Tag Archives: January 2

TMBP Extra: Everybody had (another) good year — 2nd Blogoversary

opening

Work begins anew for the Beatles. From the opening scene in Let It Be.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were working stiffs like the rest of us* 45 years ago today, when those four, joined by a film crew, headed back to work after New Year’s.

The hours they put in over the subsequent month has stood the test of time, as documented on the Let It Be album and film, and with the results of their labor also eventually surfacing on Abbey Road and various solo albums.

But you all knew this.

I did too before I started this blog, two years ago today. But I just didn’t know how deep the story ran and how much more there was to these sessions. Especially with so much of our knowledge of this era couched in the record’s tumultuous production and release a year later and the breakup that preceded it.

A few days ago, I rewatched the Let It Be film (I’ve been watching it every few weeks in spurts as I write, but this was purely for “leisure,” having a few beers with my wife, who wanted to see it again). Knowing what I know now, both in my own immersion in the tapes and researching what is available about the sessions (far less than you think), I’m struck by what really got me interested in the tapes in the first place: You see all of the results, but absolutely none of the motivation.

Why did they move from Twickenham to Apple all of the sudden? Who’s this guy showing up to play keyboards? Why are there so many covers, and so many songs we’d see later on Abbey Road? What’s the deal with playing on the roof? Was that the first choice for the concert they allude to really late?

The movie creates more questions than it answers. And of course, that’s a part of what makes listening to the tapes so captivating.

Finding answers is also what makes for some really deep blog posts. In 2013, I wrote 13 posts on the timeline (of 19 total posts last year) covering a little less than 3 1/2 hours on the tapes.

Wait, what?

Yes, a mere 3 1/2 hours of conversations and rehearsals were able to form the basis of 13 posts — and more than 17,000 words therein. But talk about memorable moments in just those 200-plus minutes:

It makes you wonder what kind of film Michael Lindsay-Hogg could have made if he had his way. This drama is writing itself. And with a great soundtrack!

Cheers to you all!

Cheers to you all!

And to think, we’re only at the middle of Jan. 7.  There’s a heck of a way to go, and I can’t wait to dig in.

I can’t say enough for the support I’ve gotten from readers, be it in comments, over Twitter, Facebook and from other blogs. It’s been amazing to share this experience — and communicate with — Beatles fans as passionate and curious as I am. I want to especially thank and point back to Hey Dullblog, Kenwood, A Mythical Monkey, Ultimate Classic Rock  and the York Beatles Appreciation Society for linking to me over these years. It really makes this all the more fun to know people are reading and enjoying it.

And the most special thanks to my wife, Dianne, for being my editor and putting up with my “child-like wonder” at Paul’s playing the songs he introduced Jan. 7, 1969, live daily in 2013.

Here’s a recap of the first few days:

What’s next? More of the same in 2014. Happy New Year!

*- Full disclosure: While I may be a working stiff, I actually have the day off. But back to work Saturday!

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TMBP Extra: Everybody had a good year — 1st Blogoversary

champagne

Today — Jan. 2, 2013 —  marks the 44th anniversary of the beginning of what would ultimately be known as the Get Back (or Let it Be) sessions. And for me, it’s exactly one year since I began this labor of love.

So with another year over and a new one just begun,  I wanted to quickly look back at a year of posts and share a little bit of what I’ve discovered through 40 posts that have covered 14 hours of music and conversation thus far.

  • Wait — Just 14 hours in?! That’s it? I’m amazed, too (maybe). When I started this blog, I didn’t think after a year’s worth of posts I’d still be on Jan. 6, the third day of the sessions with another 83 hours of tapes (nearly three-and-half-days’ worth) remaining.  Beyond the fact that life indeed is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, I found my interest in what I was listening to increase with every post. I started out planning on a couple of posts per session day, but I’ve eventually found myself writing multiple posts about a single song or even a conversation.
  • And about those conversations… So far, I’m finding them more interesting than the song rehearsals. Not that it should surprise anyone that tw0-plus hours of “Don’t Let Me Down” (in just these 14 hours) gets a bit old . But the decades-old bootlegs that first exposed me (and I’m sure many of you) to the sessions really only featured the band’s wacky covers and oddball originals (in addition to the more definitive and unique takes of the songs to eventually surface on the record and in the movie).  Getting to hear George tell Paul he’ll play if he wants him to play is great. But being able to get the entirety of the context plus the rest of the conversation is gold (that specific example is subject of my next original post, in fact). The discussion they had about Cream plus the lengthy discussion about the potential live show just fascinated me (and, hopefully, you!).
  • Run from, not for, cover: Maybe it’s just because they’re old news by now. But the covers they “play” (so far there haven’t been too many full run-throughs) aren’t all that compelling. Maybe it’s personal taste, but I just don’t care all that much. Although at times they clearly enjoyed performing those more than their originals when it’s the entire band actually playing together. But for something that has long defined these sessions, I’m eager to just get through them.
  • Traffic bait

    Traffic bait

    I’ve just seen a face.  I don’t pay too much attention to site stats, since the blog is purely for fun, not profit. But in a very inexact study of search terms people use to find the blog, people just love searching for Paul’s beard. And I’m happy to oblige.

