Monday, 17 November 2014

The Beach Boys "Summer In Paradise" (1992)



Hot Fun In The Summertime/Surfin'/Summer Of Love/Island Fever/Still Surfin'/Slow Summer Dancing (One Summer Night)//Strange Things Happen/Remember 'Walking In The Sand'?/Lahina Aloha/Under The Boardwalk/Summer In Paradise/Forever

This isn't a summer in paradise - this is a winter of discontent. Although released surprisingly quickly on the heels of the last record by Beach Boys standards (three years), the band have just been through one of the most difficult periods of their lengthy career and a lot has changed since 'Still Cruisin'. Some 23 years after his first solo single, Brian has finally gone solo properly, sort of, with the 'help' of Dr Landy which means that 'Summer In Paradise' is the one and only Beach Boys record he makes no appearance on whatsoever.  Al Jardine has finally fallen out big-time with his old writing partner Mike Love and for a time was 'suspended' from the making of this album for having a 'severe attitude problem' (which in truth meant he simply didn't agree with everything Mike said anymore). In many ways this 30th anniversary record is just like their 15th ('15 Big Ones') - it tries hard to be a party but no one is in the party mood. Against all the odds and the hope that it might have been an elaborate practical joke and publicity stunt fully in keeping with his life history, Dennis Wilson continued to be dead. That leaves Mike, Carl and Bruce to carry the bulk of an album that for the first time in seven years tried to deliver a full-length Beach Boys record. As this record puts it, though, this is a 'Love thing' - still confident from the success of 'Kokomo' and without any real challenges to his crown (Carl is basically a hired hand here for the money and doesn't contribute any songs, 'cast' whenever Mike needs another voice; Al barely appears even after being re-hired), this is the first time since 'MIU' in 1978 that The Beach Boys have gone back so completely to Mike's vision as a commercial goodtime summer band without any ambition beyond new pop songs and re-working of old standards.

The result is...odd. Unlike some Beach Boys who actively hate this album I haven't had the urge to bin it and actually prefer it to other aborted attempts to make The Beach Boys commercial giants once again (it's less patronising than 'MIU' and less misguided than '15 Big Ones'). However, for all of the references to surfing (the most of any Beach Boys record since 'Summer Days and Summer Nights', a record referred to endlessly as if Mike considers this the long-delayed follow-up to that 1965 LP) and the rejuvenation of first single 'Surfin' with a new modern sound, this actually sounds less like The Beach Boys than normal. There's very few block harmonies across this record and those that are sound distinctly strange - most likely by virtue of the fact that only three Beach Boys sing on most of the album and are drowned out by session singers in the deeply misguided hope that no one will notice (I also suspect that complaints at the time were right and that these vocals have all been electronically treated - they share the same 'feathery' feel of many other 1990s recording and at times are in danger of turning The Beach Boys into The Back Street Beach Boys. Years later it was revealed that 'Summer In Paradise' had been one of the first albums recorded using the devil's technology 'pro tools', the scourge of many a hopeless-but-pretty boy and girl band to come). That's a real waste of Carl's talents especially, on the last full-length album project he'll ever take part in some six years before his death from lung cancer. Hearing the band desecrate (sorry cover) so many classics they didn't write is off-putting too: not since 'Summertime Blues' have The Beach Boys destroyed (sorry re-recorded) a song like 'Under The Boardwalk'. While people complained that Brian Wilson had moved too far away from the band sound on his first record, what with his massive blocks of overdubbed harmonies and twinkly keyboards, at least 'Brian Wilson' sounds like a Beach Boys album -albeit one a little further down a particular musical road. 'Summer In Paradise' is worse though because it was designed from the first as a bona fide nostalgia fest and so needs to feel more like The Beach Boys than ever. In one way you can understand why this was the single biggest flop in Beach Boys history, barely making it into the thousands of copies sold: The Beach Boys finally sound like the anachronism they've been (relatively) successfully holding at bay for so long, a band well out of their time.

That's generally the point where most reviewers leave this unhappy album and dismiss it out of hand. However if you're patient enough to get used to the new sound, there are elements of this 'new' Beach Boys that work rather well. While no songs are outright classics, Mike and Terry Melcher make a formidable commercial songwriting partnership, with the former's lyrics and latter's music completely in tune with one another. 'Strange Things Happen' is easily the best song the  pair wrote together, a charming pop song that fits in all sorts of references to favourite Love themes of meditation, surfing and, well, love. 'Still Surfin' might well be the second, a sweet 'Do It Again' for the 1990s which is the one track on this record that does sound like proper Beach Boys (if you shut your eyes and squint. A lot). 'Lahina Aloha', meanwhile, finally bucks the Beach Boys trend of patronising songs about Hawaii by being rather good. Why these songs failed where 'Kokomo' succeeded is a mystery.Talking of which, Love is impressively keen not to simply go back over past successes - I was expecting a whole album of 'Kokomo' taking place in different countries when I first bought this album, but in fact it's all very much set in California. The tributes to old friends and fallen comrades, while clearly far removed from the fun and energy of the originals, have their hearts in the right places too: 'Surfin' revisited is a fun attempt to show off a 'then and now' picture and Bruce in particular seems to be having great fun taking part in a re-creation of a historic moment he wasn't a part of the first time; similarly while road manager John Stamos is no Dennis Wilson his tribute to his old friend on a re-recording of the drummer's 'Forever' was a neat place to end the band's discography for the next 20 years until the next record. Given the circumstances (no Brian, no Dennis, very little Al and not as much Carl as usual) 'Summer In Paradise' is about as good an album as it could ever hope to be.

That doesn't, of course, excuse the moments the album get laughably wrong. The band sensibly decide that 'Walking In The Sand' is too obvious a song for them to cover directly, but instead of abandoning it altogether they decide to re-arrange it with a tinny nasal Love vocal squeaking 'remember' before every chorus and a booming drum pattern very out of keeping. Equally Love just can't leave The Drifters' 'Under The Boardwalk alone, taking a co-credit for a few extra lines that badly detract from the song and slopping lots of artificial saxophones and synth drums over everything. I'm amazed Dennis didn't rise up from the grave and slap them all to be honest (perhaps he did?!) Even Sly and the Family Stone aren't safe, with their single 'Hot Fun In The Summertime' turned into a Beach Boys song more out of force than love, a song about release and escape from life's problems turned into an upbeat catchy song it should never have been. Some of the originals the ropiest yet too: Bruce Johnston has had seven years to write a song since his last one for the band back in 1985 and the fact that the best he can do is the agonising 'Slow Summer Dancing' is a testament to how many creative juices he seemed to lose when he rejoined the band in 1979, ending a promising solo career (albeit one also full of unsuitable re-recordings of classics like this album is). Love and Melcher aren't immune either: 'Summer Of Love' is full of awful puns on Mike's name, again ('let me take you on  a 'Love' vacation!), while the album's title track should be a moving combination of references to the band's past with a bit of 1990s ecological awareness thrown in too; instead it's a limp song with some truly cringeworthy lyrics, with references to Barbara Ann and Help Me Rhonda shoe-horned into a song not built to hold them. You can see why so many reviewers had a field day with this album: pointing out the mistakes is like shooting fish in a barrel (or - worse than that - the giant whale from the front cover sticking out of a barrel).

But 'Summer In Paradise' isn't an entirely bad album - parts of it are made with love and care and at least touch on why The Beach Boys are so special. In many ways it's the album they perhaps should have made during their aborted 'comebacks' in the second half of the 1970s before Brian was put fully in charge of the band again at a time when he wasn't fully in charge of himself. Without the elder Wilson's idiosyncrasies, 'Summer In Paradise' often seems like a waste but Love finally goes back to the job he started back in 1971 of turning the Beach Boys into an ecologically aware band. While you could argue all the warnings on this record came 'too late' and merely followed lots of other people, it's always better late than never on this site and Love's concern for the welfare of the Californian coast he loves so much is touching. This theme is explored brilliantly in the album's gorgeous glossy cover of whales and fish swimming in a glorious crystal clear Californian sea (which shows more of a creative touch than any of the album, it has to be said). The perfect advert for why The Beach Boys and their songs about California matter to the rest of us (if they shot this cover about my home town it would be muddy, black and feature several floating shopping trolleys), it's the band's most striking sleeve in ever such a long time ('Keepin' The Summer Alive'?!)

Despite keeping the 'Boys' part of the title, this is clearly an older band this time around. Many of these album's plot-lines either happen as memories or occurred to somebody else entirely. 'Summer In Paradise' itself reads like an autobiography, a slowing author looking back on a busy past with a slight look of shock that these things all happened to him so long ago. Both 'Slow Summer Dancing' and 'Remember Walking In The Sand' happen in the past tense, with the two love songs now sounding like fading memories - the sort you tell your grandkids when you're feeling sufficiently soppy. 'Summer Of Love' is the only song that sounds like a vaguely 'youthful' song - and sounds downright wrong to be honest ('Don't worry about tossing your clothes and hitting the water' leers a now 51-year-old Love to an obviously younger girl; who said Dennis' spirit wasn't hanging around?!) Notably, though, the rest of these songs aren't about things that happen to 'our narrators' but to other people. It's as if The Beach Boys are now sitting inside the beach huts, past the respectable age of surfing, taking note of what everyone around them is up to instead. You can just imagine Mike and Terry meeting up to have lunch on the beach and looking around for likely candidates: 'Still Surfin' features an ex-law degree student, shedding his newly found responsibilities to reconvene with the Californian surfing scene he's missed so badly; 'Lahina Aloha' is a story-song that comes closest to 'Kokomo', interestingly with Carl playing the part of the central action, interrupting Mike's narrator. It used to be that you couldn't keep The Beach Boys away from the action, but now they're commentators, critics, watchers of people who do the sort of things they used to do. 'If that lifestyles over its oh so sad' sings Mike on the title track - I think he's referring to America's fading beaches and injured coastlines, but in context it sounds like he's waving goodbye to his own rock-star past.

Perhaps that explains why 'Summer In Paradise' feels like such a removed experience. When you play most Beach Boys records - 'Today' 'Sunflower' 'Love You', even 'Still Cruisin' to some extent - you get instantly hit by a wave of emotion that comes at you like waves. 'Summer In Paradise', by comparison, sounds like the tide is out. I'm not quite sure why that should be - Mike comes up with a few emotional lyrics across this record and quite a few touch on old Beach Boys stories and references, which should be enough. However a combination of the treated harmonies, the similarity of the songs, the lower number of lead vocalists (Al gets just the one song, Bruce doesn't even get that handing over 'Slow Summer Dancing' to Carl to sing) and the booming contemporary production makes 'Summer In Paradise' a curiously lifeless affair. My theory as to why this album sold so badly, after ticking so many of the boxes a hit album needs (An anniversary to hang it on in the press! A cool cover! Crowd-pleasing references to old songs! Re-recordings of old songs! No controversy whatsoever!) is that people heard a few bars of the artificial drumming and got put off. To hear the difference just compared the opening cover of 'Hot Fun In The Summertime' with Sly and the Family Stone's original - one is fully alive, one's being kept alive only on an artificial machine. Hopefully one day someone will take the trouble to remix this album, perhaps with a 'proper' drummer rather than a computer, and I'm convinced this album would have a much greater place of affection in fans' hearts; no 'Smile' certainly but at least an improvement on the albums immediately before and after (by contrast 'That's Why God Made The Radio' features a great in-the-studio performance of some shockingly poor Brian Wilson songs not good enough to sell as a solo album).

Overall, then, is this 'summer in paradise?' Hardly - it's more the sound of a wet and rainy Tuesday when the summer months are about to end and everyone has exams/going back to school/work problems/long winter nights to look forward to. By rights this album should be called 'Autumn in Scunthorpe' - it's not quite bad enough to be 'Winter in Hell', but it's decidedly not a location or a period you want to spend too much time in. There are of course many reasons why this should be so, chiefly the loss of Brian and Dennis and the way that Carl has been quietened to the point where the band's power-house of the previous twenty years is now solely a hired singer, not to mention that production style and those godawful cover songs. But if you've come to this album like I have, after so many years of reading reviews knocking it and calling it the most worthless album since Milli Vanilli tried to sing, then you might well be pleasantly surprised. Mike Love isn't a creative force to be reckoned with the way that the Wilson brothers were and are (which has been a major point of contention between the cousins down the years). But at his best he has a real knack for writing punchy lyrics that say a lot in a short space and co-writer Terry Melcher is his best and most suitable collaborator since Brian himself. This record isn't even Mike's best album taken as a whole, but it does feature some good songs and while this is really just a solo album with some guest stars the support of Carl, Bruce and Al is still more welcome than not. Our advice: find it cheap and lower your expectations, a lot. But buy it all the same: after all it's still The Beach Boys and still beats practically every other album that year even with the band sound diluted.

