Blogging the Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s Deluxe Edition

R-10350475-1495809458-2155.jpeg

First off, a few notes:  Since I’ve already gone over the actual music on the original album and the Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane single here a good few years ago, I’ll be dispensing with that and talking about the sound of the remix.  Secondly, I’m going over the big box set and not the 2-disc version that’s also available.

I’ve been listening to this release for nearly a month now, just to get used to the sound, and I’d have to say that overall, the remastering/remixing was well done.  It’s kind of hard to say that about the original Beatles oeuvre, considering that nearly all of it was a four-track mix with a ridiculous amount of bouncedown* on many of the tracks.

*Bouncedown = a trick the band and George Martin used to employ to open up track space for more sounds.  A mix would be made for two or three of the four tracks, then would be ‘bounced down’ to the empty fourth track (via copying the master onto a new reel), thus freeing up three new tracks for more instruments.  The upside is being able to fill out the sound; the downside is slight degradation of the sound and possible muddiness in the mix.

One of my friends jokingly asked me if he knew how much Paul paid Giles to pump his bass so high in the mix, and to some degree I can see where he’s coming from.  At this point, Paul would lay down a simple temporary bass track to be recorded over later in the mix when he could add more flourishes.  A song like “Fixing a Hole” is a good example of this; the bass is all over the place on that one, so if your speakers or equalizer are a bit on the bassy side, it’s going to overwhelm the track.  A simple EQ adjustment of my headphones made it sound a hell of a lot better.

Some highlights:

The levels of Ringo’s drums are pushed up a lot more than previous.  This has always been a big issue for me, especially for most of pre-Rubber Soul recordings, as quite often he’d be so far back in the mix that you barely notice him.  His drum work on this new version is now crystal clear and given an added punch, which works to great effect on many of the songs here.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” has always been one of my favorite Lennon tracks (not to mention one where I can only name one band whose cover has done it justice), and I love what they’ve done to this one.  The phasing on the vocals (which give it that spinny, whoosh-y sound) are much more pronounced here.

“She’s Leaving Home” is at the correct faster speed that was originally only used for the mono mix.  This version makes it sound like less of a dirge and more of a stage musical performance, and it sounds lovely.  The strings and harp are also clarified here.

“Within You Without You” is as mystical and mysterious as ever.  The only problem I had with the original mix is that it sounded a bit two-dimensional, if that makes sense.  The Indian instruments and the orchestral instruments felt squished together, with George’s vocals kind of thrown on top.  This mix gives the song a hell of a lot more room to breathe and meander.  The two cultures swirl around each other now, and George’s voice is stronger yet retains the tenderness.

The original mix also had some lower-end issues, at least to my hearing.  Both “When I’m Sixty-Four” and Paul’s section of “A Day in the Life” always sounded a bit muddy, as if the bass levels had been pushed up a little higher than necessary.  This has since been fixed for both tracks, thankfully.  “Sixty-Four” sounds less like a well-worn 78 rpm record and more like a live vaudeville performance.  Check out Ringo’s light tapping on his ride cymbal on that one — he does lovely work on it.

“Lovely Rita” – Another song that sounded a mess in the original, but sounds clearer, even though it’s still drenched in echo.  You can hear a lot more of the sound effect silliness on this one now.  I can finally also hear John’s mumble at the end. I can now hear him saying “I don’t believe it.”

And then there’s “A Day in the Life”.  My favorite track off the album, their magnum opus.  It sounds absolutely stunning, especially on earphones.  The orchestra swells are much clearer and wilder.  The final chord is mixed clearer (and you can hear Ringo shifting in his seat just before the final fadeaway).  My only complaint is that Giles didn’t retain the last transition (the ah-ah-ah’s) before John’s last segment.  My favorite part of George Martin’s mix was his gradual lift in volume of the brass and strings as John’s “ahs” fade further into the background; here, they’re mixed to remain in tandem.  Ah well, can’t complain.

*

And what of the extra tracks?  First off, the remixes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (done in 2015 to go along with the release of the 1 cd/dvd remaster) and “Penny Lane” (brand spankin’ new) give the two tracks even more punch than before.

The sequence of the tracks on the extra cds in the box set are chronological, so you truly get to listen to the album as it’s being written, recorded, and put together.  Multiple versions of “Strawberry Fields”, the first on the list, show its evolution from a light track that might have been at home on Revolver to the darker, more ominous track we all know and love.  It’s not until they finish “A Day in the Life” (fourth in line, after “Sixty-Four” and “Penny Lane”) that the album really starts to take shape, and more of the songs start taking on a more common theme or sound.

Also included is the original 1967 mono mix — not the 2009 remaster, but the original 1967 mix as made by the Beatles and Martin themselves — and a few odds and ends, including the extremely rare “Penny Lane” US Mono promotional mix with the extra horn segment at the very end of the track.

Non-musically, the packaging is outstanding!  The hardback book that comes along with it is a wonderfully written historical document of not just the recording sessions but what was going on in Britain at the time, both socially and politically.  The cds and dvds are in a recreation of the vinyl album cover, complete with the lyrics on the back.  A recreation of the original ‘Mr Kite’ poster owned by John and a large advertisement for the album are also attached, as is the original cut-out sheet (featuring sergeant stripes, fake mustache and so on) from the original album.
Final thoughts?  The big box set is definitely for completists, as there’s a lot of repetition; more passive fans will probably want to pick up the two-disc “anniversary edition” that takes the best of the extra tracks (and the two current-mix single tracks).  It sounds great and looks great.  [And of course most Beatles fans are dearly hoping that the other albums get this treatment, though we won’t hold our breath.]  Highly recommended.

Coming Soon: Blogging the Beatles: Sgt Pepper Reissue Edition

Come on, you knew it was coming. 🙂

I’ve been obsessing about this release since hearing about it some months ago, and since it’s such a landmark album — not to mention this release being the only time so far that a full Beatles album has been given a completely new stereo remix — I think it’s only fair that I give it the BtB treatment, now that I have it my grubby paws.  I’d like to go over what one can expect: the differences in sound between the original mono and stereo mixes, and the new 2017 stereo mix.

[Alas, I do not have a 5.1 sound system so I won’t be able to provide any input on that at this time, though it’s part of the big box set edition.]

Stay tuned!

