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.”
“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.