(plus two extras not being released yet)
by MAL EVANS
The final recording sessions took place as recently as the second week of October--which meant that The Beatles' self-imposed deadline date to complete all the tracks for their double-disc November LP album was missed by something like 13 days! But not to worry. A lot of people at Apple have been racing against the clock to make sure the set of two records will be ready on time to go into the shops.
If you want to check the actual running order of all the recordings take a look at this month's BEATLE NEWS page. Instead of showing them in that order I've listed everything in recording date sequence.
Incidentally I haven't wasted space telling you that almost all the songs are Lennon-McCartney but I have made a special note where there is a George Harrison or a Ringo Starr composition.
In most cases there is a main or lead singer and I've noted that but I haven't always added the fact that the other fellows are there in the background giving their usual vocal harmony support.
Very few of the recordings were started and completed at a single session. So I've shown you the date we started work on each particular title rather than listing lots of dates beside each one.
O.K. Are you grooving comfortably? Then we'll begin. . . . . .
"REVOLUTION No. 9"
Two different versions are included but NEITHER is the same as the recording which went out on the "B" side of "Hey Jude". Way back in the July issue I expect you read about the three different versions of "Revolution". The original full-length version ran for nearly 10 minutes. On the album you'll hear a four-minute version AND the full-length version pruned down to eight-plus minutes. Lead singer is John.
Recording began on May 30 at EMI Studios.
Paul sings the very plaintive little song to a simple backing, mainly guitars. About a blackbird singing in the dead of a dark black night and learning to fly for the first time.
Recording began on June 11 at EMI Studios
John and Paul wrote this sad, wistful song for Ringo to sing. Mind you the words aren't all that sad--just a very straightforward "goodnight, sleep tight" theme to them. 30-piece orchestra was brought in for the backing. Including even a harp! Also an eight-voice choir of four boys and four girls.
Recording began on July 1 at EMI Studios
"OB LA DI, OB LA DA"
This is Paul's gay calypso-style number telling the colourful story of Desmond Jones who has a barrow in the market place and the girl he marries, Molly the band singer. I'd describe the backing as a sort of ska-beat. Unusual ending to this track.
Recording began on July 2 at EMI Studios
"DON'T PASS ME BY"
Ringo's first songwriting effort and, naturally enough, it's in one of his favourite styles--Country. Ringo sings and plays piano here and there's a terrific Country fiddle sound by courtesy of a session musician. The lyrics tell an "I love only you" story about a boy waiting for his girl to knock on the front door and hoping she'll turn up. Later on in the song we find out why she's so late--she was involved in a minor car crash.
Recording began on July 12 at EMI Studios
"CRY BABY CRY"
The night we started making this one I jotted in my diary "That George sure wields a mean blues axe. That Paul tools a real smooth heavy--axe that is". This is John's number all the way with strong, heavy and very Lennon vocal. He also plays piano and organ. I suppose you could call this a Beatle-type nursery rhyme--all about the King of Marigold, his wife and kids. The Duchess of Kirkcaldy and her Duke. With a midnight seance round the table put into the last verse for good measure! George Martin plays harmonium.
Recording began on July 15 at EMI Studios
The first version of this one played for 24 minutes, but the finished one you'll hear on the LP is no longer than average. Paul sings this in his screaming rock voice and the backing features The Two Harrys on brass. That's Mal Evans on trumpet and John Lennon on saxophone! When we did the final version of this in the second week of September I made a note in my diary that The Beatles were the first people to use a brand-new 8-track recording machine just installed at the EMI Studios. Theme of the song's lyrics? Boy to girl: "Do you don't you want me to love you?" John plays bass which is unusual.
Recording began on July 18 at EMI Studios
This is another of John's bluesy story ballads and he backs himself on Gibson acoustic guitar. George plays Gibson electric and the pianist is Paul. Sexy Sadie ("the latest and the greatest of them all") made a fool of everyone.
Recording began on July 19 at EMI Studios
"EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY MONKEY"
Originally this was called "Come on, come on" (taken from the first line of the lyrics) and it's another John-type rocker with nice weird words. Like f'rinstance: "the deeper you go the higher you fly".
Recording began on July 23 at EMI Studios
"WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS"
George is the writer and singer. This one is a plaintive blues with acoustic guitar accompaniment from John and George. In a way this might be classified as a love song--or, more precisely, a song about love and the idea that it lies dormant in far too many people's hearts. But there's a nice bit of hope in the song too with a line that goes: "with every mistake we must surely be learning". John on organ.