Coming Soon: When We Was Fab — Blogging the Beatles Solo Years

Others have commented: it’s going to be the Beatles’ solo years next!  This one’s gonna be a long series, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be featuring it on specific days…maybe offering it every other Wednesday or something.  We shall see.  This may take some time for me to build up a backlog, as there are quite a few releases to plow through — and I’m not going to include the multiple reissues that have taken place over the years.  One last note: I’ve already decided this is going to be chronological, just like the previous series, so this means we’ll be visiting all four solo discographies at the same time.  I will also be featuring multiple releases per post, or else I’ll be posting until 2019!

Until then, I’ll be providing the usual music posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thanks for joining in!

2015: In Which You’ll Be Seeing More of Me Here

Hey all!  Didn’t expect to see three entries in two days from me, did you?  Well, I can’t promise that’ll be the norm from here on in, but this year I’m planning on being more consistent with my blogging.  Starting today, you should be seeing an entry from me by each Thursday of the month, talking about my favorite subject: music.

I’ll be hitting on things such as new and current releases and reissues, as well as hitting on older albums and bands I’d like to talk about.  I’d also like to expand on the genres too, as a change of pace.  I don’t have too many concrete plans for this other than reviews, so I’m as curious as you are to see where this leads.

Also, in other news…

I’m proud to announce that I have not one but two self-published projects I’m planning on releasing into the world sometime this year as well!  I’m thinking epub at this point, although print could be involved, depending on which self-publishing company I end up working with to produce and release it.  These are two projects I’ve been working on over the last few years; one is complete and the other is about three-quarters of the way done.

The first will be a book version of Blogging the Beatles, the series I started here a while back, in which I listened and talked about the Beatles’ discography in chronological release order.  I had so much fun writing it, and learned so much musically as I studied the songs, that I felt it would be perfect for an ebook.  I’ll be revising it and adding new items as I do so, and hope to have this one out at least by midyear.

The second will be Walk in Silence itself.  This one’s the biggie.  I’m about three quarters of the way done on the more personal side of the story, with revision number two to add in more about the music.  This one may roll into 2016 if other issues pop up, but the aim is to get it out into the wild by autumn 2015.

Of course, releasing books about popular music could be tricky considering the rights involved, but since I’m not directly quoting the music but only commenting on it, I think I should be okay.  These are both books focusing on my love of music, in particular about a band and a genre that inspired me and shaped who I am.

See y’all on the flip side, kids!

Blogging the Beatles 55/56/57: post-breakup releases, “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”

When the Beatles officially broke up in 1970, the world didn’t so much end as it soldiered on, just as it was supposed to.  It was truly the end of an era–the band that defined the sixties pretty much stayed within the confines of its decade, and its four band members moved onto newer and more personal phases of their musical careers. There were of course many fans who wished it were otherwise, that the four would iron out their differences and reconvene, but it was not to be. They’d already started focusing on their own personal projects as early as 1966, perhaps thought about splitting up when Brian Epstein died in 1967, and definitely started doing things on their own by 1968. It was time for a new chapter in their lives.

John Lennon had already made a name for himself separate from the band via his music, his art and film projects, his personal politics, and his relationship with Yoko Ono. By 1970 he’d created his own ersatz group, the Plastic Ono Band, whose members shifted with whoever happened to be available at the time. This was less of a group than it was merely an umbrella name that he only use whenever he felt like it. After three experimental albums with Yoko and one shaky live album, his first post-band project would be the harrowing, brutally honest John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, released in December of 1970, his “primal scream” album wherein he exorcised as many personal demons as he could–his lack of parental guidance, his distrust of idolatry–but it also gave us the gorgeous “Love”. John would follow up the equally personal but much less abrasive Imagine, the dangerously political Some Time in New York City, and the lost-weekend trio of Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock & Roll before deciding to call it a day. In 1975 he would give up the public life so he could raise his on Sean. It wasn’t until 1980 that he and Yoko would come back recharged with enough material to release two albums: the lovely Double Fantasy and, after his unfortunate assassination that December, the equally fantastic Milk and Honey in 1984.  His legacy still lives on separate from the group, seen as many things: an innovator, a misguided cynic, a downright bastard, and a loving husband.

Paul McCartney would have the most prominent and prodigious post-Beatles career. He followed up his official solo debut McCartney (1970) with an equally creative album under both his and Linda’s name, Ram, in 1971. Soon after that he created a new band named Wings, which, after a few bumps in the road (live, as well as with the releases Wild Life and other early singles), he soon hit his stride. He understood and accepted the fact that he could write a good, catchy pop song at the drop of a hat, and released a long string of singles and albums, starting with 1973’s ballad “My Love”, the killer James Bond theme “Live and Let Die”, and Red Rose Speedway. He followed this up with a string of hit singles and albums: Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Light, “Jet”, “Silly Love Songs”, “Listen to What the Man Said”, “Let ‘Em In”…all the way up to 1979’s danceable hit “Goodnight Tonight”. The band would break up during the 1980-1981 period for various reasons, some personal, some public–but Paul soldiered on into the 80s with another string of hits. This era may have also been chock full of albums and singles, but by 1986 and Press to Play his star seemed to be waning a bit. He briefly returned to the limelight with the excellent Flowers in the Dirt in 1989, using new backing players and working closely with Elvis Costello on a number of tracks. More well-made but indifferently-received albums and singles followed, including a fantastic electronica-based side project called The Fireman, but it wasn’t until 1997’s Flaming Pie that he was back in the limelight. That album, inspired by the Beatles’ Anthology project as well as his relationship with Linda during the last few years of her life before she succumbed to cancer, gave fans not only a fresh and updated sound but melodies steeped in nostalgia. His output would slow down from here on in, but he would never completely stop. Last year’s unexpected album New was a lovely treat and a great example of a man who simply loves the craft of music, regardless.

George Harrison’s solo career may have been bumpy, but he never let that stop him. Having created an impressively large backlog of as-yet-unrecorded songs, some rejected by John and Paul for Beatle work, he released the impressive three-disc All Things Must Pass in November of 1970, and it still stands as one of the best post-breakup albums. His following output did lean towards the spiritual side, but it didn’t always smother the end result with proselytizing. For every “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” and “My Sweet Lord” there was “This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying)” and “All Those Years Ago”. There were a few misses here and there, but he was always true to himself, rarely if ever writing a throwaway song that he’d later be embarrassed by. By 1982 and Gone Troppo, however, he’d decided to let go of the music for awhile, focusing instead on his private life and his film production company Handmade Films. It wasn’t until 1987’s brilliant comeback Cloud Nine that he came back into focus, not just with that album but the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, who would release a much-heralded self-titled album the following year. By 1992, however, he’d only released the Live in Japan as a follow-up, and would not release any further solo albums in his lifetime. He had been working on a final album, 2002’s Brainwashed, before his death from cancer in 2001.  His son Dhani had played a significant role in those final recordings, and his legacy lives on in his son, who now sings and plays guitar in his own band, thenewno2.

