Fly-by…sorry for the delay

Been busy with other writing projects over the last few days, so I haven’t had a chance to finish up with <I>The Beatles</I> today.  I’ll try to have it sometime during this week, as I will be away for a friend’s wedding next weekend.  Sorry about that!  I believe that’s the last of the weekend social plans I have for the time being, so hopefully come October I’ll be able to update this on a steadier basis. 

Thanks for your patience!

Blogging the Beatles 44c: The Beatles, Side C



Album: The Beatles
Released: 22 November 1968

[Picture: The John Kelly portrait inserts as found inside the album, taken in the autumn of 1968. Kelly states that he took the portraits of John, George and Ringo at their new Apple Corps offices in Savile Row, while Paul’s picture was taken at his home in Cavendish Avenue.]

On a more personal note: I believe this was the last album I bought to complete my Beatles album collection. I had nearly every other US release, including Beatles ’65 which I found in the wrong cover (it was hidden inside a copy of the US Hey Jude compilation that I bought for fifty cents somewhere). The first copy of The Beatles I had was only the second disc, found for a dollar sans cover at a tag sale on the Templeton MA commons. I picked a new copy up probably a few months or a year later at the local department store, so in that interim, I got to know the ‘weirder half’ of this album before I’d heard the more straightforward former half. I only knew a few tracks at that point–“Back in the USSR”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are featured on the 1967-1970 compilation–so hearing them in their proper context was a rather interesting experience.

In addition to that, since I was by then familiar with the Blue Album compilation, it took me a bit of time to get used to hearing those tracks in their proper chronological order. They are in fact so, but I was unaware until much later that “Hey Jude” and “Revolution”, found before the three above songs, were recorded during the same sessions as the album. More so were the singles that appeared after the White Album tracks on that compilation–“Get Back”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “The Ballad of John & Yoko” and “Old Brown Shoe” showing up before the Abbey Road and Let It Be tracks. While these four tracks weren’t recorded during sessions for The Beatles, they were recorded and released in early 1969, before either of those later albums were released. Even though I would quickly become familiar with and prefer their late 60s output, it was also the era that I knew about least in terms of the band’s history. It was because of this that my Beatles collecting would soon branch into the numerous books that are out there.

Given that pretty much anyone can write about the band at this point, what with the ridiculous amount of information and resources out there to do so, I did pick up a few that were of some help such as Nicholas Shaffner’s The Beatles Forever, and a great book about Beatles bootlegs by Charles Reinhart called You Can’t Do That (this is the book that made me hunger for all the unreleased stuff, even if it was mostly subpar). There’s a lot of chaff and a lot of repeated info–not to mention a lot of contradictory info–that can be found in these. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I came across Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles Recording Sessions that I knew I’d hit paydirt–this book, along with his The Complete Beatles Chronicles released soon after, are absolutely brilliant tomes about the band’s whereabouts as well as the major details of what was recorded, and when and how it evolved. Lewisohn could be considered the premier Beatles chronologist, as he is one of the very few who have talked with all four members exclusively about their history, not to mention that he’s also one of the extremely rare few who were given carte blanche on all their session tapes. I’ve been using these two books almost exclusively during this blog series, and they are highly recommended for any Beatles fan who doesn’t own them already. He’s due to release a new book series called The Beatles: All These Years that I am eagerly awaiting.

So without further ado…

Side C

Here’s where the band has, for the most part, put away their acoustic guitars (save for a few remaining tracks) and turned up the volume. From here on in, we’re going to hear a harder, edgier band putting down some of the rawest tracks of their career.

Track 1: Birthday
This track seems to have been inspired by the spirit of rock and roll, come to think of it. On paper it’s a simple blues riff in A that Paul made up right there in the studio along with simple celebratory lyrics, but the band simply bashed the hell out of it on 18 September. It just so happened that on that night, the band stopped recording halfway through so they could skip over to Paul’s house in Cavendish Avenue (roughly about a quarter mile away and a quick walk) so they could watch the television premiere of the classic 1956 rock movie The Girl Can’t Help It. It must have stirred some memories of their early days starting out, as you can hear the wild party atmosphere they subsequently laid down on this track. Paul and John share dual duty on lead guitar here with George playing bass, and Ringo hammering away on his kit. Paul delivers one of his strongest, loudest vocals since “Long Tall Sally” here. Overdubs include piano backing by Paul, backing vocals from John, Paul and George along with Pattie Harrison and Yoko Ono, and handclaps by everyone involved (including Mal Evans).

