Tag Archives: Palace of the King of Birds

Jan. 9: Road work

He launched the January 9 Get Back sessions with “Another Day,” an ode to the working woman. Paul McCartney followed it by making the most of his own makeshift satellite office in Twickenham.

Paul’s morning piano sessions weren’t simply exhibitions, nor was it just for conditioning as he alluded to director Michael Lindsay-Hogg at the outset of the day’s Beatles business. The Get Back sessions’ most prolific writer, Paul treated the recording studio as a design studio, too, frequently shaping his songs and writing his lyrics while on the clock. This day offered a terrifically vivid window into that process.

After “Another Day,” a revisiting of “The Palace of the King of Birds” and a quick spin of “Let It Be,” Paul dug into “The Long and Winding Road” for a third consecutive day. The first verse is locked in and would be unchanged through its eventual release. “The second verse, leave a space, for the same thing,” Paul sang as filler. As he continued, Paul play-tested the rhyme of “the many times I’ve cried” and “the many ways I’ve tried” — tested to ultimate success, obviously.

Less successful was Paul’s plan to work in the word “pleasure” into the lyric.

I’ve had lots of pleasure, but said better. …
I’ve had many pleasure. …
I’ve had much pleasure. …
I’ve had lots of pleasure from the many ways I’ve tried.

After less than four minutes on “The Long and Winding Road,” Paul moved on. “There’s no more to that yet,” he dictated to Mal Evans, the do-it-all roadie (the group no longer touring, his roads were now long and winding ones). “But if you leave it around, I’ll still know where I’m going to fill in.”

Following a momentary return to “Mother Mary,” i.e. “Let It Be,” Paul unwrapped another new number, this one a song that would eventually find a home at Abbey Road’s terminus.

Paul didn’t know it at the time, but “Her Majesty” was complete. His presentation of music and lyrics was the same as would appear as Abbey Road’s coda, although here Paul would scat a second verse that would never be written. This version’s introduction, especially, evoked the current, bouncy state of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” and would be the lone instance “Her Majesty” could be heard on piano. Paul played the song one more time these sessions, weeks later, on guitar.

“Paul continued his trip across what would become Abbey Road. Evoking Frank Sinatra’s 1956 LP that reinvented pop standards in a more contemporary style, Paul pointed out to laughter that “Golden Slumbers” — unveiled two days earlier — “should be ready for a Songs for Swinging Singles album.”

Paul offered a gentle delivery of “Golden Slumbers,” and pointed out the direction he’d like to take the song. “It really should be like a fairy tale. ‘Once upon a time, there lived a king. Sleep pretty darling, do not cry.’”

Leading into the next line, Paul introduces the original melody that he intended to change: “The bit you might remember: And I will sing a lullaby.”

Paul repeated his experiment merging “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight.” And like he did three days earlier, likewise in Ringo Starr’s presence, Paul signaled his intention to expand the song beyond its single line we all know. Paul doesn’t have the verses yet, but he knows what he wants them to say.

“Like a story,” he said. “A bit like ‘Act Naturally,’ where the tagline keeps coming up.”

In referencing one of Ringo’s showcase songs, it’s another piece of evidence pointing to the reason Paul opted to give the drummer a prominent voice on “Carry That Weight,” thinking of him for this song months before it was recorded for Abbey Road.

At this point, Paul wanted “Carry That Weight” to evolve into a comedy song featuring verses describing “just the sort of normal kind of troubles that everyone has” before leading into the “carry that weight” chorus. “There might be a verse about, like, ‘I got in trouble with the wife, I got drunk, something, something, something, something. … Woke up the next morning with a weight upon my head, and I found out it was my head. … Boy! You’re gonna carry that weight …’

“It could be one of those things, you know, in those songs where you’ve got everything, and everything is so great. And this morning, one of my eggs broke, (giggling). Just something trivial. The right shoe’s a bit tight. … ‘Boy, you’re gonna to carry that weight!’” Ringo sang along with every chorus.

Paul indeed delivered a wait, and we can close the circle on our story of “Carry that Weight.” The Nagra tapes don’t capture the song again. If he ever pursued the novelty song idea, there’s no record of it. By the time we get to the song’s actual recording for Abbey Road in July, it was exactly as the song was to this point: simply the line: “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time!”

Still at the piano, and unaccompanied by any other Beatles, Paul took a detour off (the future) Abbey Road and returned to the long and winding one for the second time in less than 15 minutes on the tapes. And again, Paul was very clinical, deliberate and open with his songwriting.

“I was thinking of having a weather obstacle,” he said before taking a stab at a new verse: “The storm clouds and the rain/The clouds disappear.”

The song’s imagery evoked a famed film thoroughfare.

There’s a Beatles-related photo for everything! Here’s Paul with the cast of Return to Oz, for some reason, in 1985.

“It’s sort of like the Wizard of Oz,” Mal said. “Did you ever see the Wizard of Oz?”

“Yeah,” Paul quickly answered, clearly not paying attention at first, before continuing,“No, no, no, I didn’t.”

“The yellow brick road,” Mal said before Michael broke in, “A heartbreaker. Yeah, it’s great.”

Paul returned to the road he was constructing, singing a placeholder verse.

“The thing that’s up ahead/at the end of the road.”

For a lyric, Mal suggested recounting the obstacles on the road, but Paul dismissed that idea, reflecting the pervasive and prevailing uncertainty surrounding the live show. “We have enough obstacles without putting them in the song.”

Much like George asked Paul a week earlier, regarding Maxwell’s, Michael questioned the song’s endgame: “Is it going to end happily or not sure yet?”

Interestingly Paul didn’t address the emotion behind the song’s ending, just that he had an ending. And it was very close to the one that would appear on the record more than a year later:

“And still they lead me back to the long an winding road
You left me waiting here a long, long time ago
Don’t leave me standing here, lead me to your door”

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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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