Tag Archives: Hey Jude

Jan. 6: Playing to the gods (If there’s a rock show, Pt. 1)

Even the most casual rock music fan knows how the Let it Be film ends, even if they’ve never seen it or even if they’re not really Beatles fans. The sight of John, Paul, George and Ringo trying to pass their audition on the roof at 3 Savile Row isn’t merely an iconic Beatles moment, it’s an iconic moment in popular music history and pop culture itself.

Watch the movie, and there’s never an inkling that wasn’t the plan all along. Less than three years removed from their last tour, the group rehearses some new songs, then when they’re ready simply climb the stairs and rock from the roof. It’s just like they planned it all along, right?

Source: Beatles.com

Of course not. And right here’s another reason why I’m loving listening to these tapes and find them so valuable — it’s not just to hear the songs in progress and rehearsed in context or to hear songs they threw away or just shelved until they could revisit as solo acts. It’s to hear a conversation like one we hear a few hours into Jan. 6, the kind of thing that never made compilations of the sessions.

I keep getting back to my need to operate within context throughout this blog. So we know the end of he story: the rooftop show. But how did they get there? We get an incredible glimpse here.

After exploring George’s “Hear Me Lord” and knocking out a few covers, conversation shifts to the planned live show, a topic promised earlier by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and just touched upon in the prior days on the tapes.

And there’s an awful lot going on here in what’s marked “Dialogue,” 14-plus music-free minutes, the 53rd track on the Jan. 6 collection of Purple Chick’s A/B Road.

Two figures that loomed so large in Beatles history — George Martin and Yoko Ono – make their first significant appearances on these tapes. Ono would remain key to the story of Get Back/Let it Be. Martin would not. Well, he would be, ultimately, quite conspicuous by his absence.

But it’s not necessarily the people involved but what they’d discuss that makes it a memorable sequence.

The endgame here, after all, is a live show, even if they have no set plans for one in place.  Yoko begins the conversation – on the tapes, at least, where after a quick cover of Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” (a song they used to play in Hamburg), we join the chat in medias res.

Yoko’s first suggestion is for the Beatles, who four years prior played before more than 55,000 in their iconic Shea Stadium show on Aug. 15, 1965, to have something of a more modest audience.

Yoko: “…[have a] stage, you know, and it’s like an open-air something, and you’re playing to the gods! You know, and to the stars.

Yoko’s plan: Paul’s soundcheck at Yankee Stadium, ’01

While Paul’s agreeable to the suggestion — or at least something avant garde — Michael Lindsay-Hogg tries to push another angle for the live show involving all those seats being filled by actual people, even if they’re not necessarily fans of the Beatles.

MLH: “Or, even playing to people that have never seen you before. See, I think you’re right. Any stage performance of an ordinary sort, visually, will never be topped, because we all remember – and you better than I — the past.”

But Paul — quite the veteran of the stage even at this young age — sides with Yoko.

Paul: “What’s the use of an audience? The use of an audience is like… for you, it’s out of sheer charity to play to them because you love them. Or for you to collect ticket money, or to get a reaction between you, for the sake of your shows. But look the thing is then, that’s presuming that we’re not enough for a show. That presupposes there’s really not enough in the four of us, that you really have to pan off on to a postman.”

Enter George Martin, who joins Team MLH after some indistinguishable crosstalk.

Martin: “The whole point about the audience is to give you something when you’re performing.”

MLH: “Like an actor on stage”

George Harrison is there too, and at this point, I think he says that “It’ll be just our luck to get a lot of cunts in there [at the show].” Perfectly reasonable thought.

Lindsay-Hogg gets things back on point, reminding the band that once they’re on a stage, they’re performers.

MLH: “And you got to have something to do it to. Of some sort, either a camera or real people, I think.”

Yoko: “Empty chairs would be much more dramatic. I mean 20,000 empty chairs!”

MLH: “Looks like they haven’t bought any tickets!”