It may be a simple blues riff indeed, but it’s one hell of a powerhouse, and still gets heavy play on classic rock radio. It was even referenced in John Hughes’ teenage romp Sixteen Candles (Anthony Michael Hall riffs on it briefly during a scene). It’s even been known to be played and/or sung in lieu of the old standard “Happy Birthday” at certain birthday parties at this point!

Track 2: Yer Blues
One of the most peculiar sessions for this project, and for the band itself, took place on 12 August in a small annex upstairs off the Studio Two control room at Abbey Road. The room itself was actually a large store room that contained various bits and bobs used for recording, which were quickly moved to insert the foursome and the barest of instrumentation. With just John and George on lead, Paul on bass, and Ringo on drums, this track went through fourteen takes (three additional “takes” were actually reductions of previous takes to be used for final editing) and captures the band laying down some fierce blues riffs. John wrote this as sort of a parody of the British blues scene as well as Dylan’s more obtuse lyrics, but on its own it’s a fantastic piece. It’s raw and dirty, it’s sloppy and there’s a horrible edit at 3:17 in, but it’s the band at their live best; even Ringo has mentioned that this session reminded him of their early Hamburg days.

Track 3: Mother Nature’s Son
Paul features on a third solo track here, recorded on 9 August after the rest of the band had gone home for the evening (they’d been working on George’s “Not Guilty” for the last few days, still unhappy with the results). Recorded in one evening in twenty-five takes (number 24 being the best), it featured Paul primarily on guitar, later overdubbing himself on second guitar and minimal drums, and George Martin adding brass to the latter half of the song. With lyrics inspired by one of the Maharishi’s lectures they sat in on while in India, it’s an absolutely gorgeous pastoral track unlike any of the other acoustic-based songs on the album. Paul’s guitar work here is simple yet effective, though the guitar countermelody he uses in the solo starting at 2:12 is breathtaking. Interestingly, this track would fit quite nicely on Paul’s first solo album, McCartney, which would be released a year and a half later, so this track could also be seen as Paul’s true venture into his own sound apart from the band.

The history of the track, however, does carry a downside: during the overdub session on 20 August (the same day he recorded “Wild Honey Pie” alone), he was working solo with Martin, when John and Ringo stopped by for a few minutes while working on finishing up “Yer Blues”. John apparently could not stand when Paul worked alone without the rest of the band, and per engineer Ken Scott, ‘you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.’ It would be one of many moments that would eventually cause an irreparable rift within the band. [Taking this event objectively, neither party is solely to blame. Paul was often impatient, especially when he wanted to try something new and fun, and would often go off and try it by himself. John, on the other hand, could be extremely jealous at times and was often frustrated by Paul’s distractions, making him feel he was not fully in charge.]

Track 4: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
It’s quite hazy what this song is really about…it could be a reference to one of the Maharishi’s lectures that mentioned “everybody’s got something to hide…”; it could be about John and Yoko’s budding relationship, in which he felt they had nothing to hide but everyone else felt paranoid; it could even be about his growing drug dependency and his slow fall into heroin addiction. Either way, this track from 27 June is quite a wild ride. Playing with their normal lineup here (John on rhythm, George on lead, Paul on bass, Ringo on drums), they manage to lay down a hell of a lot of noise with the overdubs (handclaps by all, and a hand bell played by Paul within an inch of its life).  The song is relatively simple, though the bare intro of guitar and drums is played off-beat to catch you off guard.

Track 5: Sexy Sadie
John’s departure from India had not been a peaceful one. Depending on who you ask (and which biography you read), he was either bored and/or disappointed in what the Maharishi had to offer and was looking for a way out, or he left in disgust as rumors began building that the Maharishi had sexually assaulted some of the female guests. Either way, the man had not risen to John’s admittedly heightened expectations, and eventually he wrote a song about his disappointment. It was never recorded or even rehearsed in this form, of course, though on 19 July when they started recording this track, there is a brief passage on the tapes where John shows Paul the original opening lines, starting with “Maharishi, you little twat…” Suffice it to say, he chose to be the better man and made the lyrics more obscure, focusing on a fictional woman disappointing him instead.  The bitterness is still quite present, however.