I have plenty of more observations, but I’ll leave them to this next year’s posts themselves. I do seem to have a tendency to ramble.

So with this blog entering its second year, I simply want to thank you all so much for reading. This is just so much fun to be able to have the chance to virtually talk about such a specific thing with so many knowledgeable people as enthusiastic as I am.  Can’t wait for another year of Beatle posts/tweets/chatter.

As we enter the first few days of January, I’ll be unearthing links to my posts about those days in 1969 on the tapes, starting below with Jan. 2. After we’re caught up with my posts through Jan. 6,  I’ll pick up where I left off on the timeline (that same Jan. 6) with a look at “Two of  Us” and the iconic George-Paul argument that happened within.

Posts about Jan. 2, 1969:

  • Different Feelings: On the first day of the sessions, the band runs down a few different new numbers, with Paul taking charge
  • Revelation 1: Exploring the shared origins of “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Sun King”
  • Tell me why: In their rush to begin recording at Twickenham, nobody seems to have an exit strategy.

 A little disclaimer. I’m in the process of a little bit of cleanup. Anywhere that I change content of any substance, or fix a fact, I’ll make that clear. But I won’t waste anyone’s time denoting when I found  better video clip or replaced a dead link, etc.

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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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Jan. 2, 1969: Hair, there and everywhere

Line of the day, directed at Paul during a discussion with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg:

“You going to keep the beard? You look like a Talmudic student.”

As it happened, one of the few covers they ran through on that day was Chuck Berry’s “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.”

Thirty years later, Paul McCartney would record his own version of the song on Run Devil Run, and perhaps with his subconscious working overtime, among the video’s line dancers (around 51 seconds in) would be none other than…

(Albeit beardless). Coincidence. Absolutely. Right?

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Jan. 2, 1969: Revelation 1

Much like I can never listen to Hey Jude the same way after knowing where John Paul drops the F-bomb, it’s hard to hear “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Sun King” the same way after hearing them debuted at Twickenham on the first day of rehearsals.

And that’s because, after hearing each of those songs quite literally countless times over my life, it never occurred to me that they’re one in the same. Insomuch that “Sun King,” ostensibly, is part of “Don’t Let Me Down.”

Maybe it had always been obvious to everyone else. But to me, it was revelatory.

How was this missing from my life all these years? Am I the last to know? This, easily, was the most interesting thing about the first day, for me. Something I’d never even approached thinking about.

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Jan. 2, 1969: Different feelings

Little more than 25 minutes into the A/B Road recordings, we’ve heard four eventual classics rehearsed in “Don’t Let Me Down,” “All Things Must Pass,” “Let it Down” and a seminal take of “Jealous Guy” in “Child of Nature/On the Road to Marrakesh.”  None would make the eventual Let it Be release, with Don’t Let Me Down making it onto the B-side of “Get Back” in April (it did make the initial Glyn Johns cut of the Get Back LP), “Jealous Guy” — which didn’t make the cut on the White Album — surfacing on Imagine and the other two tracks highlighting “All Things Must Pass.”

Paul arrived last for the session, but he was quick to take up John’s offer to sing a few songs.

Clearly well developed was “I Got a Feeling,” with Paul’s base song already wedded with John’s “Everybody Had a Hard Year.”  And Paul hit the ground running with the track, seemingly very eager to work out its kinks straight away.  Like he would with “Don’t Let Me Down” later in the day, he was already micromanaging aspects of the song, not merely introducing new numbers to bandmates just reconvening for sessions.

After more than 40 minutes — of what’s captured on the Nagra tapes, at least —  George cuts in.

“It may be better to, like, learn as much as like we’ve learned of this one of … ”

“Of all of them (the songs),” Paul interrupted. “Yeah I was saying that before.” He didn’t actually say that before, at least on the tapes. “Yes, just get the chords and stuff.”

George continued, “Bring them all up like that together, rather than just (get) the one perfect…”

John cuts in. “OK, but we’ll just do it a couple more times, and see which way we go, and then we’ll learn something.”

Not more than 20 seconds pass, and they return to “I’ve Got a Feeling.”

A little less than 10 minutes later, at the end of two more takes — getting them up to about 20 — Paul suggests they do a new song, “learn some new chords or something, like you said.”

So they moved on… to “Don’t Let Me Down,” which they’d already spent 20 minutes on earlier (on the tapes, at least) and abandoned only to get into “I’ve Got a Feeling.”

George would play “All Things Must Pass” alone later in the day on the tapes, the take lasting about a minute and a half  — with just audio, it’s impossible to tell if the rest of the band was even there. Most of the remainder of the day was Paul spending about a half hour introducing Two of Us.

