Friday, 21 February 2020

10:63 Revolution (pt.3) Will the real Revolution please stand up?


Revolution vs Revolution 1


Welcome to the post (and song) that threw the spanner in the works of my blogging through the Beatles catalogue. But I'm here to just poke a big stream of consciousness stick down the plug hole of musical constipation ... wait … let me start again …

Revolution and Revolution 1 are unique in the Beatles catalogue. Not merely remixes (Across The Universe), or out of the vault alternative takes (One After 909 on Anthology), or a new piece built on the bones of an existing one (Revolution 9). These are two completely independent attempts on the same song. The Beatles covering the Beatles. Just imagine if Lennon had wanted to release both versions of Strawberry Fields Forever instead of stitching them together?

So before analysing the song it feels apposite to ask: Which is the real version? The right version? The original version? The best version? And is that four ways of asking the same question?

You can attempt to answer via


  • chronology
  • personal chronology (i.e. which one you heard first)
  • personal preference
  • authorial intent


First, the TL;DR version confirming the world and John Lennon agree with all my prejudices followed by the TL;BIRIAA (Too Long But I Read It All Anyway) version in which I hope to change your mind.

TL;DR - Revolution 1 (aka 'the album version') is the definitive version

Why?

Chronology: It was recorded in Jun 68, a month before the single version.

Personal chronology: I heard the White Album as a kid on my sister's TDK120 cassette – I didn't hear the single till I started Beatles Songwriting Academy in 2009. So there.

Personal preference: That fuzztone is like someone poured itching powder into my eyeballs and it's the most prominent element on the record. Bad tones do have their place on great records (in the background or just prior to something awesome, making it sound even awesomer).

Authorial Intent: Lennon was happy with the album cut and it was only after Paul and George vetoed it as a single that he decided to rerecord it. His comments in 1980 reveal he still considered the album cut to be better.

Convinced? No? Let's dig deeper.

CONFUSING CHRONOLOGY – PERSONAL AND OTHERWISE


Just like Let It Be/Abbey Road, Revolution has a convoluted timeline. Revolution 1 (album version) was recorded first, but released second. The promo video for the single replaced the vocals with a 'live' take (to get around Musician Union rules against miming) and could be considered a third distinct version.



Revolution 1 - recorded 30, 31 May; 4, 21 June
Revolution - recorded 9-12 July
Revolution - released 30 Aug
Revolution Video - recorded 4 Sep
Revolution Video - released 8 Sep (Frost on Saturday)
Revolution 1 - released 22 Nov (UK), 25 Nov (US)

If you were sentient in 1968 you would have heard the 'do-over' almost a full two months before the original. That's a long time to get used to the over-distorted freakout before encountering the laid back jam session. Alan W. Pollack sounds like someone who encountered the single first, calling it “the 'true' version of the song, and the album cut … a remake ... a veritable parody of the single version”.*

First time listeners from 1969 onwards probably heard the album cut first unless they arrived via the 'Blue Album' (The Beatles: 1967–1970) or Past Masters.

FUZZTONE REVISTED



As a rock guitarist I've spent countless hours sampling the nuances of distorted guitar tones like a sommelier of sound. Distortion vs overdrive, pedals vs amp, transistors vs tubes, pre amp or power amp of course humbuckers vs single coils. This single is covered with the stankiest DI'd-to-the-desk “full spectrum of frequencies”* fuzztone, a sound so bad that record buyers were returning their 'defective' singles, only to be met with the explanation “it's called distortion, apparently. It's meant to sound like that”.*

And though George Harrison didn't love the album version, he wasn't impressed with the the single either, “I think Revolution is pretty good and it grooves along, but I don't particularly like the noise that it makes; and I say 'noise' because I didn't like the distorted sound of John's guitar.”*

WAS JOHN HAPPY WITH THE ALBUM VERSION?


Was the album version a demo to be reworked? Did they need two attempts to get it right? Or was the single (recorded second) merely a cover of the album version?

