There’s sth funny going on with this site – but I hope to write the final chapter soon:)
January 1969 remains by far the best documented month in The Beatles’ entire career. If you don’t believe me take a look at A/B Road, a massive set of 83 cds which contains nearly every thing recorded that month. If you’re not into illegal CDs -and you shouldn’t – you can do like me and buy Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt’s excellent book Drugs, Divorce and a Slipping Image which details all these tapes, track by track. There’s a somewhat sad irony in the fact that the group chose to document so well the month that practically broke them up…although the group of course came back together once more to end their career with a more positive note, namely Abbey Road.
The Beatles returned to the Twickwenham film studios (where they’d shot much of A Hard Day’s Night and Help!) On January 2 1969. Their main purpose was to rehearse new material for an upcoming return to the concert stages. Things soon turned sour for multiple reasons (including big egos, hard drugs and…erm…oriental influence) and after a week or so George quit the band. He only agreed to return when the others promised to forget about live shows and move the sessions to their own Apple Studios, using the new material for a new LP. It was also decided to return to recording methods of their earliest sessions: live with no overdubs. This was a good idea as the material was fairly stripped in the first place, being designed for live performances, but the execution was a bit more problematic. The 1963 Beatles had been a red hot live band who’d been onstage practically every night for the past few years. The 1969 version of the group was quite the opposite, with years since their last live show, and not much ensemble playing in the studio either. What would once have been a day’s work turned into two weeks’ worth of multi track tapes no one could really face listening to. The tapes were given to producer Glyn Johns to work with – in the meanwhile The Beatles toyed around with the idea of donating the songs to other people who could do them justice.
John had wanted to re-record his 1968 composition Across The Universe for the album, but this never got beyond the rehearsal stage. Reportedly he offered the song to Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax, who blatantly turned the song down. (And the Dork of the Year Award goes to….) (The Beatles’ 1968 version was eventually included on the final LP.)
Paul offered Two Of Us to a New York trio called Mortimer. They evidently cut a version for Apple but it never materialised. Come on Apple, where’s that boxed set of rarities?!It’d be interesting to see if their version followed The Beatles’ acoustic LP version or the original rock & roll arrangement as heard in the film Let It Be.
Let It Be, the song, of course was a potentially huge ballad, in more ways than one. Paul quite rightly thought it would be suitable for Aretha Franklin, the number one soul primadonna, with the song’s gospel like overtones. Unfortunately Ms Franklin did not agree. (And the runner up for the Dork of the Year is….) Later when she had a change of heart about the song, she was informed that The Beatles’ version was going to be released as a single, and Aretha could release her version only after The Beatles’ single had run it’s chart course. Oh well. Aretha’s soulful version is most entertaining and deserved a wider exposure that it eventually did. (It can be heard on The Lennon McCartney Songbook CDs I’ve mentioned several times already.)
Paul also offered Let It Be to another soulful singer, John “Joe” Cocker. Cocker had made an excellent Sun Records influenced cover of the Fabs’ I’ll Cry Instead back in 1964, but it was his heavy handed cover of With A Little Help From My Friends which brought him the adoration of the nation (a UK #1) and the respect of The Beatles (who incredibly put on full page congratulations for Joe in the UK papers!) But when he appeared at the Apple headquartes some time in early 1969 to ask if The Beatles might have a song for him he was shocked to walk out with three exclusives!Like said, Paul gave him a chance to record Let It Be, although his version didn’t come out until 1973 (probably for the same reasons Aretha’s version was delayed.) Paul also promised him another song and reportedly Joe chose Oh! Darling – but Paul wanted to keep that one to himself so Joe settled on She Came In Through The Batrhroom Window. (Both titles had been recorded in January and much later released on Anthology 3 – and of course rerecorded for Abbey Road.)
George was willing to donate Joe one of his all time fines songs, Something. The Beatles had been rehearsing the number in January and George cut a solo demo in February (included on Anthology 3.) Joe’s version follows the original demo, with a sung middle section in the place of the guitar solo of The Beatles’ Abbey Road version.
