Monday, August 26, 2019

In the Studio

With all the current hype about the Abbey Road album going on right now,  I thought it would be fun to see how it was reported in Beatle Book Monthly / Datebook at the time. 

In the Studio
By Frederick James

Beatle people could not be blamed for being more than a bit confused about the current year's recording policy of Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.  Over Easter the four made a sudden holiday-weekend decision to rush out "Get Back" as a single.  Very soon afterward, while that worldwide chart-topper was still being collected by fans everywhere, out came "The Ballad of John and Yoko" to be followed not too much later by the Plastic Ono Band's "Give Peace a Chance" which was issued just a couple of months ago.

But still no 1969 LP release, still no fresh album program to follow up on last autumn's pair of LP discs which carried tracks that are now between 10 and 18 months old.  True there have been Beatle-associated LP records -- Paul's production of Postcard for Mary Hopkin, George's much anticipated Billy Preston LP bundle and the rather less commercial works of John, Yoko and George on their pair of Zapple LP discs.  We thought they'd be a full scale "Get Back" LP by the Beatles -- but it's been postponed.  We thought there'd be a special rock n' roll LP - but there's no scheduled issue date for the wealth of rock material like Shake, Rattle and Roll, Blue Suede Shoes and the re-vamped Love Me Do which the lads started putting on tape as long ago as January 26, 1969.

Now at last Apple HQ have told us that the boys' first 1969 album, "Abbey Road" will be released in September.  John, Paul, George, and Ringo have been recording material for the new LP since the beginning of July when "Get BAck" release plans were shelved.

On the other hand latest rumours, whispers and press statements from the Apple HQ suggest that any moment now there WILL be another new Beatles' album in the record stores, one for which John, Paul, George, and Ringo have been recording material since the beginning of July when "Get Back" release plans were shelved.

So here's what's been happening during all these recent recording sessions.  Quite a few entirely new compositions have been written and recorded.  In other cases it has been a matter of digging out tapes of unissued titles made earlier in the year, changing some of the arrangements, starting from scratch again or just adding extra sounds to existing stuff "in the can."

By the end of July, six new numbers had been completed.  Paul contributed You Never Give Me Your Money, Golden Slumbers and a quickie item called Her Majesty.  George contributed Here Comes the Sun (The Sun King) which has finished up a group effort from the vocal viewpoint and john weighed in with Come Together and Mean Mister Mustard.

In addition, six other numbers where had been worked on earlier were brought back into play during the July sessions.  These were Paul's Maxwell's Silver Hammer (written last year and the very first title the lads worked on in 1969 during a January 13 session at the Apple studio), Paul's Bathroom Window (which also dates back to January 13 and the same Apple studio session), Paul's Oh Darling, John's Polythene Pam (which goes back to autumn '68 and was a track which almost went on the double LP at that time), George's Something (first worked on in the Apple studio during January and February) and Ringo's Octopus Garden (which was started on April 26 and which I believe we've mentioned once or twice in earlier issues of Beatles Monthly under the title "Octopussy's Garden).

As I write this piece, the idea is to fill most of, or even the whole of, one LP side with one marathon series of songs all woven together into a fairly spectacular performance.  the marathon set -- Paul's idea-- looks as though it will include about half-a-dozen different numbers.

Let's look at the marathon material in recording date order.  The first song involved is "You Never Give Me Your Money" upon which the group started work on Tuesday, July 15.  The one is about a boy talking to a girl -- "you never give me your money, only your funny papers."  Like most of the marathon set numbers, it's a bit like "Hey Jude" in general mood and it has Paul singing slowly and in sweet voice.  In addition, Paul is featured on piano here and on the other marathon track items.

John's "Mean Mister Mustard" was started nine days later.  This is John in his best jiving suit telling the tale of a mean old man.

Also on Thursday, July 24, they went to work on "Here Comes the Sun (The Sun King)", although the track had been started initially nearly three weeks earlier with George singing lead vocals and playing acoustic guitar, Paul on bass and Ringo on drums - in John's absence.  Later John and the other three other added some intricate vocal harmony to the original recording.

Paul's "Bathroom Window" was started on Friday, July 25.  The lyrics of this one tell a strange little story about a rich girl ("she came in through the bathroom window Protected by a silver spoon, but now she sucks her thumb and wonders By the banks of her own lagoon") who claimed to have been a club dancer and who has a boyfriend who quit the police department to get himself a steady job!

John's "Polythene Pam" went into production on Monday, July 28, with John playing maracas as well as handling the lead vocal.  Paul and George providing background singing, Paul playing a cowbell and George banging upon a tambourine.  This is a medium-tempo number all about the curious Pam who is "so good looking she looks like a man."!

