Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da: Anniversary Edition Notes

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da appears in Paul's “Spring Songs: Rishikesh 1968” notebook titled 'Obla Dee Obla Da'. The Esher demo like all other versions is played in A but tuned down a semitone like many of the other demos. Paul harmonises nicely with himself. There's some percussion and someone is shaking a axatse/shekere/calabash.

The coda spends only one bar on the vi chord (3:00) to the finished version's two bars.

The track listing reveals that Version 1 had three saxes, a conga drum (played by Jimmy Scott, the originator of the title phrase) and a piccolo that was wiped almost immediately to make room for an 'acoustic bass doubling the bass line'. I think this is an error I can't hear anything doubling the, frankly erratic, bass line, (listen to 'Take 5' on Anthology 3) and there doesn't seem to be this a double bass or an acoustic bass guitar that the Beatles used or had lying around (see Beatles Gear). I think this 'doubling' comment refers to Version 2 and the piccolo was wiped for McCartney's only bass overdub.

Take 3 of version 1 appears as an 'outtake'. McCartney's 'chick-a-boom' asides, 'one bar' coda and self harmonising from the Esher demo are all still present. Take 5 (the Anthology 3 track) is the same take with overdubs - some busy sax parts, Jimmy's very busy congas and Paul's extremely busy bass. Version 1 also seems to speed up half way through. But the tiny cowbell overdub is cool.

Version 2 also has three saxes but no Jimmy.

Here's a theory: Was one reason for recording a second version that McCartney uncomfortable with having Jimmy Scott on the track? Unable to remove him as saxes and percussion were all recorded on the same track, Ringo later added another conga overdub anyway. Was Paul worried Jimmy's claim to authorship would be strengthened if he actually appearing on the disputed track? Or was it just his busy conga playing?

This time we have a distorted acoustic guitar doubling the very much simplified bass line.

Version 3 was attempted (with Paul on drums) but abandoned after a couple of takes and the band returned to finish version 2 which was recorded in A and tape sped up to Bb (noticeably affecting the backing vocals at 1:09).

The line “Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face” (2:34) was a genuine mistake which Paul liked and decided to keep.

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Monday, 27 May 2019

Glass Onion: Anniversary Edition Notes

The Esher demo of Glass Onion is played in the same key (Am) but Lennon's guitar is tuned down (this time by a semitone). At this stage there is only one verse and no bridge. Lennon messes up the lyrics and descends into stream of conscious gibberish, paraphrasing 'Chicago' by Fred Fisher. A post-Rishikesh lyric manuscripts, written on the back of an envelope, omits the word 'man' from the

Walrus and me/close as can be

lines and reveals that Lennon (and McCartney?) was (were?) even more ambitious about trying to cram in self-references

Trying to make a dovetail joint for a yellow submarine

Lennon was still tweaking lyrics during the recording at various points, trying out

Fool on the Hill is standing/sitting/living there still

Walrus and me are as nice/cool/keen/close as can be

Looking through a hole in the ocean

There were musical as well as lyrical self-references - a mellotron quote of Strawberry Fields Forever was cut (along with the sound effects coda heard on Anthology 3) but a nod to The Fool On The Hill (with Paul and Chris Thomas on recorders) made it to the final version.

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Friday, 24 May 2019

Dear Prudence: Anniversary Edition Notes

Dear Prudence was written in Rishikesh in dropped D (DADGBE) but the Esher demo is pitched almost a full tone down from that (CGCFAD). Lennon is having fun dragging out the 's' in "Dear Prudenssssssss..." every chance he gets. On this unplugged version you can clearly hear Lennon continue the drone bass note under the menacing out of key chords at the end of the bridge. A nasty discordant effect thankfully disguised by the bass on the studio version.

At 4:13 Lennon launches into a semi-audible exposition

Prudence was struck by an illness in the middle of her meditation course in Rishikesh, India. No one was to know that [laughs] sooner or later, she was to go completely berserk under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. All the people around were very worried about the girl, because she was going insane.So we sang to her. Thank you.

The Giles Martin mix is gloriously clear but misses the first few notes (which now reside on the end of USSR). Given that he fixed so many of the previous mix's faults it's a shame that this edition creates a new one. But at least we've lost that crappy jet sound. Swings and roundabouts...

