Tag Archives: January 3

Jan. 3, 1969: Traveling on that line

When we last left you on the Nagra Tapes timeline, George wondered aloud whether it was practical for the Beatles to perform a concert consisting only of new songs, without throwing the audiences — especially the American one — a bone with an “oldie but goldie.”

They had, in fact, rehearsed such a song a few hours earlier. Well, it may not have been a goldie, but it was an original Beatles oldie dating all the way back to the days of the Quarrymen.

And while they did in fact record “One After 909” in 1963 — in fact, it was 49 years ago today, on March 5, 1963 (the same day they cut “From Me To You”) — that original recording didn’t see an official release until Anthology in 1995.

The band attacked their first take of the song (in presumably five-plus years) with much of the same gusto they gave covers of the same era during the sessions. How do we know they enjoyed playing it? They actually finished the song.

Following that first run-through, which was replete with stumbles but seemed to have John and Paul remembering all the words, the band — especially Paul — collectively marveled at the simplicity of the lyrics.

“I always meant to just change the words a bit,” John said. Paul chimed in that “it’s great,” before giving a spoken-word run-through of first verse, to George’s laughter. Then George, ever eager still to actually have a focus here, asks if the band should rehearse the song more.

A bit of that dialogue appeared in the Let It Be film, and decades later, on a podcast promoting the Let It Be … Naked release on iTunes.

“Or maybe we should do it without practicing. You know, practicing will fuck it up,” he said.

The band in fact, did return to the song — after first running through a take of the presumed John oldie “Wake Up in the Morning/Because You Love Me So.” And like the prior run-through, this take of “One After 909” was closer in spirit and pacing to the Quarrymen version than the 1963 recording.

Also like the prior take, the band continues to poke fun at the lyrics once the song is over. John bemoans, “We always thought it wasn’t finished.”  And George goes further, suggesting “Most people don’t give a shit what the words are
about, as long as it’s popping along.”

It’s rock and roll, and it’s a song, written in 1957, that is indeed seminal rock. It was a Beatles song, not a John song/Paul song/George song as the bandmates had been bringing to the sessions otherwise — and you can hear the harmony (literally and figuratively) while they play.  Really, it’s the perfect song for what they were trying to achieve during these sessions: developing a loose, off-the-cuff presentation of their songs.

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Jan. 3, 1969: No little thing

Just as the band was trying to find an agreeable venue for the concert that would cap the sessions, they likewise were searching for a setlist.

The new songs they were rehearsing were a given — at this early point, it was obvious “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were being worked on to reach that payable point and passed the generally accepted bar of “fast” ones good for a live show.

In a curious admission, George expresses his worry about putting on a TV show of all new songs. Of course, by that point,  the critical failure Magical Mystery Tour (the film) was a little over a year old, and it wouldn’t be seen in the United States until 1974, supposedly because of the negative criticism surrounding it.

But they’re still the Beatles! The White Album was in the middle of a nine-week run atop the charts in the U.S., en route to becoming their best-selling record (each sale counted as two). “Hey Jude” was the No. 1 song in the U.S. as recently as six weeks earlier after spending nine atop the Billboard charts, and it was still sitting at No. 15.

Also, they’re the Beatles.

Yet George was still concerned about how new songs would be received.

So of all the songs, George suggests an album track from 1964’s Beatles For Sale.

“We’re not going to do any oldies but goldies for the show?” George asks.

“Dunno, could be” says Paul.

“Cuz I’d like to do it,” George continues, agreeing with someone who says “it would be nice.”

“And also from the selling point of view, in America … maybe it’s all new, or maybe… If they had the album and then saw it, [the concert]  a week after. But just to hit… the first initial thing of us singing all completely new … they need something to identify with apart from us. It would be nice to start the show or end the show with a couple of… (then he either cuts himself off of the sound cuts out.)

I’ll tell you which is a good one..

Then George starts playing the beginning to “Every Little Thing.” Paul, the song’s author, joins in with little gusto.

(I can’t find a copy freely available online, but if you have Let It Be … Naked, it appears about seven minutes in on the bonus disc).

So of all songs George suggests would be a good kick-start — or capper — to the big concert, it’s not “Hey Jude,” not “Back in the USSR” — which George had been riffing on leading into this suggestion — not his own recent classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  or slightly older “Taxman.”  He could have suggested “All My Loving,” which opened up the first Ed Sullivan appearance and won over the United States instantly. Or for the idea of going full circle, the first song off their first album in “I Saw Her Standing There.”

