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.