Lennon seems to have been perfectly happy with Revolution. Re-recording it only became an issue when, according to John, “George and Paul ... said it wasn't fast enough”* and vetoed it as a single. Perhaps the guys weren't comfortable with releasing such a overt political statement or “Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good”* but fudged the issue.

To be charitable to Paul and the others what they were hearing was not what we hear on The White Album. 'Revolution 1 (take 18)' was a sprawling 10 minutes 29 seconds of hippy flavoured jam. Eventually the second half was lopped off and allowed to carrying on mutating into Revolution 9 like some weird alien limb. It would be understandable if they had mentally consigned such freakishness to the 'album track' bin and were unable to hear it with fresh ears, especially knowing Lennon had no problem with flaunting his experimental underwear in public.


At the same time Paul was pushing for Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da to be the single. Neither writer would back down and both set about rerecording their songs to break the deadlock.
“John had defiantly taken [Paul] up on the challenge and so was insisting that they cut it again, faster...that was typical of him in those days; that was his vibe: pissed off”.*
Lennon had a history of needing to speed up his songs. Help and Please Please Me were dirge-like till George Martin got hold of them. Antagonised by Paul, John vented his frustration on the piano, propelling the remake of Ob-La-Di into more ragged, less commercial (and arguably better) territory. What you hear on the single is not the 'soundtrack to a revolution' but two songwriters fighting for an A-side (before Hey Jude came along and rendered the point moot).

“I wanted to put it out as a single, but they said it wasn't good enough...We recorded the song twice. The Beatles were getting real tense with each other. The first take, George and Paul were resentful and said it wasn't fast enough. Now, if you go into the details of what a hit record is and isn't, maybe. But The Beatles could have afforded to put out the slow, understandable version of 'Revolution' as a single, whether it was a gold record or a wooden record”.*

Interviewed 12 years later, John has no problem dismissing other songs he's written as “embarrassing”, “disgusting”, “a horror”, “garbage”, “crap”, “abysmal” and “lousy”* but here it's instructive he says “they said it wasn't good enough”. Undoubtedly the remake has more energy, due to key, tempo and timbre. The bassline moving off the root note more also helps. But the majority of musical changes are arguably cosmetic (see here for a full breakdown).

Unconvinced about the intersection of tempo and commercial appeal, when Lennon describes Revolution 1 as “the slow, understandable version” he wasn't just implying the album cut was better but also that the remake somehow obscured the core message.

It's this point that I want to dig into as it's the reason why the single is less successful and points to an instructive lesson about songwriting.

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, WINSTON?



Authorial intent is key - to assess how well the song 'works' we need to know what the author was trying to achieve, and in Lennon's case, to say.

Written in an ashram in Rishikesh Revolution 1 was a hippie manifesto for peace. The title Revolution occurs ONCE in the entire song. After Lennon opens with “YOU say YOU want a revolution” he spends the rest of the song telling us what HE wants – which is for everyone to chill out and enjoy a little bit of moderate, well-managed change. The chorus (the emotional heart of any well constructed song) is

Don't you know it's gonna be... all right
Don't you know it's gonna be... all right
Don't you know it's gonna be... all right

It's just the kind of thing you'd expect a man who's been meditating on a mountain, half a world away from riots, invasions and assassinations, a man who “really thought that love would save us all".*

And he reaffirmed this stance at the end of his life, “the lyrics stand today. It's still my feeling about politics. I want to see the plan. That is what I used to say to Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Count me out if it is for violence. Don't expect me to be on the barricades unless it is with flowers. As far as overthrowing something in the name of Marxism or Christianity, I want to know what you're going to do after you've knocked it all down. I mean, can't we use some of it? What's the point of bombing Wall Street? If you want to change the system, change the system. It's no good shooting people.”*

Lennon's attitude was unpopular in 1968 and open to the charge that the Beatles were out of touch millionaires. Cocooned in the studio when Bobby Kennedy was shot and Paris rioted, holidaying as Czechoslovakia was invaded, and literally retreating from worldly distractions as Reverend King was assassinated. Harrison expressed the tension in the cut verse to While My Guitar Gently Weeps “I look at the trouble and hate that is raging … as I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing”.