The record starts with the deceptively fun tones of 'Hot Fun In The Summertime'. In Sly and the Family Stone's hands this composition manages to be both a paean to carefree summer days and a slightly sleazy suggestive song about sex, drugs and rock and roll. This being the Mike Love-era Beach Boys this song is short on the first two and only makes the weakest of stabs at the last. To be fair the band do a great job at turning this unlikely choice of material into a Beach Boys song thanks to the best block harmonies on the album, with Al re-instated back as part of the crowd and Bruce turned way up loud, with better-than-average leads from Mike and Carl (you even accept Carl's cameo singing 'we can bump bump bump if we want to' without it ringing too many alarm bells). Mike's 'comedy bass' vocal is a delight too, turning the clock back about thirty years, while Carl fits in a brief but welcome guitar solo (we do mean brief - six notes was all I counted). However already there's a feeling of 'lift music' about this track: there's a very 1980s squealing sax part that practically comes with its own mullet, some very artificial booming drumming and a backing track built largely around one chord - charming for the band when they were just starting out in 1962 but rather bland for a band who ought to know better after 30 big ones in the music business. The result 'sounds' better than most of this record and most of the last one, though, mainly thanks to the rare united Beach Boys front on this track - it's only when you read the lyric sheet (or find one online at least as the band didn't provide one) that you begin to ask 'is this really a Beach Boys song?!'

The re-make of 'Surfin' is everything the original isn't: noisy thrashing guitars, heavy-handed drumming and sounding like the kind of old wannabe surfers Beach Boys fans used to laugh at. That's kind of the point though, the band deliberately trying to make 'Surfin' as it would sound if they were doing it today (well, 1992) rather than making the original from scratch. you'd never trade it for the original 'Surfin' and the song about a thrilling teenage craze has never sounded less adult than when sung by the band as adults with teenagers of their own. However there's a clever arrangement, heavy on a kind of grunge guitar sound (think Nirvana with a surfing lyric and smiling - no hang on, even my imagination won't stretch that far) and there's the welcome chance to hear Carl singing some of the original lines instead of Mike for a change - they sound as great as you'd expect from the member who was still the band's best vocalist even this near to the end. A lot of fun if taken in the right spirit. This song's gratuitous reference to a past Beach Boys classic: well all of it, actually.
So far so good - well better than any Beach Boys album since 1981 anyway. But in comes 'Summer Of Love' and suddenly all your worst fears about this album are coming true. Mike Love is at is creepiest here, chatting up an unknown female ('You'll always be my summer season's...main attraction' - it's that pause that gives the narrator's real intent anyway) and promising that his time has come - it's a 'Summer Of Love' in more ways than one. Mike kindly says that 'doing with you would be...really cool', adds that he won't mind if the girl he's just met decides to take her clothes off and dive in the 'water', honest before adding that it's alright because he's looking for love. On this evidence perhaps it's the police who should have been looking for Love instead - this is even more trite and 'wrong' than what Mike was writing at an age when he didn't know any better. The trite chorus 'sum sum summer of love' has already been trotted out by The Beach Boys so many times and always better than here, while the trite tag line 'Hey now - it's a love thing!' is all Brian Wilson needs to point out when reporters ask him for the 45th time that week why he doesn't write with his cousin anymore. On reflection this song is right up there with 'Tomboy' as the single most misguided song in the band's back catalogue. So why on earth did this song make it through the track listing in favour of new songs by Carl and Al? Don't ask - it's a Love thing, with most of the band sensibly sticking this one out apart from a deeply embarrassed sounding Carl. This song's gratuitous old Beach Boy Reference: 'Summer Days and Summer Nights'.

'Island Fever' isn't much better, a dippy happy-go-lucky song about - guess what - falling in love with Hawaii and not wanting to leave. Even The Beach Boys of 1962 would have thrown this one for being too corny and poor Al happens to choose this song to make his comeback with the band, having to put on an embarrassed smile and singalong, just like the old days (and no doubt ready to re-activate that 'attitude problem' any second). The shame is that while the chorus, repeated every ten seconds (or so it seems) is truly bad the verses are much more interesting, especially the nursery rhyme style melody that's really rather catchy. In fact co-writer and producer Terry Melcher is the only person to come out of this song with any credit - the production on this track is excellent with lots of percussion, tropical sound effects and what sounds like some cocoanuts being tapped (the only time on this record that 'real' drums are used instead of a drum machine). The result, then, is exactly what you'd expect from a Melcher-Love song designed to be as commercial - and therefore empty - as they can make it, but at least compared to the last track this sounds like a road suitable for The Beach Boys to travel on. This song's gratuitous reference to an old Beach Boys classic: lyrically it's 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?', while the 'ba ba ba ba-duh' vocals are lifted wholesale from Love and Melcher's earlier song 'Getcha Back'.

'Still Surfin' is much better - no 'God Only Knows' or anything but the sort of song that Love and Melcher should have been writing. Love is a good people watcher (when the other people aren't his cousins anyway) and is at his best conveying unfulfilled longing or desires in other people. This song could be about any of the band's fans 30 years past getting hooked on the surfing craze in the 1960s: the un-named so loved the Californian lifestyle he came back, after a few years out being sensible and getting a law degree he hardly uses. He's currently dating a 'senorita' well known to the scene (Love's narrator admits he went out with her too once - he really is trying to take up Dennis' mantle as the romeo of the group on this album isn't he?!) and both looks and feels younger when the pair hit the water, re-living their youth. A lot of the band's fan-base can probably relate (not me obviously - I have enough trouble not falling over on dry land never mind on a surfboard) and it's to Love's credit that he keeps the lyric simple and doesn't overdo any of it - we know the surfer could have a better life, but he's going to be married and still enjoying a sport he loves, so that's not so bad is it? Melcher's melody is catchy too without being as shoved down your throat as a lot of these other songs and there's a nice lot of open space for some Beach Boysy 'oohs' too, even if sadly they don't sing en masse. One of the album's better tracks. Oh and this song's gratuitous lift from an old song: the 'duh duhs' are taken from 'I Know There's An Answer' while Carl's wordless vocal line wanders very close to 'Getcha Back' again.

Bruce only gets one moment to shine and for once doesn't really take it. 'Slow Summer Dancing (One Summer Night)' tries to describe a romantic night for two in typical Bruce language but this attempt to re-capture the feel of 'Disney Girls' lacks the charm of the olden days and you end up wanting the cautious pair to hurry up and get on with it instead of wasting our time as well as theirs. Sweeping her off her feet this isn't: 'I'm gonna treat her...really nice' blushes Bruce before waiting for the moon to come out. Seriously, summer will be over by the time you actually arrange to pick her up!  It doesn't help that this cosy night for two is interrupted by what must be one of the most out-of-place drum tracks in the history of the AA - a repetitive pounding thrash treated with echo which appears to be here simply to spice things up a bit. Even coating it in chillis and kentucky fried chicken special coating couldn't spice this song up: usually I stick up for Bruce's material, which is often more interesting than his colleague's, but this track is everything his detractors have always complained about: sickly sentimental, poorly thought out and woefully boring. Even the vocals - the one thing you can always count on in times of trouble on Beach Boys records - are a struggle; Bruce's double-tracked vocal is weak (and very artificial sounding); Al's counter-lead on the choruses is better but rather OTT by comparison; even Carl and Mike's harmonies sound more awkward than usual. Not since 'Brian Is Back' has a Beach Boys song of three minutes seemed like so much purgatory. No gratuitous Beach Boys references this time, which is a shame because it might have livened this song up a bit.

'Strange Things Happen' is better, with another chat up line but this one dealt with properly, gentlemanly and with the promise that a love is meant to be because 'every time I touch my baby strange things happen'. The band's most cosmically minding since 'Funky Pretty', the song starts with the arresting opening 'she believes in God and karma too', but unusually steers well clear.  I can't tell if all the stuff about star-signs is just a corny chat-up line or intended.  'I've got Scorpio rising' Mike proudly tells us, which explains a lot about his need for 'revenge' on certain bandmates (such as getting Al Jardine to sing the bit in this song even Carl would sound odd doing), which along with his sun sign in Pisces make him one very watery personality. Forget the lyrics if you need to though: this is another of Terry Melcher's finest moments with the band, with a powerful hook and more importantly a reason for it being there (the pop power chorus takes place every time the lovers touch). Mike and Carl are on great form, Al does his best with a cameo vocal best described as trite and there's a stunning extended guitar solo that lifts the whole song up into another level (sadly it doesn't sound as if it's played by Carl - according to the sleevenotes it's most likely another appearance by AAA favourite and regular Crosby-Nash guitarist Danny Kortchmar; it's terrific though whoever plays it, full of the attack and power the band have been lacking for a while now). Even the drumming is less annoying than usual making for the single best moment on the album. Strange things happen indeed. The only gratuitous Beach Boys reference here is to that old stalwart transcendental meditation, but even this is in brief unlike the days of old.

Alas 'Remember Walking In The Sand' is excruciating. The original by The Shangri-Las (the motorbiking 1950s girl band who sang the much superior 'Leader Of The Pack') isn't exactly the world's greatest song - the band may have been reminded of it by the fact that 'One Summer Night' is exactly that kind of a song (without lifting anything specific). However at least it has a certain charm - The Beach Boys version lacks even this. The band speed the song up, attack it with drums and seagull cries and add an irritating 'remember *boom* walking in the sand' chorus that's repeated more times than the title of 'Fun Fun Fun' is in that song. Mike Love sounds like a cyberman from Dr Who (and a modern one, not one of the proper old ones from the 1960s), the saxophonist sounds like an auditionee for the most 1980s sound on a record award and only Carl comes through with his indignity intact (even then its a close thing). A definite mistake. This song's gratuitous old Beach Boys reference (yes it's a cover song but Love added a few lines that offer nothing extra including this one): 'She's not the little girl I once knew'. Well, at least they picked an obscure one this time!
'Lahina Aloha' is a final greeting from the Beach Boys' favourite alternate home outside California, Hawaii. It makes perfect sense that Love's era of the band should return there one last time and unlike the Mekelekikimaka mess this one sounds like a 'proper' tribute. Lyrically this is 'Somewhere Near Japan' revisited, with two strangers meeting but 'passing like ships in the night' only to reflect on what could have been 'when the full moon shines'. At least Love is taking his better recent songs as a template this time and the song's similar trick of using Mike on the travelogue verses and Carl on the more personal choruses works rather well (even if Carl's vocal sounds uncharacteristically odd - presumably electronically treated although he sounds a little drunk). A brief moment of block Beach Boys harmonies make this the other un-missable track on the album, especially the sudden push on the words 'sail away'. Clearly this song isn't 'God Only Knows' either and the pair of writers have probably forgotten all about it in the intervening years, but it's a superior love song that uses all of The Beach Boys' strengths.

The misguided cover of 'Under The Boardwalk', though, uses precisely none of them. The Drifters' song is surely too well known for the band to wring anything extra from and doesn't even have the sea or summer references that (just about) allowed the band to get away with 'Hot Fun In The Summertime'. This isn't a song built for the Beach Boys style and neither Mike nor Carl sound all that comfortable here, while the idea of turning this song into a duet does nobody any favours. A Beach Boysy wordless 'ooh' backing tries hard, but really this needs someone with the creative genius of a Brian Wilson to bash into shape; this version is too slow, too artificial and too dull. Somewhere up there Dennis is roaring his socks off at the drumming too:  while his own playing was sometimes unstable, it was always had heart; this badly programmed and unsuitably noisy drum track lacks both. That saxophonist's back too: honestly who has ever listened to a Beach Boys album and thought 'gee this would be perfect if only we could get some saxophonist in her squawking'?!)

The title track of 'Summer In Paradise' mixes the two album styles heard throughout the album: the great and the ghastly. On the plus side there's a nicely catchy chorus, some nice Beach Boysy harmonies (though again not enough) and a Mike Love lyric that's clearly close to his heart that finally returns The Beach Boys to the frontline of ecological protestors for the first time since 1971. Mike warns us that 'no one is safe...can't let it go like that', decrying the 'greed' of a world where so many are suffering and adding cosmically that 'paradise is a state of mind' - impressively aggressive lyrics for an environmentally messages song but alas the music makes this sound like a summer barbeque. Love even makes an early reference to 'recycling ('Surfers recycling' in fact, a rather pleasing image that) and there's a whole host of characters from old Beach Boys to join the party. Had this been the very end of the band's career as feared (and as it turned out to be for some 20 years) it would have been a fine way to go, reflecting on how 'if our lifestyle is over it sure is sad - got to get back to living without a care' after  so many years of 'fun fun fun as America's band'. Alas on the negative side nobody sounds sincere, Love's vocal isn't one of his best, the words are often trite and that bleeding saxophonist and drummer are back again to spoil what could have been a pretty ballad with at least one too many noisy distractions. This song's gratuitous references to old Beach Boys songs: 'Our masterplan was having fun fun fun' 'We came out rocking with Rhonda and Barbara Ann' 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?' (again) and a reference to the 'natural law' of 'The TM Song'.

