Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Beatles II

YouTube playlist link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1xE21yx1Z5Yp2wv3bCTSLby1-CPlkOwY

This is my attempt at an imaginary Beatles album released on Apple Records in 1971. In reality, the Beatles broke up in September 1969, when Lennon announced privately to the others that he was leaving the group (though this did not really become official until April 1970). However, earlier in Sept. 1969, they had discussed doing a further Beatles record, with Lennon and McCartney being credited separately and Harrison receiving more space than before. So, what would it have been like if they’d all for one reason or another decided to make that album and recorded it in 1970?

Though my song selections are subjective, there is some rationale for each (see below). I’ve tried to avoid making this simply a “greatest hits of the solo Beatles” and instead organized the pieces that I think best make sense together as an album (though, yes, a few are “signature” recordings). There are four Paul songs, three John, three George, one Ringo. Almost all have some kind of Beatles link, or in one or two cases at least fall within the correct time period and can be imaginatively associated with what would’ve been recorded for such a project.

Obviously, not all band members play on all tracks. The Paul songs in particular don’t feature other Beatles, but to my mind most of these recordings have similar production values. George plays on a John track, while Ringo overlaps a bit with George and John, etc. There is precedent to this; for example, John didn’t play on Let It Be’s “I Me Mine,” Ringo is absent from a couple songs on the White Album, and John’s Beatles single “The Ballad of John & Yoko” was recorded by John and Paul only. Eric Clapton, who appears on a few of these, famously played on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” while Billy Preston (the “fifth Beatle” on Let It Be) appears on some too.

For an album title, perhaps Let It Down would be a clever follow-up to Let It Be, but to avoid one guy’s song being the title track, I’m using The Beatles II (like the White Album is simply The Beatles). The idea here is to listen to the whole, letting the songs combine in your mind as a fictional Beatles LP, rather than hearing them as familiar individual solo exercises.

Side 1:

“Cold Turkey” was written by Lennon during the Abbey Road sessions, offered to the Beatles but passed over, prompting him to release it himself as a single. But let’s say that instead of rejecting it, Paul had said something like, “Hold off on releasing this now, and let’s think about it as an album track next time around.” The 45 that John recorded features Ringo on drums and Clapton on guitar.

“Another Day” is a McCartney tune dating back to the Let It Be sessions and thus could’ve easily been a Beatles tune. Since it was his first solo single, let’s say he would’ve insisted it be included on the hypothetical new Beatles album. Though John later dissed it in “How Do You Sleep,” we’ll imagine the group embracing it in the spirit of compromise.

Harrison’s “Art of Dying” dates to 1966, and it serves to bring up the energy level and tempo, aside from just being a strong piece in itself.

Ringo began writing “It Don’t Come Easy” in late 1968, finishing it with the help of George, who plays on the 1970 recording, giving it a particularly Beatles sheen.

“Teddy Boy” is a Paul tune c. 1968, first recorded during the Let It Be sessions in 1969, almost ending up on that LP. Some have criticized it as another boring “observational” Paul song, but there’s something interesting happening with the chord changes and bassline here.

It’s well known that “All Things Must Pass” was inexplicably nixed for Let It Be, but in this imaginative exercise George now insists, and the other Beatles finally recognize the song’s greatness. Ringo’s here, and Billy Preston, so that’s three-fifths of the Beatles already.

Side 2:

“Maybe I’m Amazed” is one of Paul’s best, recorded 1970 and sounding a lot like his Beatles work (it was written while the Beatles were still officially together). Its connection to the actual Beatles is that the opening piano riff evolved from “Song of Love,” a draft piece played during the Let It Be sessions.

“Gimme Some Truth” was recorded at the Let It Be sessions in basically the same form. The Lennon recording includes George’s guitar work, giving it that Beatles feel.

 “Oh Woman Oh Why,” the B-side of Paul’s first single, doesn’t seem to have  Beatles ties but was composed at the right time and still stands as one of his greatest solo songs, though now mostly forgotten. It’s a heavy groove with Paul using his wild R&B voice, and would’ve made a good contrast to his softer compositions, showing that he could still rock.

John’s “Remember” sprang from the Abbey Road sessions, with him experimenting on piano during the 1969 recording of Harrison’s “Something.”

George wrote “Let It Down” in 1968 and again offered to the Beatles for Let It Be. There’s an interesting McCartney vibe to this piece, in my opinion, which makes it sound very Beatlesesque, with a sort of “Hey Jude”-like crescendo that ends the album with a bang.

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