Trancending Time (Godfather Records GR 491)
January 1969 was a pivotal month for the Fabs or a new phase if you will. Due to drugs, divorce & a slipping image then the band were being pilloried by the press & certainly not feeling the brotherly love that had held them together throughout the last decade. Various fractions were coming from within too – John was intrinsically tied up with Yoko & his seemly ever increasing dependency on drugs, Ringo had his eye on movie work, George was feeling more than a little belittled by Paul & John & had already started in earnest stockpiling songs which the duo had near to no interest in hearing let alone using for the next album but Paul was trying his best to be the mediator for the group & the glue that would hold the collective together all the meanwhile beginning what would become his deepest relationship besides the Fabs.
After the hotch potch of styles that was “The Beatles” ( Or “The White Album” to give it it’s populist title ) & taking their lead from the earnest style currently triumphed by Bob Dylan’s friends the Band it was decided to go back to basics & record a “live in the studio” album which they would also film as a cover for the band no longer touring. Enlisting the help of film maker & hot new director Michael Lindsay Hogg the film was recorded partially at Twickenham Sound Studios in London & Apple’s own recording studios in the basement of 3 Saville Row, London where the Beatles own business was situated but the sessions themselves didn’t go without flare ups & travails with George leaving the band during the sessions but returning after the dust had settled to rejoin & record the rest of the album, bringing in fellow Apple artist Billy Preston on his return & several interludes in to manic avant garde Jams spurred on by Yoko.
Although the film was going to be the “tour” so people could see the band record & play together for one last time then it was decided that all this practicing & writing shouldn’t go to waste & they should play a gig that would show the Beatles playing the album as finished. A few suggestions were tossed around between the band but most were vetoed in lieu of hard work & thus, it was decided that the band could play on their doorstep, or rather, on their roof as a final thank you to the fans & as a scene stealing shot in the arm for the finale of the film. 4 cameras were set up to record the visuals on the day, two on the roof where the Beatles stood, one across the way & another on the ground & the reception of Apple to capture a worms eye view & the anticipated reaction of the crowds below. In the basement studio below Producer Glyn Johns is ready at the multitrack tape recorder setting levels & capturing the performance.
The show presented here is the first version of this show & possibly the tightest. Famousley released on both Vigotone’s “As Nature Intended” ( from where this disk originates ) and Yellow Dog’s “The “Let It Be” Rehearsals Vol. 1 – The Complete Rooftop Concert” Further releases have added bits & pieces from the ground camera & the additional camera from across the road up to Yellow Dog’s presentation of the Nagra reels from all 4 cameras though here we have just the multitrack recordings from the rooftop itself &, as it’s solely from the multitrack it’s sounding sharp. The tape begins with the band recording the first pass that day of “Get Back”. It’s Paul’s song & he who shouts loudest .. but also Paul’s songs on the album are generally piano led or acoustic & there’s not much chance of getting a baby grand up that many flights of stairs so his rocker is given precedence .. after a few instructions from Michael, John counts in & the band launch in to a spirited romp through the track. Paul sounds the most excited to be out in the open again, vamping & shouting ad-libs throughout. George throws in a passable solo in the middle but the Beatles are both freezing & warming up & so the track would be marked up as a rehearsal.
After the track both John & Paul thank their audience & shout out a couple of goonish skits so that the people around who are listening from the other rooftops are aware of just who they’re listening too .. Michael asks for a little more voice to be put through the guitar microphones. It’s decided then that this take isn’t going to be ‘the one’ & the tape is stopped. Once we return the camera man announces the call for “All Cameras – Take 3” & the Beatles are ready to roll again. This next take is much better beginning again with a count in by John but this time Paul reins himself in a little more until the second half. George’s playing is a little more concrete sounding like he’s finally found his stride & Billy’s keyboard playing is, again, nothing more than exemplary.
After more joking humour from John, Michael mentions that the next he wants song he wants to hear is “Don’t Let me Down as he obviously feels that “Get Back” has been nailed. Paul sings a line from “Don’t Let Me Down” as an introduction to the track. George counts in this time as the harmonies that kick start the song are shared by John & Paul. The track, obviously written with Yoko in mind is slightly slower paced than “Get Back” & gives the band a little time to catch up. Things are going swimmingly untill the first verse & John completely forgets his lines forcing him to adlib painfully a stream of gobbledy gook nonsense despite this it’ll later appear in the film. To their end the band continue as normal trying to make the song flow as smoothly as possible rather than breaking down & giving up.
