Thursday 21 October 2021












-The "Save The Last Dance for Me" Medley from Glyn Johns' Get Back Mix

The Beatles performed some 229 covers (give or take) over the course of the 20-day Get Back sessions. Some were full performances and others just a tossed-off line or two. Regardless, the breadth of these songs is staggering, spanning everything from gritty R&B deep cuts to contemporary pop hits, classical instrumental pieces, folk songs and even pre-war Easy Listening standards.

The speed with which they could conjure up an arrangement of just about anything recalls their years in the punishing club circuit in Hamburg, Germany. It's also a reminder that all four of the Fabs were major music fans. The list of covers reads like a cross section of their influences and heroes. Chuck Berry makes the strongest showing 15 songs. Bob Dylan 13, Elvis Presley 12, and Buddy Holly 9 — plus healthy amounts of Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Smokey Robinson and Ray Charles.

 These impromptu covers pop up at random, usually to lighten the mood between run-throughs for original material. Aside from the truncated "Maggie Mae" (and Lennon moaning the title of Little Richard's "Oh! My Soul" after "I've Got a Feeling," and a warbled "Danny Boy" after "One After 909," if you want to count them) none of these lighthearted covers appeared on the original release of Let It Be, but the new box set unearths a few small gems. The brief snatch of "Wake Up Little Susie" just before a take of "I Me Mine" is guaranteed to raise a smile. More substantial (and definitely more funky) is a soulful strut by Jimmy McCracklin called "The Walk." The take is sadly incomplete — the Beatles started playing as the engineers were changing tape reels — but the 50 seconds that exist feature McCartney giving his best bluesy growl over the relentlessly solid beat. 

A highlight of the set is a Jan. 22 medley from Glyn Johns' Get Back that combines a loose rocky jam (which uses Fats Domino's "I'm Ready" as a starting point) with a tongue-in-cheek version of the Drifters' perennial prom closer "Save the Last Dance for Me." From there, the Beatles seamlessly segue into a chorus from John's new song, "Don't Let Me Down."


 -The Long Fadeout of "Get Back" (Take 8)
















Nearly all of the original songs submitted for the Get Back/Let It Be sessions were begun by an individual Beatle at home before being workshopped together with the group. The exception to this process is "Get Back" itself. "We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air," McCartney said in the press release for the song. It materialized over the course of several jams beginning on Jan. 7, when McCartney first began thumping out the distinctive rhythm on his bass. Earlier that morning, the band had played a version of "Lady Madonna," their 1968 single that served as a loving nod to the stride piano of pioneering R&B hero Fats Domino. With that tune still ringing in his ears, McCartney began crafting a similar pastiche of '50s rock.

After filling out the melody with dummy words and syllables, he stumbled on "Get back to where you once belonged." It's a variation of a lyric from "Sour Milk Sea," a song Harrison had written for Apple Records artist Jackie Lomax. (McCartney can even be heard exclaiming "C'mon Jackie!" on one early take.) 

The evocative phrase initially led McCartney to improvise a satirical anti-immigration tirade — "Don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs" — in parody of conservative politician Enoch Powell and the racist attitudes of his supporters.
McCartney wisely shifted the lyrics into a vague chronicle of two characters named Loretta Martin and Jo Jo. 

The words were largely meaningless, but both the title and sound of the song perfectly distilled the spirit of the project in progress, and it was quickly seized upon as a potential theme for the documentary and album. Unfortunately, it also emphasized the hazards of their willfully regressive recording methods, which shunned overdubs, edits and other studio tools in favor of capturing a single live performance. As George Martin would later moan in The Beatles Anthology, "We would start a track and it wasn't quite right, and we would do it again and again…and then I'd get to take 19: 'Well John, the bass wasn't as good as it was on take 17, but the voice was pretty good, so let's go on again.' Take 43: 'Well yes…' So you go on forever because it was never perfect — and it got very tedious."

By most accounts, the endless versions of "Get Back" pushed all involved to the brink of sanity, but the many recordings reveal fascinating variations in the arrangement. One early version features a crashing opening chord, à la "A Hard Day's Night.

The most interesting rendition included on the Let It Be box set, Take 8, features an extended coda with Lennon's punk-ish lead guitar stings and McCartney's enthusiastic ad libs in an over-the-top Northern English accent: "It's five o'clock. Your mother's got your tea on. Take your cap off…"  

They sound as though they're enjoying themselves on this take, but then Martin's weary voice comes over the studio talkback. "Paul, I think it's a shade too slow now. I think it's lost a bit…"

-A Bach-like "Let It Be" with a Snippet of "Please Please Me"














One of the biggest surprises of 2018's (equally expansive) White Album box set was the earliest known fragments of McCartney's modern hymnal, recorded in between takes for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on Sept. 5, 1968. Drawing inspiration from a dream of his late mother Mary, McCartney would revisit the song in earnest in the new year as work began on the potential live album project. It stuck out as a meditative moment amongst the rockers, and George Harrison likened it to the rustic roots music played by his friends in the Band. "It's very country and western in a way," he observed before Lennon jumped in with a correction. "Country and gospel, it is."