But out of touch or not, that is what was Lennon trying to express. So to say “the madman-on-a-street-corner raving of the single resonates more sympathetically with the sense of the lyrics”* or dismiss the album version as a “song about revolution with all the bite taken out”* is wrong.

Revolution is an anti-revolution song.


In the remake the message of the chorus (“Don't you know it's gonna be alright”) is obscured by the missing words and a lack of vocal reinforcement and the only ambiguity in the lyrics - “count me out...in” - is removed.

Pressured by the band to remake the music in “a much more commercial style”* Lennon paradoxically made choices that pleased no one. Masking his peacenik sentiments by punching up the music didn't impress the radical left who labelled the song "a lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear"* at the same time leaving out the one thing they would have approved of - the ‘count me in’ - “Because I’m a coward – I don’t want to be killed”* by the establishment who continued to view hippy counter culture as a threat anyway.

John didn't like the remake, George didn't like the guitars and Geoff Emerick is probably right saying “I think Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good”*. In the 40 years since Paul has never covered Revolution or performed it live.

It's worth noting that when the Beatles recorded the 'video version' (adding live vocals to the single backing track) they undid every change that they could – Lennon adding the “in” back 'in', Paul and George singing “Don't you know it's gonna be” three times and reinstating the almost universally derided “shoo-bee-do-wop" backing vocals.

There is a good song, perhaps a great (if misunderstood) song hidden within two unsuccessful recordings. Perhaps it needed a decent cover version like Marmalade's take on Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da*. Something that followed the author's blueprint but had some distance from the distracting circus that the band's life and creative process had become.

In future posts we'll look at the song itself.

FOOTNOTES


A veritable parody of the single version
Alan W. Pollack

Full spectrum of frequencies distorted
Geoff Emerick in Andy Babiuk: Beatles Gear (p.222)

It’s called distortion, apparently
Chris Ingham: The Rough Guide To The Beatles (p. 254)

I didn't like the distorted sound of John's guitar
George Harrison in Beatles Anthology (p.298)

George and Paul were resentful and said it wasn't fast enough.
John Lennon in Beatles Anthology (p.298)

Personally, I think Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good
Geoff Emerick: Here, There And Everywhere (p. 252)

That was typical of him in those days; that was his vibe: pissed off.
Geoff Emerick: Here, There And Everywhere (p. 252)

The slow, understandable version
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (p.187)

Embarrassing, disgusting, a horror...
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (various places)

I really thought that love would save us all
John Lennon in Jann Wenner: Lennon Remembers (p.132)

The lyrics stand today. It's still my feeling about politics. I want to see the plan.
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (p.187)

The madman-on-a-street-corner
Alan W. Pollack

A song about revolution with all the bite taken out
Erik Didriksen in a message to author

A lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear
New Left Review quoted in Revolution: Wikipedia

A much more commercial style.
John Lennon 1971 Interview

I’m a coward – I don’t want to be killed.
John Lennon 1971 Interview

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da was covered by Marmalade and went on to be a no. 1 hit just as McCartney anticipated.

THANKS


Thanks to Rod 'Downburst' Johnston, Ross Durand, Zecoop, Erik Didriksen

Monday, 17 February 2020

10:62 Revolution (pt.2) - What's The Difference?



Here's a comparison between the album version (Revolution 1) and the single (Revolution).

Album first - Single second - Video version third (where appropriate).

All divided by a dash. e.g. Key: A (this is the album) - Bb (slightly sharp) (this is the single).


Overall 


Key: A - Bb (slightly sharp). The single was almost certainly recorded in A major like the album cut but vari-sped up. When the band mimed the single for the video they 'played' in A without capos, making it likely that that is how they had most recently played it.

Tempo: 95 bpm - 118 bpm. If the track was vari-sped then the band would have cut it at 111 bpm.

Vocals


Appropriately the lead vocals for 'laid-back version' were recorded lying down on the floor.