The album's coda, though, is either a nice touch or proof of how far the band have fallen depending how you feel. With no Dennis around to join the party the Beach Boys decide to give him the last word, re-recording the gorgeous 'Forever' from 'Sunflower'. A good choice in principle, the band effectively singing back to Dennis that he'll never be forgotten ('Now I've gone away...but not forever') and roadie John Stamos is just about enough like Dennis to get away with singing his song (although it might have been better still had Carl sang it given his cameo near the end of the song, or indeed Bruce who gets only his second vocal on this album right at the very end). Perhaps sensibly, nobody tries to recreate Brian's gorgeous falsetto lead from the original. The problem is what the band have chosen to do with it: revising 'Surfin' as a modern day pop song was one thing (a 'before' and 'after' shot and so on of the band's early years, with Mike one of the two writers around to give his encouragement) but Dennis would have hated what they did to his song: tinny thumping drumming, sickly keyboards, heavy metal style guitar solos, false vocals - only Stamos, Bruce and Carl seem to have any affection or understanding of this song at all, including the session men. The result is a nice idea but a wasted opportunity that really should have been better handled. However on the plus side a) this song did do its job to some extent: 'Forever' was a relatively obscure song before this version came out and even though not many fans bought this album enough talked about the brilliance of the original to send people back to their copies of 'Sunflower' and fall in love with Dennis all over again and b) it's a more sincere tribute to a fallen comrade than 'Brian Is Back' (although what isn't?!)


Overall, then, 'Summer In Paradise' isn't exactly what it says on the tin: in some respects this is the worst Beach Boys LP of the lot what with a half-album filled with the band's rummest collection of songs, some appalling cover versions, an overall lack of full band harmonies and some bloody awful drumming. Given this album's low respect with fans and most people's low opinions of any album where Mike Love takes the lead you might expect that to be that. But don't throw the surfer out with the bathwater: this album is always trying and while a good half of it tries your patience the other half beats all odds to become a rather good carefree pop album. Hearing songs like 'Lahina Aloha' 'Strange Things Happen' and 'Still Surfin' makes you think that maybe Mike was right all those years about wanting to stick to a tried and tested formula and keep the band as pure pop: these songs sound 'right' for The Beach Boys and suit them better than any material they've been recorded since at least 1981. However the other half is deeply unsuitable, proof that The Beach Boys should never ever set their sights this low, drowning even in comparatively easy 'shallow' waters on songs that even nothing groups like Take That can do in their sleep. Somehow three great songs, some lovely vocals, a last chance to hear Carl and a brilliant album cover isn't enough to rescue the album from the jaws of defeat and, wearily, I have to agree with most Beach Boys fans: this album really isn't much cop and isn't worthy of their name. But ignore those who tell you that there are no redeeming features of this album - parts of 'Summer In Paradise' aren't just functional but genuinely lovely, equal to anything the band did across the 1980s with Brian still in the band. Think of it as a superior Mike Love solo album with some big name guest stars rather than a proper bona fide Beach Boys record and perhaps you too will be just that bit fonder of this record (I'd still heartily recommend you skip 'Summer Of Love' and 'Slow Summer Dancing' though!)

Other Beach Boys album reviews from this site you might be interested in reading:






'Surfin' USA' (1963) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-beach-boys-surfin-usa-1963.html

'Surfer Girl' (1963) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-beach-boys-surfer-girl-1963.html

'Little Deuce Coupe' (1963) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.nl/2016/09/the-beach-boys-little-deuce-coupe-1963.html

'Shut Down Volume Two' (1964) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-beach-boys-shut-down-volume-two-1964.html

‘All Summer Long’ (1964) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-beach-boys-all-summer-long-1964.html

'Beach Boys Christmas' (1964) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/xmas-bumper-issue-revised-beach-boys.html

'Today' (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/the-beach-boys-today-1965.html

'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!!!!!!) (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/news-views-and-music-issue-65-beach.html

'Party!' (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-beach-boys-party-1965.html

'Pet Sounds' (1966) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-beach-boys-pet-sounds-1966.html


'Surf's Up' (1971) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-beach-boys-surfs-up-1971-album.html


’15 Big Ones’ (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/the-beach-boys-15-big-ones-1976.html

'Love You' (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-beach-boys-love-you-1977.html

'Pacific Ocean Blue' (Dennis Wilson solo) (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/news-views-and-music-issue-97-dennis.html

'Merry Xmas From The Beach Boys!' (Unreleased) (1977) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/news-views-and-music-issue-126-merry.html

'M.I.U Album' (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/the-beach-boys-miu-album-1978.html

'L.A.Light Album' (1979) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-75-beach-boys-la-light-album.html

'Keeping The Summer Alive' (1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-beach-boys-keeping-summer-alive-1980.html

'The Beach Boys' (1985) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-beach-boys-1985.html

'Still Cruisin' (1989) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-beach-boys-still-cruisin-1989.html

'Summer In Paradise' (1992) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beach-boys-summer-in-paradise-1992.html

'Smile' (Brian Wilson solo) (2004) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008_06_29_archive.html

'That Lucky Old Sun' (Brian Wilson solo) (2008) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/news-views-and-music-issue-55-brian.html

'Smile Sessions' (band outtakes)(2011)  http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/news-views-and-music-issue-142-beach.html

'That's Why God Made The Radio' (2012) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-beach-boys-thats-why-god-made-radio.html

The Best Unreleased Beach Boys Recordings  http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-beach-boys-unreleased-songs-top.html

A Complete (ish) Guide To The Beach Boys' Surviving TV Clips http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-beach-boys-complete-ish-guide-to.html

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One 1962-86 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/beach-boys-sololivecompilationunrelease.html

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Two 1988-2014 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/beach-boys-sololivecompilationunrelease_25.html

Non-Album Songs Part One 1962-1969 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/beach-boys-non-album-songs-part-one.html

Non-Album Songs Part Two 1970-2012 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/beach-boys-non-album-songs-part-two.html


Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/the-beach-boys-five-landmark-concerts.html

The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Three 1968-96



The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Beatles Is Available By Clicking Here 