Track 6: Helter Skelter
In late 1967, Pete Townshend had sold up the Who’s latest single, “I Can See for Miles” , as ‘the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song [the band] had ever recorded.’ The Beatles, of course, always took such bravado as a personal challenge; they’d done so with Sgt Pepper as a response to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, among other things. This time out, Paul took the bait and wrote the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song they’d ever recorded. Partly a response to growing comments that he always wrote ballads, Paul set out to write the most sinister song he could.  The phrase “helter-skelter” itself is British slang for a chaotic mess, but it’s also the name of an amusement park slide; using the double meaning as a metaphor, the lyrics alongside the noise give the sense that he’s not just warning us of impending chaos, he’s reveling in it.

The recording history on this track is fascinating as well: The first three takes on 18 July were all of epic length: Take 1 was 10:40, Take 2 was 12:35, and Take 3 was a phenomenal 27:11. At this point the song was nowhere near as loud and cacophonous–an edit of the slow, bluesy Take 2 can be found on Anthology 3–but the dark and sinister feeling was definitely present. It wasn’t until 9 September that they tried again and came up with a much shorter but much louder end result with Take 21. Paul is on lead here, with John on bass and George on rhythm. They play so damn hard on this take that, in the last minute or so of the song, it’s clear that their guitars have gone distressingly out of tune, which only adds to the insanity. This was also the final take with Ringo, exhausted and in pain, finally screaming out the iconic “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!!!” at the end of the take. Overdubs containing vocals, handclaps, and Mal Evans creating even more noise with blurts of a trumpet were added the next day, and the final version is possibly one of the scariest songs by any band at that time.

Track 7: Long, Long, Long
Not a second goes by after the last crash of Ringo’s drums on the previous track as we’re dropped into one of the quietest tracks the band ever recorded. Often considered one of George’s most underrated songs, it’s a lovely ballad in a very slow 6/8 time that contains some really fine dynamics. The verses as well as the music contained therein are always delivered quietly and plainly on guitar and Hammond organ, sometimes with beautiful harmony added here and there, and counterbalanced with loud crashing fills from Ringo at the end of each line. The bridge (“So many tears I was searching…”), built up via a stuttering tense drum fill and interestingly underscored by George’s guitar, is an exclamation of emotion; it’s George stating what he had gone through before finally finding love in the person (or deity?) the song is about. He calms down briefly, delivering another few words of devotion. After the final heartfelt “oh, I love you…”, it lands on a quiet C note. What happens next is unexpected and interesting: during this session, the low C that Paul happened to hit on the organ just happened to resonate the bottle of Blue Nun wine sitting on top of it. Fascinated by this unexpected bit of physics, they tried it again and inserted it at the end, creating a coda invoking a swirling chaos of spirit released. Lastly, it ends on an unresolved, sighing D-minor chord–the energy may have seeped away, but that one chord hints that there could have been more. A lovely end to the song, and to the third side of the album.

* * *

By this time we’ve been brought to heraldic highs, demonic lows, and everywhere in between on this album. The listener has either become wary, thinking the Fab Four had finally gone off the deep end and recorded the equivalent of navel-gazing prog rock, or they’ve become fascinated by the sheer breadth and magnitude of their work. They somehow pulled it off on these three sides, with maybe a few fillers but nary a song that falls completely flat. So how the heck are they going to tie this all together? What could they possibly give the listener on the final side?

Next Up: The Beatles, Side D

Blogging the Beatles 44b: The Beatles, Side B



Album: The Beatles
Released: 22 November 1968

[Picture: Inside the gatefold cover of the album. The left side contains the song listing, the right side contains smaller black-and-white images of the John Kelly portrait inserts.]

Production-wise, this album is quite fascinating as a whole. As I’d mentioned in the previous installment, a good portion of the songs had been written and planned out during or immediately after their trip to India, so the outcome was that many of these songs have an acoustic base to them. This leads to many of the tracks feeling deliberately sparse, not quite folk but not quite rock either. The remaining tracks were written either in-studio or in between studio time, and have a more complete and electric sound to them. This lets the entire collection of tracks play off each other, such as the switch from “Bungalow Bill” to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. There’s also an emotional dichotomy going on as well, such as the playful “Martha My Dear” to the cranky “I’m So Tired”. There may have not been a specific theme going on here, but they were at least coming up with specific song ideas and working them through.

Once the band had recorded as many songs as they could for this project, they sat down and began the process of preparing the final mixes and working out the running order. There were a few arguments as to what would stay and what would go–George’s “Not Guilty” and John’s loopy “What’s the New Mary Jane?” would not officially see the light of day until Anthology 3 (though both were available for quite some time on bootlegs)–but eventually it was culled down to an even thirty tracks. The mono and stereo mixes were done separately, such as the previous albums. This would be the last album to do so, with all remaining albums and some singles being mixed only in stereo. Due to this procedure, a good handful of the mono tracks have distinct differences from their stereo counterparts; one fascinating example is the mono “Helter Skelter”, which contains more backing sound effects, but omits the final fade-in and “I’ve got blisters…” ending of the stereo version, and is nearly a minute shorter.