“count me out … in” – (0:53) “count me out” (0:40) - restored for video

“shoo-bee-doo-wop" backing vocals (1:00) – none – restored for video

“Don't you know it's gonna be” - three times – once - three time restored for video

So when the Beatles added live vocals to the single backing track for the video they undid every change they were able to.

Personnel

Both versions


John Lennon – lead vocals, electric guitar (lead on single)
George Harrison – electric guitar
Paul McCartney – Hammond organ
Ringo Starr – drums

Revolution 1 only


John Lennon – acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney – piano
Paul, George – backing vocals
All sources say Paul McCartney – bass but I suspect it was actually George Harrison

Derek Watkins, Freddy Clayton – trumpets
Don Lang, Rex Morris, J. Power, Bill Povey – trombones

Revolution only


Paul McCartney – bass
John, Paul, George, Ringo - handclaps

Nicky Hopkins – electric piano


Arrangement


Intro
Rev 1: false start, studio chatter (Geoff Emerick “take two”), a sound like someone hitting a box of cabassas. Original drum track barely audible before drum overdub comes in.
Rev: solo lead guitar, drums, rhythm guitar barely audible

Verse 1
Rev 1: no electrics, organ fades in at end, heavily double tracked vox
Rev: little or no double tracking on vox – blooper “that it's evo-juice-shan” (0:23)

Pre Chorus 1
Rev 1: sustained chords, long descending bassline
Rev: staccato chords and bassline

Chorus 1
Rev 1: "don't you know it's gonna be alright. don't you know it's gonna be alright. don't you know it's gonna be alright".
Electric fills, acoustic fill at end really boosted, bass (and piano) walking bassline
Rev: “don't you know it's gonna be alright. Alright. Alright.”
End fill played on electric, bass root notes

Verse 2
Rev 1: harmony vocals with lead and 'shooby' BVs, electric fill at end, bass root note (doesn't go to D) and annoying slides
Rev: no harmony BVs or fill. Bass walking

Pre Chorus 2 as PC1

Chorus 2
Rev 1: as C1
Rev: vocal mistake left in (1:44)

Solo
This section only occurs on single version (1:52) over a I, IV, V chord progression
Electric piano solo (Nicky Hopkins) with lead fills at end (John Lennon). Heavy breathing by Lennon.



Verse 3
Rev 1: We all want to change your head”
Rev: We'd all love to change your head”


Pre Chorus 3 as PC1

Chorus 3
Rev 1: Accident bad tape edit during the mixing process resulted in two extra beats at the end (3:23). Lennon decided to leave it in. A similar mistake happened later on McCartney's song Let Me Roll It (4:22).
Rev: electric piano fills

Outro
Rev 1: (3:29 – 4:16) pick scrapes, heavy breathing, Fade
Rev: (3:03-3:25) electric piano fills, stock blues ending on bII – I.

The vast majority of changes are arguably cosmetic.

The single has more energy, due to key, tempo and timbre. The bassline moving off the root note more also contributes to that. The message of the chorus is obscured by missing words and less vocal reinforcement. The only ambiguity in the lyrics “in/out” is removed. The single is an unambiguous statement of 'angry pacificism'.


Saturday, 15 February 2020

10:61 Revolution (pt.1) Did George Play Bass on Revolution 1?



Received wisdom


Lewisohn says the bass was overdubbed the day after the basic track with two Lennon vocals and the BVs but the 50th ann version of Take 18 doesn't have these BVs – just the bass. But it does have some embryonic samples/farting around from the Lennons which were supposed to be recorded later, with (or after) the drum overdub which is also missing. So something's confused.

Why I think Harrison did it


Paul played piano live (with John on acoustic and Ringo drums) and the bass 'seems' to be cut live at the same time. It's hard to believe they would have a full on extended jam with no bass. Take 18 (on the the 50th ann) has a bass line for it's entirety. It's unlikely anyone would think it worth while to continue playing for the whole extended freakout unless they were there at the time (and not overdubbing).

