More than a half century removed, it’s pretty easy to say George Harrison was on a clear trajectory to cut his losses and walk away from the Beatles a week into the Get Back sessions and cut bait on January 10, 1969.
But even on that Friday morning at Twickenham Film Studios, was George a man with a plan to leave the group? Here’s how the day played out:
- Only the Northern Songs, Pt. 1: Unpacking the day George quit the Beatles, a day that began with a visit from Dick James, and featured a deep dive into their extended publishing catalog, family greetings and Zsa Zsa Gabor stories.
- Only the Northern Songs, Pt. 2: “Fascist bum” or friend to the Beatles? Maybe Dick James was both. Here’s the second part of our deep dive into the publisher’s visit to the band, hours before George left. Featuring Magic Alex stories, car talk, hidden mics and secret meetings.
- Knew it wouldn’t last: In the hour before George quits, his performance and motivation are in question during rehearsals for the increasingly dynamic “Get Back”
- On his way home: Deemed “faceless” by Paul McCartney “Two of Us” goes through a final set of rehearsals before the entire trajectory of the Beatles’ Get Back sessions changes completely. Plus, peeling back a myth about the song and Grapefruit.
- See you ’round the clubs: On January 10, 1969, George Harrison quit the Beatles. This is the story of what happened that afternoon, what didn’t happen and the reasons why. It’s peak They May Be Parted, — my longest post to date.
- A quick one, while he’s away: With George gone, the Beatles carried on as a trio with a vocal plus-one. Here’s what happened when Yoko Ono took a seat on George’s blue cushion.
- Go on, as if nothing’s happening: No plans, no guitarist, no problem for the Beatles, who completed their first full week at Twickenham with no clarity on who, where or what the future would bring. “If (George) doesn’t come back by Tuesday,” John Lennon said, “we get Clapton.”
- Et cetera: A box for George and a bag for John. Song notation and interview negotiation. There’s a story in these stray conversations that didn’t quite fit in other posts.
Paul McCartney began January 9, 1969, at the piano sketching out “Another Day,” but it was anything but for the sixth day of the Beatles’ sessions at Twickenham, where things started to get a little testy, while musically it remained deeply compelling.
- Just another day: The Beatles begin their second week at Twickenham with Paul at the piano and his muse by his side as he debuts an important future solo classic.
- Road work: Twickenham is Paul’s songwriting lab as the morning’s tapes reveal his effort to put lyrics to several works-in-progress, like “Carry That Weight” and “The Long and Winding Road,” among others.
- Last-night song: George Harrison lifts the veil on a proper version of “For You Blue,” but are the other Beatles eager to bite on another George original?
- Jokes in between: Harmony and discord, joy and petulance. It’s a roller-coaster of moods for the members of the Beatles as they continued work on their core set at Twickenham.
- Another kind of gig: Get yourself well done with the backstory of the Beatles’ lively and perpetually mysterious “Suzy Parker.”
- Love from Paul: Take an exceedingly deep dive into Paul McCartney’s “Penina,” one of the most obscure originals from the Beatles era and a “£20,000 holiday tip.”
- No Pakistanis: Inspired by current events, Paul McCartney works on a set of satirical, racially charged — and later misunderstood — lyrics to “Get Back.” Putting this Beatles’ session into appropriate context 50 years later.
- Power politics: “This racial business over in England” inspires a suite of upbeat, satirical improvisations. This is the story of The Beatles’ “Commonwealth” and “Get Off.”
- Subconscious sabotage: To his death, John Lennon hated the recording of “Across the Universe.” But with a chance to make it anew during The Beatles’ Get Back sessions, instead of changing his world, the song would slip away.
- It’s dead easy: An inspired Paul McCartney & Co. raid the toolbox to effortlessly shape “Let It Be” into a more coherent, familiar song. Here’s the origin story of the riffs, harmonies and arrangement with far more detail than you likely asked for.
- Homeward bounder: After flirting the night before with the idea of a sea cruise to Libya, The Beatles’ enthusiasm for show-boating waned as Ringo Starr preached mundanity over spectacle for a planned live performance.
- Crossroads he’s standing at: How a pair of covers of yet-to-be-released Bob Dylan songs sheds light on George Harrison’s disposition the afternoon before he’d walk out on The Beatles.
- Et cetera: Putting a bow on The Beatles’ busy January 9, 1969. Featuring “Junk” and “Teddy Boy” from Paul, some proto-punk from John, bugs that aren’t Beatles and more.
January 8, 1969, started with George Harrison unveiling “I Me Mine” and ended with the Beatles ready to work in conjunction, seemingly ready to finally reach consensus on a plan for an overseas concert. Along the way, the group recounts Beatles history back to their days in Liverpool and through the decade.