Pictures from circa May 1969 show Joe in the studio with George Harrison but apparently the tracks were re-recorded in Los Angeles in the fall of 1969 without any Beatles involvement. By this time The Beatles had of course recorded their versions of Oh! Darling and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window although the LP was not in the shops. Joe’s versions of these two songs appeared on the LP Cocker! in November, while She Came In Through The Bathroom Window was also released as a single. All three numbers can be heard on a budget CD reissue of the original LP.
After the intensive five month sessions that produced the “White Album” (and nearly broke up the group in the progress) The Beatles once more took an extended holiday break, going all their individual ways.
Characteristically Ringo stayed at home doing very little apart from searching for a suitable film role.
John took heroin with Yoko Ono and made some rather dubious art while at it. (Their appearance in the Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus TV special was an unexpected higlight – even though it went officially unseen for the next 30 years.)
Paul took a more traditional holiday in the sun of Algarve, Portugal. After a particularly merry night out he returned to his hotel, La Penina, and ended up not only playing the drums with the hotel’s band but also donated them a song! Well, calling “Penina” a song may be a bit of an exaggeration – perhaps “a song idea” or “a rough draft for a song” would be more precise – but the group leader Carlos Mendes was more than happy to record the number anyway. It was also recorded by a Dutch group Jotta Herre for an international release, but neither version made much impact anywhere. Apparently Paul thought so little of the ditty that he even failed to inform his music publisher that one of his unpublished songs was being recorded all over Europe! Thus it wasn’t until a decade later when EMI included Mendes’ version on the “Songs Lennon & McCartney Gave Away” LP that most people heard – or even heard of- “Penina.”
Both versions are available on EMI Portugal’s “All You Need Is Lisboa” – a CD of Portuguese Beatles covers, a fascinating look into what was essentially a developing pop music country at the time. Oh, and Macca can be head running through the number on some … ahem … unofficial “Let It Be” era recordings.
George, the junior Beatle often looked down by his fellow group members, spent his holidays hanging out with some heavy musical friends of his, including Bob Dylan and the Band – and enjoyed the respect he got from them to no end. He was also there to help his guitarist mate Eric Clapton write a song that was required for the final LP of his group Cream. George was also the one with a pen and paper with him and when he wrote down “bridge” to mark the song’s middle section, Clapton sitting opposite to him asked: “What’s that? A badge?” So the song got named “Badge.” Funny lads, them. Reportedly a drunken Ringo walked in midway through and contributed the line about swans living in the park (He never got a credit for it. Sue ‘em, Richard, sue ‘em!) “Badge”, as relasead on Cream’s “Goodbye” LP, is certainly a classic piece of late sixties Beatlesque pop and was also a moderate hit when released as a 45. George played a bit of guitar on the record, billed as “L’angelo Misterioso” but the extremely Harrison sounding leslie guitar brake in the song’s badge…er..bridge is actually Clapton’s imitation of Harrison’s style!
The “Goodbye” LP has been reissued numerous times and “Badge” can also be found on countless compilations. But you already have it, don’t you?
The formerly well known British pop duo “No Aces” have announced their break up. “I just can’t take any more coke” said the ugly one. “With no McKenzie around – why bother?” said the even uglier one.
There will be another album “Let It Be Naked In Thanet” and then we will have world peace.
AP press byrå
After the death of Brian Epstein, The Beatles decided two things: a) not to hire a new manager and b) to go ahead with their dream of their record company. This latter took a whole year to come into life but finally Apple Records was launched in August 1968 with a simultaneous release of four singles. This may have been good marketing strategy when it came to visibility, but it also meant that the “lesser” releases would be overshadowed by the other ones, particularly since the first four included both “Hey Jude”, The Beatles’ biggest hit ever and “Those Were The Days”, Mary Hopkin’s Macca produced version of the Lithuanian folk song that became huge internationally. Typically, it’s the other two releases that are of interest to us in here. (Pictured above you can see a black and white picture of René Magritte’s ‘Le Jeu de mourre’ which inspired the Apple logos – also pictured here.)