Ringo Starr, on the other hand, would have the most interesting and varied post-band career. After a one-two punch of albums in 1970 (Beaucoups of Blues and Sentimental Journey) recorded more for his own (and, supposedly, his mother’s) enjoyment, he would release a number of albums chock full of fun pop and rock songs, starting with 1973’s Ringo. This album featured not only an incredibly large and varied number of cameos from his musician friends, it would also feature music and even separate performances alongside a few of his former bandmates. They would always show up on his releases, writing a song or two or playing guitar on a few tracks. He too caught the film bug, becoming an actor for a number of odd, quirky films such as Candy, The Magic Christian (filmed during the final Beatle days), Son of Dracula, and more. His last major role would be in the b-movie farce Caveman in 1981, but he would continue to show up in other productions, from Paul’s 1984 Give My Regards to Broad Street, the kid’s show Shining Time Station, and multiple cameos in other places. His solo albums would become somewhat scattered from the early 80s onwards, but he more than makes up for it by his consistent touring under the “All-Starr Band” moniker, playing beside all his musician friends in a hit-filled revue.

*     *     *

The Beatles’ music itself never really fell from the spotlight in the 70s, for varying reasons. As EMI owned their music for a long time to come, they would occasionally release compilations to satisfy public demand and keep the band in the limelight. Starting with 1973’s dual compilations 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 (aka the “red” and “blue” albums respectively, for their colored covers that reproduced the iconic Please Please Me/Get Back photos), there would be at least one new compilation every couple of years all the way up to 1982’s 20 Greatest Hits. Some of them, like Rock n’ Roll Music, were obvious cash-ins, but others such as the excellent Love Songs (featuring the brilliant Richard Avedon band photo from a 1967 issue of Look on its cover and inlay) and the curious Rarities made up for it. There were always hints of more rarities being publicly released, such as the aborted Sessions album in 1985, but they never came to pass. By the mid-80s, there was a distinct lack of any new output, and for obvious reasons: the Beatles were finally coming to compact disc!

In 1987 into 1988–most likely to tie in with the “20 years ago today…” Sgt Pepper theme–EMI/Capitol once and for all decided to release the entirety of the Beatles canon on CD. And even more excitingly, the albums were finally going to be released worldwide in their British formats, ridding collections of the endless overlaps and superfluous releases. All the non-album singles were to be collected onto two additional albums called Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2. The vinyl and cassette releases would follow suit, and any previous international and US releases would be considered in the past tense. These releases would remain the last word in Beatles music from here on in.

Sometime in 1992, the remaining Beatles had decided to reconvene to work on a documentary of the band’s history. This had been a background project almost since their breakup in 1970, but in the 90s interest had returned. They would be interviewed by musician-cum-tv-personality Jools Holland and filmed all over the place, from Paul’s Sussex studio to George’s Friar Park mansion to Abbey Road Studios itself, finally telling the real story behind the band after all the years of speculation and confusion. The documentary, simply named The Beatles Anthology, would be a multi-episode documentary as well as a three-volume, multi-cd collection, and a book. By 1994 they were doing much of the post-production on the project, and all three had decided that they were going to work on some incidental music. That idea, however, changed when they felt that they may want to work on a true Beatles project again. George Harrison and Neil Aspinall (their former road manager and later business manager) had known of John’s penchant for demoing his music in the late 70s, and asked Yoko for assistance. She handed them rough tapes of four tracks, two of which would become the all-new Beatles tracks in over two decades.

This would pose a bit of a problem, however: how to record as the Beatles, when it simply wasn’t the Beatles without all four members?

*     *     *

Credit: beatlesbible.com

Credit: beatlesbible.com

Single: “Free As a Bird”
Released: 4 December 1995

“Free As a Bird” started life as one of John’s countless demos that he recorded throughout the 1970s, this one arriving sometime in 1977 during his tenure as stay-at-home dad at their Manhattan apartment, the Dakota. It’s somewhat of a slow and meandering song, but it’s got all the qualities of a true Lennon original: it contains a number of fascinating chord changes, its lyrics are wistful and heartfelt, and despite its somewhat somber melody, it’s truly a hopeful tune. And once the other three fleshed it out into a complete song, it contains some of the most breathtaking sounds and production since the days of Abbey Road. Ably co-produced by former Electric Light Orchestra frontman and fellow Traveling Wilbury (and huge Beatles fan!) Jeff Lynne, it is one of their strongest tracks ever, and with good reason: this is the Beatles of 1994-95, influenced not only by their old sounds but by their combined solo output. It’s equal parts Abbey Road, Double Fantasy, Flowers in the Dirt, Traveling Wilburys, and Time Takes Time, all in one four-and-a-half minute track.

The answer to the above problem was in the form of a few cassettes from John’s demo collection, handed over from Yoko to Paul. The band took this project very seriously; if any of the members disliked what they heard, they would not release it. There was also the trick of taking a homemade recording of somewhat dubious quality, and supplementing it with a full band in the studio. They would rely on their old studio tricks for this: the recording would be processed to as clear quality as possible, vocals beefed up by Paul and George, and the arrangement would be supplemented by bridges and a few different chord changes by them as well. The new lyrics turned the theme from one of John’s “I feel just fine at home doing little at all” lyrics into an altogether different one; it now became a wistful song of remembrance–similar to John’s “In My Life”, it became one of both sadness and hope.  And luckily, all three members felt the end result was fantastic.  Even Ringo commented that “it sounds like them” (meaning his old band)!

A whimsical video was created for the song, directed by Joe Pytka, and was originally used as a supplemental piece to the Anthology television airing. The video is chock full of visual cues of Beatles songs and history. We see shots of the band at the Cavern, all the lonely people crossing the Liverpool docks heading for work, eggmen making their deliveries, pretty nurses selling poppies from a tray, a long and winding road, a helter skelter…the list goes on, eighty to a hundred visual cues coming up throughout. It’s a fantastic feast for the eyes and a hell of a lot of fun for the fan who has waited decades for this moment, to hear and see something new again.

