Tag Archives: equipment

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.

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Jan. 3, 1969: Four guys and four amps

Musical equipment, and not necessarily significant advances in songs themselves, characterized much of the Jan. 3 rehearsals, and certainly so during All Things Must Pass, from the shoctric shocks that actually made the film for the song’s only cinematic “appearance” to the more significant discussions about more macro points that occurred between takes — and during them —  as well.

During one particular take — 3.106, if you’re keeping score at home — there’s extended crosstalk that begins as the song is still being played between Paul and Glyn Johns regarding bringing in a mobile eight-track to properly record the Twickenham sessions.

“What about Wally Heider?  You know Wally Heider, ” Glyn says to Paul, and he replies, no.  “Wally Heider is the mobile guy in America. He’s got a studio on Cahuenga. It’s the Beach Boys’ studio. They have a fucking great truck.

[It’s a] big truck, does eight-track mobile. Did the Cream live album and all that. We could get that, I suppose.”

Mind you, Cream had back-to-back records with live portions, and would later have a full-live album that came out post-breakup. So really, it could be referencing any of those.

Paul replies: “Telephone America… get it here next week, that quick.”

When told EMI only had a four-track mobile, Paul quickly snapped back: “No they haven’t. They took a fucking eight-track out to the Beach Boys. They really do [have an eight-track], because I had to use the studio, and they said, ‘We’re moving the eight-track tonight.’  And that was one of the excuses they used. Really.”

Paul continues to George: “If you wanted to to get eight-track stuff to record all this, you wanted to get the greatest equipment, where would we get it? Because apparently it hasn’t been… (recording trails off).

“We lend it to ourselves,” George says. “But EMI should do it. It’s like if Benjamin Britten wants to do an album in Paris, EMI has to fucking get all that shit over to him.”

“And they do it of course,” Paul adds, disgusted.

“Seeing as we subsidize EMI, then get it out of there,” George replies.

After a break in the tape, Paul continues.

“The answer is to get here before the end of this week the best console they possibly have here. Really, the end of the week. And what’s the hangup? Is it the expense? Japan and America, they’re both very together. Germany? Germany’s very together. … See, we should hust have a mixer and everything.

“If it was America, they’d be there with 48 eight-tracks,” George later adds.  “And it’s a live album, they’re the company they get to charge on it , they have to supply it.”

The band returns to All Things Must Pass. But they weren’t done talking.  After a few more takes, the band goes back to discussing essence of the sessions (3.138).

“You know,” George begins, “the idea of doing this thing so it’s just us doing it and there’s no overdubs or you can’t get out of it , is much better, really. Because you know all the time recording you think, it’s all right, we can do that later. So you never get even the most out of that [indecipherable]… really.

John finally chimes in after briefly asking about the song’s lyrics with further ruminations on the live performance with the band just two years and four months removed from their final live show.

People who are doing live shows now, they take so much gear on stage with them like echos, phasing, tapes. And they do it live — they do they’re overdubs. And we’re still thinking of it in terms of the four guys and four amps.

Before returning to playing, George talks of getting a Leslie guitar pedal for the show and then of Magic Alex working on their studio that week before the band ultimately pivots to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

Fascinating are the politics involved with EMI and the issues they apparently had domestically in the UK.

And again, I can’t get over the question of why they even have started the sessions given the questions they still had over recording and getting equipment.

More All Things Must Pass talk in the next post.

Many, many thanks to @TheLilacTime and commenters @trainman74 and anonymous for helping clear up some of the details in the above bit of dialogue, including Wally Heider’s identity, Glyn’s voice and the location of Cahuenga. 

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Jan. 3, 1969: Shoctric shocks

Before I begin, thanks to all the new followers who found me from the spectacular Hey Dullblog and the superlative Kenwood. Glad to have you here!

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.

Feedback

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.

** Check the scene here ** (can’t embed this one)

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.

One of the film’s “touching” moments

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.

From the “Get Back Book” — find it here: http://www.beatlesource.com/bs/mains/audio/GetBack/GetBackBook.pdf

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.

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