The running order, at least to me, is fascinating in that it starts relatively light with the one-two punch of “Back in the USSR” and “Dear Prudence”…only to start getting a little weird soon after. The album soon takes a dive–in a metaphorical sense–and becomes darker and stranger, its songs growing heavier and grittier, until we’re given the nightmare that is “Revolution 9”. Thankfully, we are pulled out of that nightmare soon after with the tender string ballad of “Good Night”, letting us know that everything’s all right in the end, even after all that. This running order was not done randomly, not in the least. In fact, the band had decided to lay down a few ground rules: George’s four compositions that passed the test were each put on one side each, Ringo’s two vocals were put on the second side of each record, the balance of John and Paul songs were to be as even as possible, ensuring that there were no more than two of their songs back to back. Other rules popped up as well: all three “animal” songs were put here on Side B; the loud and the soft songs were also to be as evenly spaced out to achieve balance; there were also to be minimal moments of silence in between the tracks.

All these rules might be hard to implement, but given the breadth of the songs they had on hand, it wasn’t as hard as it sounded. They were even able to segue certain songs either deliberately (John’s “‘eh-up!” at the end of “Bungalow Bill” signaling the start of “While My Guitar…”, or the cold ending of “Cry Baby Cry” switching to a brief unlisted Paul track often referred to as “Can You Take Me Back” which fades into the beginning of “Revolution 9”), or obliquely (the crash ending of “Helter Skelter” giving way to the quiet opening of “Long Long Long”).

For the casual music and/or Beatles fan, a listener might not notice such things, but for an avid music fan and one who understands the importance of segues and balances (such as one who makes mixtapes an artform, or the free-form disc jockey of yore), it’s a highly detailed and nuanced record. The initial reviews were understandably mixed when the album first came out, partly due to critics expecting another brilliant Sgt Pepper but also due to the fact that there’s so much here that it’s a bit hard to swallow in one sitting. Regardless, over the years it’s become a fan favorite and one that’s often studied and listened to over and over. One will always find something they hadn’t noticed before, or finally understand what the band was trying to do with a certain track or mix.

Side B

The second side of the album is probably the lightest of the four, given that there are quite a few acoustic-based tracks here. It’s also the side with the least number of songs normally heard on radio (and none that actually show up on post-breakup non-Anthology compilations) and thus probably the least recognized tracks for the casual listener. At the same time, there are a few very personal tracks here that are worth listening to, for quite varying reasons.

Track 1: Martha My Dear
It’s well-documented that the “Martha” in the title is the name of Paul’s sheepdog at the time, but the true subject of the song is apparently Jane Asher. Their relationship was pretty much at an end by the time this was recorded (started 4 October, close to the end of the sessions), but instead of the dynamics of the song matching his emotions, he chose instead to make the song as lighthearted as possible. The end result has his peppy and bouncy piano underscoring a much less positive lyric; the woman in the song is not so much vindictive as she is selfish and perhaps blissfully ignorant of it. In the end, the “be good to me” lyric isn’t a hope that she likes him too (such as their early lyrics)–it’s a plea to stop hurting him.

Musically it’s quite detailed; the song is in E-flat major, though there are liberal chord changes throughout the song, giving it a sense of restlessness. Also of note is the bridge (“Hold your head up, you silly girl…”) is in F major, one full step up, making it sound out of place, especially when the bridge’s end is an abrupt three-note phrase back to E-flat. One final note: this was one of a handful of tracks recorded at Trident House and not Abbey Road, which explains the difference in sound. The Beatles’ tracks at Abbey Road always had a deep, rich sound due to the studio’s original plan of recording orchestras; Trident’s sound tended to be a bit closer and with less natural reverberation, so this track definitely has a tighter feel aurally.

Track 2: I’m So Tired
John reveals his cantankerousness here with a song inspired by insomnia. After weeks in India away from Yoko and being unable to sleep, his natural inclination to write a song about it comes to the fore in a cranky-yet-fun blues track. The lyrics almost harken back to his early Beatles tracks of unrequited love, being unable to cope with his life because his love is far away; in this case, however, he’s revealed that he’s so far gone in love with this girl that it’s keeping him up at night. It’s one of John’s more emotional songs, and yet here he manages to keep everything in check, even when the emotion seeps out of the growing cracks.