Recording began on July 25 at EMI Studios
This is one of two August recordings you WON'T hear on the new album because they were dropped at the last minute in favour of more recent numbers. Written and sung by George. Interesting note--he used Lucy for the first time on this session. Lucy is the fantastic solid red Gibson guitar which was given to George at the beginning of August by Eric Clapton.
Recording began on August 7 at EMI Studios
"MOTHER NATURE'S SON"
Mountain streams, fields of grass, swaying daisies. A lazy song sung beneath the sun. In fact it was sung by Paul in the middle of the night beneath the artificial moonlight of EMI studio lamps! Almost folksy simplicity about this little number. It was done at a sort of after-session session when the rest of the fellows had gone home. Paul just sat in the box, sang and played his acoustic guitar. At three o'clock in the morning.
Recording on August 9 at EMI Studios
Very much a blues number although it gets more and more of a rock feel to it towards the end. Wailing Harrison axe (well, guitar actually) behind John's singing. About a guy who is so lonely ("girl you know the reason why") that he just wants to die.
Recording began on August 13 at EMI Studios
"WHAT'S THE NEW MARY JANE"
Again a recording you WON'T hear on the new LP, but I thought you'd like to have my notes on it in any case. Very strange this one. John thought it up and John sings it. Outbreaks of raucous laughter here and there and many instrumental sounds. Gets quite chaotic at times but it's a controlled sort of Lennon chaos! The theme of the words? Well, you listen and you decide but it's a shame Mary Jane had a pain at the party!
Recording began on August 14 at EMI Studios
Paul sings this Country & Western one and he's made the lyrics tell a complete story that starts simply to guitar accompaniment but spreads out later. It's all about young Rocky from the hills of Dakota and how his girl Lily McGill runs off with a nasty piece of work named Danny. Complete with saloon gunfire! Vocally it's particularly interesting because Paul's singing changes all the time according to the mood of the story. Started and finished at a single all-night session.
Recorded on August 15 at EMI Studios
"WILD HONEY PIE"
Much later on, at the beginning of October, the fellows recorded "Honey Pie" at Trident. This is NOT the same thing. "Wild Honey Pie" is a very short "link" track on the LP, under a minute in playing time. Paul did this more or less on his own, almost a McCartney ad-lib in fact. He sings and plays both guitar and bass drum, double-tracking the whole thing so that he finishes up sounding like a couple of singers and a quartet of guitarists!
Recording began on August 20 at EMI Studios
"BACK IN THE U.S.S.R."
You don't know how lucky you are, boy, back in the U.S.S.R.! This one's an absolute beauty. Paul punches it out in his hardest rock voice and there's a fantastic middle section to put you in mind of Beach Boys and California. John on six-string bass, Paul on electric guitar and George playing bass too.
Recording began on August 22 at EMI Studios
Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, was at the Maharishi's place in India with us all earlier this year. She used to spend much longer than most of us meditating in her room. This song of John's suggests that it's time Prudence came out into the sunshine to "greet the brand new day". Written in India. A gay, sunny song. Paul plays piano and flugelhorn. John and I play tambourines. Clapping and chorus singing by all four Beatles. Paul's cousin John, Apple rocker, Jackie Lomax (with whom I've just been to America for a promotional tour but more of that next month), and yours truly.
Recording began on August 28 at Trident Studio
Mostly John's idea this one and he does the lead vocal with Paul joining him. John plays his acoustic Gibson and Ringo works with two drums kits instead of just one. Quite a nostalgic number this in that the lyrics include the titles of a few earlier Beatle Goodies like "Strawberry Fields", "Lady Madonna" and "The Fool On The Hill". What's more John lets the cat out of the bag at last--we find out who The Walrus really is!
Recording began on September 11 at EMI Studios
Written and sung by Paul. A love song. With forever and forever, all my heart, to be near you words. McCartney in romantic mood.