*     *     *

Credit: beatlesbible.com

Credit: beatlesbible.com

Single: “Real Love”
Released: 4 March 1996

After recording “Free As a Bird”, they chose the somewhat easier track “Real Love”. This one was nearly complete and its demo version had already been released officially on the soundtrack to the 1988 documentary Imagine John Lennon, and they did not need to spend nearly as much time working on it. Once again they’d needed to clean up the cassette and punch up John’s singing by having Paul sing alongside, and John’s guitar playing was supplemented by both Paul and George. It’s not nearly as strong a track as “Free As a Bird”, but it’s definitely catchier and therefore received more airplay than the previous. John’s composition is lighter and brighter, perhaps influenced by the more positive songs he’d written for both Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey, and the end result with the rest of the band is very indicative of the poppier sound of perhaps Rubber Soul. It definitely sounds like an earlier-era track composition-wise. Though the band did enjoy working on this recording as well, it seemed they were not as excited about it as the previous one, perhaps due to the fact that it was for the most part an almost-complete track; at this point they were merely session men completing it.

The video for this track showed up on a later episode of the Anthology airing, and is a much more straightforward visual. Half of it contains footage of the three members recording the track at Paul’s studio in Sussex, the other half being a mystical visual of a white piano–hinting at the same one connected to John and seen in the “Imagine” video–rising up from a pool of water and flying up into the air alongside other instruments and objects. A slow motion sequence of the band’s profiles shows up about halfway through, using footage from John’s film Smile and supplementing it with the slowly smiling faces of Paul, George and Ringo.  It’s an uplifting performance, and in its own way it’s a heartfelt nod to their long-missed, much-loved best friend and former bandmate.

*     *     *

“Free As a Bird” would be the lead-off track on the first Anthology cd, which would be released 21 November 1995, and “Real Love” would lead off the second volume, which was released on 18 March 1996. The two other possible “new” tracks, “Grow Old with Me” (originally on Milk and Honey) and “Now and Then” (unreleased but found on many a bootleg) were not followed up on, although a brief tryout was attempted on “Now and Then” but never recorded. The third Anthology cd would arrive on 28 October 1996, sans any new track. These two songs would remain the last new Beatles tracks recorded and released.  The three volumes however did contain a shockingly large amount of previously officially released recordings, including at least a dozen or so tracks that were recorded for albums but ultimately left off.  This series pretty much clears out the closet, leaving only a scant few remaining tracks unheard by the public.

The Anthology project effectively turned Apple Records back into a living entity, and a long stretch of projects began in earnest. In 1994, we were treated to a fine collection of songs recorded during their frequent visits to BBC Radio (a second volume would arrive years later in 2013). In 1999, a major remastering of the 1968 film Yellow Submarine would be released, and would also treat fans to an altogether new experience: its tie-in album, Yellow Submarine Songtrack, released 13 September of that year, would be the only collection of Beatles tracks completely remastered to multiple tracks. The result is a bit odd, as many of the songs were originally on four tracks and thus sounds a bit empty, but on the other hand, the songs were finally given a lot of breathing room and one can hear many different facets otherwise unavailable.

On 13 November 2000 the new compilation 1 arrived, a collection of songs that would hit Number One on the charts either in the US or in the UK (or both). Exactly three years later, the album Let It Be…Naked popped up, a fascinating look at the band’s final album reimagined without Phil Spector’s overwrought meddling. Some songs retained their Spectorization, such as the creative editing/lengthening of “I Me Mine”, though others like “The Long and Winding Road” and “Across the Universe” finally saw the light as intended, without the sappy strings and choruses.

In 2004 and 2006, Capitol released the two The Capitol Albums box sets, containing the first eight American albums (minus A Hard Day’s Night, originally released on United Artists Records) in their unique remixes. Also in 2006, right around the same time as the mash-up craze, the famed dance/performance troupe Cirque du Soleil created a show called Love, containing nearly all-new mixes and mashups of Beatles tracks and spearheaded by George Martin’s son Giles.

On 9 September 2009, the world was treated to something even better: official Beatles remasters. Although their albums had been lightly touched up and slightly modified over the years as deemed necessary, mainly by George Martin, they had never had such a complete overhaul starting from the original master tapes. They were a significant improvement over the original cd masters–cleaned up and clarified, properly balanced and equalized, prepared for the new generation fans and audiophiles. Both the stereo and mono mixes were given the process and released in glorious box sets reproducing the original album covers, and in some cases even their inner sleeves. The 1987 cd editions were phased out and replaced by the stereo versions of these albums, which have become the standard.

In 2012, the Beatles’ catalog finally got its electronic day in the sun as mp3s, available exclusively (and some say ironically) through iTunes, which later in the year releases a special collection of the band’s loudest tracks, fittingly entitled Tomorrow Never Knows. At the end of 2013 an odd iTunes-only release created solely to circumvent copyright issues sneaks out called The Beatles Bootleg Recordings 1963, filled with Please Please Me-era alternate takes and BBC recordings. And lastly, the US discography gets another box set release in 2014 (on my birthday, no less). The US Albums is a curious release in that it faithfully reproduces all the albums unique to the US, this time including A Hard Day’s Night as well as The Beatles’ Story (a 1964 documentary album), Yesterday and Today, and Hey Jude, right down to the inner paper sleeves…but contain all the remastered versions, rather than the US remixes that were evident on the 2004/06 box sets.  It’s generally a box set for completists, but it’s well worth it for those interested.

And lastly, Paul and Ringo themselves are continuing to play Beatles songs live on tour to this day.

*     *     *

And in the end…

The band may have broken up over 40 years ago–a year before I was born–but it’s evident that their legacy lives on, as strong and healthy as it always has been. They may not show up on the radio nearly as often as they may have in the 1970s and 1980s, but they continue to be one of the most-loved, most influential, and most important bands in the genre of rock music. Other bands have come and gone that are of equal status, of course. Other bands have also changed the face of music in one way or another, have inspired countless wannabes to pick up an instrument or write a song of their own. The Beatles are merely one of the first in a long line, founding fathers in this particular format of popular music.