Jackie Lomax had been the lead singer in a second division Liverpool group the Undertakers, and had been briefly signed by Epstein as a solo artist. After Brian’s death The Beatles sort of “inherited” him, and George decided to take him under his wing. “Sour Milk Sea”, one of the songs George wrote in India in early 1968, was demoed by The Beatles for inclusion on the “White Album”, but no formal recordings ever took place, possibly because George came up with the somewhat similar sounding “Savoy Truffle.” Instead it was given to Lomax for his debut single. For the recording session George was able to recruit quite a band: Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Nicky Hopkins on keyboards (both had appeared on recent Beatles sessions as well) and Paul and Ringo as the rhythm section! George supplied rhythm guitar – and if you listen closely enough you can hear traces of his erased guide vocal (A version with George on vocals is the holy grail of many a collector – and unsurprisingly many have tried to sync The Beatles’ demo with Lomax’ record to varying degrees of success.) The result was naturally quite a Beatles sounding rocker, which received lots of airplay, good reviews – and bad sales. Nevertheless George went on to produce Lomax’ sole Apple LP “Is This What You Want?” (featuring the single and available on CD) but Lomax never became the star he was hoped to be.
And then there was “Thingumybob.” After the successes of “Love In The Open Air” and “Step Inside Love” Paul was asked to write another theme, this time for an ITV mini series starring Stanley Holloway and called – yep! – “Thingumybob.” Paul came up with a suitably catchy and cute tune and asked George Martin to do the scoring. Martin arranged the recording like a modernized version of a 1920’s dance band tune (“Winchester Cathedral”, anyone?”) but Paul didn’t like the version so it was not released until the 1990′ s George Martin box I may have mentioned before.
For the record Paul wanted a truer brass band sound (remember “The Family Way”?) so he recruited Britain’s finest The Black Dyke Mills Band and got what he wanted, a truly authentic brass band sound. (The band had been around since 1816 – though not all the original members were in the line up by 1968!) Paul and John produced -outdoors! – a version of “Yellow Submarine” for the flip side but the single failed to chart. It hasn’t been released on an official CD to date and the original 45’s change hands for huge sums in any condition – a boxed set of Apple rarities would be nice…
An aside: most Beatles collectors know that in a Beatles session on Aug 20 1968 Paul recorded a number called “Etcetera” and took the tape with him. Paul reportedly gave the song to Marianne Faithful but her version never materialised either. And it hasn’t been heard since. But some very exciting news tells us that an acetate of Paul’s recording has surfaced in a raid of Macca’s archives (he apparently has an anthology in the works!) It’s been reported that “Etcetera” is actually “Thingumybob” with corny lyrics and a newly written middle section! So one of the mysteries of Beatledom gets solved…Let’s hope the recording sees the light of day sooner or later. Oh, and it’s interesting to note that Paul was rewriting “Thingumybob” in late August when the tune had already been premiered on TV and the single was nearly in the shops.
Millions of words have been written about “Sgt. Pepper”, The Beatles’ seventh LP. You know the myth… The Beatles’ meisterwerk that miracuosly brought together the entire Western civilization for those brief glorious months affectionately remembered as “the Summer of Love”… Haight-Ashbury… Monterey Pop… Flower Power… Jimi, Janis, Jim… Joppe… Andrew Gladwin… flowers in rifles… koululaukut maalitolppina… BLAH! Like said, millions of words have been written and I’m more than relieved that it’s not the purpose of this blog to break any myths or offer any fresh critical insights into “Pepper”… No sir, we’re here to discuss the songs for others…and – tee hee! – there weren’t many!
Paul was as eager as ever to make his songs hits and he reportedly produced a version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” for old friend Marianne Faithfull a few weeks before the LP was released. Unfortunately her version never came out, clearing the path for several “unauthorised” covers. (A group called the Young Idea -wild!- had a minor hit with it, Joe Brown had a major flop, while Joe Cocker released a little later what many – not I! – consider to be definitive version. But these are all outside the scope of this blog!)