From that then the band run straight in to another of Paul’s rockers “Don’t Let Me Down”, the hybrid song where John was helped with his “Everybody Had A Hard Year” song by tacking it on to Paul’s contribution. It’s played through resplendently & Paul is allowed to let loose with his screams once again. The descending guitar line, as seen being rehearsed in the film, is played fantastically. Despite the song being played again later then the track goes without a hiccup & will appear both in the film & on the album. There is a slightly longer break between this song & the next as the band get their breath back & warm their hands up from the cold January winds. John sings a line from Little Richard’s “Oh, My Soul”, The band dismiss a request from Michael to look over the edge of the roof so the crowd can see who’s playing. Glyn asks Ringo to flatten out his snares so they can see his face on the cameras. After a little more deliberations the cameras cut only to start rolling again as the band are running through “The One After 909” but this is only a loose rehearsal in to the main version.
The track proper is the only take they consider that they’ll need & it is a good one ( they’ve had around 10 years to get it straight so why not? ) George’s solo is roundly thrown out with ease & simply fly’s out from nowhere. At the end of this rendition John recites a half remembered line from the traditional “Danny Boy”, Michael enquires about the next track & if it will be “All I Want” ( “Dig A Pony” Glyn corrects him ) but John’s not sure of the words & asks Mal ( Evans, the Beatles go to man ) to retrieve them for him.
Again the cameras cut & once we return there’s a brief run through of the song by Paul & Ringo. Before a count in by George but someone isn’t ready & a slit second after the song bursts in to life then they stop again. A brief chance to joke about this pause & then straight back in to it again. This is another one take wonder which is noted by being included in the film & in edited form on the LP. George’s solo is again, as good as it’s going to get & Ringo’s drumming is straight off pat. John complains that his hands are getting a little cold to play guitar now but it can’t be that bad as the band go on to play another few tracks yet.
After a change in tapes & a brief keyboard & drum jam in the vein of “I’ve Got A Feeling” then the band start the song again but this one has nowhere near the passion of the first pass even though George plays a few more additional licks which add a little more interest to the track then the vocals are more subdued even though Macca is trying his best. After John sings a line from “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” the band warm up to start playing “Get Back” but after only a few seconds in Paul decides that they should try a second pass at “Don’t Let Me Down” instead. Fatigue or cold is setting in & the band aren’t up to standard with this take paling in comparison to the earlier push with the musicianship slipping slightly as they get closer to the end of the take.
Picking up immediately where “Don’t Let Me Down” leaves off, George pulls up the riff for “Get Back” straight from it’s boot straps & the band crash straight into another rollocking performance of the song. As they’re playing this song for the 3rd time & the police have already found their way to the rooftop Paul, already bolstered by the arrival of the fuzz, starts throwing in lines that welcome his visitors but this track just wouldn’t make the cut for the film or the LP instead first appearing on bootlegs & eventually turning up, commercially, on Anthology 3.
Once this rendition is finished Paul thanks Ringo’s wife Maureen for her rapturous applause & John makes his now famous quip about his band passing the audition – the comment that would end up on the studio version of “Get Back” on the LP. The show finished the Beatles would return to the relative obscurity of the basement studios of Apple to listen to playbacks & record some of the ‘quieter’ numbers the following day.
The second half of this disk is given over to Glyn John’s first compilation of the ‘Get Back’ session tracks. Taken from the multi track tapes recorded at Apple studios rather than any of the Twickenham jams earlier in the month this is the first of numerous compilations that the album went through before stopping at Phil Spector’s “Final” edition & that’s how it would stay until Apple went out of their minds & released “Let It Be .. Naked” in 200. Rather than getting in the politics of variant mixes & compilations though we’ll follow the track listing & history of this particular compilation.
The first John Glyns compilation also appeared as a broadcast on American radio in 1969. According Chazzavery’s excellent Beatlesource website : ” An infamous legend holds that John Lennon, himself, leaked an acetate or tape to the public during a trip to Canada on 13 September 1969 for his performance at the Toronto Rock & Roll Festival (Live Peace In Toronto). Allegedly, this was a trade for some unreleased Beatles recordings that he didn’t have (John is known as a recordings collector).