A



Non-Album Recordings Part #11: 1968 (EMI)
A) 1968 was the year when the world went back from multi-coloured splendour rot black-and-white. Riots, assassinations, the escalation of troops in Vietnam: suddenly 'earthy' sounds were in and existential musings were out. The Beatles' first release of the year (coming out in March) caught the band at the direct halfway stage of where they've been and where they're going. A-side [252] 'Lady Madonna' is the Beatles' simplest recording for years, an entirely McCartney written song based around a funky piano riff and a bluesy chord progression that's almost a solo project (John only appears on backing vocals and George only takes the briefest of brief guitar solos). In a way that's fitting because this in many ways Paul's first song for future wife Linda and a tribute to how well the singer thought she was coping with all the problems and multi-tasking of being a single parent in the late 60s (she's divorced her geologist husband Joseph Melville See in 1965 and had been looking after a by noe five year old daughter Heather alone for three years - typically Paul, unlike John, got on rather well with his wife's ex-husband). 'Lady Madonna' is an impressively advanced song for its era of chauvinism, celebrating tough earthy women who get masses done without fuss (Paul, by now established as Heather's favourite babysitter, was particularly impressed at how Linda managed to fill his fridge with all the right foods without him actually saying anything to her). The use of the name 'Madonna' also has biblical connotations, hinting at women being the strong, silent partners throughout history, since biblical times (although, like 'Let It Be', the song is vague enough for non-believers to understand as well). Unfortunately after making his point in the first verse Paul doesn't know where to run with it and a good song simply runs out of steam a bit too quickly, filled in with some nursery rhyme-styled nonsense (based around the tale of 'Monday's child works hard for a living' etc) that detracts from the great first verse and a curious 'see how they run' passage 'borrowed' from another nursery rhyme, 'Three Blind Mice'. Did this song start as a rhyming game Paul was making up for Heather, before thoughts turned to her mother and well and easily she did this sort of thing all the time? Either way, Yoko must have been cross that her future husband's partner beat him to saying all the things she wanted him to say and actually this is a very Lennon-ish song, harsh and unmelodic by Paul's usual standards, although all the disaparate sections of the song typically tie up by the end. First released as a single on March 15th 1968. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two (1988, Re-issued 2009)
B) George's first ever B-side is more in keeping with 1967 (it was in fact recorded, along with most of his first solo project the under-rated 'Wonderwall Music', on January 6th 1968 so dates from only a week into the new year). [253] 'The Inner Light' is the 'last' great song to come out of the band's psychedelic years and is the best evidence yet of just how deeply George has taken to the Eastern way of life. The lyrics are a direct steal from Lao-Tse Taoist's book 'The Tao Te Ching' (or in English 'The Way'), a kind of cross between a book of sonnets and an instruction manual. The book was sent to Harrison by Juan Mascaro, a scholar and Beatles fan who thought he might find it 'useful' - he sent it to the right person: perhaps the most open-minded member of an open-minded group George understood the text straight away and knowing him was probably halfway through the song by the time by the time he'd finished it. Unlike Lennon's 'steal' from a circus poster on 'Mr Kite', you sense that George believes every word (indeed the lines - which come practically unchanged from the original - are very close to what he'd already written for 'Within You, Without You'. The theme of the song is knowledge - that to understand this world and our role within it we should be spending our time thinking about the next one, not rushing around glancing at everything without really 'seeing' it. Combined with a beautiful backing track that bounces between the serene vision George has just discovered and the bouncy, sarod-led riff that would have leant itself well to a Rickenbacker guitar (both parts held together by an unmoving organ note, the musical equivalent of the soul still being tied by a single 'string' to the body) Harrison finds his forte, with a song that's notably unlike John's or Paul's work for the first time but every bit as good. Worried by the song and certain that it didn't 'fit' the rest of his 'Wonderwall' soundtrack album he wasn't sure what to do with it (I've often wondered if that soundtrack's distinctly Beatles instrumental 'Party Seacombe' was intended in this song's place as his contribution to their next album, perhaps with some lyrics that hadn't been written yet). However Lennon and McCartney loved this song and badgered George into adding first a vocal and then agreeing to its release as a B-side (it helped that they didn't have anything else ready!) They also add a grand total of one line of harmonies right at the end of the song, just saving 'The Inner Light' from being the first song since 'Yesterday' to feature only one Beatle. A real triumph for its creator, the sad part is that the world moved away from such mystical Indian sounds (although note that there's not a single sitar on this recording, George keen to show how many other great sounds there are in the Indian music scene) just when Harrison had finally found his 'voice'. Personally I prefer it to 'Lady Madonna', a song that tries a little too hard in comparison to 'Light's clever lyrics, which prove that the best way forward is not to try at all and let wisdom come to you. First released as the B-side of 'Lady Madonna' on March 15th 1968. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two (1988, Re-issued 2009)
C) Recorded in July (at the heart of the sessions for the 'White Album') and released in August (three months before) [254] 'Hey Jude' reveals none of the frictions and difficulties of the band's parent project. Instead 'Hey Jude' is one of the band's best known and most loved singalongs, a song that manages to make the most of McCartney's buoyant optimism without descending into anything trite or shallow and features one of the best Beatle group performances of the second half of their career. The song started as words of comfort to Julian Lennon, then aged five, whom Paul was particularly close to (Cynthia's surprisingly snarling pair of autobiographies have bad words to say about most people in The Beartles' orbit but she still clearly adores McCartney, who still kept in contact long after John had taken up with Yoko). After trying to be happy and optimistic about her chances of getting back together with John, the bassist was deeply  moved when he went to leave and saw a flicker of sadness on Julian's face as he went to leave. Reportedly 'Hey Jude' was written on that very ride home back to London (Cynthia was still in the family's Surrey house) as 'Hey Jules', a song of hope and to 'not give up', with the name somehow metamorphosising into the stronger-syllabled (and more satisfying to sing) 'Jude'. Strangely enough and unknowing all of this, Lennon latched onto the song the second Paul played it to him, assuming it meant quite the opposite and was effectively 'blessing' his union with Yoko (by the time it was finished 'Hey Jude' does indeed sound like its being sung to an 'old friend' rather than a small boy, especially the line 'you were made to go out and get her'). To his dying day, when Lennon was still a little bit anti-Paul, he still claimed to love this song which features the best of all McCartney's traits: it's happy without being facile, hopeful without being trite and repetitive but in a way that builds up to a towering climax. The lyrics are comforting without actually explaining the situation, basically a big brother putting around the listener's shoulder and telling them that everything is going to be alright ('it's just you - well, you'll do' Paul screams, as if ready to take on the school bullies on your behalf). The extended ending which kicks in at the 3:10 mark is extraordinary, all that tension and uncertainty being turned into a positive nonsense singalong of 'na na na na' that make 'Jude' feel like the most loved person in the world (and extending the song - as the band must have known it would be - to a record-breaking-for-a-number-one-single at 7:09 - allegedly mixed to run a second longer than current nominee 'MacArthur Park'). The result has been dimmed by the amount of times we've heard it, the fact that McCartney seems obliged to end every concert or TV appearance with it and the way that anytime The Beatles are represented on some general TV programme about music it's always this song they play. In other words, 'Hey Jude' made a lot more sense in 1968 when it was new and fresh than it does now it's sentiment has grown old and stale. But this is still a clever and satisfying work, filled with just enough love to make up for the lines that have clearly just been 'blocked in' (Paul remembers telling John the line 'the movement you need is on the shoulder' was a 'filler' lyric till something better came along - John loved it and told him it was the best part of the song) and enough emotional power to go with the clever construction. Oh and for something a little extra that few fans ever notice or comment on, Paul messes up his piano line and exclaims '!#in' hell' deep in the mix at around 3:10 . This is the third time you can hear a Beatle swear on record!) First released as a single on August 26th 1968. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two (1988, Re-issued 2009)
D) If 'Hey Jude' was designed to bring people together, then the single mix of B-side [245b] 'Revolution' is  Lennon song designed to divide and conquer. Although released first this is actually the second version of the song to be recorded (about six weeks after the 'White Album' version) and it's spiky, hard-hitting brash guitar strums reflect the mood of a year that had got further and further out of control since Lennon wrote the song. It would be nice to think that Lennon cared enough about his art to keep recording till he got things right, but it seems more likely that he was so taken with his own song (which, like many of his early Yoko songs, finds him making a 'statement' and giving an 'opinion' to the world rather than talking about himself or people he didn't know) that he effectively demanded it be released as the next Beatles single. Sure that the record would be banned (and break their run of hits) the other three weren't so sure; as a cop-out they told Lennon that his 'first' version was too laidback and not commercial enough. Undeterred Lennon got the band back in the studio and made his rallying cry one of his more accessible songs of the period, fairly bursting with energy and featuring a notably aggressive drum track from Ringo. However Paul's last minute coup with 'Hey Jude' (recorded about three weeks later) meant John had 'lost' the argument: unusually adamant about not leaving things in the archive, Lennon agreed to have the song come out as a flipside. The solution to keeping both halves happy, surely, is obvious: release the record as another 'double 'A' side (like they did after a similar impasse over 'Day Tripper' and 'We Can Work It Out') but measure it by point-of-sales (which almost certainly would have had 'Hey Jude' first). Hard-hitting as this version is and as good as many of the arrangement touches are (Lennon singing triple-tracked with himself but coming in at different times, as if to keep us on our toes) the more laidback 'White Album' version is a better fit for the song. Lyrically the two versions are identical, apart from Lennon now being confident about being 'counted out' of the revolution when it comes (he hedges his best with 'out...in!' on the album version).Even so both versions are strong and it's this single version that will set the tone for Lennon's solo career more than perhaps any other Beatles song. This second version first released as a the B-side of 'Hey Jude' on August 26th 1968. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two (1988, Re-issued 2009)
E) [255] 'Across The Universe' is a funny little song. I've known fans who adore it and fans who hate it - in truth it's not much of a song to get worked up about either way. Written  around a mantra given to Lennon by the Maharishi (although, unusually, the song seems to have written once the band had got home and most likely came to Lennon after the venomous 'Sexy Sadie') 'jai guru dev' (basically 'I am at one with the world - and the world is at one with me'), this song of beauty and awe seems out of place in Lennon's canon, especially his new Yoko-enhanced caustic self of 1968. Could it be that, impressed by George's 'The Inner Light', Lennon wanted to write a song in his partner's genre? If so then he woefully misses what makes Harrison's piece so special: awe. Lennon's narrator is adamant that 'nothing's going to change my world' and gets hung up on some 'Lucy In the Sky' style surreal imagery that's a poor substitute for the very real emotions going on in George's heart. Lennon was always best when he wrote instinctively about what was on his mind, but he really struggled writing songs about subjects he thought he 'ought' to be writing about. Unsure quite what to do with it, this song was recorded many times - the first, more psychedelic version played on a zither and harpsichord released on 'Anthology Two' being about the best and was pencilled in for several Beatles projects: for 'Yellow Submarine' (back when it was an EP - the animators would have fun doing this one, actually!) and for The White Album. Eventually the song was given away to an early various artists charity album raising money for the World Wildlife Fund - while not about the environment per se the lyrics fitted nicely. Even so the 'WWF' version (collected for the world to hear on 'Past Masters Volume Two' - the original never sold that well) rather misses the point with its added on sound effects, female choir (actually two 'groupies' camped outside Abbey Road invited in on a whim) and varispeeded vocal (which makes Lennon sound 'high' rather than moved) and The Beatles are badly upstaged by labelmates The Hollies (whose contribution to the same album, 'Wings' is one of their  very best songs). A third and final version (basically a remix of the WWF version) was included on 'Let It Be' by producer Phil Spector to bulk up the LP and (probably) to butter Lennon up a bit more for getting the job. The song really doesn't fit there either, being an overhang from a more innocent time and losing out as part of an album where The Beatles were never less at one with the world (and the world less at one with them). The Beach Boys, fellow acolytes of the Maharishi, also used the phrase 'jai guru dev' in their 1972 song 'All This Is That' (from the 'Carl and the Passions - So Tough' album), a lovely song about peace and tranquillity that sounds more like what Lennon was aiming for here. Find it on: The various artists compilation 'Nothing's Gonna Change Our World' (December 12th 1969), 'Let It Be' (1970) and 'Anthology Two' (1996)
F) Unsure quite how to begin a particular side of 'The White Album' in its original rough running order, some bright spark asked George Martin' to come up with an instrumental passage that would loop into Ringo's first song 'Don't Pass Me By'. Martin either hadn't heard the song or misunderstood the brief: what he came up with was [256]  'The Beginning', a 40 second orchestral instrumental full of layers of longing and emotion (it would have made a fine film score) that sounds nothing like 'Don't Pass Me By'. The only way you can tell the two parts were meant to go together is that they end in the same key (C Major, if you're wondering - Ringo couldn't play any black notes!) The idea didn't really work and was quickly removed, with the track listing shiggled round to prevent the problem. Sadly the refusal by one of the remaining Beatles to release a third Lennon-demo-with-overdubs single in the 1990s (George most likely - but what was the song? We'll have fun guessing later on in this book!) means that 'Anthology Three' now starts with this piece instead - you can almost here the outcry from confused fans wanting The Beatles from here! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
G) Yet again Anthology put a recording that only fans could love second on their key albums! Lennon's demo of [228b] 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' is fascinating stuff if you love the song - there are sections that don't make the record but should have done (John playing with his new girlfriend's name on 'Yoko Oh No Oh Yes' is terrific!), sections missing (none of the 'lizard on the windowpane' surreal-ness of the finale) and the sense that Lennon is forcing the song out from his self-consciousness right then and there. Unfortunately all non-fans can hear is a man stumbling around a song he hasn't got chords for yet (I' starting to lose count but I think this is the third and final time you can hear a Beatle swearing on record!) and the two less interesting parts of the song ('I need a fix' and 'mother superior jumped the gun') heard over and over. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
H) The Anthology version of  [243b] 'Helter Skelter' could really have been something. Inspired by Lennon's twenty minute (!) version of 'Revolution' on the first day of the album sessions McCartney drove the Beatles through a sleepy 25 (!) minute version of 'Helter Skelter' (these two songs would have filled up a single album between them!) Alas some idiot pulling the strings at Apple decided that only four minute were good enough to go out so what we have here is a slowed down ramshackle version of the song we already know and love without the more interesting-sounding Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane style jam sections either side of it. What we have here sound suspiciously like the 'release' section to me, without all the tight energy built up from whatever grooves the band had been playing up to this point (sadly until this song leaks on bootleg I'll probably never know for certain!) So is this version better than the release one? Not based on what's here - but we don't get anywhere close to experiencing this song in full (incidentally the Beatles could have added this entire version to 'Anthology Three' with the loss of just one three-minute song - I nominate 'Rocky Raccoon' - so leaving it out for 'space reasons' seems daft to me). One wonders what crimes Charlie Manson might have committed had he heard this rambling creepy version in full... Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
I) [257b] 'Mean Mr Mustard' sounds in ruder health as a White Album demo than he ever did as part of the Abbey Road medley. Lennon's 'Esher' demo (recorded like many of this next run of songs in George's house shortly before he moved to Friar Park) is much better than the final product: his guitar riff 'waddle' makes Mr Mustard charming rather than sinister, his double-tracked vocal (complete with 'whoops'es and mistakes) charismatic and the repeats to the song make it sound more substantial (especially the chorus 'He's such a dirty dirty...mean Mr Mustard', as if Lennon is too angry to sing the right words). Listen out for the fact that Mr Mustard's sister taking him to 'look at the queen' (where he shouts out something obscene) in this version is Shirley - Lennon will change her name to 'Pam' when he realised that the Abbey Road melody sequence would go quite well with the track 'Polythene Pam'. One of the few Anthology recordings to trounce the original. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
J) Talking of which, [258b] 'Polythene Pam' doesn't quite work when heard in similar demo form, although it's fun when Lennon garbles his words. Lennon has already pout his scouse accent on but somehow this early take never really catches fire: Pam is too 'polite' in this version somehow. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
K) [223b] 'Glass Onion' is another song that had a surprising amount of time spent on it seeing that Lennon at best wrote it as a 'filler'. Lennon's 110 second demo is less wise-cracking than the version that made the record and more of an actual 'song' than a mere list of in-jokes (recorded in mid September, it beat the 'White Album' version by about a month). Lennon's decision to slow the song down is quite effective, making the song sound briefly thoughtful - as befits a song about how the mysteries of life unravel the closer to the middle you get. With a few more lyrics (Lennon only has the first verse into the chorus so far) this demo arrangement could have been an even better song. Some 14 songs later 'Anthology' also features the first arrangement of the song: one that comes with all the power of the finished version but the band are clearly less sure that it's going to work and end up sticking in all sorts of unnecessary 'gimmicks' along the way. This version features - for no apparent reason - the sound of breaking glass, a ringing phone and a football commentator shouting 'it's a goal!' Lennon clearly wanted to leave his listeners a few extra 'red herring' clues here, although the effect doesn't really work. What's interesting is how much of the arrangement was held over: even the 'Fool On The Hill' mimicking flutes are there in this early version although you still miss George Martin's eerie strings. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
L)[259]  'Junk' is a lovely McCartney song that will appear 18 months later on first album 'McCartney'. This Esher demo is if anything slightly more arranged than the simple finished version featuring a double-tracked vocal at times, although Paul hasn't quite up with the lyrics yet. A eulogy for forgotten objects gathering dust somewhere that used to mean so much, this song cleverly leaves most of the story up to the listener (why is there so much in a junk shop? Has there been a death, a divorce or a move recently?) Amazing to think that a song this good was abandoned despite the Beatles needing material to fill 'The White Album' and later 'The Abbey Road Medley'. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
M)'Junk' would have made a better song than [232b] 'Piggies', for instance, which sounds almost as unlikeable in demo form. At least here George sings the song properly, though, without any distracting production trickery and a nice guitar part (and whistling!) that reveals how much debt this song owes to folk protest songs (something rather hidden on the harpsichord-led finished product). There's just one lyrical change this time: instead of using knives forks to 'eat their bacon' the piggies are using cutlery to 'eat their pork chops'. Snort! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
N) Paul's brief demo of [247b] 'Honey Pie' might not be quite as polished as the 'White Album' version but it's a lot less po-faced and a lot more fun. Various assorted Pauls seem to be having a roaring twenties party by the sound of things and while the one who keeps singing 'ooh yeah' is really irritating the lead vocal Paul sings is actually better then the finished version. There's no middle instrumental section here yet (thank goodness!)  and no 'final verse/middle eight' (depending what we call it) about the 'wind blowing her boat across the sea'. All in all this Honey Pie is rather sweet and much more of a good-time gal than the stuck up one that made the album. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
O) Ringo's [234b] 'Don't Pass Me By' is next (wouldn't it have been better coming after 'The Beginning' like it was meant to?) and is seemingly here just so Ringo - as sole composer - gets a bigger piece of the Anthology pie. The differences between this early takes and the finished version is minimal: a few different drum thwacks and no violin solo. The only lyrical difference is a rather fun 'drunken' monologue from Ringo over the fade ('Don't pass me by, now, honey!') This version of the song sound very unfinished, but then again the version on the 'White Album' didn't sound that finished either - strange to think that it was actually quite a big improvement from what's here! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
P) McCartney's [224b]  'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' is another song that went through several permutations before the band were satisfied with it. Lennpon already sounds mighty sick of it though, hence his rather edgy opening yell inviting us to hear 'take one by the united jumbo band!' in his best Jamaican accent! This version is more muted than the single version and the biggest difference is the loss of John's opening crashing piano chords. If anything, though, this early version is better suited to a song about being laidback and the ska-originals of the song comes through much clearer here. Perhaps Paul should have left well alone instead of nearly breaking up The Beatles recording another one? However out of the two the 'White Album' does in by a nose, being more 'fun' sounding whatever the issues in the studio! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
Q) I'm also rather fond of the 'Anthology' take of Lennon's lullaby [251b]  'Good Night', even though it's not a proper take. A rare example of one of The Beatles teaching a song to the others, Ringo is clearly singing off a sheet while the others look on (and Lennon proves once again what a fine piano player he is for someone who had never been professionally taught). Yes you miss George Martin's strings, but this song for Julian sounds even sweeter with just 'Uncle Ringo' and a piano, closer to how mums and dads across the world would be singing anyway (it helps that Ringo has a voice that everyone thinks they can improve on!) There's also a different beginning, Ringo singing the chorus ('Dream sweet dreams for me') which works rather well as an opening (As Lennon says it 'sounds quite nice now' - it's a shame they didn't keep it). What a shame too that 'Good Night' had to be altered quite so much from the simple likeable song it is here to the rather over-lush and overly senti,ental version that made the album. Oh and it's an even bigger shame that The Beatles had to go and 'Anthologise' the recording, segueing into the final version instead of just letting the song come to a natural conclusion. Did they really think that many people would buy these outtakes sets without having heard 'The White Album' first?! Still, how lucky that this rare example of The Beatles rehearsing and getting to know a song rather than going for a proper 'take' managed to survive all these years (un-bootlegged too as far as I can tell). Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
R) [249b] 'Cry Baby Cry' is pretty similar all round compared to the final version: all its missing are the accordion overdubs while the bass and drums clatter in slightly later. Without quite so much distortion and echo on Lennon's voice he sounds sad rather than scary which gives a quite different 'feel' to a song that, depending how you read it, is either a sigh for lost childhoods that will never come again or a tirade at how much of a commercially-driven sham childhood really was (something that makes 'Cry Baby Cry' more relevant to each passing generation). Note how the chords Lennon plats the beginning sound like the ones he plays at the start of 'A Day In The Life', something that isn't quite so obvious on the finished take. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
S) The earlier 'Anthology' version of [231b]  'Blackbird' is also near enough the finished version - with only a guitar part and a vocal there isn't much room to alter anything, although that didn't stop Paul from attempting take after take. You can hear differences when you know the song well though: Macca uses a slightly different accent on this version (faux-American), his vocal lines rise and fall in slightly different ways and there are a couple of pauses here and there that suggest that this is an early take. Oh and there's no sound effect of a blackbird singing along! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
T) After a run of comparatively duff or at least familiar sounding re-takes, 'Anthology Three' suddenly pulls of a masterstroke with a very young sounding [242b] 'Sexy Sadie'. Slightly slower (and as a result slightly sadder), Sadie doesn't yet have the wondrous backing vocals of the final version and the main instruments here are Lennon's creaky organ and Ringo's rather loud drumming (both of which are there on the final record but in the background, not face front like this). To be honest if the band had left the song like this I'd have been taking them to task for playing so poorly, but Lennon for one is having great fun and turns in a vocal simply dripping with uncorked venom and mischief. Woe betide anyone who upsets Lennon - what have you done? Frustratingly, the song fades out even though it sounds as if it still has a fair way to go (did the take breakdown? And if so why can't we hear it? It's not as if we'll ignore 50 years of popular culture and start laughing at the Beatles because of a single mistake now is it? That's what The Spice Girls are for!) Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
U) Another candidate for best 'Anthology' discovery is George's simple acoustic demo of [227b] 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. A world away from the whirl of fury and Eric Clapton superstar solos of the finished version, this version is stark and sad, a morose reflection on  how so many things are out of our control. There's even the bonus of an extra verse, cut from the final version that adds a chilling conclusion to the song: 'I look from the wings at the play you are staging while my guitar gently weeps, as I'm sitting here doing nothing but aging, while my guitar gently weeps'. The 'Love' album later doctored this version with some truly ugly George Martin strings - in truth this songs doesn't need anything more doing to it - the wonder is that George didn't simply release it as it stood. Of all four Beatles George was the one served best by the Anthology project and never did his light shine brighter than here. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
V) By contrast, the shortened 'Anthology' version of '[254b] Hey Jude' isn't all that different: the band clearly don't know the song inside out yet (this is only take 2 - the finished one is take 26!) but they're pretty darn close. John introduces Paul as 'from the heart of the Black Country' (ie the Midlands) before  Paul starts off busking a new song  - or at least if it's an 'old' one I can't find any references to it anywhere... ('When I was a robber in Boston place you gathered round me with your fond embrace...') Then starts that familiar refrain (sadly faded short at the 4 minute mark after just 45 seconds of 'na na nas') which sounds audibly rough at times but features a great soulful McCartney vocal. Not sure I learnt anything new about the song but nice to hear a  slightly different version of a song that's probably suffered from too much exposure down the years. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
W) [260] 'Not Guilty' is a rare example of a completely unreleased Beatles original. It's a Harrisong, familiar from a slowed down, rather calmer version on his self-titled 1979 album. This song is far too good to have remained stuck in a vault for all these years, with a turbulent guitar riff that sounds like George banging his head against a wall repeatedly and which gets more and more desperate with each verse, ending with one of the candidates for George's greatest solos by the time the fadeout rumbles along. A song forever about to trip up and fall down, 'Not Guilty'  sounds halfway between a comedy pratfall and a sinister seedy black and white B movie, leaving the listener unsure whether to laugh or cry. The reason The Beatles never did release it are two-fold. One is that they were simply sick of it: this song is so complex that the band ran through 106 takes (!) of this song before giving up (this is take 99, one of the very few to get all the way to the end!), perhaps because this track is so complex, jumping from 4/4 to 3/4 time and back again (something that would have kept the rhythmically wayward Lennon especially on his toes). Was George trying for the similar sound of his colleague's 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' here by any chance? The other reason is that this is another one of George's songs designed to ruffle feathers. A kind of 'Apple' version of 'Only Northern Song' The guitarist makes fun of the band's business empire and squabbles, distancing himself from them with a mixture of back-stabbing and wry grins ('I won't upset the apple-cart - I only want what I can get!) Along the way George gets in a few digs at his simplistic public image ('Not guilty for looking like a freak, making friends with every Sikh!') and his role in the Maharishi debacle ('Not guilty for leading you astray on the road to Mandalay') Perhaps George was simply guilty of airing too much dirty laundry in public? All that said, though, John and Paul were hardly immune to talking about the band and this song would have worked well if treated with the lightness of touch of Lennon's similar 'Glass Onion' rather than the oppressive atmosphere the song is given here. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
X) The Anthology version of [240b] 'Mother Nature's Son' is rather less essential and, as with 'Blackbird', there's nowhere else really Paul can go with just his voice and a guitar. It's nice to hear the song bereft of horn parts though and the studio chat surrounding the song is as usual almost as good as the song itself (perhaps too used to Lennon's mocking huour on his songs, Paul announces afterwards in a posh voice that he'd 'like to do Londonderry Air' - defensive humour was a useful tool for all The Beatles when they got too big-headed). Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
Y) [233b] 'Rocky Raccoon', meanwhile, is even more pointless on 'Anthology' than it was on 'The White Album'. The finished product wasn't exactly exciting or polished but this early version is chaotic - among the roughest recordings of The Beatles officially available. Paul is trying to teach the song to the rest of the band who clearly don't know it, with Lennon struggling to keep up on harmonica. Paul adds a clever spoken word introduction to the song though that should have been kept (perhaps he couldn't remember it for later takes?)Making the song even more obvious as a spoof of bad cowboy films, it runs 'Rock Raccoon was a fool unto himself and he would not swallow his foolish pride...mind you, coming from a small town in Minnesota it was not the kind of thing that a young man did when a feller went and stole his chick away from him'. There's even a fuller ender: where at the end of Paul's scat singing he adds '...and that's the story of Rocky Raccoon', like the end credits of some bad TV drama. The band plough on regardless despite some toe-curling mistakes (most audibly Paul getting the line wrong that the 'doctor is sminking of gin...sminking?!') but if anything there's even less joy in the room on this version than the finished product. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
Z) Here's the good news: [261] 'What's The New Mary Jane?' is a completely unreleased Lennon song which finally secured an official release after decades of Beatle fanlore discussing how terrific it must be. The bad news is you should be careful what you wish for: 'What's The New Mary Jane', for years described as John at his most psychedelically outrageous, is no 'Revolution #9' never mind 'I Am The Walrus'. In truth its John and Yoko seeing how much they can get away with recording while high while having studio timed paid for ('Mary Jane' being a slang term for marijuana - if you're wondering why the title is so ungrammatical marijuana tends to confuse people's idea of tenses whilst under it's spell). What's a shame is that this track could have really been something: no other Lennon song tries quite so hard to turn his 'In His Own Write' style prose into a song, a clever idea for composition which - to insiders who know the slang - is all about having your realities changed by drugs ('He grooving with cooking spaghetti'). The song has a haunting piano riff too and some of the sonic trickery (Yoko singing 'John' while varispeeded, filled with echo and sounding like it's sung underwater is more effective than similar attempts on the pair's 'Wedding Album' the following year) is very clever - it's just that at 6 minutes and with a good two of those being Yoko screaming loudly while John rattles a tambourine you've forgotten all about the song's promise long before the end. While the Ono-Lennons only recorded the song once there are multiple mixes on bootleg, all made by Lennon and I wondered which one the Anthology project would use. Typically, they use a hybrid version that starts off with the song at its most 'normal' (until about the two minute mark) and then at its most 'weird' (with all hell breaking loose on the sound effects). Someone, somewhere, really did hear this track for the first time while stoned and is probably still having nightmares about the places it took them to this day.  'Let's hear it before we get taken away' Lennon jokes at the end - at least we think he's joking; even by Lennon standards this 'song' is on the limits of sanity and while very nearly the first official release by the Plastic Ono Band (as the B-side of 'You Know My Name') you sense that Lennon never ever intended to release a song quite as crazy and gloriously wretched as this one. Like many things he did with Yoko this is for them to listen back and giggle at - John would probably have been horrified that we ever got to hear it! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
AA) The 'real' great lost Beatles song of 1968 was [262] 'Step Inside Love', a delightful McCartney pop song that was written especially for Cilla Black after she asked Paul for a theme tune for a TV series The BBC had just commissioned. Cute without being twee, it somehow manages to tick all the boxes without sounding as if that's all it's doing - accessible but easy to warm to, it's the kind of song Paul could write in seconds - something that annoyed the hell out of John. That might explain why the Paul-sung 'Anthology' version of this song turns out the way it does. The Beatles (or at least John and Paul) are actually meant to be recording 'I Will', suggesting this recording comes from the first day (Paul recorded the finished version that made the album alone later in the sessions). Taking a break for a few minutes, the guitar plucking of his new song clearly reminds Paul of 'Step Inside Love' so he busks it for a  couple of minutes. Lennon then gets in his dig that the song is by 'Los Paranoias' (a typical Lennon pun on 'Los Paraguyos', an acoustic minstrel outfit who used to appear on all sorts of mainstream TV and a double dig because they're exactly the people who'd appear on Cilla's show (although they never actually did). Paul's response? he twists the knife again, busking a song right there on the spot that shows off just how easily songs come to him and that - for these few minutes at least - he doesn't mind one bit being an 'all round entertainer'. Lennon must have been really narked by that and the fact that this fun but throwaway recording turned up on 'Anthology' all those years later suggests that he's still rather proud of his quick comeback... Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
BB) The Anthology take of [230b] 'I'm So Tired' sounds, rather suitably given the circumstances, as if The Beatles have been up all night making it. John sounds grumpy and everyone else sounds tired (especially Ringo whose drumming is especially slapdash). This version doesn't really have the 'zing' of the finished version but has a few interesting differences including a smoother George Harrison guitar part, no organ overdub and a chance to hear John's vocal without double-tracking. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
CC) Strangle out of order on 'Anthology', here is an alternate version of what The Beatles should have been recording instead of 'Los Paranoias'. [236b]  'I Will' took one hell of a long time to get right by Beatles standards - 67 takes for the finished album version in fact but this is the song right back at the beginning on take one. After all that work there aren't really any differences: no harmonies, a little more Ringo percussion and a slightly slower tempo. I'm not sure that's enough reason to include this version on 'Anthology' really, but at least it gives one of the most obscure Beatles originals a chance for another hearing. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
DD) The same goes double for Anthology's 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?' [235b] Obscure, unloved and a song that went through dozens of takes taken right back to the beginning where the differences are minimal. The biggest one is that Paul sings solo without Ringo to back him and that instead of singing the one and only verse through twice he sings it four times in a variety of voices: like Stevie Wonder, all falsetto harmonies and Motown soul, in the 'shouty' voice that made the record, a folk-bluesy version in a much quieter voice and finally a 'Cream' style psychedelic blues before pulling out of another louder vocal a line into a fifth verse. The repetitions make more sense of this simple song and should have been kept like this, but it's hardly a candidate for the most thrilling Beatles outtake ever. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
EE)Finally,  'Julia' [237b] - the last song taped for 'The White Album' - isn't that different either, but is highly revealing all the same. John turns in half a recording that, note for note, is very close to the finished product: the only difference is that John sings just a guide vocal over the top of his playing and even gives that up midway through the first verse. John messes up at the start of the second verse and gets the giggles. Paul comes on the talkback microphone to offer his sympathies and tells his partner 'you're doing great!' apart from 'one or two discrepancies!' Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)