Recorded the same night as “Bungalow Bill” (8 October), it’s both lethargic and full of energy at the same time, balancing itself between quiet and meandering verses bemoaning his exhaustion, and the built-up tension of the choruses (“You’d say I’m putting you on…”) that explode with his desperate plea for peace of mind. Each section plays off each other, growing more irritable as the song wears on, until the final chorus has him screaming “I’m going insane!” and belting out a repeated plea before the song stops cold. John then balances his anger with an mumbling “Monsieur, Monsieur, how about another one…?” as the song ends, a tired-out old man falling back in his armchair, his weary butler at his side.

Track 3: Blackbird
Paul’s gorgeous acoustic piece was inspired musically by Bach’s “Bourrée in E Minor” (specifically, the bass strings counterpointing the melody on the higher strings, and a piece Paul and George would try to learn as a “show-off” piece), but lyrically it was inspired by the escalating racial tensions in the United States during 1968. Written earlier in the year in Scotland, he wished not to write a protest song but one of personal and spiritual uplift and hope, even during the worst of times. The main message is perseverance. He didn’t exactly reveal this right away when the song was released, so many may have thought this was a simple and slight folk song, but given its true meaning, it’s become a well-loved and oft-covered piece. Crosby, Stills and Nash would cover this track a year later during their set at Woodstock, much to the audience’s joy.

Recorded relatively early in the sessions (11 June) while John was off in another studio noodling with more sound effects for “Revolution 9”, this one is Paul alone on a Martin D28 acoustic, and using his own shoetapping as a metronome and percussion. In just 32 takes–only eleven of which were complete–he started and finished one of his most stunning pieces ever. To this day he still plays this song live, without any accompaniment.

Track 4: Piggies
George’s wicked sense of humor shines through on another track seemingly based on London’s wealthy bankers and other fiscal conservatives. A biting satire on the blissful ignorance of the upper class, the song is even played in a Baroque style to further the image of their stiffness, though he bends the classical rules a bit by throwing quite a few un-Baroque phrases in there (such as a blues riff on the harpsichord right about at the :55 mark). Interestingly, this also showcases the extent of George’s vocal range during the final multi-voiced verse, one voice hitting a low E-flat, and another voice hitting a high B-flat just a few seconds later.

The track was recorded on 19 September with all four members of the band, though an uncredited Chris Thomas–the producer on hand, as George Martin was then on vacation–had not only suggested the harpsichord piece, but played it himself. One quite fascinating note of this evening’s recording: though they were not recorded and were still being written at this time, George also spent a bit of time that night noodling around with a new composition called “Something”, and Paul jammed between takes on his new song called “Let It Be”. Neither song would be recorded at this time, but would resurface within the next year.

Track 5: Rocky Raccoon
Paul returns with a western story song where you can practically hear the dust and the tumbleweeds. Some might see this track as a pastiche of an old-school country-western ballad, but as always, the band turn it into something dynamically interesting. Starting off as a meandering guitar lick as if he was sitting out on the dusty porch somewhere in the wild west–and even delivering the prologue lyrics in a fake American western accent–he quickly jumps into the story of the strong but tender Rocky, heartbroken by his girl, Lil/Nancy Magill, who’d left him for some brute name Dan, and his attempt to win her back. John’s harmonica makes a very welcome return here, first echoing the “local saloon” line, and then kicking it up at the hoedown.  By the second verse, the instruments have started slowly coming in, with bass (played by John here), and Ringo quietly playing snare (and punctuating Rocky’s getting shot with a loud snare hit) before the hoedown interlude kicks in. At this point, George Martin supplies a wonderful honky tonk piano, placed far off in the mix to create a spatial image of the large saloon, the upright off in the corner. After another return to finish the story (and introduce the drunk doctor to help Rocky survive), the song ends with another uplifting hoedown, with the stubborn Rocky refusing to give up.

Track 6: Don’t Pass Me By
Ringo’s first vocal track on the album is also officially his first solo-written song as well. He’d started writing this song about four years earlier in 1964 (in fact, it’s hinted at during a Top Gear episode in July of that year) and finally makes its debut here. It’s a simple three-chord blues song inserted into an almost countrified setting (thus a nice segue from the previous track there), and it isn’t that strong of a song, but it’s as always a fun track from him. Featuring only Ringo on percussion and the occasional piano with Paul offering piano and bass, and introducing local jazz musician Jack Fallon on violin, it was the second track recorded for the project on 5 June, with various overdubs added a few days later. The mono mix is slightly faster and the violin track is different than the more widely known stereo version. Of note is an unused orchestral piece that George Martin scored as a prologue to the track, but ultimately unused on the album; the introduction, later entitled “A Beginning” on the Anthology 3 album, would be used in edited form as a musical cue in Yellow Submarine, specifically during the sunrise and start of day in Liverpool sequence just before “Eleanor Rigby” starts.