George Martin also produced a couple of cover versions, which judging by their release dates, were recorded before the LP came out and thus warrant an inclusion here. Old friends David & Jonathan (see “Michelle”) did a virtual note for note copy of “She’s Leaving Home” but ended up spunding totally uninteresting – which was probably an achievement in itself. The record did not sell and soon David & Jonathan decided to concentrate writing hits for others. (They wrote, amongst others, “You’ve Got Your Troubles” for the Fortunes and – gulp!- “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” for the New Seekers. But thankfully these are outside the scope of this blog!) You can find “She’s Leaving Home” on any number of the duo’s “hits” CDs in your nearest bargain bin – or you can get the George Martin boxed set I’ve recommended before…
“When I’m Sixty-Four”, Pauls vaudevillian charmer/yawner had been around in rough form since the Cavern days. Bernard Cribbins, the well loved British comedian and actor had been around even longer. Actually he’d been making succesful novelty records (“The Hole In The Ground”, “Right Said Fred”) with George Martin since 1956. In 1967 he was a stunning 40 years old, so somebody thought this number would be perfect for him. Yep yep. Once more Martin carefully recreated The Beatles’ backing track, and hearing Cribbins’ “old man” vocals in place of Paul’s sped-up-to-sound-youthful voice is a little stunning, almost like listening to “Pepper” with a guest vocalist. OK, I’m exaggerating, maybe better- than- average- karaoke :D Cribbins’ record was not a hit but it can be found on the George Martin box I’ve recommended enough times. Or if you’re really obsessive, there’s even a “Very Best of Bernard Cribbins” CD on EMI. Heck, I’m more than happy to sell you my copy!
Whatever your opinion on the “Pepper” era recordings are, they are at least the most sophisticated productions of The Beatles’ career. And the premiere and (partial) recording of the follow up single “All You Need Is Love” in front of some 200 million television watchers seem to indicate that this was a peak. Certainly things started going down hill soon, with the death of Brian Epstein, their catastrophic TV film “Magical Mystery Tour” and – yes, Virginia – the introduction of Yoko Ono into Beatledom. If anything good came out of all this, it’s probably that all four started to work on outside projects again, giving me something to write about!
Chris Barber was Britain’s leading trombonist and the leader of his own trad jazz (ie dixieland) band since the 1950’s. He’d also appeared on several BBC radio shows alongside The Beatles through the years – and played at the Cavern club when The Beatles were still banned there for playing rock and roll! The “jazz” and “beat” camps had been highly suspicious of each other, but by 1967 the artificial boundaries between different types of music had been knocked down (oops, sorry, I left the cliche mode on!) and Barber felt confident enough to ask Paul for a hit. Paul remembered “Cats Walk”, one of several unrecorded instrumental numbers from The Beatles’ early repertoire (rehearsal tapes from 1962 circulate) , and produced a version for Barber. Retitled “Catcall”, the record featured a number of stock 1967 Beatles production tricks: a false ending, a half time coda, a series of – you guessed it! – cat calls, ending with a pub singalong of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” (shades of the “All You Need Is Love” finale, prehaps?) Well, the record went nowhere and is very hard to come by these days. No official CD issue seems to exist either, so the easiest way to find this little nugget is to seek a copy of EMI’s late 1970’s compilation “Songs Lennon & McCartney Gave Away”.
Finally, there was Cilla Black, one step away from being a national institution: all she needed was her own TV show. She got that in early 1968, with Paul providing the catchy theme “Step Inside Love.” A horrible quality home recording of Paul has been circulating since the 1970’s and a much better quality and longer studio tape surfaced recently.
One of the tracks from the tape has been officially released on the 3 CD set “The Abbey Road Decade 1963 – 1973″ and features Paul on an acoustic guitar and Cilla singing and discussing the arrangement with George Martin. The CD also includes a previously unreleased bossa nova-type arrangement of the song, along with the poppier remake which made it to #7 in the UK charts. If that’s not enough for you, well, there’s an Italian version of the song on the CD for you! Oh, and of course there’s an impromptu studio version onThe Beatles Anthology 3 CD as well, from the White Album sessions! This was the last song Paul gave to Cilla, who went on making hits well into the 1970’s. These days you’re likely to see her in a BBC talk show or a TV quiz :D
After The Beatles played their last ever concert (San Fransisco’s Candlestick Park, Aug 29 1966), they all went their own ways. George flew to India to study all things…erm…Indian. John flew to Spain to partake in Richard Lester’s film “How I Won The War.”