Recording began on September 16 at EMI Studios
A real rock-a-boogie thing, a gay party piece which will be requested for many a birthday on Radio 1! This was written in the recording studio with all four fellows working on it as a joint effort even if Paul seemed to contribute the most ideas. That night's session started a couple of hours early so that everyone--about 20 including the studio engineers and so forth--could nip round the corner and down the road to Paul's place at nine to watch The Hollywood Musical in colour on his telly. The movie was "The Girl Can't Help It". Back at the studio the new song began to happen after the fellows had done a bit of musical limbering up on old rock and skiffle numbers. This is 12-bar blues stuff with Paul and John sharing the vocal, George playing tambourine with a gloved hand to avoid getting more blisters and me joining in with Rigno on the handclapping. When you listen to the word "Birthday" repeated at the end of the chorus lines you will hear (amongst other famous voices!) the singing of Yoko Ono and Pattie Harrison. Curious sound which someone suggested was like an electric harpsichord is, in fact, a carefully prepared upright piano played by Paul--"prepared" to give it a very special sound with reverberation, wow-wow and technical things like that.
Recorded on September 18 at EMI Studios
Here is another of George's tracks and it's a social comment song. You know the piggies in "Animal Farm", all equal but some more equal than others? People who recognise themselves in George's lyrics here may get a bit uptight about it. George Martin's assistant, Chris Thomas, plays harpsichord on this one. Tambourine by Ringo. Tape loops by John.
Recording began on September 19 at EMI Studios
"HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN"
John got the title out of an advert for guns in an American magazine! His voice changes quite a bit during the song--all very tender at one end of the scale and Walrus Lennon at the other. Starts very simple and builds enormously. One of the most difficult recordings of the whole bundle because of the rhythms and counter rhythms with the guitars in 3/4 time and the drumming in 4/4 time. Paul and George do the harmony vocal work behind John. Yep--happines is a warm gun, mama!
Recording began on September 23 at EMI Studios
Jim Webb popped into the studios the night we started work on "Honey Pie". It has Paul doing the vocal and playing piano, John on electric guitar and George playing bass again. It's a really lovely number, one to appeal to all the mums and dads and remind them of their teendays. Fantastic 1920's big band sound. Fifteen session musicians provide the brassy backing. Mainly saxes. Lovely sliding sax sounds all scored by George Martin. The song is about a working girl from the North of England who has "hit the bigtime in the U.S.A." and become a movie star Hollywood-style. Won't you please come home, Honey Pie?
Recording began on October 1 at Trident Studio
Kind of bluesy with a warning of the dangers of The Good Life in its words. Another of George's numbers.
Recording began on October 3 at Trident Studio
"MARTHA MY DEAR"
Solo vocal by Paul but his voice is double-tracked. That means you hear him twice over although the blending of his two vocal "takes" has been done so well it's almost like hearing just one voice. NOT dedicated to Paul's Good Dog Martha! A lovely ballad with rich orchestral backing. Theme is You Were Meant For Me. Incidentally Ringo bashed a hole in his brand new bass drum skin the night we started this track.
Recording began on October 4 at Trident Studio
"LONG LONG LONG"
At first George called this "It's Been A Long Long Long Time", but he decided the title was too long long long! George again is composer and singer of this one. Theme is tears for lost love but: "Now I'm so happy I've found you". Difficult to classify this. It's quiet and then noisy with a rousing chorus. George plays acoustic guitar. Paul plays Hammond organ as well as bass.
Recording began on October 8 at EMI Studios
"I'M SO TIRED"
Completed in a single early-evening session with John as solo vocalist.
Recorded on October 9 at EMI Studios
This is actually "The Continuing Story Of . . ." and was recorded immediately after "I'm So Tired" (sometime between midnight and dawn!). Everyone joins in on the huge chorus here although John is the lead singer. John plays organ and George Martin's assistant, Chris Thomas, is on Mellotron.
Recorded on October 9/10 at EMI Studios
"WHY DON'T WE DO IT IN THE ROAD"
Presenting Beatle Paul's One-Man Band-show! Yes, folks, this is McCartney the Mad Musician singing and playing guitar, piano, bass and drums. Which meant a lot of recordings superimposed upon one another to get the finished effect.
Recorded on October 10 at EMI Studios
Recorded quite quickly one Sunday evening, this is a very simple and very impressive piece with John singing to his own double-tracked guitar accompaniment.
Recorded on October 13 at EMI Studios
The following day, Monday, October 14, Ringo and his family left for their holiday in Sardinia. On Wednesday, George joined me and Jackie Lomax in America. And meanwhile Paul and John got together with George Martin to do all the final re-mixing of the tapes and decide what order to put everything in on the two LP discs. A couple of other last-minute songs just couldn't be recorded in time--"Polythene Pam" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"--but that needn't worry anybody because the fellows already had too much rather than too little material to fill the four extra-long sides of the November LP records.