Johnny Lennon is singing bass BVs (again!) along with Mal Evans, Jackie Lomax and John McCartney (cousin) mucking in on BVs and handclaps. Paul is on drums – the outtake ('Vocal, Guitar and Drum') helps to show how average the drum performance is. Not only is Paul clearly NOT Ringo, Paul isn't even the best drummer in the er... Paul... The finished version of Prudence is glorious, but the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts – especially the two drum tracks combined on the final verse.

Wikipedia: “although some commentators list this sound [in the bridge] as a flugelhorn, it is in fact Harrison's lead guitar, played on his Gibson Les Paul”.

Wikipedia are talking out of their flugelhorn. You can hear it clearly on the 'almost' isolated track here (along with the drum solo).

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Monday, 20 May 2019

Back In The USSR: Anniversary Edition Notes

Update: I realised I'm doing this all wrong. These notes will be most helpful (to me and anyone else) if I arrange them by song. So here we go. Take 2!

The White Album: 50th Anniversary edition gives us an interesting window into the development of the songs via the facsimiles of Paul's “Spring Songs: Rishikesh 1968” (PM:RM) and the (probably) post-Rishikesh lyric manuscripts (PRM), the Esher demos (ED), the track listings (TL) and the outtakes.

Back In The USSR arrived back from Rishikesh (PM:RM) with no final verse and an alternate line in the 1st verse

Man it was an awful flight > Man I had a dreadful flight

The song remained the same for the Esher demo where it was played in F# (using barre chords in standard tuning). The final verse appears in a PRM with the last line initially missing then added as

Let me hear your balalaika working out > Let me see your balalaika working out

By the final version it's become

Let me hear your balalaika ringing out

And more importantly the song is now in A, the higher key better suiting a 'rock and roll screamer'.

The TL and outtakes sheds some light on why all three remaining Beatles* have been mysteriously credited on bass and drums. Track 1 has George playing a backbeat on snare (with possibly a little bass drum thrown in) while Paul lays down guitar. Next John plays 6 string bass while Paul overdubs piano. However, a closer listen ('Instrumental Backing Track') reveals John is picking and strumming it like a guitar rather than attempting to play a bassline.

The most I can hear on this 'outtake' are two, possibly three, standard electric guitars, two 6-string basses played as guitars, and two drums tracks. My guess is that only Paul played 'real' bass and drums, with George laying down the 'click-track' snare only and John playing 'guitar' on a bass. Standard guitar parts by Paul, George and possibly John. Paul may have also doubled his own regular lead guitar on the bass-VI as well (2:51 in right speaker).

The BVs have Paul and George up high with John singing bass – a role he also fulfils on Happiness Is a Warm Gun and Piggies.

Stereo vs Mono: apparently the outro airplane 'sample' sounds really bad on stereo version - “an abomination of a jet sound”– due to a mistake by tape-op John Smith. The mono is fine and Giles has now fixed the weird dogwhistle effect on the stereo – but TBH once you're comparing the relative tonality of jet engine samples you need to get a life.

Which clearly, I do.

* Ringo quit remember?

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Thursday, 18 April 2019

White Album 50th Anniversary Notes (pt.2) - Later Lyrics

More Lyric Facsimiles (Probably Post Rishikesh)

Performance Notes

Several of John's songs have some kind of vocal performance direction above the title.

I'm So Tired - “Smokey then heavy voice” a reference to Smokey Robinson?

Revolution - “Marha [?] - Diana - light voice” perhaps another Motown reference - Martha Reeves and Diana Ross?

Bungalow Bill “Band (Water Melon). children!” possibly a (faintly racist?) reference to the band singing backing vocals?

Lyrical Evolution

I'm So Tired

Verse 2, line 2: my mind is set on you is missing.
Verse 3, line 2: Although I'm so tired > Although I'm choked – Lennon obviously later went back to his first choice.
Verse 3, line 3: I believe Sir Walter Raleigh he was > And curse Sir Walter Raleigh he was

When I wrote about this song I was unsure whether to call the “You'd say I'm putting you on” section a chorus or a bridge but it's labelled “8” so in Lennon's mind it was a middle eight – a bridge.

