Beatles on January 13, 1969 Podcast

Here’s another look at the Beatles session from 40 years ago today. George quit the band Friday. Paul and Ringo fill in the director on what happened at the band meeting at Ringo’s house yesterday. The reason George left leads me to examine some of the (true?) myths about the Beatles’ final years. I’ll also see if I can put my foot in my mouth by talking about racism and sexism.

I need to introduce a few people not everyone has heard of:

Neil Aspinall – He was the Beatles’ first employee. They hired him to drive them around because he had a van. He stayed with them until last year, running Apple.
Michael Lindsay-Hogg – He was the director of Let It Be.
Mal Evans – He was the Beatles’ second employee, also from Liverpool. They wouldn’t have let him run something as complicated as Apple.

Click this bar to listen to the podcast.

Check back tomorrow for more discussions about what to do without George in the band. We also get to listen in on Paul as he fools around at the piano.

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6 Responses

  1. Good episode. 🙂

    I particularly liked that take on “Wah-Wah.” Even though it was recorded a year later, George sounded hurt, like just singing this was giving him pain.

    And for the demystifying of myths, I’m interested to hear your take on point 3 — Did Yoko break up the Beatles?

    My take?

    Yoko wasn’t the cause. More like she was a catalyst. Her presence in John’s life helped him to see there was a life outside the Beatles, so that in the summer of ’69 he can make the leap when some situations, like Allen Klein/John Eastman, break through the surface and rend fissures.

    At this point, however, John is still invested in being a Beatle. Look at his reaction to George quitting. “We’ll get Clapton in if George doesn’t come back” or words to that effect. George leaving? Doesn’t faze him. Ringo leaving during the White Album sessions? Doesn’t faze him (or the others, really). John’s reaction shows his understanding of the Beatles and what they were; the familiar refrain of “John, Paul, George, and Ringo” reflects a kind of pecking order.

    And I’m not sure if it was this episode or one of the earlier ones where you played a snippet of one of the electric run-throughs of “Two of Us” and was… less than kind toward it. 😉 Despite “Two of Us” being one of my favorite songs and loving the arrangement on Let It Be, the first time I heard the uptempo electrified version I thought it was the best thing in the world. Then I realize, it probably wouldn’t be remembered today as fondly had the Beatles kept it “heavy,” and it’s probably just as well they dialed it back.

    Great work, by the way. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the series.

  2. Allyn, NOT FAIR! 🙂 I just finished writing the next episode and checked my e-mail before starting to record it. I actually referrered to Yoko as a catalyst in my first draft. I’m not going to rewrite it now though. I agree with you about Yoko and the comments I plan to make should compliment yours. Maybe.

    I’ll respond to your other points over the next few days. As I’m sure you know, the Beatles are about to take a week off.

    Thanks for the great comment!

  3. […] to share my thoughts on whether or not Yoko broke up the Beatles.  Check out Allyn Gibson’s comment on yesterday’s post for another interesting view on this subject.  Yes, I know it’s […]

  4. Allyn,
    Great point about Wah-Wah. I hadn’t noticed that but you’re right. Do you hear the same pain in the version released on ATMP? It just sounds like a big classic rock song to me. The pain you refer to is one of the reasons listening to this demos and rehearsals can be so instructive.

    Re: John wanting to be a Beatle. He says this several times in the few days George is out of the band. His actions after the sessions move to Apple prove he means it. There is a conversation between John and Paul on the 13th or 14th in which John seems to be saying that as long as either he or Paul was still in the band, it would still be the Beatles. That’s probably why he reacts to George and Ringo quitting the way he did. Paul mentions the exact pecking order you mention. At another point, Michael suggests to Ringo that he could get Ginger Baker to attend rehearsals for him. Imagine Lennon/McCartney/Clapton/Baker.

    The point I was trying to make about Two Of Us was that the Beatles were willing to try multiple approaches until they found the one that suited the song best. I find that often when the Beatles are not at their best, they still make great (or at least interesting) music. The acoustic arrangement gells on Jan 21 or 22 and the Beatles know that they finally nailed it.

  5. You’re right; the ATMP version of “Wah-Wah” is a loud, classic rock song. I’ve always liked the sound of it, but I’ve never had any particular fondness for it, mostly because George’s vocal is muddled, being buried so far down in the mix.

    Sometimes a buried George vocal works, like on “Long Long Long,” where you have to strain to hear the words. But on something like “Wah-Wah,” the buried vocal puts some distance between the listener and the song. So, yes, while I’ve known for years that the song had to do with George’s feelings about his role in the band, it wasn’t until I heard the early version on Beware of ABKCO that I had any idea what George was trying to say with the song.

    What’s weird to me about the pain I hear from George in the demo is that, for George, he’s recording that a good eighteen months after he wrote the song. And if the song is a message to John (whereas I had thought it was more a message to Paul, but the John interpretation makes more sense given the context of George leaving the band in early January ’69), it’s somewhat surprising, as George and John remained on friendly terms throughout ’69 and ’70, with George playing on John’s “Instant Karma” at the end of the year and “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” on ATMP being a birthday message to John.

    But then I think about it, and I realize that while George was supportive of John, John didn’t really reciprocate. John used George as a sideman on “Instant Karma” and Imagine (to the point where George was uncomfortable with playing guitar on “How Do You Sleep?”), but John never played sideman for George in a solo project. On the other hand, if you’re George Harrison and you can call on Eric Clapton as your sideman, do you really need John Lennon playing rhythm guitar?

  6. More great comments.

    I wonder if George felt he had to prove that he could make big huge music without John and Paul. That could explain why he only ever used Ringo and why his “Wah-Wah” vocal is buried.

    The production on ATMP is generally very busy. There is so much going on that it is easy to forget to listen to the vocals. That’s in contrast to “Long Long Long,” where everything is quiet (except for the big drum fills). The quiet draws one in to the “Long Long Long” vocal.

    It wasn’t any big deal for solo Ringo to get help from all three Beatles. Nobody ever thought he had the musical vision of John or Paul. Maybe George (at first, anyway) wanted people to think that about him. If so, he would have had to work on his own.

    And the there is the Concert for Bangladesh. If I remember correctly, John initally agreed to perform, but he didn’t end up appearing because of a dispute about whether or not Yoko would join him. That supposedly really hurt George.

    As you say, John isn’t really the guy you would call to spruce up a recording. John was really proud of his playing on Yoko’s albums, but I don’t know how many people would share that opinion.

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