Things would, however, change the next day.

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In which Doris gets her oats (An introduction)

Like so many Beatles fans, I was born after the band broke up. It’s a mixed blessing. I’ve had their music pretty much baked into life’s soundtrack. But I didn’t have the excitement and anticipation of a new record or bit of news. And I lacked context.

And to that end, for me, Let it Be (the movie and the album) has always been as much of the band’s catalog — and identity — as anything else they did, whether it was Please Please Me, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper’s or Abbey Road — or Something New, Beatles ’65 or Yesterday… and Today for that matter, having become a fan before the CDs standardized the US and UK releases.

I love Let it Be — more than just the record (which while I do love, it’s not among my favorites of theirs), but the whole experience. The movie, the sessions, the bootlegs from those sessions. I love what Let it Be … is.  The awkwardness, the edginess, the overall chaotic nature of what the sessions were and the steps that led up to the album and movie’s eventual release brings a wonderful realism to everything, real fresh air.

I know it’s been described as watching your parents get divorced (I could have sworn it was Ringo saying that in the Anthology, but now I can’t find the quote). John Lennon called the recording experience “dreadful.” George Harrison said it was “unhappy and unhealthy” (both of those quotes WERE from Anthology).

But I don’t care. I wasn’t dating Yoko and going through a divorce. I didn’t just spend the fall expanding my horizons writing with Bob Dylan and was returning to the “winter of discontent.” I wasn’t desperately trying to figure out how to save a band that the other three members either had or would soon quit. I wasn’t feeling like a waste behind the kit. I didn’t — still don’t! — have the baggage they did sitting there as the band fell apart under the various personal pressures they were under.

And thus, I question the usual description of the sessions as a disaster, as insiders and outsiders alike tend to say. And here’s where the lack of context helps.

Let it Be, while not 11 perfect songs by any remote measure — and this band has certainly strung together 11 perfect songs in a row before — still gave us songs that have stood the test of time in the title track, Get Back and The Long and Winding Road. And that’s just what you’ll hear at the bank, in commercials, etc. Turn on a classic rock radio station, should such things still exist, and you’ll hear the rest of the songs.

And the rest of the output from the sessions? Only more than half of Abbey Road, what I’d argue is the best rock album, period. Only a number of songs that would later appear on the remaining Beatles singles, plus solo songs that would end up on All Things Must Pass, Imagine, McCartney and RAM (shout out to RAM).

If hundreds of mediocre covers and other useless snippets are the price to pay for that, I’m in.

And because they were the Beatles, the above disaster took one day short of a month — Jan. 2-31, 1969.

So that brings me to why we’re all here — or at least why I’m here writing to myself.  I think there’s beauty in the Beatles with their warts, without pants and the like. The movie is a joy in its depression, for me. Out of such distress they produced such eternal music.

I’ve always tried to listen here and there to outtakes from the sessions for the pure fun of it — the Beatles covering Canned Heat, mocking their own back catalog, and hatching the most barebones takes of songs that I pine to listen to every day. But the sound on some of the bootlegs was so bad as to make it truly an experience that couldn’t be enjoyed. Plus, it would be prohibitive as far buying everything.

But we live in special times, no? One download (lasting many, many, many days) and you can have what’s known as the Nagra Tapes (aka the A/B Road boot). It’s more than 97 hours of the sessions, sourced, quite illicitly I believe, from the camera’s audio recorders on site at Twickenham and Savile Row during the recording of the film.

Nagra III recorder

And, quite simply, when I finally downloaded the 5.3 GB monstrosity, I thought it would be fun to write about what I’m hearing after I had poked at this track and that and finding among some of the banality many revelatory moments. I’m a fan of the niche, and this seems as niche a project as it gets.

Initially, I thought the idea of a limited, January-only blog tackling the sessions day-by-day in “real time” 43 years later was the way to go. But you know,  I’m not sure I can commit six hours on Jan. 6 to listening to 28 versions of “Don’t Let Me Down.”

But I will listen to those 28 versions from Jan. 6, along with the other 84 takes of the song, the 141 takes of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” 68 takes of “All Things Must Pass,” 33 takes of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,”  30 of “One After 909,” four tries at “Gimme Some Truth,” two at “Her Majesty” and their lone stab at Hava Nagila (I kid you not). And everything in between.

Multiple books have been written about these sessions, and none by myself. But I’m a fan who will find pleasure in the discovery and the song-building process of numbers that have been part of my life since before I knew it.

While I may chime in with the occasional non-Get Back/Let it Be sessions post, I’ll try to limit such chatter to the Twitter feed.  But it’ll always be, at worst, barely off-topic, and always certainly Beatle-related.

Please join in the discussion in the comments. Otherwise, it’ll just be me saying, “Oh, man, another killer take of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. What is that, 34 so far today?”

Thanks for checking this out and being along for the ride.

-Dan

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