Don't Pass Me By

Penned in purple felt-tip are (unused) lines that Hunter Davis calls “funny in their awfulness” dubbing Ringo “a modern day William McGonagall”

I feel a little foolish sitting here alone
Instead of eating crackers I think I'll just get stoned

You came all wrapped in cellophane
With purple bursting free
The card said open carefully
And pay for C.OD [sic]

Yer Blues

My Mother was of the earth > My Mother was of the sky
My Father was of the sky > My Father was of the earth
But I am of the underworld > But I am of the universe

I'm feeling so uptight now just Dylan's Mr Jones > I feel so suicidal just Dylan's Mr Jones

Back In The USSR

The final verse is added. The last line is initially missing then added as

Let me hear your balalaika working out > Let me see your balalaika working out

Recorded as Let me hear your balalaika ringing out

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Written on 'NEMS London' headed paper While My Guitar Gently Weeps begins with a list of rhymes

Tampering – tapering, Tempering – thundering,
Tittering – Tottering, Towering, Toppling [TICK]
Wandering - Watering, Wavering, Weathering
Whimpering, wintering, whispering, Wondering [TICK]

and later on the manuscript


adding further supporting evidence that Harrison was suffering from a bad case of rhyme's disease when he penned this otherwise excellent song. The manuscript gives a window into the lyrical development. Verse 1 is fully formed but verse 2 develops from

I look at the sky and I notice it's clouding

which is then replaced by

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
I'm wondering why your nigars[?*] keep on burning
still your guitar gently weeps! > still my guitar gently weeps!

[*Everett has it as 'cigars' but it certainly doesn't look like a 'c'!]

After the Burning/churning/learning/yearning list the lyric takes it's final form as

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps!

I don't know how, someone controlled you, how they
blindfolded you.

Then the bridge undergoes a minor change

I don't know how
You were perverted – you were diverted too
I don't know why you got inverted
No one alerted you

as 'why' and 'how' change places

I don't know why
You were perverted – you were diverted too
I don't know how you got inverted
No one alerted you

George makes a number of attempts to start verse 3

I look at the powers around

I look at the wars of the world that are raging

I'm thinking of wars everywhere that is raging

I look at the trouble and hate that is raging

none of which he seems as happy with as verse 3 line 3

While I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing

which is tweaked to

As I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing

This verse survived to the Esher demo

I look at the trouble and pain that is raging
While my guitar gently weeps
As I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing
Still my guitar gently weeps

by the time they got to Abbey Road (the 'Version 1' acoustic guitar/harmonium 'demo' that appears on Anthology 3 and 'Love') it's become

I look from the wings at the play you are staging
While my guitar gently weeps
As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing
Still my guitar gently weeps

By the final version it's been replaced by a restatement of the first verse

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps


After the section marked “SOLO” [1:28] is one called “STAGGERS” – the guitar/bass solo break [1:48]

Helter Skelter

An embryonic version of the 'jazz-style intro verse' is written after the 'do you don't you' verse supporting my theory that the intro was originally the chorus and the chorus was originally the bridge (or 'middle' as Paul notates it)

I go back to the top of the hill (ride)
And I stop and I turn and I give you a thrill
Till I see you again


This is a post Esher version (in pencil) as it containing Lennon's line "Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon" (Harrison had sung "Clutching forks and knives to cut their pork chops" on the demo). Mrs. Harrison's line "what they need's a damn good whacking!" is overwritten in red pen for emphasis!

There is also a cut 4th verse that George reinstated on the 1992 Live In Japan album.

Everywhere there's lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
You can see them on their trotters
At the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To THEE pig Brother


contains a Harrison-style list of rhymes

distribution [?]
Constitution [?]

Glass Onion

Written on the back of an envelope, Glass Onion omits the word 'man' from the Walrus and me/close as can be lines and reveals that Lennon was even more ambitious about trying to cram in self-references

Trying to make a dovetail joint for a yellow submarine

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

is titled '(the continuing story of) BUNGALOW BILL'

Hey Jude

She has found you now go and get her > You have found her now go and get her

The final version was only settled on very late in the recording sessions

Next: Recording Notes

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Friday, 5 April 2019

White Album 50th Anniversary Notes (part 1)

Here's my notes from the book that came with the The Beatles (White Album) 50th Anniversary Reissue Deluxe Edition. This is not a review (the whole package is very good) but I thought you might like to see what I learned from it. All of this will end up in the posts on the songs themselves eventually, no apologies for presenting it in a raw form here. I might post notes on the Esher Demos and outtake discs too if I have the time.

