< Get Back
Behind That Locked Door…
In a vault deep inside in Abbey Road Studios in London — protected by an unmarked, triple-locked, police-alarmed door — are something like 400 hours of unreleased Beatles recordings, starting from June 2, 1962 and ending with the very last tracks recorded for the Let It Be album.
Quite a bit of these recordings have been copied and put out on bootlegs (the best of which are found on the Yellow Dog CD label). However, the best of the best were released by Apple Records in the form of the 3-volume Anthology series which offers outtakes and historical recordings that represent a milestone in classic rock. There are many interesting arrangements for songs that are much different than the released versions, and numerous “layered” out-takes demonstrating the various layers of overdubbing that was required for such experimentation when using the primitive 4-track equipment of that time.
Anthology Box Set:
This volume starts with the first new Beatle song, “Free as a Bird” (based on a John Lennon demo, found only on the bootleg The Lost Lennon Tapes Vol. 28, and covers the very earliest historical recordings, outtakes from the first albums, and live recordings from early concerts and BBC Radio sessions.
- “Cry for a Shadow” — Many a Beatle fanatic started down the bootleg road, like I did, with a first listen to this song. Originally titled “Beatle Bop” and recorded in a single session that yielded four songs (the other three featured Tony Sheridan with the Beatles as a backing band), “Cry for a Shadow” is an instrumental written by Lennon and Harrison, which makes it unique to this day. John Lennon plays rhythm guitar, George Harrison plays lead guitar, Paul McCartney plays bass, and Pete Best plays drums. The sessions were produced by Bert Kaempfert in Hamburg, Germany, during the Beatles’ second visit from April through July of 1961 to play in the Reeperbahn-section clubs.
- “My Bonnie” and “Ain’t She Sweet” — At the same session, the Beatles played on “My Bonnie” (the first-ever single with Beatles playing), as the backing band for English singer Tony Sheridan, originally a member of the Jets. The popularity of this single in Liverpool brought the Beatles to the attention of Brian Epstein, who worked in the NEMS record store and tried to meet demand for the disc. John Lennon then sings a fine “Ain’t She Sweet” (his first-ever released vocal).
- “Searchin'” — A Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller comedy song that was a hit for the Coasters in 1957, and a popular live favorite of the Beatles. The Coasters also had a hit with “Besame Mucho” and the Beatles covered that song as well. Ringo Starr had by now replaced Pete Best on drums. The high falsetto is George, who also plays a hesitant lead guitar. This is from their first audition for Decca Records in London on Jan 1., 1962, live in the studio. The Grateful Dead would later cover “Searchin'” with a similar arrangement, Pigpen doing the Paul vocals. A live version is available on bootlegs featuring the Dead joined by the Beach Boys!
- “Love Me Do” — An early version of the song, played a bit slower and with more of a blues feeling, and a cool bossa-nova beat in middle. Paul had to sing while John played harmonica — a first for the group. Pete Best played drums on this version.
- “She Loves You – Till There Was You – Twist and Shout” — Live at the Princess Wales Theatre by Leicester Square in London, attended by the Queen. “Till There Was You” (by Meredith Wilson) is from the musical The Music Man and a hit for Peggy Lee in 1961. Before playing it, Paul said it was recorded by his favorite American group, “Sophie Tucker” (which got some laughs). At the end, John tells the people in the cheaper seats to clap their hands, and the rest to “rattle your jewelry” and then announces “Twist and Shout” (a song by Bert Russell and Phil Medley that was first recorded in 1962 by the Isley Brothers). A film of the performance shows the Queen smiling at John’s remark.
- “Leave My Kitten Alone” — One of the lost Beatle songs recorded during the “Beatles For Sale” sessions but never released. This song, written by Little Willie John, Titus Turner, and James McDougal, was a 1959 R&B hit for Little Willie John and covered by Johnny Preston before the Beatles tried it and shelved it. A reference to a “big fat bulldog” may have influenced John’s “Hey Bulldog” (Yellow Submarine album), which is a similar rocker.
- “One After 909” — A song recorded for the album Let It Be was actually worked on way back in the beginning, six years earlier. This take shows how they did it much more slowly, with an R&B feel to it.
Volume 2, truly deliver the goods for those of you who like to listen to layered out-takes and different arrangements, especially from the Sgt. Pepper era. It opens with the other new Beatles song, “Real Love” (also based on a John Lennon original demo, which you can find on Lennon’s CD Acoustic).
- “That Means a Lot” — A Paul McCartney song recorded during the “Help” sessions that was shelved and never released by the Beatles, although Paul gave it to P.J. Proby, who had a minor hit with it in 1965. This is one of the best of all the lost Beatles songs. “And when she says she loves you, that means a lot.”
- “If You’ve Got Trouble” — A Lennon/McCartney original song offered for Ringo to sing on the Help! album. The song was recorded on Feb. 18, 1965, on the fourth day of the Help! sessions, with vocal overdubs, but then shelved and never released.
- “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” Take 1 — First take of this masterpiece, in a different key than the released version, recorded live in the studio with minimal overdubs on the first day in the studio for the “Rubber Soul” album. Could that be “Knowing She Would”?
- “Got to Get You Into My Life” — Fascinating alternate early take with a different arrangement, unfinished but shelved. The arrangement was changed again for the released version.
- “Tomorrow Never Knows” — Recorded under the title “Mark 1” this take of this mind-altering song was one of the first things recorded for the “Revolver” album and is noticeably different, with less overdubs, than the released version.
