< Get Back
It’s Christmas 1972, and the Fabs are back!
OK, the Beatles finished their Anthology series back in the 1990s, and enough is enough. Or is it?
When the solo albums came out in the 1970s, they were works of art, but none of them set the rock world on fire. There were too many other new rock stars, and the solo Beatles just weren’t the same as the Beatles.
But what if the Beatles had stayed together? What if they had buried their differences and allowed the evolution of their musical styles to come forth, but within the framework of a Beatles album? (Yeah, yeah, get a life…)
From this idle speculation, the real “Red Album” was born. No, not the greatest hits album known unofficially as the “Red” album (due to the red border around the cover) — the Beatles, if they had stayed together, would not have put out such a thing. This is my fantasy of what the next double-album from the Beatles would have been, using solo versions of songs.
The purpose of this project is to get you to hear these songs in the context of a Beatles album, and in that context, a certain magic occurs.
These songs become more than just songs by the solo artists. “God is a concept,” John sings in “God” at the end of the album, and so is the Beatles, but magic occurs when you place these songs in the Beatles conceptual framework.
Why These Songs?
The songs were chosen after reading lots of books about how Beatles albums were made, and listening to hours and hours of outtakes. Weeks and then months passed as we debated Beatles trivia. Finally, we compiled this collection of songs, recorded them onto a recordable CD for our private listening pleasure (as allowed by copyright law), and marveled at the results.
While outtakes of Beatles sessions provided much of the basis for song choices, we chose the finished, solo album versions for all songs. This is supposed to be a real album, folks, not a collection of unreleased material. That’s how it should be, because that’s how Apple Records has consistently operated, not releasing outtakes until decades after they were recorded. Besides, these songs are the versions that the artists wanted to create, assuming the artist acted as producer (or hired a producer).
Also, these tracks are radio-friendly, from a legal perspective. Any radio station can simply play these songs in this order. You can, legally permitting, try this at home if you buy the music.
If you want to hear the actual outtakes that inspired my choices, you can certainly get the excellent Anthology series (which substantiates them) and the bootleg CDs that may still be available in some stores in the U.S., and are still available in places like Italy and Japan.
I took into account conjecture as to how their careers would have progressed, and what kind of style or influence each one would have exerted to keep the group together, and what kind of compromises would have been made.
Compromises? Such as giving George Harrison more songs, and using multiple producers, resorting to the all-purpose credit line, “Produced by the Beatles” (which would have been another pioneering concept for pop music at that time). Perhaps they would have linked tracks from different writers together (such as a George song into a Paul song). Another change, I speculate, would have been a renegotiation between John and Paul, decoupling Lennon/McCartney as a songwriting team, and crediting Lennon and McCartney separately for their songs.
Try This At Home
Try to imagine it is the Fall of 1972, the Beatles haven’t released an album in two years, there was all sorts of bickering in the press, everyone thought they had broke up, the Let It Be album had been a letdown, everyone wanted the Abbey Road Beatles again.
But then, right before Thanksgiving of 1970, Apple releases a new single…..
- Instant Karma/Give Peace a Chance
Heads turn. Has John gone political? Where’s the rest of the Beatles? Then, right before Christmas 1970, comes the second single:
- Too Many People/Man We Was Lonely
Well, has Paul gone balmy? These don’t even sound like Beatles songs. The first one uses studio musicians, and in the second, all the instruments were played by Paul. Well, the Beatles have surprised us before. But in early December, they release something expected of them: a Christmas record. They had done so every year since 1963, and 1970 is no different, except for this fantastic lineup:
- Happy Xmas (War is Over)/Mary Had a Little Lamb
- Power to the People/Oo You
- My Sweet Lord/Early 1970
Now we’ve got Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, all on singles.
The Red Album
In the Spring of 1971 a double-album set is released with the Beatles logo, all red, dubbed “The Red Album” and containing more songs than the “White Album” (to which it is often compared). It is another triumph, and a musical statement for the new decade. “The Dream is Over.”
(Six of the eight singles were not on the album, but became available later as a special EP, and finally, as bonus tracks on the Red Album CD set, with the exception of two singles that were saved for the Ringo album and the Lennon box set. Merchandise issues — just like real life!)
Side 1 (CD 1)
Cold Turkey (w/Eric Clapton)
That Would Be Something
Ram On #1
Working Class Hero
Give Peace a Chance #2 – Valentine Day
Maybe I’m Amazed
A howling opener, “Cold Turkey” reminds us of other albums that started fast and furious. This one promises to bare the soul. The highlights of this side include “Not Guilty” (see the Anthology 3 for an outtake of this), the sentimental sweetness and light of Paul in “Dear Boy”-“Ram On #1”, the strong political message of “Working Class Hero”, the combined “Peace” and “Valentine Day” (do this at home, kids), and finally, Paul singing his sweetest folk tune (“Junk”, also on Anthology 3) and Paul’s strongest gospel love song, “Maybe I’m Amazed”.
Side 2 (CD 1)
I’d Have You Anytime
My Sweet Lord
I Found Out
Awaiting on You All (w/Eric Clapton)
Uncle Albert/Adm. Halsey
Side 2 starts off with two of George’s best songs, “I’d Have You Anytime” (written with Bob Dylan), and “My Sweet Lord”, and then John snarls back with “I Found Out”. Paul is blissfully making another day while George is teaming up with Eric Clapton for another guitar scorcher, and John offers an emotional counterpoint. Paul brings back the ballroom medley spirit with “Uncle Albert/Adm. Halsey”. The final word is had by John with “Isolation”.
Side 3 (CD 2)
Hot as Sun/Glasses
Give Me Some Truth
Oh My Love
It Don’t Come Easy
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
Heart of the Country
Ram On #2
All Things Must Pass
While “Imagine” is clearly the hit of side 3, the big surprise is the sole Ringo contribution, “It Don’t Come Easy”. Note the way Paul’s weird segue in “Glasses” falls into John’s “Give Me Some Truth” (echoing, perhaps, Paul’s segue into “Revolution #9” on the White Album) George gets spacey with “Sir Frankie Crisp”, and of course Paul would have wanted to attach “Heart of the Country” to it and then meld on the second version of “Ram On” (again, do this at home, kids!). John answers “Imagine” with “Oh Yoko!” George, this time, has the last word with “All Things Must Pass”.
Side 4 (CD 2)
Look at Me
How Do You Sleep?
Isn’t It a Pity
The Lovely Linda
Side 4 opens with the mournful cries of the orphaned John. Paul nearly slaps him in the face with his hokey “Teddy Boy” and John is still in pain. John’s opening intro of “How Do You Sleep?” haunts the song and reminds us of the beginning of Sgt. Pepper. George, once again, points out how pitiful these arguments are among people who love each other, and John answers his questions with “God” at the end. Oh yes, and we tacked on a simple song from Paul, like they’d done before, at the very end.
“I don’t believe in Beatles” sings John. “Just believe in me.” That’s the ending message of the Red Album for the 1970s, also known as the Me Decade. But the theme of the album is more about the tragedy of broken hearts and bickering, the spirituality of self-love, and the healing properties of love when you realize that you must love yourself. For we all shine on.
Overall Copyright (c) 1996-2018 by Tony Bove (for Rockument.com). “John Lennon at Cow Palace” used by permission from Lisa Law. Copyright (c) 1995 Lisa Law (to contact her by email: email@example.com). (Image appeared in Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties! CD-ROM by Rockument.)