They’ve influenced me, inspired me, frustrated me, and been part of my life’s soundtrack since I was around five years old. They’re still one of my top favorite bands ever. When I started writing this series, I made it a point to also learn how to play a number of the songs on guitar. I expected to just know a few more songs in the process, but instead I actually started learning a number of things: unconventional chords, interesting chord changes, how the parts of a melody work together, and how a number of sometimes completely disparate parts make up a unified whole. That last part in particular is of interest, as it made me think more seriously about my writing in general. In seeing how the Beatles deftly created their songs, I now saw how I could make my own prose better. In seeing how they created not just a number of songs but a complete and cohesive album, I now all the moving parts of my stories and make them a complete and cohesive novel. And lastly, I even learned how to listen to music even closer, to not so much analyze it as figure out how they put it together, the flourishes, the creative timing, the dissonance and the dualities.

The Beatles were one hell of a creative band, and in retrospect, I think that simple point is why they’ve stayed with me all these years.

Blogging the Beatles 53/54: “Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” and Let It Be

By early 1970, all four members of the Beatles were already busy with their own solo projects. By the end of 1969, John had already come out with four albums–three of them experimental noise recorded with Yoko, and the fourth being a live album he’d recorded in Canada with a hastily gathered all-star band–as well as two big singles, “Give Peace a Chance” and “Cold Turkey” (with “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” to be rush-released in early February 1970). Ringo had recorded an album of standards called Sentimental Journey that would be released in March. George had only snuck out a single experimental album in May 1969, Electronic Sound, but by the end of 1970 he’d have a triple album release of All Things Must Pass.

Paul, on the other hand, had chosen to lay low. He’d been recording himself, and had only chosen to release his debut solo release, McCartney, when he was good and ready. As luck would have it, however, the original release date of Let It Be would originally conflict with McCartney, and it was only through stubborn will and frustration that he would win out, pushing the final Beatles album out a month. The decision was not without acrimony, however. On Paul’s side, he’d planned the 17 April release date for some time, and was not informed of the Let It Be release date until he’d already made concrete plans. On the other hand, the other members argued that he should move the date, considering the band’s release was more important. Paul would eventually win the debate, it was a bitter victory. John and George had sent Ringo, the always amicable best-buddy to plead one more time…only to have Paul explode at him in a rage. He wasn’t so much angry at Ringo, per se…it was more that they’d been so coy about breaching the subject and sending someone else. And it ended up being one of the final wedges that split the band. Perhaps not entirely due to this event but certainly related to it, when promotional copies of McCartney were sent out, he’d attached a self-scripted Q & A, which contained vague but telling news: he really didn’t see the Beatles recording anything else anytime soon. He hadn’t exactly come out and said they’d broken up…but he hadn’t dismissed the idea, either.

*     *     *

Credit: jpgr.co.uk – The Beatles Complete UK Discography site

Credit: jpgr.co.uk – The Beatles Complete UK Discography site

Single: “Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”
Released: 6 March 1970

By March, the planned Get Back project had gone through multiple revisions, and was now being given to Phil Spector to see if he could do anything with them. In the meantime, they chose to release the next single from the sessions as sort of a precursor to the eventual album. This particular single was recorded at the recently built (and rebuilt, to working order this time) Apple Studios, in the basement of their Savile Row business office, with George Martin stopping by to produce. It was recorded on 31 January, technically the final date of the Get Back sessions, and a day after their ersatz “live” rooftop concert the previous day. This session was primarily to record tracks they would not have been able to perform up on the roof; it was a sort of “live in studio” performance instead. Three songs would be recorded and finished after multiple takes, and would all eventually show up on the album.

It was also at this time that the end result of the sessions had changed its name to Let It Be, not just to coincide with the latest single (and one much closer in date than “Get Back”), but also because of the change in the related film/performance project. The filming, originally planned as a “band at work” documentary to release alongside a potential television special, had turned into a full-blown feature film documentary instead. The idea of “getting back” to their roots was now obscured enough that a new title was necessary. This single would have been the first official mention of the title, its picture single cover saying as much.

Side A: Let It Be
Paul’s lovely piano piece dates back to late in the sessions for The Beatles (Paul was noodling around on the piano with this piece at least around 15 September 1968), and finally gets its full, gorgeous release here. It’s a solemn ode to his long-departed mother Mary, who’d been a nurse and midwife and definitely a force of nature in the McCartney household in his youth. She was strong and independent, but she was also deeply caring to everyone she loved, and she’d deeply affected Paul in that way. The lyrics are said to be very indicative of her, a solid emotional anchor when everything around was chaos (which makes sense, considering when Liverpool had gotten bombed in the early 1940s, she would gladly offer assistance to any wounded civilians).

The performance here is strong and heartfelt, with Paul on grand piano, John on bass, George on guitar, Ringo on drums, and their guest Billy Preston on organ. Interestingly, however, by this time their “no overdubs” policy had pretty much been dropped, so any tweaking on the music was given the go-ahead. On 4 January 1970, George Martin added a simple orchestral backing quite similar to “Hey Jude”, with the orchestra playing minimal notes. Also during that session, George Harrison dubbed on a guitar solo to replace the one he’d recorded on 30 April 1969. This solo is how one can tell the difference between the single version and the album version, as otherwise they are exactly the same: George’s solo is much slower and more meandering here.

Side B: You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)
This would most likely have to be the most curious of Beatles b-sides, and for many reasons. Originally started way back on 17 May 1967 during the Yellow Submarine sessions, it was dropped and returned to on multiple occasions as time and interest warranted. It’s somewhat similar to their cabaret/pantomime Christmas recordings of that era, recording the same melody and lyric (the entirety of it being “You know my name” and “look up the number”, natch) in varying music styles. The May ’67 recording was the crunchy and boisterous first segment; it was revived on 7 and 8 June of that year with additional styles added, with Rolling Stone member Brian Jones playing an admirable alto saxophone solo. It wasn’t until 30 April 1969–the same day George overdubbed the above solo–that John and Paul revived it once more, this time on a later-aborted plan to release it as the b-side to “What’s the New Mary Jane”, itself to be a Plastic Ono Band single. It was eventually edited down from a nearly six-minute track (its nearly full version is available on Anthology 3) and used as the b-side to their final single. Perhaps an odd choice, but an interesting one nonetheless, as each song balances the other out quite nicely.