But instead it was “Every Little Thing.” A great song! But probably just a tick more familiar as the other new songs they’d debut.

I don’t question the choice from a standpoint of quality. It’s just surprising. And I wonder if it would have done anything to “ease” American audiences.

As it happened, the Beatles would, in fact, find an oldie of theirs to play at the concert that ended the sessions, and they dusted it off earlier in the day on Jan. 3. But while it was an old Beatles song, it wasn’t something that would be at all familiar to fans…

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Jan. 3, 1969: Starrwriter 69

Quite literally, the freshest sound in music right now is by Ringo Starr, whose 17th solo release — Ringo 2012 — hit shelves and servers today (Jan. 31, 2012).  Most of the songs are at least co-written by him, meaning perhaps Richard Starkey is is finally hitting his stride as a songwriter as he has little more than 100 songs to his credit over the course of 50-plus years since the Beatles began recording. And many of those — while I don’t doubt his contributions — are things like “Dig It” and “Flying,” songs that received the four-Beatle credit and other songs in which he presumably didn’t have much heavy lifting.

Of course, that list doesn’t count songs written and not registered. It certainly doesn’t have songs he partially crafted. And that’s just what we have out of Ringo as early on the second day as rehearsals continue at Twickenham.

Source: thebeatles.com

George was discussing The Band with Paul and Ringo (John wasn’t there yet) and how their favorite track (presumably off the White Album — he didn’t specify) was “Don’t Pass Me By” because of its country western vibe.  “That’s their scene, completely,” George said of the very first composition credited solely to Starkey.

Paul chimes in to ask Ringo, “Are you going to write another?”

“Yes I am,” he replied, almost incredulously before some cross-talk obscures what was said next, although Paul already knew what was in the works. In fact, he already was able to name one — “Picasso” (also bootlegged as “I Bought A Picasso”) — before Ringo started pounding out the chords (a struggle).

“Let’s hear it,” Paul asked, remarking it was “a fast one” — something they were looking to add to the set list of the live show. “Too fast for me,” Ringo replied. Paul, as well as George, had absolutely heard it before based on their reactions and subsequent suggestions.

Sounding very similar — and, really, quite like a sped-up “Don’t Pass Me By” — Ringo then launched into “Taking a Trip to Carolina” — a song he’d first touched upon for 45 seconds or so a few minutes prior to “Picasso.” As he says midway through, “the words are not very good.”

Note that this clip, from the bonus disc that came with “Let it Be … Naked,” begins with the exchange that preceded “Picasso” edited in as the lead-in to”Taking a Trip to Carolina.” But in reality, that’s not the exact order of how it really happened.

Ringo wouldn’t showcase a song again until later in the month, with “Octopus’s Garden,” which of course would later appear on Abbey Road (I’ll cover the song’s introduction to the sessions when I reach that date). We wouldn’t hear either “Picasso” or “Taking a Trip to Carolina” for the remainder of the tapes.

He would not have a vocal on Let it Be — either of the iterations (Glyn Johns mix of the Get Back LP or the final Phil Spector production) — marking the first time that happened since the A Hard Day’s Night LP in 1964 (*He didn’t have a lead on ’67’s Magical Mystery Tour, either, but it was technically an EP with old singles padding the US full-album release).

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Jan. 3, 1969: Setting the tone

The second day of the sessions at Twickenham, Jan. 3, begins with Paul alone at the piano, and in the span of the first five minutes we hear the first fleeting tastes of “Long and Winding Road” and “Oh! Darling,” plus an extended preview of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” which would see an extensive full band rehearsal later in the day.

While it’s among the dozens of covers sampled that day alone, a few minutes of Paul riffing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” jumped out at me as someone who’s seen the film “Let it Be” countless times.

And as the Twickenham stage is set on Jan. 2, the actual first day of the sessions, “Adiago” plays as the opening credits roll, cutting to Paul (with Ringo) at the piano. This truncated version of the song gives way to “Don’t Let Me Down,” and the rest of the film.

Sayeth Wikipedia:

The Adagio was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death. It was also played at the funeral of Albert Einstein and at the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco. It was performed in 2001 at Last Night of the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate the victims of the September 11 attacks, replacing the traditional upbeat patriotic songs.

In 2004, listeners of the BBC’s Today program voted Adagio for Strings the “saddest classical” work ever..

Thus, of all songs to use to begin the film that ostensibly chronicles the band’s breakup, we get this over the credits.

Well played, Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

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