Paul: “Look, nobody’s going to think that way.  Nobody’s going to think that haven’t bought any tickets.”

After agreeing with Paul, Yoko says people are wondering what makes up the audience in this post-Beatlemania world before continuing to pitch the actual lack of an audience.

Yoko: “It should be like the invisible, nameless everybody in the world, instead of some teenager or something, and they say, ‘Oh, so they still have that teenage audience.’ Or if you have costumed people they say, ‘Oh, that’s the audience now.’ It’s very dangerous.

“[With empty chairs], now you have audience in every heart in the world, you see? It’s very bad to limit it.”

The diplomatic Lindsay-Hogg says he does like the idea. But…

MLH: “That sounds to me more, though, like five minutes rather than 15 minutes. Because you’re right — what we do want to attack is all over the world. It oughtn’t be anymore the kids that queue up outside the gate, it ought to be the whole world. And that was one of the things we tried to get on Jude [the Hey Jude promo clip, directed by Lindsay-Hogg nearly to the day four months prior at these very same Twickenham Studios].”

Oh, that’s OK, says Paul, since “we’re doing two shows, aren’t we? We’re taping the shows on the Sunday and the Monday, aren’t we?”

Sunday and Monday shows. Of course.

And here we have the sessions in a nutshell:  The band is doing a show with songs they can’t agree on and haven’t finished writing and at a location — possibly international — that hasn’t been determined. BUT. They do know they’re taping two shows, to the point where they know it’s a Sunday and a Monday.  The devil’s in the details, not only in her heart, it appears.

Tune in next post, where we continue this Jan. 6, 1969, conversation about the forthcoming show.

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Jan. 3, 1969: Taxman, Revisited

Shortly after a discussion of Hey Jude, and the Wilson Pickett cover that had just been released, George begins to discuss the songs he’s bringing to the rehearsals.

“Thinking of all the tunes I’ve got, and they’re all slowish,” George says.

“Most of mine are,” Paul agrees.

Indeed, Paul had already introduced “Let it Be” earlier that day and the sessions closed with lengthy rehearsals of “Two of Us” the day before.

Then George jumps in with something of a revelation, at least to these ears 43 years later.

“I’ve got that Taxman Part 2, Taxman Revisited. But it should be very sad-type, with maybe a string or two.”

Taxman Part 2! What could that be??

It’s something Paul’s familiar with, since he responds with a passive “Oh, yeah.”

I don’t believe he meant this (despite the eventual Lennon connection with Cheap Trick):

Or, for that matter, this:

But seriously, folks.

The internet is pretty empty when it comes to references of this, a song called “Taxman Pt. 2.” The few informal references I’ve seen suggest the song is actually “Isn’t It a Pity” — based upon the two-second sample of the song George subsequently plays.

I guess it could be that, if only because we know that George had brought the song to band initially during the Revolver sessions (we’ll learn that later on as we hear the tapes, in fact).   The lone lyric he sings here — “When you’re smiling” — doesn’t necessarily lead to that, though.

I’ve also seen that it could be “Art of Dying,” since that also dates back to 1966.

The only two songs he even uses the word “smiling,” at least as far as Google is concerned,  are “Behind the Locked Door” and “Soft-Hearted Hana.” And they could be easily dismissed  — the former since it was about Bob Dylan written just a few months earlier, and the latter since George himself said he wrote it in 1978. George is the source of both those facts in I Me Mine.

Whichever song it is, the “Taxman” reference is probably by topical association only, since none of the possibilities are remotely anything like Revolver’s leadoff track.

Meanwhile, George continues to the band’s longtime bassist and drummer.

“So far there’s only a couple I know I could do live with no backing. And that’s one of them.

“It would be nice with bass and drums.”

They then move onto a take of All Things Must Pass.

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Jan. 2, 1969: Tell me why

Something I never completely got my head around is why the Get Back sessions had to happen when they did, in the beginning of the new year, 1969. And in such a disorganized state, to boot.