Non-Album Recordings Part #12: 1969 (EMI)
A) A quirk of the dying days of the Beatles' discography is that the band recorded about the best finale to a career as you can get: the back-to-basics 'Let It Be' followed by the polished encore only a few were expecting 'Abbey Road'. However confusion as to what to do with the mountain of tapes for the former (everything was taped, in the hope making a film of first a concert, then a documentary on making an album, and then shots of The Beatles falling out and breaking up before our eyes) meant that the Beatles' perfect ending somehow got switched round, ending not with the 'proper' goodbye of the 'Abbey Road Medley' but with the funk of [281a] 'Get Back'. Released as a single a full 13 months before the later version appeared on the album, it fooled many people in 1969 into thinking that a retro Beatles album might be funner than it was. A hard-driving McCartney rocker written to a sped-up typical blues sequence, it's about the tightest recording The Beatles made during the sessions and an obvious choice for a single: the cry 'get back to where you once belonged!' is very 1969 (a year of returning to your roots and making country and 1950s-style rock records) and the perfect summary of what The Beatles intended on 'Let It Be' (even if a lot of that idea got changed in hiatus). However by Paul's high standards the lyrics are, quite honestly, nonsense: a cast of characters searching for something they never quite find. This is, by the way, the same take as the 'album' versions but it all sounds very different. That's in part thanks to a slightly superior mix that forsakes the period's 'no trickery' rule for a terrific use of reverb on everything (which makes the Beatles sound like they're playing down a wind tunnel) and a slightly different ending where, instead of cutting to an edit of speech from the 'Rooftop' concert, the song doesn't stop at the 'false ending' but kicks back in again, shuffling its way to a faded close around 30 seconds later. The Rooftop speech I get - Lennon's hope that the band 'passed the audition' is a typically ego-deflating  Beatles way to end - but why not use this section again first? First released as a single on April 11th 1969. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two' (1988, Re-issued 2009)
B) [282] ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was another key part of the 'Let It Be' sessions , which might explain why it was this pair of songs that were chosen to promote the record. Fair enough, The Beatles had a ‘no singles on album policy’ in those days, but an alternate version of ‘Get Back’ made the album and there’s no reason why, say, the excellent Anthology Three version of this song didn’t make the record too (it might have spared us ‘Across The Universe’ and ‘For You, Blue’ too as an added bonus). Another of Lennon’s pained cry from the hearts for Yoko, this is Lennon’s most nakedly honest song up to his ‘Plastic Ono Band’ primal scream record, setting out all his doubts on the line because he’s been let down so many times he can’t bear it to happen again. Just as the huge riff at the heart if ‘I Want You’ makes the relationship between the two sound like a huge, cavernous unapproachable void, so this song sounds like a real stab in the heart, with each cry of the chorus sung staccato, punched by Ringo’s drums on his best playing on the album (as ever, its Lennon’s most revealing songs that bring out the most in the drummer – see ‘Strawberry Fields’ ‘Rain’ ‘A Day In The Life’ and especially ‘She Said She Said’). The middle eight also sounds like an early Beatles song, the hope and naivety of songs like ‘Ask Me Why’ sung by a man much more experienced and less sure of himself when he sings ‘I’m in love for the first time...don’t you know its going to last’. Note, too, how Lennon sounds more Liverpudlian than he had for years in this song, possibly inspired to be ‘himself’ under Yoko’s ‘tutelage’. Macca’s harmony vocals is the right side of gritty too and his bass playing thrilling indeed, summing up the bubbling hope and humour that Lennon’s po-faced vocal is too afraid to accept, meaning that this is another of the band’s best performances in the period. Lennon’s most inspired song of the period, its interesting how different this sounds to Macca’s songs of love for Linda – this is a far less flippant song from a man who spent most of 1969 making wisecracks, compared to the seriousness of McCartney in this year whose laughter only came when he got home. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ truly deserves its place on 'Let It Be', the yin to ‘Two Of Us’ yang, about how deep and fulfilling relationships can be, even the ones that bring you love and happiness.  Frankly it's too good to be a mere B-side, even one on the back of a single that The Beatles knew would be bought in droves. Thankfully 'Let It Be...Naked' re-instated it to its proper place where its pained pleas for truth and support make a lot more sense. First released as the B-side of 'Get Back' on April 11th 1969. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume 2' (1988, Re-issued 2009) and 'Let It Be...Naked' (2003)
C)[283]  'The Ballad Of John and Yoko' is a curious little song that makes you wonder what Lennon meant by it. Written as an angry slap to all the people who'd spent the past year being rude to Yoko, it tries hard to make the pair out to be media victims, 'crucified' in the name of peace in the same way as Jesus. Lennon must have known he was going to get a lot of trouble when he recorded it just three years after his 'Beatles bigger than Jesus' misquote gave the Christian centres of the globe kittens. But if so why did he insist quite so hard on this being a 'Beatles' single rather than a 'Plastic Ono Band' release (where the point might have been better made?) Why, too, did he decide to stick his bitter lyrics to such a jolly, ear-catching blend of 50s style retro rock and contemporary harder-edged sounds. The end result is like a busker trying to catch your ear and then slapping you around the face for daring to buy his product. Famously this isn't a 'Beatles' recording at all. Taped at the very start of what will become 'Abbey Road' on April 16th 1969 this was the first time any of the Beatles had met up after the week of the 'Rooftop' concert. Lennon called the session at the last minute, while his song was still fresh in his mind (it must have been too - they only married in Gibraltar on March 20th, events that are key to the lyrics in this song) but without realising that George and Ringo were out of the country. Paul was around, though, and between them recorded everything on this song. Reduced to two rather than four and with the two old school friends together, alone, for the first time in many a long year the atmosphere was jovial - something that comes over in the recording and softens Lennon's snide anger (the original basic track of John on guitar and Paul on drums has them calling each other 'George' and 'Ringo' throughout the takes!) That says much for McCartney's continued support for his colleague as on the one hand the 'Allen Klien' court case had just gone through (with Paul basically suing John) and  'The Ballad Of John and Yoko' is so unlike one of his own songs and a step away from even John's past work it must have sounded highly alien to him: it's built on a riff, not a melody, and is very much about the 'self' rather than the half-imaginary, half-experienced people Paul knew.  He's really on form for this song, though turning in a great fat bass line, some terrific sturdy drumming and some cute backing harmonies that answer Lennon parrot fashion. By contrast John is having a tough day and his nasal vocal reveals just how quickly this song was recorded. Bizarrely, despite a 'warning' over the use of the exclamation 'Christ!', this song wasn't actually banned anywhere and got nowhere near the fuss Lennon must have been expecting. Even odder is the fact that in Britain this became the best-selling Beatles single since 'Hello, Goodbye' (yes it even outsold 'Hey Jude!') and is in fact the band's fourth biggest seller of all in their homeland ('She Loves You' and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' being the other two). While better than many critics say it is (Lennon's imagery is clever and highly visual: 'eating chocolate cake in the bath' is a great line) and based around the best Chuck Berry riff neither he nor Keith Richards wrote, 'Ballad' isn't that good - a 'B' side rather than an 'A' side and one of the weaker Beatle 45s. First released as a single on May 30th 1969. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two' (1988, Re-issued 2009)
D) George's B-side [284a] 'Old Brown Shoe' is a neat mirror: a funky rocker with a retro feel that's deeply personal (it starts off as a list of the narrator's sexual turn-ons), it features prominent parts for George and Ringo but no John and barely any Paul (whose bass and harmony vocals are both buried deep in the mix). Deliberately mixed to sound 'funny', with lots of bass noises and Ringo's drums uncomfortably loud, 'Old Brown Shoe' does it's best to put off the listener but eventually draws them in by sounding quite unlike anything else The Beatles ever recorded. A strangely lustful song ('If you or me should get together...') that keeps looking for release at the end of every verse on a long held note ('you should comfort me') but is instantly trampled underfoot, as if by some giant shoe. The title, by the way, makes no sense ('I'm stepping out of this old brown shoe' is the full line) and Beatle scholars have debated for decades now on what the Beatles are singing over the fade (is it gibberish or, as I reckon, 'Too late! Too late now!') On the other hand the opening line is one of George's best, instantly setting the scene (or not, given how weird the rest of the lyrics are: 'I want a love that's right and love is only half of what's wrong'), topped off by another classic solo - this one very much in friend Eric Clapton's style. First released as the B-side of 'The Ballad Of John and Yoko' on May 30th 1969. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two' (1988, Re-issued 2009)
E) The single mix of [285a] 'Let It Be' - the last ever release of new Beatles product until the 'Hollywood Bowl' shows in 1977 - is not all that different to the album version. In fact, once again it's the exact same take but a different mix (one that includes a rather overpowering Harrison lead guitar solo, recorded in April 1969 when the band were still hopeful of getting the album remixed and out in the shops but ultimately replaced on the album by a second, superior go on January 4th 1970). It must have been strange for the band to hear the world going mad for this song which was recorded in the main a 14 months before and most likely written six months before that, during the trying 'White Album' sessions. A fitting end to a wonderful singles discography (although not intended as a final 'goodbye', it was written by Paul under Beatle-induced stress, with his mother Mary appearing in a dream and telling him to stop letting the band arguments get to him). 'Let It Be' manages to be both uplifting and sad at the same time, a comforting hymn about letting the thing you love go when it starts to cause you harm, it's also a pretty neat statement on why The Beatles just had to end when they did. This mix first released as a single on March 6th 1970. Find it on: 'Past Masters Volume Two' (1988, Re-issued 2009)
F) George first recorded a demo of his future classic [267b] 'Something' on his 27th birthday on February 23rd 1969 before the sessions for 'The White Album' even started. Those present (this was an Abbey Road demo, earlier than the Rishikesh 'Esher' ones) were struck even then at how good it was, but George decided to sit on it for two and half albums before finally recording it for 'Abbey Road'. As well as the middle eight we know and love ('You're asking me will my love grow?') there's a second, rather less convincing one that was probably right to be dropped ('You know I love that woman of mine and I need her all of the time, you know I'm telling you now woman don't make me blue!') Even by Anthology standards it's odd hearing this song put back to its bare essentials without all the extra polish that goes with it but already 'Something' really sounds like 'something' (in both senses of the word!) Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
G) The 'Anthology' take of [296b] 'I've Got A Feeling' is the one originally marked for release by engineer (and future Who producer) Glyn Johns and - like most of his ideas, rejected by The Beatles for being a little too 'rough' - is spot on. Slightly quicker than the finished version and not quite as gung-ho The Beatles actually sound as if they're having a 'good time' here. George gets to play some extra guitar frills, Lennon's in much better voice on his 'Everybody Had A Hard Year' section and only a mistake that causes a breakdown into the grand finale (the bit where John and Paul sing together, something that could easily have been edited in from another take) prevents this from being 'the one'. This early take comes not from Twickenham (where the 'Let It Be' film was recorded) but from earlier sessions at Apple's recording studio ('designed' by Magic Alex and 'repaired' by Abbey Road engineers at some expense and only used by The Beatles this once). The song is already tight and together, which makes you wonder why the band struggles so much with just a few weeks later (did the film cameras put them off?) Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
H) [276b] 'She Came In Through The Bathroom Window' is merely a 'rehearsal' of a song so new even its author isn't quite sure what to do with it yet (and appearing here a good nine months before appearing on 'Abbey Road'), but if you take away Ringo's rather in-the-way drumming this version is actually better. The slow stately pace suits this sleepy, hazy song of robbery and betrayal and George's wah-wah guitar is delicious. Paul's vocal, here in his 'normal' rather than his 'shouting' voice, is also vastly superior, full of so much character that even Lennon's gifted backing vocals can't throw him off the scent. There's a neat false ending too before the band go back round the chorus for a final time. Oh and there's no 'oh yeah' at the end of each chorus here either. Always the perfectionist, Paul already has some new ideas by the time the band have finished playing, which are sadly cut off short before we get the rest of the band's reply (Lennon probably said something rude!) Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
I) [292b] 'Dig A Pony' is my favourite of the 'Let It Be' recordings and while not quite as playful as the 'Rooftop' version that made the album, this 'Anthology' recording finally undoes all the worst meddling that producer Phil Spector did to this poor song. There's now an opening of 'All I want is...' from Paul and George back at the start of this song which is really effective, the take is slower and bluesier and it ends with not one go round the song's exaggerated angular riff but three or four before finally ending where we started on another 'All I want is...' John is right on the money vocally and sounds hurt when George Martin sounds surprised at how tight they are ('You're not talking to Ricci and the Red Streaks you know!'; a favourite pseudonym of Lennon's, Paul will borrow it when he needs a good name in a hurry for Linda's song 'Seaside Woman', credited originally to 'Suzi and the Red Stripes'). Another rare case of an Anthology version improving on the finished version. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
J) There are some terrific versions of [291b] 'Two Of Us' in The Beatles' vaults. The song's close harmonies between John and Paul (reminding them of their acoustic days as the duo 'The Nerk Twins') resulted in lots of jokes including a great version where the pair try out every accent under the sun (before settling on a rather broad Scots!) Alas the Anthology take isn't one of them and the only real variation is the lack of whistling and more Ringo, neither of which are necessarily a good thing. Once more this song is very together considering how early in the album sessions we are (we've gone back in time, in true Anthology style, this time to the second day at Apple headquarters) and you wonder why the band had so many problems with such a simple song later on. Paul jokingly tells Lennon to 'take it Phil!' after the middle eight - a reference to The Everly Brothers, whose work this song closely matches. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
K) The Anthology style version of [298b] 'For You, Blue' is, amazingly, even rougher than the take that made the 'Let It Be' album. George sounds as if he has a cold (it's all those early mornings in drafty Twickenham in January!), while the whole song gets slower and slower towards the end (perhaps to enable John to cope better with the slide guitar part he's still learning!) There's a much bigger part for Paul's piano accompaniment though and a nice opening soft-shoe drum shuffle from Ringo that really sets the tone, so the end result is probably a draw. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
L) [286] 'Teddy Boy' is the second song from 'McCartney' that could have made a Beatles album. As Macca put it in his 'questionnaire' handed out with the record 'something happened' and it never came out. Anthology reveals what that something was: Lennon in a wicked mood. Picking up on the 'square dance' rhythms of Paul's new and rather repetitive song, John is merciless, parroting lines (as Teddy Boy's mother) in a falsetto voice and ending with a series of call signs. Paul does his best to keep the enthusiasm up but you can almost hear the cogs whirring in his head thinking 'hmm, maybe not'. In truth it's not the strongest McCartney song of all time but it's better than a lot of 'Let It Be' and if my theory composed for our review of the 'McCartney' album is correct (that it was written about John and his relationship with his mother - perhaps 'Julia' had set Paul thinking? The fact that the Beatles had recently attended a premiere of Yellow Submarine with a fancy dress party where Lennon dressed up as a 'teddy boy rocker', effectively re-creating his teenage look, may have set Paul down this path of thinking). Perhaps the song touched a raw nerve? Or perhaps Lennon simply didn't think it was very good?! Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
M) There are many many jams on old rock and roll classics sitting in the Beatles' vaults from the 'Let It Be' sessions. Some (like 'Suzy Parker' 'Save The Last Dance For Me' and even The Beatles' own 'One After 909') are rather good; some, however, were simply rolled out so that the band can have a rest and can delay getting back to work for a few more precious minutes (The Beatles were great procrastinators when they wanted to be - just listen to the way Lennon cuts in with the last third of this trilogy after everyone has shrugged their shoulders and tried to get back to work). The Anthology medley [287] of Little Richard's 'Rip It Up' Bill Haley's 'Shake Rattle and Roll' and Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes' is unfortunately in the latter category. Unlike their equally hurried and rough BBC sessions The Beatles are no longer on the same wavelength and John and Paul keep crashing each other's lines while George and Ringo seem to be jamming to different songs entirely. 'Blue Suede Shoes' works best, George getting one last chance to ape his favourite ever guitarist and John and Paul seem to know all the words to this one (the former adding a typically Lennonish lyrics change to reflect the 'brown suede boots' he's wearing!) Billy Preston, though sounds unusually out of his comfort zone despite the fact that, as a key member of Little Richard's touring band for years, he must have known at least the first song off by heart.  However most of this jam is torture and even this section isn't good - why did this make Anthology compared to other, superior jams? (like the made-up-on-the-spot 'Watching Rainbows' and 'Zero Is Just Another Number' ). Lennon will return to 'Rip It Up' on his 1975 'Rock 'n' Roll' album, to even less success to be honest. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
N) When 'Anthology' was first announced and fans were speculating about track selection there were a few songs that seemed inevitable: 'My Bonnie' 'Ain't She Sweet?' some of the Royal Variety and Ed Sullivan shows and this: the basic take of [297b] 'The Long and Winding Road' that Paul intended to go out in a version recorded the last day of the Let It Be sessions. When the tapes sat for months and Lennon gave Phil Spector permission to do what he liked with it, Paul was horrified by this track in particular: the lush and over-orchestrated strings are so un-Beatles and the antithesis of everything the 'Let It Be' project stood for. Many say it's the moment when McCartney realised The Beatles were over - which is unfortunately rather apt for a song that's all about missed opportunities and broken paths on the road of our lives. However Paul fooled us all: he saved the 'Let It Be' take sans horns for 'Let It Be...Naked' in 2003 - this is an earlier, only subtly different recording that features more Ringo and less John, who makes a rather better stab at filling in on bass on this version than he does on the record. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
O) It's a puzzle why Paul's [269b] 'Oh! Darling', recorded first for 'Let It Be' but abandoned till 'Abbey Road', didn't make the record because it's clearly at one with the other retro rockers on that project. Considering that most of the tracks on the record were done to death, this one doesn't seem to have had much of a look in and though rougher than the final product fared no worse than other songs from the record on their first rehearsals. While the performance is rough and Paul hasn't quite reached his 'screaming' level yet, the arrangement of this version is actually better: there's a fine Billy Preston keyboard part that moves this track closer to soul, Ringo adds more 'Ringo'-style drumming than what made the album (where Paul might possibly have played instead?) and best of all  Lennon's sly harmony vocal is a delight (he later claimed to have been upset that he didn't get to sing on this one which he felt was more compatible with his style than many of his colleagues' recent songs).There's also a key moment of historical importance at the end of the track, Lennon celebrating the fact that Yoko's divorce from second husband Tony Cox had just gone through. 'I'm free at last!' he sings, perhaps already plotting for the pair's sudden marriage two months later, and kick-starts a new version of the song probably aimed in Yoko's direction: 'I'll never do you no harm'. Quite what the Twickenham camera crew made of all this is another matter!  Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
P) Another future classic tried out at the 'Let It Be' sessions is George's gorgeous [288] 'All Things Must Pass', soon to be the title track of his first 'proper' solo album in 1970. This version of 'Pass' is as stripped-down and basic as all the other 'Let It Be' era recordings and clearly doesn't suit the song as well as Phil Spector's whoops, whistles and strings, but it's already a terrific song about how everything - good and bad -  has a best before date. This demo was taped on George's 27th birthday, the same day he taped demos for 'Old Brown Shoe' and 'Something' scattered across the Anthology set (why couldn't they have been put together?) Sadly Anthology uses the 'wrong' version - this one features George alone with someone else (John? George overdubbed?) randomly picking guitar lines alongside him. Bootlegs reveal that for a time this was a real contender for the album and featured full John and Paul harmonies and a clattering Ringo drum part softened for the final version (on which Ringo also plays). It would have been perfect (well, better than 'For You, Blue' and 'I Me Mine' anyway), given added poignancy by the fact that The Beatles story is drawing to a close ('I must be on my way to face another day...') and these four men will rarely be in the same room at the same time again (with much of 'Abbey Road' made through overdubs). Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
Q) [289] 'Mailman Bring Me No More Blues' is another unwanted jamming session from 'Let It Be'. A Buddy Holly song taken surprisingly seriously compared to other period songs it features some rough and ready harmonies between John, Paul and George and a real country-western influence. Slower and sadder than the original version, it's as if the record is playing at the wrong speed at times - something which actually suits the song really well. You can tell the band's hearts aren't really in this, though and that the song will be forgotten once they return to 'Get Back' (the song they were meant to be rehearsing that day!) Interestingly the song makes for a neat contrast with 'Please Mr Postman', perhaps the biggest Beatles peak of excitement and energy: this time the news the narrator is expecting is potentially devastating and the band sound depressed; how far we've come in just five years. The fact that the song fades both in and out - and quickly at that - suggests that this version may have 'presented itself' from a random jamming session and turned into another one pretty quickly after Lennon stopped singing. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
R) Predictably, 'Anthology' played safe and didn't released the most controversial Beatle outtake - the 'comedy' first take of [281c] 'Get Back' when it was still known as 'Don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs' (a spoof of Enoch Powell that they soon realised people might take seriously and so got changed). However the Anthology version is still about the best alternative to the one we know and love from the 50-odd taped during the sessions - it's the version taped at the very end of the 'Rooftop' mini-concert  as seen in the film (this was the most rehearsed song of the 'Let It Be' period), played slightly softer but slightly faster even compared to the version they'd played at the beginning of the show just 40 minutes earlier. Everyone sounds as if they're having fun, Billy Preston adds another soulful touch to the song and Paul is on terrific form, yelping his way through the recording and adding the marvellous quip 'You've been playing on the roofs again, mama doesn't like that - she's gonna have you arrested!' as a bunch of burly policeman wander around behind them looking confused. It's a marvellous moment from a marvellous band having temporally not that marvellous a time of things. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
S) The piano demo of [284b] 'Old Brown Shoe' is the third taped on George's 27th birthday. While the weakest of the three songs laid down that day there's real magic in the demo, which is more thought out and less tentative than 'Something' or 'Pass'. As well as thumping a piano, George overdubs guitar and 'Shoe' sounds rather less 'heavy' here and actually a little bit better (the finished version is a bass heavy platform on whereas this 'Shoe' is a sandal!) You can even hear the words on this version which is an added bonus! One of Anthology Three's real highlights. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
T) [270b] 'Octopuses' Garden' is, once again, here more to give Ringo a share of the Anthology royalties than because it's all that different or all that interesting. Understandably rougher and with George playing a rather more frenetic guitar part (especially on the solo which he hasn't quite worked out yet and bails out from before the end), this take is interesting like all early takes of something we know backwards but on its own standards is pretty dreadful: Ringo struggles to sing or play drums and you really miss the production sound effects and Beatles harmonies. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
U) [268b] 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is another less than adored Beatle song and again seems here merely to make up the numbers than because it offers any real revelations. The overdubs aren't in place yet and Paul is merely giving a rough guide vocal rather than singing properly. He even sings some 'vocal noises' where the electric guitar parts should go (which are nothing like the parts George played on the record by the way) and sings gibberish in the third verse which he might not have yet (the line should run 'PC 31 says 'we've caught a dirty one', Maxwell stands alone, painting testimonial pictures, oh-oh-oh', while the final version has 'Rose' and 'Valerie' 'screaming from the gallery' - only the second name is in place for this version). I never thought I could hear a worse version of this terrible song but somehow 'Anthology' managed to find one that made the 'Abbey Road' one look good. Thanks, I think. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
V) An early version (take one!) of [266b] 'Come Together' is a little more interesting , sounding much tougher and angrier in this early version. Shorn of the later overdubs and production gloss and held together by Lennon pushing his voice to its limits, it's as if we're hearing an alternate universe version of the song from the 'Let It Be' sessions. Interestingly while everything else here is only sketched in (Paul, George and Ringo are all very tentative in their parts, as if Lennon hasn't given them to his colleagues yet!) the nonsense lyrics are already nearly word-perfect, with the addition of Lennon singing the opening verse once more over the solo.  The one line that is changed is the one that cracks Lennon up laughing: 'Got to get some hobo he's just ho-ha please!' turning into the much superior line 'Got to be good looking - 'cause he's so hard to see!' Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
W) Paul's demo of [269] 'Come and Get It' for Badfinger is often hailed as the highlight of 'Anthology Three' and treated as a long-lost McCartney original. It certainly shows off just how quickly and completely Paul could work, dashing this whole demo (played completely solo) off within a single hour when Apple signings Badfinger politely asked him if he had any songs spare. However for me this song is an example of just how empty Paul's music can be when he's not made to stretch himself: the song says little and goes nowhere, with no variety from the verse-chorus-instrumental cycle it's locked into. The lyrics, too, are the nastiest Paul ever wrote, more like something George would write (this song would have fitted in well on the latter's 'Living In The Material World' album) and in the context of Apple's business problems seem to be sneering at the world: Ok so I'm rich, but do you all have to want a piece of me? The company's financial problems may have inspired the line 'you better hurry 'cause it's going fast' too, although Paul has always denied any 'hidden meaning' - this was just a song that rolled around his subconscious and came out when he needed a song in a hurry. Had Badfinger been the sort of group to pull this off it would have been no problem: but if anything Badfinger (still called 'The Iveys' when they first recorded this song) have a gentler sound than The Beatles (only the first album contains any hard rock and then it palpably doesn't suit them, suggesting they took their cue from  this, the biggest in their lifetime). Paul, for the first time in his songwriting life, has mis-understood the brief he was assigned. You could be charitable and say he wrote this song after seeing the rushes for the 'Magic Christian Film' although Beatle scholars reckon its just 'coincidence' it fitted so well and wasn't actually written about anything (starring Ringo and Peter Sellers, about a millionaire who gives away money to people in return for doing the daftest and sometimes nastiest things). But if it was then Paul unusually got that wrong too: Badfinger don't belong in this uncharitable universe and the actually pretty funny (if only sporadically) film needs a 'theme song' with a lighter touch than this. Of course it shows off just how brilliant a multi-instrumentalist and clever, quick composer Paul is but we knew that anyway; at best 'Come and Get It' is a song not good enough for The Beatles - at its worst it's a loaded comment intended for someone somewhere (John was present at the session but stayed in the control room throughout barely saying a word) that Paul - uniquely - wasn't brave enough to say to their face. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
X) We come full circle with [7b] 'Ain't She Sweet?' What once was a towering performance by a band nobody knew demanding for attention and knocked off during an idle moment at the end of the Tony Sheridan sessions has become a slow, lazy blues jam tossed off by a bunch of bored millionaires who no longer have much left to say. Lennon comes up with a few amusing words so he can 'bluff' his way through the gaps in his memory ('I ask you very...hydrofolicky!') but the difference in just eight years shows what a long, hard journey The Beatles story had been. What the band would have once done better than anyone else is now just too much like hard work. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)
Y) For some reason I don't quite understand, 'Anthology' go back in time for a [285c] 'Let It Be' outtake from, erm, 'Let It Be'. The bad atmosphere of that album's sessions compared to 'Abbey Road' is immediately obvious from Lennon's nasty opening remark 'Are we meant to giggle during the solo?'  John hated this song, perhaps because it's such a Paul song and beyond his ability to write; Hopeful, uplifting and saying a lot without saying much at all its anathema to Lennon's work until his 'break through' in Paul's style on 'Imagine' (which is like this song but not half as good). The sentiment too is very un-Lennon: always one for changing things for the sake of change, he never really 'let things be' (did he see this as a comment on his split from Cynthia?) It was also John who mischievously added the vocal clip of him announcing 'we'd like to 'Hark The Herald Angels Come!' before this track on the album - a dig at the 'gospel' feel of the song. You can't really go far wrong with a song that just features Paul's vocal and piano for most of the song but the band try anyway, with George fluffing a solo he worked on hard across the space of several months but still never quite got right and Ringo playing some heavy-handed drums. Lennon apparently doesn't play anything and was probably glaring from the control box, adding the sarcastic comment 'I think that was rather grand!' followed by his pithy comment on the current 'no overdubs' policy: 'Let's track it - you bounder! You cheat!' For once the others aren't laughing with him. It's his loss: one of Paul's prettier songs perhaps he should have learned to 'let things be'. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)