The bass is very unlike Paul - jamming or overdubbing. Compare how 'Pianist Paul' gets loose and wild, whereas 'Bassist Paul' seems to be happy with hanging on the root notes but overly enamoured with doing crazy slides. I can't believe Paul, given all the aimless filler in the last half of the track, wouldn't try to put in a lot more clever stuff - certainly a lot cleverer that a bunch of quick slides. The only McCartney-esque flourish is the descending line in the pre-chorus. However it does sounds a little 'indian' which points to …

George Harrison did play bass on some tracks like Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Honey Pie and She Said She Said.

Therefore I suspect George in Studio Three with the Fender VI.

But on the other hand


Paul did overdubbed bass on Revolution the single at a later date so it's possible he did the same thing here. Though on the other other hand (third hand?) this may be the source of the confusion about the album version.

What would decide it


Is there bass on earlier takes (1-17) of Revolution 1? Then it's definitely Harrison. Paul couldn't play piano and bass at the same time and they would have never overdubbed bass on discarded rehearsal takes. If there isn't it probably is an overdub by Paul.

Is there bass spill on the stems of Lennon's acoustic guitar, Paul's piano or Ringo's initial drums part? Then it's definitely Harrison. Later overdubs would not leak onto earlier tracks.

Is George's voice audible as studio chatter on the original takes. Then it's probably Harrison on bass. He wasn't involved otherwise.

Why it matters


If George played the bass - the lead guitarist laid down a uninspired bass take during an extended jam session that somehow morphed into a album track. So what!

But if Paul played the bass – arguably Paul's unimaginative bass playing 'ruined' Revolution 1 just like John's error-strewn take 'ruined' The Long And Winding Road. Listen to verses 2 and 3 (1:21) – the bass inexplicably abandons the walking line of the first verse, ignores the chord changes and hangs on the root note, which in turned forced George Martin into arguably his most uninspired horn arrangement.

After two less than stellar versions – Lennon could have taken another crack but he lacked Paul's stamina. So where Paul would power through a Maxwell or an Ob-La-Di, Lennon gave up on tunes like Across The Universe.


Footnotes


Lewisohn says Mark Lewisohn: The Beatles Recording Sessions (p.137)

Friday, 13 September 2019

Under The Influence: Daniel Johnson


When I learned how to play I was always trying to write with Queen … but I could never quite get a song. And then I started listening to the Beatles and got more into the knack of songwriting. And then, finally, my dad bought me a book called Complete Beatles, and ... I played every song in that book again and again, and I did develop a rapport with the Beatles songs. I began to re-work because of what Ringo said in an interview. He said, "We took other people's songs and rearranged their chord structures to write songs," and I go, "Wow!" and I started doing that with their songs. And it was like magic, rearranging the chords. It was like a mathematical situation.

It was just a phenomenal theory for me. Of course, if the Beatles heard about this today they'd roll over in their graves, but you know, that's what I did and it was revolutionary to me and that went on forever. This book was like a bible to me and I knew all their songs and I played them, and then I kept … writing with the Beatles theory over and over again. Millions of songs.


Pitchfork: Do you have a favourite Beatles song?

Well, I wouldn't know what to say. From Yesterday to I Am the Walrus to... Yer Blues ... so many. I wouldn't do without any of them. I love the Beatles, they are my favourite band.

Pitchfork: The first time I heard a tape of yours it reminded me of Rocky Raccoon.

Well, when John Lennon wrote [Rocky Raccoon]*, he had a book called Enter in the Words**, where he would play around with words and everything was hilarious, and that really was a big influence on me. I had a song called Never Relax, and I was playing around a lot with words that way. And it took a long while for John. I mean, in the early days, he was writing songs-- love songs-- and those were great songs, and at the same time he was writing really hilarious poetry. But it took him until Revolver to take that hilarious poetry and work it into his songs.

But that was an influence on me, in writing lyrics. You know because John was hilarious with his lyrics, and you know, we miss him. But I believe the Beatles are still alive, and with me, because I can put on any record at any time and there they are. And so the Beatles mean a lot to me, and I listen to them a lot. They're my main influence. And I just acquire anything I can get a hold of, from bootlegs to solo albums to whatever.