It’s also known that John loathed the “Get Back Sessions” and the theory is that John wanted the world to know how “shitty” The Beatles had become. However, this theory has yet to see any valid verification.” thus this could be a tape version of the acetate that was played on WBCN on September 22nd. Rife with various studio chatter, mickey taking & general tomfoolery unheard outside of this recording each variant of the “Get Back” album stands alone. As for this set of performances I’ve decided to list them below :
1. “Rocker” ( Also known as “I’m Ready” ) – Ramps up from a fast jam of unknown origin that sounds like one of Yoko’s jams but with out Yoko’s vocals. This is a silly little opener to the album showcasing just what the Beatles had been up to while rehearsing that month. A concept to fit the album’s theme of “Fly On The Wall”
2. “Save The Last Dance For Me” – A romp through the song, complete with half remembered lyrics, sloppy vocals & tired musicianship that collapses in to a sillier version of “Don’t Let Me Down” which ultimately breaks down before the band decide to try again.
3. “Don’t Let Me Down” – A slower version of the track that was played on the rooftop & without any flubbed lyrics. It would have played better being the rooftop version but in lieu of that Billy Preston plays an excellent solo towards the end.
4. “Dig A Pony”- Begins with a stumble & then rolls straight in to a heavy, linguine version of the track. An earlier version of the track than the one that Phil Spector would use. A fantastic vocal by John & Ringo drums wonderfully. By the last verse John has got the giggles.
5. “I’ve Got A Feeling” – The take that’s from the same session as the ‘Anthology 3’ version. Paul’s not trying very hard on the harmonies to compete with John. The rightful take was that excellent rooftop version.
6. “For You Blue” – Begins with the sound of ice turning in a glass & then soon after a false start. Essentially the track found on the C.V. but the 1970 version had a new, rerecorded lead vocal.
7. “Teddy Boy” – One of the nadirs of the Beatles catalogue. Mercifully dropped from Spector’s version it would appear later on Macca’s first solo album but in a new solo guise. The rest of the band had a less hidden dissatisfaction with the track so had it have run to a vote then this one may have gotten the boot anyway. A satisfactory victim of the chop.
8. “Two Of Us” – Another earlier version of a track that Phil would pull from later in the session. A slower version of the album proper version
9. “Maggie Mae” a brief trundle through an old Liverpudlian pub singalong song. This version would last out it’s transition through to the Phil Spector version of the LP but would be dropped from “LIB .. Naked”
10. “Dig It” – The same fate would befall this track too, chopped from the all too serious “Let It Be .. Naked” possibly the best version of “Dig It” from the Get Back sessions but shortened from a considerably longer 15 minutes. Phil Spector would butcher this track even further & turn even less than a minute over for his version of the album.
11. “Let It Be” – Before Mr. Spector added his choir then this classic came unfurnished baring an over dubbed solo recorded by George at a later session.
12. “The Long & Winding Road” – Another Spector casualty. Over egged & over wrought on his album, this pared down version nearly glimmers with life.
13. “Get Back ( Reprise )” – To end the album on a high note a rampant version of the ‘title track’ with Billy’s slick organ work fleshing out the bones of the song.
The Godfather has hit a high note with this release. A faithful reproduction of the Vigotone release with careful & studied remastering. The Multi tracks from the rooftop sound like you could be watching from the roof. The sound is nice & airy enough to give a natural, clean feel. The First Compilation half of the CD is another great version of the fated “Get Back” album although there wouldn’t be a group of Beatle fans who would suggest that this might be THE version of this album each preferring one different cut from the other but a this version is from tape rather than acetate it sounds cleaner & brighter than any clean up job could with tiny, only slightly discernible drop-outs along the way although if Apple had them then i’m sure they could do just a little bit better ..
This Godfather release is again presented in a trifold CD slipcase with sharp & clear black & white “Get Back” era photos throughout. It also comes with a resplendent double sided mini poster & 4 page pull out with liner notes written by Audacious Ensconce. Again it would fall to the listener to decide if they think this could be THE best master of this compilation but to my ears it sounds perfectly well mixed & open enough to sound like it should have been a contender for the unpolished album rather than the Apple sanctioned “Naked” release.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)