Non-Album Recordings Part #13: 1970 (EMI)
A) And finally - and we really do mean finally whatever the entries still to come in this book - the last ever official Beatles session till the 1990s takes place on January 3rd 1970. Looking back at the rushes of the first edit of the 'Let It Be' film, director Michael Lindsey-Hogg sent off a panicked memo to the band when he realised that he'd included a clip of George bringing a 'new' song called[293b]  'I Me Mine' into the sessions and didn't have a complete song to go with it. Paul, George and Ringo duly turned up but John - recently hurt in a car crash on a day out in Scotland with Yoko, Julian and Yoko's daughter Kyoko - cried off, meaning that the last official Beatles session doesn't even feature all four members. That's the reason behind George's dry opening discussion that 'Dave Dee is no longer with us - but Beaky, Titch and I would like to carry on the good work that's always gone down at number two studios', quoting the mid-60s pop band named after their nicknames as he does so (check them out if you like mid-period Beatles, three of their songs are great - the others less so, but then that's still three more than The Dave Clark Five or Herman's Hermits). A typical Harrisong about problems of the ego, this version is the song in its original form: dashed off quickly so the band can fulfil their obligations and go home. The song lasts a mere 90 seconds with George's opening chat removed - Phil Spector lengthened the song by another minute thanks to some careful editing and made the track sound 'bigger' thanks to epic string overdubs (which worked better on this song, a warning against excesses, than it ever did on 'The Long and Winding Road'). The song sounds slighter here but is still played well with one last rallying cry of harmonies in the chorus ('I I Me Me Mine!'), the band perhaps getting out their frustrations over Apple via this song's wild staccato jabs. It's an unusual end, but a good one even if Spector was probably right to meddle with this recording as he did, the Beatles' career ending via a muted single organ note that suddenly swells up and disappears down a black hole. Find it on: 'Anthology Three' (1996)

