strongly associated with their live act. Surprisingly, it’s the only time they performed a take of “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” at the sessions, and it apparently happened to be an instrumental (any singing was off-mic, at least). Clunkier and a little slower than the original, if it was ever to be remotely considered for this live show — and there’s no indication it was to be — they’d probably just rely on memory.

The song served as a jumping point for a few other oldies in succession: “Money,” “Fools Like Me,” “Sure to Fall” and “Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo.” (All included in the above clip.)

Perhaps the covers throughout the duration of the sessions could be described as red herrings along with the one-off originals like “Annie” and “Maureen” — interesting merely because they’re rare Beatles recordings, but not nearly as enlightening as seeing the songs we know develop or listening to the fascinating conversation about the live show and the future of the band.

With that, I’ll close the book on Jan. 6, 1969. See you “tomorrow”!

2 Comments

Filed under Day by day

Jan. 6: Here comes the bird king

Maybe all the Cream talk got the band in the mood to jam.

With the third day of rehearsing during Get Back/Let it Be sessions (for the record, we had heard “Let it Be” thus far, but not “Get Back”) under way, once everyone was settled in — and not to long after after George introduced “Hear Me Lord” on the tapes — the Beatles basically started fooling around, tuning and warming up with everyone position. Presumably: Paul on organ, John on bass, George on guitar and Ringo on drums.

And then they jammed.

Jams — and lengthy ones — weren’t unprecedented for the band, certainly — witness “Helter Skelter” and the legendary 27-minute version and “Revolution” No. 1 Take 20, recorded just a few months earlier, or the much shorter  Take 37 of “Something” from a few months later. And pretty soon, we’ll hear the original lengthy version of “Dig It.”

I like my Beatles in 2- to 3-minute increments, for the most part (“Hey Jude” notwithstanding). But hey, it’s the Beatles. I’ll take a 10-minute improv jam by them over one by mostly anyone else.

While most serious fans know these sessions birthed songs that would later appear on Abbey Road and multiple solo Beatles albums, one song debuted in these sessions that I didn’t previously know would end up as an outtake on, of all things, Paul’s unreleased (but bootlegged) Rupert the Bear film soundtrack.

So let’s give a very special They May Be Parted welcome to “The Palace of the King of Birds.”

Slowly the group joins in, plodding along for more than 10 minutes. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s probably the kind of thing you’d never deliberately put on a playlist to listen to again. Paul and George spend the first few minutes of the song chatting with each other about equipment. Ringo does his thing. John throws in a riff or two. Paul’s active a little at the start and then a bit at the absolute end.

It’s actually not the last we hear of the song these sessions. But I think it’s the most extensive version. And the Beatles didn’t return to it after January 1969.

Nine years later, Paul would record the song with Wings for a planned Rupert the Bear movie that never came to fruition. By then, it was called “Castle of the King of Birds.” What caused the bird king to be forced to change the location his headquarters from the palace to the castle, I don’t know.

The song is a footnote in Beatles history, for sure, but a neat one from the standpoint of where the song would eventually surface.

Straight out of “…King of Birds,” comes another loose rocking jam, initiated by what sounds like John playing “Louie Louie” on the organ (it’s much more deliberate on the tapes before this below clip starts).

The band then dances around a few set pieces before a few more improvisations. “Across the Universe” is briefly attacked — it was still nearly a year from being released on No One’s Gonna Change Our World, and John is clear he isn’t happy with how the song was last recorded a few months earlier — and the band also teases a version of Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” as their own song of the same name thus far remains unrehearsed (and probably unwritten).

Why Don’t We Do it in the Road” presaged much of what would come next. (In style, that is. The song itself sprang from Paul’s one-man jam).

In the first of a few improvisations that would be at home on McCartney or as a RAM outtake, Paul belts out “You Wear Your Women Out.” This I like. Groovy bassline seems to hold things together nicely. It’s a kindred spirit to an “I’m Down” or “Lady Madonna,” even.