- All through the day: The “I Me Mine” origin story is brought to you by George Harrison, LSD, TV, a waltz and a dare. The longest post in this blog’s history, It’s everything you ever needed to know about The Beatles’ final song, but never thought to ask.
- Take a lesson from Jude: Could James Brown prove to be an inspiration for a Beatles live show?
- Rocky and the Rubbers: The Beatles get serious in deed, if not demeanor, in a run-through that was, in large part, eventually featured in the Let It Be film.
- No blue moon in history: The Beatles travel down Memory Lane with a stop at 20 Forthlin Lane as they shine light on the very first two Lennon/McCartney compositions (with a detour to 1966).
- An hors d’oeuvre. George Harrison’s future solo classic “All Things Must Pass” reaches its apex as a song performed by the The Beatles. Would opportunity knock for George Harrison of Liverpool?
- Two for the Road: It’s Twickenham as a demo venue for Abbey Road, as John Lennon re-introduces “Mean Mr. Mustard” and Paul McCartney leads The Beatles in another go at “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”
- Look Around – An old TV show by The Beatles serves as inspiration for their new one. but will the discussion go round in circles? Features special appearances by Elvis Presley and pastry cooks from Walton-on-Thames.
- Let it Be hers: Paul McCartney brings his future anthem to the rest of The Beatles and shares whom he wants to cover yet another of his new gospel-flavored songs.
- Nothing is real: The Beatles consider pairing their “honest sound” with an artificial set for a final live show. Featuring Denis O’Dell.
- The Four Powers: It’s The Beatles, fully engaged and animated as a model UN, negotiating terms for a live show. “Russia” and “France” threaten vetos, but Paul comes through with an offer inspired by a pair of incidents from 1962.
- Syndicate any boat: The Beatles seem to approach some consensus on the terms of traveling to Africa for a one-off concert, with 1,000 fans tagging along on a boat ride.
- TMBP Extra- Time to leave the capsule: Hey, January 8 is David Bowie’s birthday! Bowie and members of the Beatles crossed paths several times starting in the ’70s, but here I dig into what they were doing in 1969, before they met, just miles away at the same precise moment on January 6. Bowie, the Beatles and Apollo 8 cross paths.
- TMBP Extra- Birthday for a King (and Duke): It’s Elvis’ birthday, too! A clip-heavy post has the Beatles covering Elvis and vice versa.
Blogoversary week continues with a look back at my posts about today in Nagra tapes history: Jan. 7, 1969, a dramatic, dynamic day rich in music that has proven eternal and one that brought the Beatles to the brink as they questioned why they were even together.
- Still they lead him back: Jan. 7 begins with a proper debut for “The Long and Winding Road,” poignant and revealing given the mood at the sessions and the prior day’s tension.
- Sing a lullaby: “Golden Slumbers” debuts, and the day-old “Carry That Weight” isn’t all a hurting Paul fits it with that morning.
- Signature song: It’s the origin story for “Get Back,” the song perhaps most identified with these sessions, featuring Paul, George and an absent Jackie Lomax.
- Power Hour: Putting Paul’s Jan. 7, 1969, morning session in context, 44 years later.
- On their own at the holiday camp: As Mr. Epstein’s ghost lingers, what motivates The Beatles in January 1969? The group openly questions that very thing.
- Taking the easy way out, now: The Beatles, comfortable as a studio-only band and admittedly shy to perform live but also fed up playing together, get a pep talk as they try to find the desire to stage a concert.
- Ain’t got no ‘pow’: Still searching for the elusive hook to their live show, the Beatles recall a misguided fan-club show, consider their lack of charity and foretell one of rock’s iconic moments.
- Entertainment is almost enough: In which the Beatles are asked to embrace showbiz, because “you may never do another television show.” Perhaps a captive audience is the answer.
- Have a divorce: The Beatles’ frustration with each other and the state of the group — an issue they admit dates back more than a year — reaches a tipping point as a conversation that began with the continued search for a live venue concludes with the band’s future in question.
- Pulled their socks up: “Divorce” was all talk, no action for the Beatles, who casually moved to “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Oh! Darling” (briefly) after agreeing they should split up — without actually doing so — moments earlier.
- Joke whistlings: Amid the “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” origin story, Paul wants a little more “razzmatazz” but please keep the whistle solos “straight,” OK?
- Bangers and mashups: After making accidental musical history, The Beatles whistle while they work extensively on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
- Tumble blindly: The anachronistic, symbolic “Across the Universe” returns to The Beatles orbit, while the group also has a brief re-exploration of another John tune,”Gimme Some Truth” as a Beatles number.
