Tag Archives: future solo

Jan. 8: An hors d’oeuvre

“All Things Must Pass” should have been a Beatles song, another gripping, iconic anthem dating to the group’s long goodbye.

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By the time the Beatles were rehearsing and recording in January 1969, George Harrison’s emergence into a songwriter that rivaled John Lennon and Paul McCartney was essentially complete, with “All Things Must Pass” part of that transformation. Taste matters, but a fair argument could be made that the song could have been the band’s greatest.

“All Things Must Pass” — which had the potential to emerge during the Get Back sessions, be performed live and later land on the Let It Be LP — thus could have gone a long way to giving George his ‘moment’ prior to the group’s send-off of Abbey Road. It never happened. But on January 8, John and Paul gave George the option of taking his song, creating that moment and enjoying his own spotlight at the live show to come. They never said it, but based on the prior week’s tapes, the two senior members of the band were probably just disinterested in playing the song.

“Do you fancy just doing it on your own on an acoustic?” Paul asked. “That would work. But it’s a bit of a thing for you.” The “thing” in question was effort.

Paul would know about playing alone on stage with an acoustic guitar while the rest of the Beatles waited in the wings.

Would opportunity knock, but for George this time?

John was on board, too, condescendingly positing George could serve “an hors d’oeuvre” to the presumptive hungry crowd.

George didn’t directly knock the idea, but didn’t follow up on the suggestions, instead trying work Paul and John on the chorus’ harmonies. After scuttling Paul’s suggestion to begin the song with George’s instrumental opening straight into the chorus, instead of the first verse — hey, it worked for Don’t Let Me Down a few days earlier — the pair haggled over the bassist’s harmony line, with Paul complaining it moved too much.

The group spent about a half hour on the tapes working on and around “All Things Must Pass” on January 8 — returning to the song after skipping it the day before — and while there was no significant or specific alterations to the song from the previous days’ rehearsals, they capped the day’s work on the song with a legitimate, listenable and, dare I say, enjoyable take of “All Things Must Pass.” It’s a version that should have shown up, at least, on Anthology 3, in addition to George’s one-man demo from a month later.

While the day’s final take is not too dissimilar in overall form than the one ended up on the final recording on George’s solo debut the following year (excepting the orchestration and dozens of additional flourishes, of course), John’s piano part here — he had moved over from organ in the final phases of the day’s takes — added little, usually amounting to pounding out chords. Still, it’s not wholly detrimental, and Paul’s bass line is on point.  Ringo, as usual, hits the spot.

The Beatles’ greatness has been amplified by the what ifs and what could have beens, and the possibility of a “Beatles’ 1969 classic ‘All Things Must Pass’” is a genuine opportunity lost.

It sounds as good as it could at this point in what amounts to a few hours of overall rehearsal and arrangement with half to three-quarters of the band giving a fraction of effort. It’s the Beatles playing a coherent, complete version of “All Things Must Pass,” and that counts for something in a world where such a release never existed, yet we all paid money (several times, in fact, thanks to new formats, remastering, etc.) to buy “Wild Honey Pie” and “Dig It.”

There is a “rest of the story.” But the vast majority of history of “All Things Must Pass” by the Beatles is now mostly told. This pre-lunch performance marked the final time they played the song at Twickenham. They returned to it very briefly near the end of the month at Savile Row with the support of Billy Preston, who released the song a few months before George would in 1970. By January 8, 1969, the rehearsal stage was essentially over, however, and this was really the final fumes of “All Things Must Pass” as a Beatles song.

Notably, the song never appeared in the Let It Be film. “I Me Mine,” revealed earlier on January 8, did, joining “For You Blue” (which was properly introduced to the band a day later) as George’s contribution to the Get Back sessions. Despite all the hours of rehearsals, the song he carried over into January 1969 as a product of his days with Dylan and The Band, would be passed over by his own band. And it was good enough to serve as the title track of what could be argued to be the greatest Beatles solo album.

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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.

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TMBP Extra: All that lies ahead

As I write this, it’s Friday, Jan. 31. About three-and-a-half weeks ago was Jan. 7. Check your own personal calendars, news headlines and the like. It’s not that long ago. That matters to me, and this blog, because this is where the Beatles come in.

Flip (or click) back several calendar pages – 45 in fact – and we’re at January 1969, dominated by the Get Back sessions. Jan. 31 marked its final day, a short day dedicated to nailing for film and for tape usable takes of Paul’s non-rooftop-suitable “Two of Us,” “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.” (The clips appeared in the movie prior to the rooftop show, but were in fact filmed the next day).

What of Jan. 7? That’s where we left off last in the session timeline, at a genuine pivot point.  George suggested the group “have a divorce,” Paul said he’d thought about that, too. The Doldrums. It hung over the band.