- “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Take 7) — This song, the first for the Sgt. Pepper sessions though it did not appear on that album, underwent many changes in the studio. The released version is a combination of take 7 and take 26. This is the full take 7 by itself, along with the extra verse, and the drum solo edited onto the end.
- “A Day in the Life” — Introduced with John’s count-off of “sugar plum fairy” this is the basic track of the final version, without overdubs, and with a guide vocal by Paul (later changed due to Paul’s “oh shit” at the end). The orchestra was added later, and the ending was changed. You can feel the raw power of this song without the orchestra, and also feel its unfinished, avant-garde attitude.
- “I Am the Walrus” — Take 16 of this song is the basic track without all the mystery overdubs, showing the real power of the mantra-like beat and including mistakes.
This volume covers the most prolific period of Beatle creativity, from the White Album through Abbey Road and Let It Be. It also includes parts of the “Get Back” live sessions, conducted at Apple headquarters and in the cavernous Twickenham movie studios, and the rooftop concert at Apple headquarters in Saville Row, London.
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” — This demo sounds like the Beatles Unplugged, with just George Harrison on guitar. The song would undergo two major remakes before its release on the White Album with Eric Clapton playing lead guitar.
- “Not Guilty” — George recorded this version with the Beatles for the White Album, but it was shelved. It reappeared with a different arrangement on George’s 1979 solo album, George Harrison (at left). Great jam at the end!
- “Get Back” — Live from the roof of Apple headquarters in Savile Row. This concert was immortalized in the Let It Be movie (and you can see it in the Anthology video series (below left), since Let It Be has not been released on DVD). It was the last song of their last live performance. The cops show up to shut it down. Get back!
- “Let It Be” — Recorded in Apple’s basement studio as part of the Let It Be movie, with no overdubs. It includes John’s tracking remark at end, followed by “you bounder, you cheat!”
Live at the BBC
On Air – Live at the BBC, Vol. 2>
The BBC recorded the Beatles live in the studio, and released its recordings in a 3-disc set called Live at the BBC. Highlights include:
- “I Got a Woman” — This was a Ray Charles hit in 1955 that was also covered by Elvis Presley, and one of John Lennon’s favorites. Ray Charles combined gospel and blues to make one of the first “soul” records at the height of American music’s Rhythm & Blues period. This was recorded live at the BBC Paris Theatre on July 16, 1963.
- “Some Other Guy” — An obscure song recorded by Richie Barrett and co-written with the famous songwriting team Lieber and Stoller, this song became a local anthem as every band in Liverpool covered it. The BBC was, at that time, the only source in the U.K. for radio shows, and a live BBC radio show was guaranteed a very large audience. Brian Epstein used these programmes to raise the Beatles’ profile from a Liverpool band to a leading band in the U.K. This is a particularly hot rendition of this rhythm and blues stomper. Paul’s bass is fantastic, he really steps out… and so does Ringo! This was recorded before a live audience at the Playhouse Theatre in London on June 19, 1963.
- “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)” — The Beatles were also influenced by rockabilly and pop. This song is an Elvis Presley cover (Thomas/Biggs) recorded live for the BBC programme “Pop Goes the Beatles” on July 16, 1963. This song appeared on a Presley LP released in the U.K. as Rock ‘n’ Roll #1, a record that had a profound influence on the Beatles and many other English pop bands that were just starting up. There’s a hint of skiffle music, which John Lennon loved in his childhood, in this rockabilly song. Lennon’s influences, besides Presley, included Carl Perkins and skiffle king Lonnie Donnegan.
- “Soldier of Love” — An Arthur Alexander cover (Case/Moon), recorded live for the BBC programme “Pop Goes the Beatles” on July 16, 1963. Another song, “Anna” (recorded on the Beatles Please Please Me album) was also an Arthur Alexander cover.
- “Memphis, Tennessee” — One of many Chuck Berry covers recorded live in the studio for the BBC programme “Pop Goes the Beatles” on July 10, 1963, and one of John Lennon’s favorite songs. Chuck Berry was hailed as “my hero” by Lennon on the Mike Douglas Show in 1970, where he jammed with Berry on this song.
- “I Feel Fine” — The Beatles were quite good as a live act, and this version is evidence, recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in London on Nov. 17, 1964. It also marks the first use of feedback guitar (John) on a pop song.
- “I’m a Loser” — Another excellent live rendition of one of my favorite songs, complete with John on harmonica, recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in London on Nov. 17, 1964.
- “Honey Don’t” — The famous Carl Perkins cover, live from the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester on Aug. 1, 1963, with John on lead vocals rather than Ringo (who would sing it later on the LP version). Carl Perkins was a favorite artist of the Beatles, especially George Harrison, who learned the Perkins guitar-picking style that came to be associated with rockabilly.
John Lennon Anthology
If you already own a collection of Lennon outtakes, such as the bootleg series The Lost Lennon Tapes and others like it, you know what to expect. Even major collectors won’t have some of this material. While some of it is well known (such as the Dylan parody, “Serve Yourself”, and various live cuts like “Imagine” and “Come Together”), I was blown away by tracks I never heard before, including live versions of “It’s So Hard” and “The Luck of the Irish” and the satirical tracks, which are worth the price alone.
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Overall Copyright (c) 1996-2015 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: firstname.lastname@example.org). (Image appeared in Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties! CD-ROM by Rockument.)