Pitchfork magazine


The Beatles – Daniel Johnson (from the album Yip)

When I was born in '61***
They already had a hit
They worked so hard and they made it too
They really were very good
They deserved all their success
They earned it, yes they did, they didn't buy their respect
And everybody wanted to be like them
Everybody wanted to be the Beatles
And I really wanted to be like him but he died
A legendary rock group
Like history now to read
Like a magical fairy tale that's hard to believe
But it really did happen
Four lads who shook the world
God bless them for what they done
God bless them for what they done

*Paul McCartney wrote Rocky Racoon
**There's no book with this title. Perhaps Daniel means In His Own Write, or Spaniard In The Works.
***Their first hit was in 1962





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Under The Influence

Monday, 8 July 2019

While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Anniversary Edition Notes



While My Guitar Gently Weeps was one of the few post-Rishikesh songs on The Beatles.

Lyrical Development



The lyric facsimiles in the anniversary edition, written on 'NEMS London' headed paper, 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 in the manuscript

Burning
churning
learning
yearning

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 cigars [?*] keep on burning
still your guitar gently weeps! > still my guitar gently weeps!

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

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

undergoes a minor change 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. Verse 3 line 3 is more solid, needing only minor tweaks

While I'm sitting here doing nothing but ageing > 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 (Version 3) 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

Musical Development

In a similar way the demos and recording notes chart the musical evolution.

Esher demo


  • The key is F#m (Dm capoed at 4th fret)
  • The tempo faster
  • The vocal rhythm is more straight forward and hurried
  • There's a short i to bVII (F#m – E) vamp after the last bridge missing from the finished version
  • At the end of each bridge phrase there's a V to V+ substitution but played inconsistently and not always by both doubled-tracked guitars – revealing it to be an idea that George was perhaps considering but not committed to.

Version 1

The key is Gm. It's still played in Dm but now capoed on the 5th fret. Perhaps the Esher was capoed at 5 too but tuned down a semitone like most of the other demos?

Paul is playing minimal harmonium on the bridge and a few other spots.

The previously undiscovered 'Take 2' outtake has Paul switching to organ but still very much figuring out the chords.

Version 2

According to the studio notes this had John on organ and Paul on bass. Bizarrely the notes state the tape was slowed down by three semitones. From what? If the key had already risen to Gm and was destined to end up in Am it seems strange to start going down again. Three semitones would put the song in Ebm.

Perhaps it's a mistake – three down from the final key Am would put the song back in the Esher key – F#m. Maybe someone is getting their versions mixed up. Until they release a version 2 outtake (anyone out there have one? Send me a link!) we can't be sure.

Version 3

The 'third version take 27' outtake makes it clear the line up is



1 Ringo drums
2 Eric Clapton jamming freely throughout the take on 'Lucy' - the Les Paul he gave to George a month before the session.
3 Paul switching live between piano (intro/verses) and organ (bridges)
4 George on acoustic and George and Paul on vocals

George is attempting Smokey Robinson falsetto/melisma thing that makes him sound like a hypothermic sheep – he halts the take saying “I tried to do a Smokey and I just aren't [sic] Smokey”

Overdubs: George double tracked his vocals and adds more organ (0:58, audible on top of the piano during the guitar solo and continuing for the rest of the song) Ringo adds tambourine and weird sounding tippy-tappy percussion (left speaker 0:34) and there's a distorted bass part played by … who? McCartney on bass (BB) or Lennon on Bass VI (50AE)? It can't be both as the only 'bass' is overdriven and played with a pick.

The case for John

The part, like so many of John's Bass VI performances, is very much a guitar part down an octave, switching between power chords and free flowing single notes riffs rather than diligently performing the role of bass man. Though very un-bass-player-like it's John's best 'bass' performance by a mile.