Track 7: Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
Paul slipped into the studio on 9 October while George was working on overdubs for “Long Long Long” (and added Ringo’s drumming as an overdub the next day while George worked on “Piggies” overdubs and John on “Glass Onion” overdubs) and whipped out this short track of just under two minutes. It’s a solo experiment track on the lines of “Wild Honey Pie”, it features him riffing on the three-chord blues, singing the sparse lyrics alternately loud and soft. Paul states that this is exactly what you think it’s about–it was inspired by an event he’d witnessed while in India, in which two monkeys in the road stopped and, well, did it in the road…then zipped off a few moments later as if nothing had happened. He was struck by the hilarity of it–why are we as humans so uptight about such things in public, and yet animals don’t care in the least? A completely pointless song, but a fun little filler nonetheless.

Track 8: I Will
The fascinating thing about this track is that it would fit perfectly on Rubber Soul.  Written mostly in India and recorded 16 September with Paul on guitar and both John and Ringo on percussion (George was not present at the time), this soft acoustic track is a simple love song reminiscent of his folkier moments from that album or even the latter half of Help!. For such a short song, however, the track took sixty-seven takes, with Take 65 considered the best one, which would then have vocal overdubs–including Paul mimicking a bass line with his own voice–and finished late that evening. In between this session, the trio did meander into a few jams, including a few that would show up on Anthology 3 with their cover of Paul’s “Step Inside Love” which he would give to Cilla Black, as well as the untitled song (often referred to as “Can You Take Me Back”, which pops up on Take 19) that was given heavy reverb and served as a spooky introduction to “Revolution 9” on Side D.

Track 9: Julia
The very last song recorded for The Beatles took place the evening of 13 October, with only John and Paul in the studio at the time. This heartwarming (and heartbreaking) ode to his mother, who had been killed ten years earlier when hit by a drunken off-duty officer, is played solo in the Travis-style picking that he’d learned that spring in India via Donovan. While the style used in “Dear Prudence” is meant to drive the song and lighten the mood, here it’s used more as a way to create a fugue with its strict repetitiveness. It could possibly be seen as one of John’s first personal songs that deal with his relationship (or lack thereof) with his parents, which would culminate with the searing “Mother” off his Plastic Ono Band album. Interestingly, this song also hints at his blossoming relationship with Yoko, especially when he mentions “ocean child”–a roundabout translation of Yoko’s name.

Though Paul is nowhere on this song, it is known that he was in the studio that night, as he is heard cheering John on during one of the takes that shows up on Anthology 3. Clearly Paul was moved and impressed by this track and its delicateness, as he has nothing but wonderful things to say about it on that take.

*   *   *

Although “Julia” ends with a lovely last strum of an acoustic guitar, this first record of the two-disc set actually ends on somewhat of a hesitant note. Had this been a single-disc album, having two light acoustic tracks finish off the album would have been somewhat of an odd choice. However, as a halfway point between the lighter, more positive tracks of the first disc and the darker, harder tracks of second, it works not just as a good segue but also as a delineator. By the end of Side B we’ve not only heard full band rock-outs but sparse single-player tracks, but each one of them is as organic as possible, with only the lightest touch of experimental tweaking. Each song is built up and produced exactly how it should be, with nary an overwrought track like Sgt Pepper may have been. Even more interesting is the deliberate lack of any theme; each song is written and played for its own benefit without any ulterior motive or preplanned link.

Again, to the casual fan, The Beatles may sound quite a bit of an overindulgent mess of half-baked songs and unfinished experiments. Even more so, one could see it as “four guys recording a solo album together”, as it’s so often described, especially given the history behind it. Despite all that, however, the album remains cohesive as a whole: a band who has decided not to record an album of songs, but a band who has recorded a number of songs to be compiled onto an album. The Beatles, more than anything, is a compilation of sorts. It’s the end result of a social experiment of four musicians detaching themselves from the world for a short time in an attempt to find themselves, both as individuals and as a band.

Next Up: The Beatles, Side C