So what happened between Jan. 7 and Jan. 31, 1969, to recast the sessions? Well, I’m not going to give it all away at once. What else would I blog about, the recording of Sentimental Journey? (That actually seems like an interesting, star-studded, intercontinental story, but I digress.) Three and a half weeks is such a short period of time, in relative terms, and we know that the group was on the brink Jan. 7. By Jan. 31 so much memorable musical output was in the bank and in the works. Factor in that there’s 10 ½ days without George after his walkout and more than a week without any rehearsals at all, and I’m left grasping at superlatives.

To wit: From Jan. 7-13 and Jan. 21-31, 1969 (18 days, and that includes weekends not spent in the studio):

  • Paul wrote the majority of “The Long and Winding Road,” “Let It Be” and “Get Back” and debuted future solo tracks “Another Day,” “Teddy Boy” and “Back Seat of My Car”
  • George wrote: “I Me Mine,” “Old Brown Shoe” and “Something,” as well as “Wah-Wah” at home during his break from the band.
  • Everything you hear on “Let It Be,” plus “Don’t Let Me Down” was recorded.
  • We saw the birth – and if not the birth, than at least the studio debut – of Abbey Road’s “I Want You,”  “Oh! Darling” and “Octopus’s Garden.”
  • We have the rooftop show, too.
  • The Beatles even found time to meet with Allen Klein for the first time.

And I feel like I’m understating what happened.

So, there’s just a little bit of food for thought before I return to the timeline (soon!). Context is everything, and with January here and now gone, it provided the perfect chance to put into focus how much these guys got done throughout the madness they, for the most part, created themselves.

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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”!

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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.

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Jan. 6: Hear me

It’s the definition of insane: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. God bless George Harrison, but at times during his tenure with the Beatles I think he was insane. (It’s likely I’m an insane blogger, who feels like he’s writing the same post about George over and over again).

To wit:  Every album session, George throws a  number of songs at the wall (the wall also goes by the names of “John” and “Paul”), sees a couple stick for whatever the current record is and reintroduces a couple of the losers along with some new songs again some other time. Repeat until going solo.

Jan. 6 saw a pair of fresh George tunes,  “For You Blue” (which stuck) and “Hear Me Lord” (which did not). Neither was given any significant time. And “Hear Me Lord” wasn’t to be heard again in these sessions or even in  a Beatles context, far as I can tell. Perhaps he finally figured out he was going insane.

Or maybe there was divine intervention.

“Well, I wrote a gospel song over the weekend, lads,” George says in a lull.

“According to St. Who?,” Ringo blithely asks.

“According to the Lord,” George replies. “Hear me Lord, how I corner you,” to laughter.  (At least that last bit sounded like that, it’s almost indecipherable).

A second of silence was followed with Michael Lindsay-Hogg going right into business, suggesting the band discuss the live show soon. George first touches on “High School Confidential,” then  he plays and sings along to “I’ve Got a Feeling” before pivoting right into his new song.

You could hear it in the clip — George is playing background music.  As he played, Paul, Ringo and Michael Lindsay-Hogg discussed “the new Bonzo’s record,” — presumably The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse, which had come out in November, a few weeks earlier.

Soon, the strumming ended and conversation returned to the Cream discussion.

While Paul and Michael continue to chat about some equipment issues, George resumes on his guitar, now debuting “For You Blue,” an eventual survivor on the Let it Be LP. Again, it’s background music.

George cuts himself off to raise a question about Magic Alex‘s latest studio work and attempts at soundproofing the studio after Ringo asks, “Has Alex created his waves yet?” And after a bit of crosstalk about Alex and his “waves,” Paul sings along to George’s early take of “For Your Blue.”

“Those soundproof walls of silence, are ringing in my ears…”

Soon enough, the band — fully ready to play, finally, as John takes to the organ — cuts away, weaving into oldies, improvisations and rehearsing newer songs (topics ripe for subsequent posts).

Nearly an hour and a half  after he first strummed it (on the tapes), George returns to “Hear Me Lord.” Again, it’s primarily a quiet soundtrack to other discussions, among them one in which we finally hear  another George  — Martin —  a figure so absent from the Let it Be tale, here showing up for the first significant time on tape.

Ringo plays a bit of a beat, and John makes a terrible attempt at following along on guitar.

It’s more of the same after extensive rehearsals of “Two of Us” and “Don’t Let Me Down,” among others. Again, it’s just a quick taste before they moved on.

Indifference isn’t strong enough a term for how the song is met. I suppose George could have pressed it a little further as an option.

And that was it for the song. No more rehearsals during the Get Back sessions. If it was brought up during the “Abbey Road” recordings, there’s no record of  it I’ve seen. And we wouldn’t hear it again until we get to the last song on Side 4 of the All Things Must Pass LP, released nearly a year after George first brought it to the Beatles.

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Jan. 3, 1969: Hearing things

There wasn’t a heck of a lot of John on the second day of rehearsals at Twickenham.