The timeline is stunning, really, when you look back on it, even in the context of the music industry not being what it is today, when you can go years and years between records.

Consider: On Jan. 2, 1969, the Twickenham sessions got under way. “Hey Jude” was recorded five months earlier (July 31, 1968), released four months earlier (Aug. 26, 1968) and had just finished runs at No. 1 around the world. The White Album was released SIX WEEKS earlier. Six weeks!

The members of the band couldn’t have been bored — John and Yoko were doing the concept art thing, George  and Bob Dylan were writing together only weeks earlier in late November (he’d show off “Let it Down” on this day). Paul and Linda were a little less than two months from marrying. Ringo had just appeared in “Candy” and was soon to be in “Magic Christian.” They had stuff going on!

And again, I know, the industry is different today than it was then. But even considering that, there really wasn’t that much reason for the Beatles to rush into the studio in January 1969. It’s just what they did.

Famously, the goal here was to rehearse fresh material for a film or TV special, culminating in a concert before a live audience. New material. Six weeks after they put out a double album.

But there they were, at the Twickenham sound stage on Jan. 2. Six weeks after they released the White Album (did I mention that?). And despite the rush to be there, sessions beginning in the morning like it was an office job, they still didn’t really have the the session’s raison d’être lined up. There was no agreement on a venue to actually perform the concert.

A little more than halfway through the day’s recordings, Glyn Johns and Michael Lindsay-Hogg discuss with Paul — in addition to the state of his beard — the potential venues for the culmilation concert. Legend has local clubs, African amphitheaters and the like in the mix, but from discussions on the first day of the sessions, it’s clear that it’s most likely going to be a soundstage. Twickenham itself is an option, and seemingly Paul’s preferred one (“Just as well stay here”). Another option pitched is Intertel Studio in Wembley, where the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus was recorded a mere three weeks earlier.   The venue received raves — “It sounds like a good live studio.”

Amazingly, at that moment elsewhere at Twickenham– and sure, who knows if he was in the room at the time, out having a smoke, grabbing a bite or in the bathroom — was John Lennon. But he was never consulted (on tape, at least) about what he thought of Intertel. And he only performed “Yer Blues” there a mere three weeks earlier.

But even though it was a potential concert venue following the rehearsals there, everyone hated Twickenham.  PAs hadn’t even been set up (they were arriving later that day). John was suggesting they move into a corner of the room — Ringo was too far away. “This place sounds terrible,” Paul said.

Said Lindsay-Hogg to laughter, “I think the thing to do is just be very flexible about every aspect of the enterprise.”

As a director, Lindsay-Hogg was naturally eyeing a dramatic scene. A Tunisian open-air amphitheater was famously pitched, the Beatles to play at dawn. “Snake charmers, holy men … torchlit, 2,000 Arabs and friends around,” Lindsay-Hogg visualized.

It was never going to happen, no matter what. Paul put it straight right there on Day 1. “I think you’ll find we’re not going abroad, because Ringo just said he doesn’t want to go abroad. And he put his foot down.”

The stage is set at Twickenham as the opening credits roll in “Let it Be.”

Lindsay-Hogg hoped to change minds. “Let’s see what we all feel in a day or two… instead of making anything hard and fast.”

There would be no budging. “Ringo definitely doesn’t want to go abroad,” Paul said, “so that means we don’t go abroad. Maybe we go abroad next time… [but] it would be nice to find some way to do it out of doors.”

Like John wasn’t even considered when discussing a venue he played just weeks earlier, Ringo didn’t state his case in person, only via proxy. It did really sound like it was the first time the topic of concert venue was seriously discussed immediately between the director and the film’s principals, and it was after they had already began the sessions.

Thus, there they were on Jan. 2, starting 20 days of rehearsals culminating in a concert that had absolutely no parameters decided outside of the band scheduled to perform.

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