The Legendary 22-9-69 ‘Get Back’ Radio Broadcast (Godfather Records GR 412)
(68:01): DJ Intro, Let It Be (incomplete), WBCN station ID / Chess King ad / DJ monologue, Let It Be, Don’t Let Me Down, For You Blue, Get Back, The Walk, DJ monologue / Arlo Guthrie concert ad, Hey Jude Tap – Harry Zonk, Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End, DJ monologue / “Alice’s Restaurant” ad, Get Back Honk, Get Back, I’ve Got A Feeling (fragment), Teddy Boy, Two Of Us, Dig A Pony, DJ monologue, Medley: Give Peace A Chance / Ballad Of John & Yoko, Poor Hungry Hillbilly White Boy, Carry That Weight / The End, The Child ad, Mean Mr. Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, I’ve Got A Feeling, The Long And Winding Road, Here Comes The Sun (incomplete)
Godfather’s latest Beatles release contains the complete WBCN broadcast of Get Back on September 22nd, 1969. There are two prior releases of this tape both in 1993. WBCN Get Back Reference Acetate (Yellow Dog Records YD035) has the tape but emphasizes the music by cutting out the DJ talking and commercial breaks. It attempts to produce what the album might have sounded like at that stage. The second release is Posters, Incense And Strobe Candles (Vigotone VIGO 109) which contains the entire radio broadcast including the DJ commentary and some of the commercial breaks.
Godfather remastered the Vigotone release so that it is louder, cleaner, and several seconds longer. The label also did a great job in declicking Vigotone. The liner notes (and reader commentary from the bootleg zone) are reproduced on Legendary too:
“According to Beatle folklore, promotion copies of their unreleased 1969 GET BACK LP were distributed to radio stations in the United States.
“In fact, NO promotional copies of the album were issued, although many radio stations aired tapes which were in circulation at the time. Some stations (such as WBKW in Buffalo, and WEBN in Cincinnati) aired an undocumented mix of GET BACK (available only on an obscure bootleg entitled O.P.D.), which mirrors the final track listing of the LP, as documented in THE BEATLES: RECORDING SESSIONS.
“A second source for the GET BACK material was a reference acetate prepared by Beatles producer Glyn Johns on March 10, 1969. This was also aired by a number of American stations, including WBAI in New York, KCOK AM in St. Louis, and WBCN in Boston (which is our source here).
“This tape is significantly different than the “final” mix, which is widely available on various illicit records. It’s noticeably less processed than the other both in terms of editing and the use of reverb. It also includes an extra performance of “Get Back” and a cover of Jimmy McCracklin’s ‘The Walk.’
“What’s noticeable here, though, is that this is far and away the best sounding tape of this material you’re ever likely to hear. WBCN obtained a reel-to reel tape of the actual reference acetates. Their broadcast was preserved on another high-quality reel, and a digital copy of that tape was used to master this LP. We’ve also elected to leave in most of the actual commercials and announcements from the WBCN DJ. This provides a charming framework, and sadly reminds us of how much radio has changed.
“This is an artifact of an era that won’t come again. Enjoy it! (Ed Nein X)
“The sound quality is stunning and the listening experience is significantly enhanced as this reference acetate is presented in the context of a ‘live’ FM radio broadcast. I have always, hands down, taken a preference to these recorded performances over any of the ‘final’ studio pressings and/or releases. The Beatles literally breathed life into these sessions as opposed to sounding more ‘limited’ with the finished product for public consumption. This WBCN Boston 9-22-68 ‘Get Back’ Radio Broadcast includes ‘an obviously-excited DJ who warns listeners taping his program that Apple may be sending them a telegram ordering them to not listen to the unreleased music…”
This edit of Get Back comes several months after the sessions ended. Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles Recording Sessions relates in March that Glyn Johns was asked to edit an album out of the tapes from the January recording sessions. He produced an eleven song acetate on March 10th and gave The Beatles copies for review. The band rejected the album, but a reel-to-reel copy made its way to the US (nobody seems to know how).
WBCN broadcasts side two of Get Back first and there are many differences between the acetate and final versions of the songs. “Let It Be” lacks the third verse and instead McCartney improvises it by combining lines from the first two verses. “Don’t Let Me Down” is interesting for Lennon calling out to Billy Preston before his keyboard solo and, as the song is ending, says, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to change the tempo a little,” before improvising a fast coda.
“For You Blue” begins with an ice cube rattling in a glass before Lennon shouts, “Quiet, please.” The instrumental performance is the same as the final release but this has a different vocal performance. “Get Back” is the same except it ends without the reprise. The fragment of “The Walk” is the only cover version on the acetate, and shows McCartney trying to remember words to an old Jimmy McCracklin song.
Side one of the Get Back Acetate begins with a strange performance of “Get Back.” It has a false start, is shorter than the version on side two, and is not the 0:40 reprise used on Johns’ acetate. “I’ve Got a Feeling” is only an eleven second fragment. “Teddy Boy” is unedited and interesting because of Lennon’s improvised “square dance” calls at 4:45. “Two Of Us” begins with two false starts and they sing “going nowhere” instead of “riding nowhere” in the first verse. “Dig a Pony” starts with Lennon telling Johns to cue the tape (“OK Glynis, we’re off again”), ends with a comic “Yes I do-o-o” voice, before moving into a few bars of “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The tape then ends abruptly. The broadcast continues with the DJ playing an advance copy of Abbey Road which was scheduled for release on October 1st.
What is also very interesting about this disc is that it recalls a time when FM radio was truly free form, revolutionary and almost as important as the artists and music themselves. The means by which listeners could hear music and learn information was extremely limited. FM existed not only to promote the songs of the day but to promote the entire culture.
It was this attitude that lead the disc jockeys of these stations to play the Johns reel-to-reel when it appeared in the US, something that wouldn’t happen today. WKBW in Buffalo is actually the first station to broadcast the tape and is mentioned in WBCN. A tape of Buffalo surfaced in 2003 and exists on CDR but has never been pressed on silver and is interesting because it has a different setlist than Boston. CKLW-800 AM Windsor/Detroit broadcast a version of “Let It Be” in December which is different still.
Godfather did a very good job in presenting the Boston tape. It is an upgrade over Vigotone and, since the older title is hard to find, makes a fascinating document available again. Godfather’s packaging is again sterling with many photographs from the era, a booklet with the above printed liner notes and commentary, and a small poster duplicating the cover artwork.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)