*

This would be the final Beatles single in the UK canon, at least until whatever became of the Anthology sessions of 1994. However, the US chose to release one last single after this, the equally strong ballad “The Long and Winding Road” with George’s “For You Blue” as its b-side. Either way, this is a fine choice for a final single–despite everything, the band soldiered on and delivered a highly memorable and much-loved release.

*     *    *

Credit: jpgr.co.uk – The Beatles Complete UK Discography site

Credit: jpgr.co.uk – The Beatles Complete UK Discography site

Album: Let It Be
Released: 8 May 1970

For those who have not followed the history of the band and only know them by their releases, this album is somewhat of a let down, especially after the brilliance of Abbey Road. Its many flaws are apparent; some of the songs only reach jam session-level professionalism, others are tightly played but weak in melody, and others suffer from the Spector-ized bombast of overproduction. It’s not entirely a soundtrack to the movie’s tracks, either; some were recorded at Twickenham, others at Apple after filming had ended, and there are many overdubs and edits, despite the album’s liner notes commenting otherwise. Still, it’s an interesting collection in and of itself, and there are fine moments that rose out of the troubled sessions.

*   *   *

Side A

Track 1: Two of Us
Paul’s folky traveling song may have originally been inspired by his northern travels with Linda Eastman, but it can also easily be seen as a return to the folky singalong of “Love Me Do” in a way. With Paul and John dueting on vocals and Martin acoustics (George is on bass and overdubbed electric guitar, Ringo on drums), it’s a lovely example of the band recapturing their early to mid-60s folk-based sound. The lyrics are simple, maybe even a little silly and self-deprecating, but that’s part of its charm…it’s supposed to be that way. The album version was one of the songs recorded “live in studio” on 31 January 1969, and it’s actually a different take on their original version, which was much more electric and upbeat. [This version can be heard in part in the Let It Be film.]

Track 2: Dig a Pony
John’s first offering isn’t one of his best–he’d dismissed this one as “garbage” later on his career”–but it’s certainly up his alley in terms of quirkiness. This one of the few tracks recorded on the roof of the Savile Row Apple building, and after a quick false start (which you can see in the movie–Ringo yells “Hold it!” so he can quickly stub out his cigarette and pick up his drumsticks), it kicks into a quick 6/8-time introduction that has little to do with the main melody, which is a much slower 3/4. The song itself is a sort of blues, but its constant and unexpected chord changes give it an off-kilter ambience, which fits nicely with the odd wordplay. The lyrics don’t really mean much, an attempt at playing with as many differing and strange variations of “You can do anything if you set your mind to it”. The verses are balanced out with an “All I want is you” passage which may or may not serve as a chorus, and borrows the melody from the introduction. Again, it’s not one of John’s best, but it’s an interesting attempt nonetheless.

Track 3: Across the Universe
The first Spectorized Beatles song makes its appearance here. This is also a strange choice of track, as the version here is the early 1968 recording massively remixed and overdubbed with orchestral and choral layers and slowed down to its original speed. The band did practice full versions during the Get Back sessions, but the original was used instead. One reason was that a portion of the track does show up in the movie, but the other is that John’s donations to the album are so slim here that they felt this would be a good addition. The album version is the most well known version, and does have its own dreamlike quality similar to the No One’s Gonna Change Our World version, and though the strings and chorus sound like overkill now, it does in fact sound more polished and cleaner than the latter.

Track 4: I Me Mine
George provides his first of two tracks for the session here, and it’s one of his most personal and scathing. It’s partly inspired by his ongoing studies in Indian philosophies, but more to the point, it’s his second track in just under a year, just after “Not Guilty”, that’s squarely (but obliquely) aimed at John and Paul. By early 1969 he’d about had enough of his two leading bandmates’ egos, having passed over so many of his songs, only to work on half-baked tracks like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” or some such. The result is short (just under two minutes in the original April 1970 studio recording), but in those few minutes he spares nothing, all but singing “yes, it’s all about you, isn’t it?” This is also one of the tracks on the album that actually benefits from Phil Spector’s remixing; he repeated one full section to lengthen it by another thirty seconds or so, and the horns are only added to the back end of the verse. It’s one of the rare times where Spector truly understood how the Beatles worked with overdubs.

Track 5: Dig It
This fifty-second snippet is part of a much longer jam recorded at the Apple studio on 26 January, much shorter than even the four minute version shown in the movie. There’s not much to say here other than it’s a three-chord repetitive riff echoing Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” but much bouncier, and featuring Billy Preston on organ and George Martin on maracas. John’s ad-libbed vocals don’t go very far other than riffing on the Dylan line and listing off random famous names. The only excitement here is John’s silly ad-lib at the end (taken from an earlier version of the same jam), which dovetails nicely with the next song on the album.

Track 6: Let It Be
Paul’s lovely piano ballad makes a return here. Again, it’s features the same backing tracks as the single version, though Spector tweaks this one as well. The orchestration has been punched up, some effects have been added, and a few of the lyrics have gotten slightly rearranged, especially near the end. A livelier guitar solo (recorded 4 January 1970) played by George is used here instead. The two versions are so similar that it’s quite hard to tell the two apart other than by George’s solo, but this one seems much more complete.

Track 7: Maggie Mae
The first side closes with a forty-second leftover from the Apple studio jams, which they would often rely on for warming up. On 24 January 1969 this particular morning’s warmup featured a number of their old skiffle favorites from their Quarrymen days, including this old standard about a prostitute who would rob her clients. It dies out rather quickly, but it’s a fun little aside nonetheless.

Side B

Track 1: I’ve Got a Feeling
The second track on the album to be culled from the rooftop concert, it’s a catchy track equal parts Paul and John. John kicks off the song with his excellent fingerpicking style he’d honed so carefully during sessions for The Beatles, but it’s Paul’s offering of the main “I’ve Got a Feeling” melody that drives the track. John’s “Everybody Had a Hard Year” (a Beatles demo that never got recorded) and “Watching Rainbows” (the origin of the fingerpicked riff, and found on many bootlegs) is a perfect counterpoint to Paul’s melody. An almost unintelligible bridge pops up twice in the middle of the track, a pounding, climbing riff, only to stop cold and be brought back down to earth by George’s quick solo guitar drop. [That drop may have been quite the source of contention during the sessions; soon after a run-through of this track in the movie, Paul and George quietly argue until George delivers the infamous “I’ll play whatever you want me to play” remark.] This is probably the strongest song of the entire rooftop concert.