Ringo stayed at home, playing the pool and getting bored. Meanwhile Paul, the bachelor Beatle was busy visiting all of London’s art galleries and night clubs and popping in other people’s recording sessions. One known instance is “background hollering” on Donovan’s hit single “Mellow Yellow.”
A more substantial contribution was to a record by the Escorts. The Escorts were a fine group of very young Liverpudlians, who released an excellent half a dozen of singles between 1964 and 1966, none of which had much impact on the charts, presumably because they sounded too much like yesteryear’s recordings in the fast evolving musical climate of the era. Nevertheless, Paul was there to help with what turned out to be their final session. As usual, Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so he effectively acted as an uncredited co-producer. He also played the tambourine on the A side, a cover of the Miracles’ “From Head To Toe.” More importantly, he also reportedly helped with writing the B side, “Night Time.” It’s another soulful number with falsetto vocals, endearing in their near amateurishness. Of course Paul did not receive a credit for his writing help – but the lyrics do seem to reflect his current life style: “First we go to a movie, then we’ll hit the high spots, feelin’ groovy. That’s why I only operate (yeah) at night time!” The record was a total flop and the Escorts soon disbanded, their records becoming valued collector’s items. Thankfully a CD “From The Blue Angel” on Edsel records collects together all of their recorded output. Higly recommended for all friends of bands like the Swinging Blue Jeans.
A much more important Macca contribution was penning the music to “The Family Way”, a film by the Boulting brothers. (Some may feel that this is no mere “contribution”, but rather Macca’s first “solo recordings”. Since he doesn’t appear on the recordings and they weren’t even released under his name, I’ve chosen to include them here.) Paul’s initial contribution was to write a single theme (lated dubbed “Theme From Family Way”) and suggest George Martin to arrange it for a brass band. (Brass bands were very much loved in Liverpool and Northern England in general – Paul’s grandfather had played in one.) Martin correctly realised that he couldn’t do a whole film score with just one theme so he went back to ask Paul for something more, interrupting a Lennon/McCartney writing session. A mildly irritated Macca excused his song writing partner, noodled the piano for a few minutes and gave Martin a waltz theme: “Something like that, you mean?” The theme was later titled “Love In The Open Air” and went on to win an Ivor Novello award for the best soundtrack music of the year! George Martin arranged and recorded several variations of these two themes (“brass band”, “waltz”, “rock”, “wedding march”, “go-go” etc.) and a soundtrack LP was released featuring 13 (untitled) variations. The recordings are usually credited to the George Martin Orchestra, though they were actually performed by Neville Marriner’s string quartet and a brass band later dubbed “the Tudor Minstrels” when a single from the LP was released. (To add to confusion, Martin later rerecorded the themes for a single released under his own way.) In any case the album is short but sweet, a true testament to Paul’s ability to come up with memorable melodies and to George Martin’s arrangement and conducting skills. As such it is a neglected and overlooked gem – though this may be partially caused by it’s limited availability. What looks like an official CD release (on Disques XXI – 21 Records) does not sound like one: large chunks of it are copied off a scratchy vinyl and the recording switches back and forth between mono and stereo. On the plus side, it adds guitarist Carl Aubut’s 1995 renditions as well as Macca approved 1999 recordings byFlûte Enchantée Quartet. Highly recommended despite it’s short comings (and once more credited to “the George Martin Orchestra!”)
(The Stones had an LP called “Aftermath” so Ringo suggested The Beatles should have one called “Aftergeography.” Thanks Ring!:-) )
After the overhectic past three years, The Beatles wisely took off the first few months of 1966, with no group projects whatsoever. This paid off in a grand way: the results the “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” single and the “Revolver” LP are widely regarded as perhaps their finest work. Interestingly, while all the released 16 tracks approach perfection, there seems not to have been any extra songs. Certainly no unreleased songs from the sessions exist, neither are there any home demos of unheard songs. And no tracks were donated to friends and rivals. The Beatles just wrote and recorded 16 classic tracks and went home. Which was nice. Paul, active as usual, was giving old friends the option to be the first one to do a cover version of one or another of his songs.