Thanks so much to my buddy Neil Barrett for the loan of his copy. (Neil has an Elton John focused podcast that's recommended if you dig Elton). On that score if anyone has a copy of Recording The Beatles that they'd be willing to loan me let me know!

Facsimile of Paul's “Spring Songs: Rishikesh 1968”

Gives lots of clues to the development of songs. Must be his 'best copy' version. It's a nice old manuscript. Very clean.

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da is titled Obla Dee Obla Da

Back In The USSR has alternate line (as heard on Esher) 1st verse.

Man it was an awful flight > Man I had a dreadful flight

And the last verse doesn't exist yet.

Rocky Racoon is missing the intro verse (clearly improvised in studio as the Anthology alternate take shows).

Honey Pie has no intro verse – but there's blank page left at beginning so there was always supposed to be one.

The notebook also contains Junk and an untitled version of Maxwell's Silver Hammer in scruffier handwriting and different ink (possibly written later?).

Context of the White Album

John Harris: “Side 4 … was like some dark attic that you had to summon the courage to peer into, let alone explore.” There's nothing scary about Honey Pie and Good Night. Perhaps the legend of Revolution 9 looms large...

Has a running time of 93 minutes. Too long to fit on a C90 cassette. This marked it out as special to 10 year old me.

1968 was a time of going back to basics. The stripped down approach most notably embodied in Dylan/The Band.

Q: What was the timeline/chronology of John Wesley Harding, Music From Big Pink, The White Album?

Q: How stripped down was WA compared to SPLHCB? Compare the number of tracks featuring guest musicians - Indian musicians, classical musicians, horn sections etc, George Martin and friends – between WA and Pepper. [I'm working on a post about this]

Side 3 was “The Heavy Side” - Helter Skelter, Monkey, Yer Blues, Birthday. (but it also has Mother Nature's, Sadie and Longx3).

The subject of Julia is a composite of Mother/Lover, Julia/Yoko. Evidence? The name Yoko translates as 'child of the ocean'.

Can You Take Me Back is referred to as 'an improvised piece'.

There is some evidence that the sessions were not as grim as received wisdom would have it. I'm still not convinced that Geoff Emerick and Ringo quit because everyone was having so much fun but there is some supporting evidence

Recording Happiness Is A Warm Gun:

John: “Is anybody finding it easier? It seems a little easier … it's just no fun, but it's easier”
George: “Easier and fun”
John: “Oh all right. If you insist”

But then Paul says “I think it was a very good album. It stood up, but it wasn’t a pleasant one to make”. [Anthology]

Another example of Lennon and McCartney 'mirroring' each other. Inspired by the Maharishi's lectures John writes Child Of Nature; Paul writes Mother Nature's Son.

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Monday, 18 February 2019

Under The Influence: Buddy Holly

John Lennon

I only saw [Buddy Holly] on the London Palladium [TV show] … He was great. It was the first time I saw a Fender guitar being played. While the singer sang! (Also the 'secret' of the drumming on Peggy Sue was revealed - live).

The name BEATLES was directly inspired by CRICKETS. I think the greatest effect was on the songwriting (especially mine and Paul's). We [performed] practically everything he put out, what he did with three chords made a songwriter out of me. He was the first guy I ever saw with a capo, he made it OK to wear glasses. I was Buddy Holly.

John Lennon answering a Sept 1974 questionnaire by Jim Dawson The Elvis Forum. I've edit some of Lennon's punctuation for clarity and my own sanity!

Lennon quoted/paraphrased Holly's song (written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) in Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence: “The sun is up, the sky is blue/It's beautiful and so are you”
Raining In My Heart: “The sun is out, the sky is blue/There's not a cloud to spoil the view”

George Harrison

One of the greatest people for me was Buddy Holly, because first of all he sang, wrote his own tunes and was a guitar player, and he was very good. Buddy Holly was the first time I heard A to F#m. Fantastic—he was opening up new worlds there. And then A to F, A, D, E, F and F#m. He was sensational. I no longer had the fear of changing from A to F.

Quoted in Mark Lewisohn: The Beatles - All These Years: Volume One: Tune In (p.150)

Paul McCartney

Buddy Holly/The Crickets songs covered by The Beatles

Words of Love - Beatles for Sale
Crying, Waiting, Hoping - Live at the BBC
That'll Be the Day - Anthology 1

More Under The Influence posts
Further Reading: Aaron Krerowicz: Influence of Buddy Holly on The Beatles

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