Nagra has about 13 minutes of Don’t Let Me Down, 30 minutes of I’ve Got a Feeling (which is half-John, at least),  and he led some covers.

But about halfway through the day otherwise dominated by Paul (Two of Us, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) and George (All Things Must Pass), John pops in to give us a very special minute or so.

“Gimme Some Truth.” A future classic.  Now, still pretty rough. But, certainly recognizable as a tease to what we’d see two years later on Imagine.

The band jumps right in, little preparation for the rehearsal. Indeed, the song dates back to ’68 in India, so there’s at least some familiarity.

Lyrically, it’s certainly not to its final form. Or even if it is, we don’t hear it here. Paul repeatedly makes reference to “son of Gary Cooper” — Richard Nixon, at this point the president-elect — wasn’t yet part of the lyric.

Prior to the brief foray into the song — the lone attempt at it on Jan. 3 — there’s a bit of back and forth as to what to play next. During part of the discussion, Paul (presumably) is playing the bass line to “Money (That’s What I Want).” There’s shuffling of papers as they ask which song to play next.

Paul: If you will all now turn to page 33.

George: “She Came in through the Bathroom Window?”

Paul: “All Things Must Pass?”

George: “Bang Bang, Maxwell’s Hammer?”

John: Is this a Harrisong? … I’ve got one, “Gimme Some Truth,” or something.”

It was, in fact, “Gimme Some Truth.” Not “Something.”

As we hear on vocals, curiously enough, it’s Paul. John sings along harmony and then takes over the lead when singing what would ultimately be the song’s first verse as the rehearsal concludes (the clip above pretty much is all we’d get). Why does Paul lead? Could just be Paul being Paul, taking over and singing while John gets himself acclimated or is otherwise occupied. Interesting, regardless.

However it happened, it’s the last we’d hear of the song for the day (we’d hear it again in a few days).

As quickly as it was introduced, they returned to “All Things Must Pass.”  It was John’s last notable contribution the rest of the day.

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Jan. 3, 1969: The Band plays on

The Band

The Beatles had been Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys  and others. And on Jan. 3 for the rehearsals of “All Things Must Pass,” George said, “We’re pretending to be The Band for this one.”

These are genuine rehearsals, the band learning chords, harmonies and the song in general.

(I embedded this last post about the song, but worth repeating.)

They sound mostly not good, beset by some technical woes, a lack of focus and generally sloppy play. If this was how John and Paul treated George’s songs during rehearsals for all their other albums, we’re lucky to only have recordings available for these sessions to spare him the indignity.

As the rehearsals continue, George elaborates on the sought-after vibe.

“The thing that I feel about the emotion of it is very Band-y. Rick [Danko], this one, the one who wrote really the best ones. It’s like…” [plays the first verse]

He begins to describe how he wants the backup vocals during the chorus to sound.

“If there’s people joining in, I’d appreciate it,” George says.

After a few takes, Paul offers a suggestion. “If John sings what you’re singing, and I sing harmony that’ll be the Raelettes [Ray Charles’ backup singers].

But it’s The Band that George wants the inspiration drawn from.

“The reason all their people are singing different lines is they all want to be the singer. … [And] there’s discipline where nobody’s crowding anybody else out. But it’s really great.”

As the harmonies continue to be worked out as they wrap up the day’s rehearsals of the song, John at one point remarks, “It’s getting like gospel.” But it also gets pretty sloppy. These kinds of harmonies do work for The Band, but it’s not quite working for George, Paul and John. Ultimately, some of the suggestions George had for the harmonies would show up in altered form when the song finally was released by George himself.

(First minute or so is from the Jan. 3 sessions)

George also wanted John’s organ sound to ape The Band.

“This guy Paul is looking a bit like from The Band who’s the organist [Garth Hudson], he’s really fantastic. And he’s into that so much. And it sounds a bit like a synthesizer, because the notes bend.”

So The Band gets the credit for the song’s sound. What about the lyrics? George explains to John:

“It’s Timothy Leary, I suppose.  In his ‘Psychedelic Prayers’ he had one. I remember just from years ago. … That gave me the idea for the thing.

“Apart from life.”

There indeed is the first verse, nearly verbatim, in Chapter 23 of Leary’s book.

In fact, George summarizes nearly all the above quite neatly in his 1980 tome I Me Mine, without giving quite the level of direct credit to Leary, at least for the song’s first few lines.

When I wrote “All Things Must Pass” I was trying to do a Robbie Robertson-Band sort of tune and that is what it turned into. I think the whole idea of “All Things Must Pass” has been written up by all kinds of mystics and ex-mystics including Timothy Leary in his psychedelic poems.

Near the end of the day’s rehearsals during a break, the song’s lyrics seem to finally hit John.

“A mind can blow these clouds away. … There’s a bit of psychedelia in it, you know? Social-comment like. “

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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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