In keeping to their strict "no overdubs" policy, George Martin initially handled organ duties to thicken up McCartney's piano part. But the arrival of keyboardist Billy Preston midway through the sessions elevated the track a little closer to heaven with his soulful church-like organ. For one rehearsal on Jan. 26, McCartney suggested that Preston play the descending melody like a stately Bach figure. The results, labeled Take 10, earn a favorable yelp of "That'll do!" from McCartney. This decidedly Catholic edge was ultimately toned down by the time they recorded the master on Jan. 31, the final day of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions.  

In addition to a slightly different arrangement than the finished song, Take 10 of "Let It Be" is also notable for a moment at the start of the performance when McCartney ad libs a version of the Beatles' 1963 breakthrough "Please Please Me," reimagined as a dramatic piano ballad. In doing so, he bookended the Beatles' first hit in their home country with their last, released just seven years — and a lifetime — apart. "It wasn't actually that long ago," marvels Giles Martin. "That's the weird thing for us as mere mortals. You see the change in the whole way they worked. They sort of lived their lives in fast forward. "


-A Flamenco-Style Rehearsal of "I Me Mine" and Audio from the Last True Beatles' Session













"I Me Mine" was a last minute edition to the final Let It Be tracklist. The band rehearsed it for only one day during the Get Back sessions before it was abandoned,.George debuted the song on Jan. 8, playing it to Ringo and documentary director Michael Lindsay-Hogg before the other Beatles arrived. His choice of audience is telling, as if he wants their read before submitting his work to the band's chief composers. "I don't care if you don't want it in your show," he humbly tells Ringo before strumming the chord changes he'd written the previous night, inspired by a fragment of Johann Strauss' "Kaiser Walzer" that he'd heard on a BBC television special.

Suitably encouraged, he presents "I Me Mine" to the others later that day. There's a hint of nerves in his voice as he tentatively asks John, "Would you like to learn a new one? Very simple." John obliges, but he's initially turned off by the "heavy waltz" time signature and flamenco-style guitar breaks. "We're a rock and roll band, you know!" he semi-playfully scolds George. To illustrate his point, John sets down his guitar and starts waltzing across the soundstage with his ever-present partner Yoko Ono, leaving it to the others to work out George's song. 

With good humor, he suggests they incorporate Lennon and Ono's dance routine into the song's performance at the climactic concert. This triggers a round of laughs as Paul assumes the role of a circus MC, announcing "John and Yoko would like to waltz in their white bag!" Amazingly, this idea is seriously considered, and the couple rehearse the dance while Paul and George offer suggestions. Taking advantage of the lightened mood, the band logged some 41 run-throughs of the song (though not all complete) before breaking for the day.

Tragically, John and Yoko's waltz would not get its big premiere on the concert stage.Though it's mentioned on several occasions, "I Me Mine" is never performed again as part of  the Get Back sessions.
For much of 1969, it appeared destined to remain part of Harrison's ever-growing cache of unused songs, the bulk of which would form his first post-Beatles solo release, the majestic triple-disc All Things Must Pass.

But when Lindsay-Hogg decided to incorporate footage of the "I Me Mine" dance into his Let It Be documentary, it's deemed necessary to add the song to the soundtrack album. The only problem is that the song wasn't complete. Those few sketchy rehearsals, recorded on subpar cinema audio, were all that existed.

So on Jan. 3, 1970, the Beatles entered EMI Studios to record a new version from scratch. More precisely, it was the Beatles minus John, who was on vacation in Denmark at the time. Harrison alludes to his absence with a joke about the pop group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, who had coped with the departure of frontman Dee Dave in September 1969. 

That very same month, John told his bandmates that he wanted "a divorce." Though the foursome kept the news amongst themselves — partially to protect business deals, and partially in hopes that John would reconsider — it was obvious during the "I Me Mine" session that the Beatles' future was in question. Indeed, it would be the last new song the Beatles ever recorded before their split was announced publicly that April. 

Audio from this date, effectively the last true Beatles session, is included in the Let It Be box set. In addition to George's Dave Dee joke, the trio are heard performing a quick rendition of the Everly Brothers' chestnut "Wake Up Little Susie" between takes. John's absence is keenly felt. With McCartney's longtime harmonic partner nowhere to be found, he sings it solo.

An early rehearsal take from the Get Back session is also included on the box set, complete with flamenco flourishes left off the final version. Paul makes a joke about "Don't Bother Me," the first George song in 1963. In doing so, Paul unknowingly links George's first Beatles composition with his last. 


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