Perhaps Paul's best ballad contribution to the set of six marathon numbers is "Golden Slumbers," obviously about someone sleeping and given a suitable dreamy McCartney treatment.  This one was started on the last day of July.

In John's absence at the beginning of July, Paul started work on his own "Her Majesty" number.  This is a very brief item so far, the type of mini-track of just about eight lines which could be used as a link between two full-length numbers anywhere on the other side of the new LP.  On July 2 Paul recorded his vocal and accompanied himself on acoustic guitar.  In gist, the words tell of a boy who would like to get his girl to know he loves her, but her moods change all the time and he never gets around to it unless he's got a few drinks inside him.  To the first solo tape Paul made, he, George and Ringo added vocal accompaniment the next day with Geoge playing his red Gibson and Paul on Epiphone.

Paul started a new version of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" on July, accompanying his vocal on guitar and joined by George's 4-string guitar and Ringo playing anvil.  Actually, when the Beatles made their first earlier version of this title many months back, Mal was on anvil, but by this time he and Neil were away on holiday so Ringo deputized!!!

Two days later vocal backing by Paul, George, and Ringo was added.  George used his acoustic guitar and George Martin played the organ.  The story of Maxwell Edison, a student majoring in medicine, is a rather bizarre one, to say the least of it.  His girlfriend, Joan (who studied science --"late night all alone with a test tube) finishes up being killed by a blow to her head from Maxwell's silver hammer.  Despite the theme of muder, this is a jolly up-tempo presentation.

George's "Something" is a track which has been tried, changed and tried again a few times during the year.  As early as May 2 it was re-vamped and recorded, although it was not until July 12 that George dubbed on his final vocal.  Several days later Paul and Ringo added handclapping and background singing.  This has turned out to be a very fine track, a great, slow, easy George number which just flowers along,   It has George describing the nice things about a girl.

On Thursday, July 17, the group returned to Ringo's specialty piece, the novelty number he'd brought into the studio back towards the end of April.  The story of his self-penned solo vocal item, Octopus Garden is not unlike that of Yellow Submarine, the number John and Paul gave Ringo to sing several years ago.  It's all about a garden at the bottom of the sea where people can play happily and know they're safe.  In addition to singing, Ringo plays drums on this track with Paul on piano, John and George on guitars and Paul adding his usual bass guitar contribution.  Halfway through Paul and George do some high-pitched vocal acrobatics, letting their voices gurgle through special amplifiers until they come out sounding like mermen in not mermaids!  Meanwhile, Ringo blew bubbles into a glass for additional atmosphere effect!

Paul's "Oh Darling" completed on Friday, July 18, is an exceptionally strong McCartney presentation, a real tear-jerker of a ballad to bring back memories.

And finally, we come to John's "Come Together" which was started on Monday, July 21.  Very, very freaky lyrics to this one and I won't even attempt to explain the theme of them -- but it's a song that has to be heard in its finished form to be fully appreciated.  Bluesy but up-tempo, it's typically John all the way through.

And that's as much as I can tell you about all the new recordings.  Most of them -- plus, perhaps, some last-minute material put on tape within the last fortnight of the current session series will appear on the Beatles' much delayed but eagerly awaited First LP album of 1969.  Curiously, since a lot of earlier recording work, this year was done at Apple's own studio beneath the Savile Row Apple HQ offices in London's West End, all the July, and August stuff has gone on tape at EMI Studios up in Abbey Road, St. John's Wood.   That's because the fellows have been waiting for new Apple Studio equipment to be put in working order and it was unthinkable that their summer LP session should be delayed still further just because a mixer and a few other pieces of electronic mechanism were still in the installation stage.

On the other hand, the Beatles' return to Abbey Road was greatly welcomed by more than a few Beatle People vacationing in London during July and August.   It was quite like old times outside the EMI studios with day-long bunches of fans waiting outside the doors (or out on the pavement beyond the sets of iron gates if they didn't manage to sneak in behind an arriving or departing car) to get a glimpse of a favorite Beatle.   Most days at least half the assembled fan crowd was made up of touring Americans who will have taken home to the USA treasured memories of brief chats with Paul or much fingered Polaroid snpas of themselves with Ringo, George or John!


  1. Interesting - - 'Polythene Pam' is a Beatles punk song before punk, even more pre-punk if it dates from 1968. That puts it ju-u-u-st after The Stooges started.

    1. john and iggy- what a duo that would've been

  2. PP is not a pre punk song.

  3. Something- describing nice things about the girl - well this author certainly didn’t have George’s way with words thank goodness!!

  4. I get that Paul had a contract to write material for Magic Christian, so he had to give Come And Get It to Badfinger for the film. But to imagine if Paul decided to instead record the song with the lads, and put it on Abbey Rd in place of Maxwell. The legendary status of AR, as massive as it is, would be even greater.