Track 2: One After 909
Paul mentions this old track (probably written around 1957 and attempted but never released in 1963) in the film as one of the “Lennon-McCartney Originals” they wrote in the pre-fame days. They dismiss it as a rather corny lyric, but chose to include it in the sessions as part of their warmup jams of old favorites. While the original from way back when was a bluesy rocker, the album version, recorded as part of the rooftop concert, is more of a honkytonk country track. It’s played very loosely, perhaps a little too much so, as their performance sounds less than enthusiastic. On the other hand, it’s obvious that they’re having fun playing this old gem.

Track 3: The Long and Winding Road
Paul’s slow piano ballad may have been a hit single in the US and a much-loved track for many, but it has one of the most troubled of histories of any Beatles track. Musically, it’s inspired by Paul’s drives with Linda through the sparse landscape of Scotland, to and from his farmstead near Kintyre, and the original version, heard in the film and later on the 2003 release Let It Be…Naked, is actually quite lovely. It’s very sparsely arranged, with Paul on piano, John on bass, George on quietly-strummed guitar, Ringo on delicate drums, and Billy Preston on organ, including quite a moving hymn-like solo. However…the album version is the end result of an increasingly unstable Spector, who added such cloying and overbearing orchestral and choral overdubs that it turned a decent ballad into a horribly over-the-top schmaltzy track. The version is so precious that it enraged Paul to the point of quitting the band once and for all. He’d asked to have it redone without the overdubs, but his request was ignored and the version was the one released. Paul sued Allen Klein (their ersatz manager at this time, but more of a financial manager if anything) and the other three to dissolve the company they’d only created a few years before, and used Spector’s mishandling of the track as one of the major points. He’d hated Klein for some time and had never trusted him (John and George liked him, and Ringo was his usual ambivalent self), but he’d chosen to be the bigger man for some time…but this blatant mishandling had been the final straw. No other track in the Beatles catalog has this sound, and thankfully so.

Track 4: For You Blue
George brings things back to normal with an easy, fun twelve-bar blues track recorded at the Apple studio on 25 January. It’s jangly and lightly played, with George on acoustic guitar and vocals, John on a slide guitar (the slide used was actually a shotgun shell!), Paul on restrained piano, and Ringo playing soft but tight drums. It’s clear they’re all having fun playing this track–it’s evident even in the movie, where all four are full of smiles as they play. Lyrically it’s a simple love song that could easily have fit in with the lyrics of their early years, but the highlight is George’s asides of “Go, Johnny, go!” and “Elmore James has got nothing on this, baby!” during John’s spirited slide solos.

Track 5: Get Back
The album ends with another version of their early 1969 single. It’s exactly the same take, though expertly rearranged by Spector here to sound like a different one. He adds a bit of studio chat, including a tongue-in-cheek rewrite of the lyric from John (“Sweet Loretta Fart, she thought she was a cleaner, but she was a frying pan”), and instead of the breakdown at the end of the single version, he treats that as the end of the song and edits the classic ending line of the rooftop concert and the movie itself: ” “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition!” This is a bittersweet line, considering it’s a play on their very early days of auditioning for shows, as well as the very last lines heard by the band on vinyl as they broke up. Saving the track for last was a brilliant move, as it leaves the listener on a high note. It’s a reminder that, despite the band’s history (and the dodginess of the album itself), the band remained as true to their goals as entertainers and accomplished musicians.

*      *      *

Let It Be is often seen as a flawed masterpiece, and not exactly a fan favorite, due to its unhinged performances and lack of inspired musicianship. It’s glaringly obvious that this was an album of tracks where Spector was given, in the words of John a year later, “…the shittiest load of badly-recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.” Glyn Johns had done what he could, and the Get Back version of session does sound admirable if extremely disjointed, but John had a point–the band had been in a bad place and going in a bad direction after sessions for The Beatles, and no one was really in the mood. They’d been trained so soldier on despite their mental and emotional states, however, as that was the norm for the music industry in the sixties. Had they truly taken time off, time away from each other, and especially after sessions for Sgt Pepper back in 1967, perhaps things would have turned out differently. As it stands, however, the era of 1968 into the first half of 1969 was a band on the wane.

That said, the album itself does have merit. There are many interesting tracks that, if taken in a chronological context, serve as a middle ground between the angry and organic The Beatles and the slick and poppy Abbey Road. Many of the tracks here could fit on either album. “Two of Us,” “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” would have fit nicely on the former; “Let It Be” would have been a brilliant standalone single on par with “Hey Jude”; the non-Spectorized “The Long and Winding Road” and “I Me Mine” would have fit on the latter; “Get Back” could have remained a great standalone single as well. This view would also make Abbey Road the final album, which also makes sense, considering its own deliberate finality.

It also has been given much love over the years as well; in 1988, Slovenian industrial band Laibach recorded their own interpretation of the album (minus the title track) in a multitude of interesting ways, including a disturbingly dark “Get Back”, an operatic “Two of Us”, and an angelic “Across the Universe”. Many of the tracks have been covered over the years, and Paul himself has revisited “Get Back”, “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road” many times during his solo tours. It’s by no means their best album, but as Beatles albums go, it’s still a solid one, despite its faults.

It would be the last new Beatles album released during their career, and the last release of their official canon, but it was by no means the last release ever. In 1973, Capitol released the 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations, and for the next ten years they released various further compilations, each one a solid mix. In 1987 these compilations were all out of print and the entire catalog finally released on compact disc, with only the two Past Masters volumes serving as a compilation, collecting all non-album tracks. Still…these were all albums of previously released tracks. There would be no more new Beatles tracks.

At least, not until twenty-five years later, in 1995.

Next Up: the Anthology series, and the “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” singles

Blogging the Beatles 51/52: No One’s Gonna Change Our World compilation and The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record

The next two items in this series are more curiosity pieces than actual Beatles canon, and were both released pretty much as afterthoughts at this point in the band’s history.  One was a leftover from early 1968, and the other a final fan club release cobbled together out of unrelated solo recordings.  Both were released in the last days of 1969, one week apart, some months after the band had unofficially split up.  Fans at this time had no idea of the band’s true status, other than the upcoming Let It Be film and album and some solo endeavors, so if anything, they must not have expected anything was up, other than a few random holiday season releases.