The group makes a pitstop with a full run-through of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” which is coming together pretty decently. Paul’s in full yell on this particular take, which ends with him jokingly claiming, “The downtown rhythm and blues influence in ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ can be noted by the Aeolian cadences and the Cadaconic clusters,” in a nice old-school Beatles reference.

He then lets his bass kick off the journey into the next improvised jam, “My Imagination,” with a riff borrowed from Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step” (the same inspiration for “I Feel Fine” among other things) and vocal stylings that occasionally veered into something that could be called Ono-esque.

Hey, that’s not so bad! Not sure about the vocals, but it’s still relatively catchy.

The fun ends (if it ever began with these guys, amirite?) with one more apparently Paul-led jam, “I’m Gonna Pay for His Ride,” thus named for its lyric barked out by McCartney at the end.

The band sounds pretty good, and pretty loose, much like they do while running through covers during the sessions.

While there would be more jamming in these sessions, and “…King of Birds” would eventually nearly make it to release, for the final three songs mentioned here — “My Imagination,” “You Wear Your Women Out” and “I’m Gonna Pay for His Ride” — it would be the last we’d hear of them.

4 Comments

Filed under Day by day

Jan. 3: Et cetera

With Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, the band wrapped the second day of the sessions at Twickenham. This blog is ready to move onto Jan. 6, the next day the band assembled after the weekend, but first, I wanted to tie up a few loose ends and address a few items that didn’t quite merit their own separate posts.

•  After being introduced the day before, the band continued to work on “Two of Us” in a matter that totally didn’t distinguish itself. The song had the familiar architecture and same lyrics as would be eventually released, while the tune was a little bit quicker than we’d hear. Just ordinary runthroughs churned with nothing groundbreaking and no remarkable dialogue or discussion.

•  With the exception of his introduction of a pair of never-to-be-released originals, Ringo was the real quiet Beatle on Jan. 3. Totally invisible except for his drumming, which was characteristically steady.

•  As they famously did throughout the sessions, the band covered “oldies” (by this point, we’re talking some songs that in 1969 were less than a decade old, of course).  George, Paul and John each led the way at different points. And while they seemed happy — or at least not bored — they weren’t necessarily very good.

To me, this is a hallmark of what these sessions were about prior to beginning to listening to the complete tapes, when I all would see/hear were compilation bootlegs of the sessions. “The Beatles cover all these songs!” OK, great, but they’re not particularly listenable. Or at least re-listenable.




Interesting to note just how many of these songs would eventually see release by these guys on solo records (John and Paul, at least).

This environment of the oldies, however, did at least bring to the forefront their oldies, like “One After 909.”

•  Plus they touched upon a number of contemporary  songs, but “touching” is even too strong a term. Often it was just for a few seconds, and often it was mere mockery. And even then, it’s completely disingenuous to call it covering. In some cases, like “I’m a Tiger” by Lulu, Paul sings the chorus while George tunes up  (That song, incidentally, appeared on No One’s Gonna Change Our World, the record that first debuted “Across the Universe.”).

Dylan got his due with “All Along the Watchtower,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Please Mrs. Henry.”


Paul shows his love for Canned Heat at one point in a hilarious exchange with George.

“That Canned Heat number, I love that new one. It’s cornier than the last one, not quite as good. ‘Up the Country‘ is it?”

Paul proceeds to sing the first verse before continuing.

“It’s just got flutes playing. It’s a bit of a fruity thing they do. … Almost no soul.”

“Almost no what?” George asks.

“Soul,” says Paul. “They don’t bend the flutes or anything. But it’s great because they don’t. It’s sort of a … “

Paul offers the flute part in falsetto “doo-doo-doos” and continues..

“The end is great. They do, like, a false end.”

More “doo-doo-doos.”

“They keep going with the flute!”

After some laughs, George does a few-second quote of Canned Heat’s other hit, “On the Road Again,” before the band completely changes course and reintroduces “One After 909”.

As the band departed the session, the last point of discussion caught on tape was George and Mal picking up the discussion they had about equipment earlier in the day, during the “All Things Must Pass” rehearsals. Then with the goodbyes, the day’s tapes are done.

7 Comments

Filed under Day by day