The case for Paul

From Pepper onwards Paul often overdubbed his bass afterwards. When John played bass, it was usually because they needed it on the basic track and Paul was playing something else (like piano on Long And Winding Road). Here John didn't play on the basic track at all so there was no need for him to play bass – the 'real' bass player could do it. It's likely Paul used his Rickenbacker not the Bass VI (RITH) as the Beatles only had a right-handed one.

If Lennon had provided the Bass VI part it's hard to believe Paul would have been able to resist added a 'real' bass track underneath (as he had done on Back In The USSR). And while it is very 'free' the playing is also tight and disciplined, which is more of a Paul trademark.

The Electric Guitar Mystery – Solved?

Allegedly Lennon is on rhythm guitar (BB) or lead guitar (RITH) but the only electric guitar on the finished track is Clapton switching effortlessly between lead and rhythm.

It used to be thought that Lennon's lead guitar was tracked on the 5th Sep and replaced by Clapton's overdub on the 6th (TBRS). How Clapton's presence was supposed to 'make everyone act better' (as Harrison later stated) when their work on song was already completed is unclear and the outtake answers that - Clapton tracked his part live with the band (on the 5th).

Paul on bass and Eric on guitar leaves John having contributed nothing to the track, but he often absented himself from George's songs so it's a plausible theory.


*According Everett to but it looks more like an 'n' than a 'c' to me!

Sources

50AE: The Beatles 50th Anniversary Edition Book
RITH – Ian McDonald: Revolution In The Head
BB – Beatles Bible
TBRS – Mark Lewisohn: The Beatles Recording Sessions


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Friday, 5 July 2019

Wild Honey Pie and The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill: Anniversary Edition Notes


Wild Honey Pie

Was recorded during the Mother Nature's Son sessions and titled 'Ad Lib' Take One on the track listing.

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

A post-Rishikesh lyric manuscript is titled (the continuing story of) BUNGALOW BILL has the following vocal performance direction above the title

“Band (Water Melon). Children!”

possibly a (faintly racist?) reference to the band singing backing vocals?

On the Esher demo the tuning is down a semitone (again), the intro chord progression is (possibly accidentally) C Fm C instead of C G C and timing is slightly different. At the end of each chorus chord sequence we get one extra beat instead of two. And the “All the children sing...” rhythm is different.

On the outtakes on unused take 2 Lennon sang “Was it a thrill, Bungalow Bill?” and Ringo is playing with brushes and still making his mind up about the feel.

Paul used up two precious tracks for two bass parts but John replaced the second with a vocal overdub; John, Paul and George can all be hear whistling at 2:45 and Ringo the backing vocalist gets a rare outing.

I've long held to the view that John's cry of 'Ay Up!' belongs at the end of this track NOT at the beginning of While My Guitar... that's confirmed here by Giles' remix which restores it to it's rightful place (as it is on the mono version).


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Monday, 1 July 2019

What Goes Online - Jul 2019


My new album is finally out on all digital platforms! 

Fifty Five Stories Down is a 12 song collection sung live in an abandoned Police Station with only a baritone electric guitar for accompaniment. Personal and political, intimate and irreverent, boneheaded and beautifully-crafted, you can buy or stream it wherever you do those kind of things (I like Bandcamp).

And if you're a Spotifier please follow me and add my music to any playlists you have lying about the place.

Podcasts

I recently had the honour of being a guest on the Musicality Podcast talking about (what else?) songwriting as part of 'Beatles Week'. Download it here or stream it below. Be sure to check out some of the other guests too.



My buddy Lee Pat has a cool video that I'd recommend - digging deep into the line cliches of Something - he's found a few more than me!



More on line cliches? Check out the descending root, descending flat 7th, and the ascending 5th (aka James Bond). Oh, and I've updated the Circle of Fifths playlist page too.

Live Chat


The legendary Mark Lewisohn is on tour! I've booked my tickets - how about you?



Long time friend of the site Famous Patrick paid me a visit from Minneapolis via Berlin. As well as viewing the 'holy city' he had to come and check out "where the Beatles played the Odeon in '63". Nice having you Pat!