The last time all four Beatles would be in the studio together was back on 20 August 1969, finishing up major editing and mixing work on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, though they would enter Abbey Road separately over the next few months for one thing or another.  John would come in a few weeks later in a failed attempt to mix and release “What’s the New Mary Jane” as a Plastic Ono Band single, and again a few weeks after that to work with Paul on finalizing “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” as its possible b-side.  Ringo would also show up in early December to work with George Martin on his television special With a Little Help from My Friends.  And in early 1970, Paul, George and Ringo would return to work on a few last-minute tweaks to a few Let It Be tracks.  Other than that, however, they would no longer record together collectively as the foursome they once were.

*     *     *

Album: No One’s Gonna Change Our World
Released: 12 December 1969

In early 1968, actor and comedian Spike Milligan–lead member of the venerated Goon Show crew–fashioned a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund.  He’d asked the band for a musical donation, and given the band’s adoration of the Goons, they willingly bent one of their cardinal rules:  the Beatles will never allow their music to be released on any various-artist compilation.  The album would contain a fascinating and vast mix of singers and musicians, from The Bee Gees, Cilla Black, The Hollies, Lulu, Cliff Richard, and more.  Given the Beatles’ status, they would of course get top billing, not to mention have the album name borrow (and slightly change) one line from their track.  The album itself was delayed for quite a time, originally to be released in late 1968 but held off until December 1969.  It remains the one compilation album that the Beatles willingly donated their time and music to.  [There have been various soundtracks featuring Beatles recordings since, but they have all been Beatle-related documentaries, such as Imagine John Lennon and The US vs John Lennon, or the Cirque du Soleil production Love.  To this date they have not let any band recordings show up on any non-band related soundtracks or compilations.]

Side A, Track 1: “Across the Universe”

The fourth and final track recorded before the band’s trip to India finally makes its appearance here.  The track very nearly showed up as a bonus track on a possible EP containing the new Yellow Submarine tracks, but after that idea fell by the wayside, the track lingered until it was gladly given to Milligan for his pet project.  It’s a gorgeous, dreamy song of John’s, though it’s one of his that he was never fully happy with.  Like “Tomorrow Never Knows”, he had a specific sound in his head that he wanted, but could never adequately reproduce or even describe.  He absolutely adored the lyrics, however, claiming them to be one of his best poetic works.  Oddly inspired by irritation via a conversation he’d had with Cynthia (apparently she’d been going on about something, and after they’d gone to bed, the opening line “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup” popped into his head), he instead turned it into a deeply spiritual lyric taken from the band’s growing interest in Transcendental Meditation.

The track itself is light and almost completely acoustic, mainly featuring consistent rhythm guitar strumming from John, with the occasional noodling from George on electric guitar with light tremolo and wah-wah effects.  Paul shows up on piano and Ringo on  percussion, though they are so deep in the mix they’re barely noticed.  The song itself is lovely; its home key is a high D chord and there is a semblance of a melody, though, like “I Am the Walrus”, he uses multiple melodic phrases to achieve it.  Also fascinating and extremely rare is the fact that two young girls are featured on the track as well:  Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, two “Apple Scruffs” (the small but loyal group of hangers-on outside the studio who would cheer the band on as they arrived and left the studio) were brought in to sing the high-register part of the chorus “nothing’s gonna change my world”.

This track, recorded in early February, would go through multiple versions before its two major releases.  The first, remaining close to the original February sessions, would have wildlife sound effects added on 2 October, would be released here.  There were attempts to put some rather experimental sounds on the mix, such as the band humming, George featuring heavily on tambura, and a plethora of backwards effects–this version would show up on multiple bootlegs over the years.  It was later decided by Glyn Johns, the producer tasked with creating a Get Back album in January 1970, to clean up the original, take out the two girls, and use that as a John donation to the album (his output was rather thin by this point).  Finally, in late March/early April, Phil Spector had taken over the project and created an altogether different version, the one that shows up on the Let It Be album.

*       *       *

Single: The Beatles’ Seventh Christmas Record
Released to the Beatles’ Official Fan Club: 19 December 1969

Like the previous fan club Christmas single, this last outing was created out of separate solo recordings and put together by Kenny Everett.  This one is even more of a hodgepodge of directionless, unscripted recordings from the four.  Gone is the humor and the silliness of previous recordings.  Any humor seems a bit forced.  There’s not really much exciting here, other than a home recording of John and Yoko talking to each other at Tittenhurst, a bit of riffing and chatting from Paul, a song and a shameless plug of The Magic Christian from Ringo, and only a quick hello from George.

Taken in the context of the previous recordings, it seems kind of a sad and wistful end to a fascinating career.  On the other hand, it’s four men who are fast approaching their thirties and taking their life and their fame more seriously.  John and Yoko are clearly in love with each other here, sometimes cloyingly so, but they clearly enjoy each other’s company.  Paul’s segments are somewhat reminiscent of his 1968 message, a simple acoustic song and a thank you to the fans; at this point it’s believed he was working on tracks for his solo debut McCartney, so there seems to be a bit of distraction in his voice.  Ringo, on the other hand, clearly enjoys the holidays after all these years and still offers a bit of lighthearted humor and an old standard or two.

This would be the last new Beatles fan club release; by December of 1970 they had publicly and officially broken up.  That year’s release for the fans would then be a semi-official compilation of the previous seven recordings on solid twelve-inch vinyl.  The UK version, titled From Then to You, would have a simple white card cover with a printed label pasted on.  The US version would be slightly more exotic, using past pictures of the band and named The Beatles Christmas Album.

*      *      *

At this point, the band had completed almost all the projects that they had set out to do in the past year.  They were leaving very little behind; all told, there is an extremely small number of songs that were recorded and completed in studio during their time together that would not be released.  Many of those songs would remain in the vaults for years, only surfacing on inferior-sounding bootlegs, until the Anthology series arrived in 1995-96.  That left only one project to be released: the Get Back sessions.  That title would remain so until early spring of 1970, when they would finally be released in May under the name Let It Be, alongside the film of the same name.  The project was so fraught with personal and musical issues, that hardly anyone in the band wished to work on it.  Eventually they would hand it to the famed producer Phil Spector, who would turn questionable recordings into quite the interesting final chapter of the band’s existence.

*      *      *

Next Up: “Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” and Let It Be