Non-Album Recordings Part #14: 1982 (EMI)
A) With 'hit medleys' all the rage in the early 1980s, someone at EMI hit upon a novel way of plugging their latest pointless Beatles compilation 'Reel Music' with a combination of that album's songs. [299] 'The Beatles Movie Medley' features nothing new and had no Beatle input but is worth mentioning for being the first time someone went back to the original Beatle tapes to create something 'new'. Like most of the later 'Love' remixes album, it's a rather pointless affair that sits on the borders of Beatles canon: they didn't hate it enough to denounce it but nor did they help plan it either. Still, unlike 'Love', this single promoted a few lesser known gems from The Beatles catalogue rather than the ones everybody knows backwards (literally, now, in the case of some of the 'Love' mixes!) For the record the songs edited together are 'Magical Mystery Tour' 'All You Need Is Love' 'Got To Hide Your Love Away' 'I Should Have Known Better' 'A Hard Day's Night' 'Ticket To Ride' and 'Get Back'. Well, it's better than the 'Stars on 45' monstrosity that inspired it anyway, with a session musician who sounded vaguely Scouse if your ears squinted a bit doing a fairly poor impression of Lennon as several Beatle songs are strung together to the same insistent drum beat and which wasn't given official sponsorship by The Beatles or EMI. Fans are actually keener on the original B-side, a snatched conversation on the set of 'A Hard Day's Night' which was swiftly removed for unknown reasons (probably legal ones) and replaced with the song 'I'm Happy Just To dance With You'. Someone must have liked it because this second version of the single made #12 in the US and #10 in the UK, better than the band had done for a while! To date the single has never been re-issued or appeared on CD. 