- Et cetera: Picking up the pieces from remaining storylines of the day, including a few covers and a link between “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Devil in Her Heart.”
” I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play. Or I won’t play at all, if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”
Blogoversary week continues with a look back at my posts about today in Nagra tapes history: January 6, 1969, a truly fascinating and historic one in band history.
- Icing Cream: As the new work week begins, the band and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg are fixated on how bad the Cream farewell documentary is
- Hear Me: In which the Quiet Beatle proves he’s possibly insane by introducing another future classic to be met with complete indifference
- Here comes the bird king: Jam isn’t just for toast for the Beatles on this day at Twickenham as they work on some improvisations including a song that would later appear on, of all things, Paul’s unreleased Rupert the Bear soundtrack
- Playing to the gods (If there’s a rock show, Pt. 1): It’s the first real talks about the live show to be the sessions’ eventual endgame, and as far as audiences are concerned, Yoko Ono asks who needs ’em?
- Such a lovely audience? (If there’s a rock show, Pt. 2): Extensive discussion of the eventual live show continues, with exotic – and not quite so – options in the mix
- Adore your ballroom dancing (If there’s a rock show, Pt. 3): Lengthy midday discussion about the eventual live show concludes with George Harrison asking what The Beatles image should be, and Paul proposing playing a dance as the answer. Or should they all just go home?
- Cross that bridge (Pt. 1): The session’s legendary discord emerges as the boys battle the bridge in “Don’t Let Me Down”
- Cross that bridge (Pt. 2): The day’s rehearsals for “Don’t Let Me Down” conclude with tension, but ultimately a progress on the song’s troubling bridge. But mainly tension.
- Please, please you (Pt. 1): Rehearsals for “Two of Us” begin as the band argues just over how to conduct a rehearsal. We’re on the road to “whatever it is that will please you” in the beginning of a multi-part series on this historic session.
- Please, please you (Pt. 2): Tensions during “Two of Us” continue to reach a boil as George admits he plain doesn’t care, while Paul evokes the pair’s experience rehearing “Hey Jude.”
- Please, please you (Pt. 3): George doesn’t mind, he’ll play, you know, whatever you want him to play.
- That weight and this boy: Paul bookends a rough day of rehearsals with the debut of “Carry That Weight,” and now we know why Ringo is so prominent on the song’s eventual recording on Abbey Road.
- Et cetera: The day’s coverage is a wrap as I tie up some loose ends — checking on a pair of curios written for Ringo, rehearsals of a couple other songs that managed to endure, a few covers and the briefest of mentions of George’s sex life.
There’s one more post that fits in here, even though it’s not precisely on the timeline.
- TMBP Extra: Time to leave the capsule: The members of The Beatles and Bowie have crossed paths several times over the last 40-plus years, but here I dig into what they were doing on January 6, 1969, before they met, just miles away at the same precise moment. Bowie, The Beatles and Apollo 8 all cross paths in one post.
Blogoversary week continues with a look back at my posts about today in Nagra tapes history: Jan. 3, 1969.
- Setting the tone: A funereal classical piece becomes the movie’s opening theme
- Starrwriter 69: Having previously written just one song in his career, on Jan. 3, 1969, Ringo gives us two new ones
- No little thing: George kvetches the U.S. audience needs “oldies but goldies” with their new songs, and he offers up something of a random suggestion
- Traveling on that line: The Beatles rediscover “One After 909” at just the right moment in their history
- Shoctric shocks: Beginning a multipost look at the aggravating “All Things Must Pass” rehearsals on Jan. 3 with the song’s movie moment
- Four guys and four amps: “All Things Must Pass” remains rough, perhaps because it’s serving as background music to discussions about recording equipment
- The Band plays on: An in-depth look at the Jan. 3 rehearsals of “All Things Must Pass” concludes with talk of musical and lyrical inspiration
- Taxman, Revisited: George teases us with a reference to “Taxman Pt. 2”
- Hearing things: John reminds us he’s still there with a taste of a future solo classic
- Let you down, leave you flat: Bootleg tracklists for the Get Back sessions are so promising, especially when you see the Beatles are playing some of their older tunes, but really, they are just joking around
- Fifteen minutes of fame: The Beatles didn’t spend a whole lot of time introducing brand-new songs to the sessions this day, but the ones they (specifically, Paul) did were eventual classics
- Quizzical: Paul unleashes an incomplete “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” on the group as the anti-“All Things Must Pass” on this day
- Et cetera: Tying up some loose ends for the day’s sessions before we move onto the next day
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 January 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 two-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.
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.