Cilla Black had come a long way since the days of “Love Of The Loved”, making a major hit after another and being perhaps the most popular female artist in the country. She recorded “For No One”, one of Paul’s most beautiful ballads, on Aug 7 1966 – mere two days after the release of Revolver. Considering that the song’s orchestral arrangement had to be worked out beforehand – and that the session was produced by George Martin – it’s safe to assume she was given this song “in advance.” Cilla does her usual precise job, the arrangement follows the original pretty closely and the song has a”hit” written all over it, with the strings adding a radio friendly touch to it. Inexplicably Cilla buried the song on the B side of “A Fool Am I”, which “only” made a #13 in the UK charts. Talk about a wasted opportunity!
If Cilla didn’t really need a hit song from Paul, The Fourmost were some other old friends who certainly did! After “Hello Little Girl” and “I’m In Love”, the group had had their biggest hit with “A Little Loving” and a couple of lesser ones (“Baby I Need Your Loving”, “Girls Girls Girls”) before drifting away from the public’s eye. The trouble was their records sounded very much the same as in years before, at a time when the music was changing faster than ever. Paul offered them the first chance to record “Here There And Everywhere”, possibly the very finest of all Paul McCartney ballads – and that’ saying something! The Fourmost thanked by jogging their way through this number emotionlessly, as if they were advertising Rice Krispies or something, and the public didn’t want to know. How could George Martin ever produce anything as bad as this? Rightfully the record sank without a trace and so did the Fourmost. Apparently Paul had no hard feelings, since a couple of years later he would produce another flop record for them: “Rosetta”/”Just Like Before” – he even played on the A side. These will appear on future blogs: “The Beatles Were On My Record, Honestly!” and “Brushes Of Greatness.”
Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers were in need of a hit as well. One of Britains more convincing soul/R&B combos, they’d been friends with The Beatles since the two groups had shared a bill in Hamburg’s Star Club in December 1962. Their only hit had been a cover of the Drifters’ “One Way Love” back in 1963 – and ever since they’d been asking Paul to write them a hit. The two group’s paths crossed once again on their mini tour of Germany, in June 1966, and this time Paul had the right song for them. “Got To Get You Into My Life” was his ode to the sweet sounds of soul music – and to the sweet smelling cigarettes of his – and Paul co-produced (uncredited, of course) a quite wonderful version of the song for Bennett & Co. Paul also supposedly plays piano on the record although it doesn’t sound like him. The record was a UK top 10 hit – Bennett’s last, though his records continued being most enjoyable.
Peter: Hi folks, it’s Peter…
Gordon: …and Gordon…
Peter: of the famous pop duo “Peter and Gordon” and we are very good friends with The Beatles.
Gordon: Speaking of our very good friends, The Beatles, I wonder what they are up to these days?
Peter: Yes, it’s nearly spring…
Gordon: …of 1966
Peter: and we haven’t heard a word of them the whole year!
Gordon: Not a word.
Peter: Well, in the absence of our very good friends The Beatles, how about giving a listen to our latest record?
Gordon: OK, I’ll do that!
Peter: No, not you, the general public!
General public: Uh..wha? Good morning…what year is it?
Peter: Would you like to hear our latest record, a lovely big ballad in the style of our very good friend Paul McCartney of The Beatles…
Gordon: But it’s not written by our very good friend Paul McCartney of The Beatles…at all!
Peter: No, it’s written by…er…er…
Gordon: Bernard Webb
Peter: Bernard Webb who is a very good friend of ours and a musical student…
Gordon: And he is very French!
General public: If he’s French then why does the publishing credit say “Northern Songs”, just like on the Lennon/McCartney songs which it resembles?
Gordon: You tell him, Peter!
Peter: Er…Mr Webb was in England and er…Dick James heard the song and liked it and asked him if he could publish it!