Non-Album Recordings Part #15: 1990s (EMI)
A) Here we are, twenty years on from the Beatles reunion we thought we'd never see and we're still not quite sure what to make of the band's two 'new' releases, nicknamed 'The Threetles' by fans wanting to distinguish them from the 'proper' canon. The project dates back to the Lennon's entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, when Yoko passed on a number of John's unfinished demos to special guest Paul from his house-husband days in the late 1970s. Speculation was rife as to what classics might be turned up: the much-bootlegged archive radio series 'The Lost Lennon Tapes' (which ran for two years and 218 episodes in America and could have run another two Lennon recorded so much material) featured several classic songs that either turned up later (on the 'Lennon Anthology' of 1999) or still have yet to be heard; goodness knows there are enough to choose from: great tracks like the skiffley medicine-cabinet rummaging 'Pill', the jaunty 'A Case Of The Blues', the sweet McCartney-ish ballad 'When A Boy Meets A Girl', the frenetic 'Don't Be Crazy', Buddy Holly-ish 'Gone From This Place', the reflective 'JJ' and the funky gay-scene solidarity song 'She Is A Friend Of Dorothy's (Lennon at his most David Bowie-ish).
Out of all of these Yoko chose three songs. The first that Paul, George and Ringo worked on (and liked the most) was [300]  'Free As a Bird', a rather turgid Lennon piano ballad which - like a lot of his early work - says one thing lyrically (Freedom! At last!) and another thing entirely musically (much of the song is stuck to the same plodding chords). A strange choice for a song to release in such a blitz of publicity, 'Free As A Bird' was always going to fall short of the Beatles' legacy and was probably chosen not because of Lennon's great ideas but because his sketchy demo left enough room for Paul and George to contribute their own parts and turn this into a 'collaboration' (a quick middle eight, written by Paul, and a blistering Harrison guitar solo - by far the highlight of the track, offering the release the narrator can only dream of). Despite all the talk in the press of picking up where the band left off during 'Abbey Road' the result is curiously un-Beatles: Lennon's plodding time signature, the simple metaphors - light years away from the nuances of 'Blackbird' - the lack of any sense of joy; this is more where The Beatles ended up with 'Let It Be'. Jeff Lynne's heavy-handed production embellishes the little that existed on Lennon's demo but without adding any of the interesting additions George Martin would have come up with (struggling with his hearing, he was asked first but turned the gig down - that might explain how the Martin-sponsored 'Love' turned out as badly as it did). The ending, played by George on a ukele, is a typically Beatles 'fake goodbye' ending though, capped off by a recording of John announcing 'I'm John Lennon' from a 'Pop Go The Beatles' radio broadcast. This being a Beatles message enterprising fans turned it round to look for clues and discovered Lennon also saying '...turned out nice again', a George Formby catchphrase that would have tickled George and probably inspired his ukulele backing. The fact that we're talking about hidden messages rather than the song, though, shows what a depressingly ordinary piece 'Free As A Bird' is, its composer safely locked away in a bedroom trying to escape a boring day by trying to remember what his day job used to be. The fact that Lennon himself used virtually nothing of his mammoth collection of demos pre-1979 on his 1980 comeback says much about his opinion of them - a shame The Beatles didn't follow suit, as this is a song and performance not worthy of their great name. First released as a single on December 4th 1995. Also appears on 'Anthology One' (1995)
B) [301] 'Real Love' is much better, not because it's a great song (it isn't, being an even simpler re-write of 'All You Need Is Love') but because it sounds like The Beatles. Released to less publicity and largely treated with indifference by the world on release, I'm surprised that this single didn't do better - while true fans recognise Lennon on auto-pilot when they hear it, casual fans would have heard a pretty uplifting tune, classy harmonies (which fit better here than on 'Bird') and lyrics about love - exactly the sort of thing people would have picked up from their parents and by now possibly grandparents' generation. 'Real Love' was already one of Lennon's better regarded 'lost' songs after appearing on the 'Lost Lennon Tapes' and - bizarrely - as the one rare track on the 'Imagine' documentary soundtrack of 1988 (which sounds better than the 'basic take' used here, branching out to incorporate the lyrics from an early draft when the song was known as 'Real Life', Lennon hedging his bets between the two).  Speeded up slightly to make Lennon sound more 'vibrant' and his piano treated with echo to sound more 'Lennony', the result is a pretty neat pastiche of the Beatles' sound, played by men who can't quite remember how they used to go about things. In short, it's a rather good ELO recording (with lots of Jeff Lynne's characteristic touches) but still only a minor Beatles one, whatever the promise in the song. The sessions were apparently rushed and they sound it (the harmonies need at last another take to gel and Ringo, never a drummer who liked being rushed, is strangely non-committal throughout). Had Paul, George and Ringo been given more time, though, 'Real Love' could have been a minor gem in the Beatles' catalogue instead of a sorry postscript to it. First released as a single on March 4th 1996. Also appears on 'Anthology Two' (1996).
C) You may have noticed that there are three Anthology sets and each of the first two begins with a 'Threetles' recording. Fans were expecting a third single to prop up the final part of the trilogy and that seems to be the original plan, with Yoko handing over three tapes to Paul in 1994. We don't know what the third tape - and potentially the last ever new Beatles recording - might have been. Most books quote this as 'Grow Old Along With Me', which seems odd given that a demo recording of this had already been included on 'Milk and Honey' and was a song very close and personal to Yoko's heart, unlikely to be handed over to her husband's 'old' band (it was written in reponse to a dream she had that she and John were re-incarnations of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and a 'reply' based on Robert's poem of the same name directly in reply to her song based on Elizabeth's poem 'Let Me Count The Ways', also included on 'Milk and Honey'). Other candidates are two mysterious songs reported in the press as 'Miss You' and 'Now and Then' (possibly mistakes, possibly mis-hearings of real unreleased songs mentioned above). I'd like to think that Yoko chose the highly suitable demo 'Memories', an early version of 'Grow Old Along With Me' (featuring roughly the same tune but with very different lyrics that wouldn't have had the same connotations). This mighr explain why 'Old' is sometimes quoted because the two songs share distant DNA. But how can this gorgeous 'missing' song have been passed by for the occasion? The narrator, nostalgic against his will, barks 'Memory oh memory release me from your spell, you haunt me when I thought I'd let you go, I hear your voices whispering...' - a highly fitting end to a project based on nostalgia and being unable to let the past go. Of course this is only speculation, as if the reason the 'third song' was turned down. Most sources, though, point to George who only got involved in 'Anthology' against his better judgement when his Handmade Films company ran into financial problems and supposedly hated all three of Lennons' songs and being pushed into working with Paul and Ringo (which might be why McCartney backs down and gives his guitar such a prominent role on both recordings; that might be why George's good friend Jeff Lynne was hired too). If true, a sad second end to the Beatles story which left George Martin's 1968 string arrangement 'The Beginning' to start the last outtakes set in less than fitting style. Released...probably never!


A now complete list of Beatles links available at this website:
'Rubber Soul' (1965) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-beatles-rubber-soul-1965-album.html

'Revolver' (1966)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-6-beatles-revolver-1966.html
'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band' (1967) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-beatles-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts.html

'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/news-views-and-music-issue-45-beatles.html

'The Beatles' aka 'The White Album' (1968)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-25-beatles-beatles-aka-white.html
'Yellow Submarine' (1969) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-beatles-yellow-submarine-1969.html
The Best Unreleased Beatles Recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/what-we-want-to-see-on-beatles.html

A Complete AAA Guide To The Beatles Cartoons http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/an-aaa-guide-to-beatles-cartoons.html
The Beatles: Surviving TV Appearances http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-beatles-surviving-tv-appearances.html
A 'Bite' Of Beatles Label 'Apple' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/a-bite-of-apple.html
The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part One: 1958-63 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-one.html
 The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Two: 1964-67 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-2-1964.html
The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Three: 1968-96 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-three.html
The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part One: 1962-74 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-compilations-live-sets-and.html
The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part Two: 1976-2013 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-beatles-compilations-live-albums.html
Beatles Bonuses: The Songs John and Paul Gave Away To The World/To Ringo! http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/beatle-bonuses-songs-given-awayringos.html

Essay: The Ways In Which The Beatles Changed The World For The Better https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/the-beatles-essay-ways-fab-four-changed.html
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/the-beatles-five-landmark-concerts-and.html