Gordon: Yes! And Mr. Webb said yes!
General public: Then why does it sound exactly like a Paul McCartney song?
Gordon: You tell him, Peter !
Peter: Er..because he’s very good!
Peter: So it’s not a pseudonym for our very good friend Paul McCartney of The Beatles…
Gordon: At all!
General public: Look, I know Paul is fed up with people saying his songs are only hits because he wrote them…
Gordon: And we are sick of people saying we rely too much on our very good friend Paul McCartney of The Beatles…
Peter: Shut up
General public: I ain’t buying that crap , bye.
Peter: Darn! Hey Paul, looks like our experiment didn’t work…They found out it was you!
Paul: Cor blimey!
Gordon: And they didn’t buy the record anyway!
Paul: Bloody hell!You should have used the “little string arrangement” like I told you!
Gordon: It was top 30, though…and who’s idea was the new arrangement anyway?
Paul: Shut up or I’ll give you no more hits!
Peter: I wouldn’t call that a hit – in the true sense of the word…
Paul: You too! I’ll marry yer sister!
Peter: You can try…
(No, I’m not trying to generate Google based traffic :) This is just a refence to a 1966 article in Time magazine, which revealed the “hidden meaning” of “Norwegian Wood” and “Day Tripper”. Not.)
Late 1965 was a typically hectic period in The Beatles’ lives. Having just come back from a long and tiring tour of USA, the group was soon ushered into the recording studio to produce yet anhother LP – their sixth in under three years! – even though the Help! LP had been out just two months. On top of that, the band also had a UK tour to complete, while recording. That the resulting LP – “Rubber Soul”- and it’s accompanying double A-sided, non-album single – “We Can Work It Out”/”Day Tripper” – rank among The Beatles’ finest works speaks volume for the lads’ ability to deliver the goods under pressure. Understandably this schedule left little time to compose songs for anyone else, but there were cover versions, as usual – plenty of them! A couple are of interest to us.
“Michelle” had been around since the early 1960’s as a vaguely French sounding instrumental, with which Paul tried to impress the art school girls… With a desperate lack of new material, this ditty was turned into a real song, and became perhaps the most popular track on the LP, spawning two cover versions – both of which became UK top 20 hits! The Overlanders made # 15, while David & Jonathan got to #9. David & Jonathan (actually Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook) were old mates of The Beatles since the days the two had been members of the Kestrels (“There’s A Place”) on the Helen Shapiro tour of early 1963. Frankly I don’t know when their version was recorded, but with their Beatles connections – and producer George Martin – it’s been suggested that this number was “earmarked” for the duo before the LP’s release. Whatever the case David & Jonathan do a virtual note to note copy of the original recording, albeit sounding less bluesy and more MOR. Oh well, originality and soulfulness probably weren’t high on their agenda. “Michelle” can be found on every David & Jonathan CD you can find in your local supermarket’s “3 CDs for 3 $” bins – but if you have extra cash you might want to check out the five CD George Martin boxed set pictured below.
While John and Paul had been producing hit after hit, George Harrison had been watching and learning the craft of song writing. His fifth recorded composition, “If I Needed Someone” is the first one to appear on this set of exclusives and “semi-exclusives”. The Hollies were one of the biggest bands of the 60’s with an impressive string of eight consecutive top 20hits already behind them – and much more to come. In theory George Harrison should have been proud when the Hollies decided to record If I Needed Someone”. Well, he wasn’t, publically calling the record “soulless” and adding that the group sounded like “session men”. In those days when a Beatle spoke, everybody listened and the song became a comparative flop, making “only” # 21. The angry Hollies replied that they only recorded the song because they were told that George had written it specially for them – and that there were better songs around! In a sense both parties were right. The Beatles’ record is made memorable by the wonderful three-part harmonies and the Byrds’ influenced 12-string guitars – the Hollies’ version suggests that the song itself wasn’t very strong, only The Beatles’ recording of it. Nevertheless, the Hollies version can be found on the excellent CD “The Hollies at Abbey Road 1963-1966″.