Sunday, October 09, 2005

Happy Birthday, John

While the rest of the musical world is paying tribute to John Lennon, on what would have been his 65th birthday, by remembering his music and his causes, and amongst all of the radio tributes, I thought I'd post a few tracks that are, perhaps, not getting the airplay that "Imagine", "Come Together", "Twist and Shout" and "Born in a Prison" have gotten today (well, maybe the same amount of airplay that "Born in a Prison" got, since I have my doubts that that one was heard by too many listeners).

I'm a devotee of the "Get Back" tapes, the endless hours of recordings which captured virtually every moment that the Beatles were in the studio (or, for the first two weeks, the film set) in January of 1969. I know that for some people, these recordings are the perfect thing to encourage them to leave the room, but I have listened to them eagerly for years. At the Gmail site, there are three odd recordings from those sessions, and one rockin' version of a song that ended up on the "Let it Be" album.

The song from "Let it Be" is "Two of Us", heard here in a slightly incomplete form, as an uptempo rocker, a much better setting, in my opinion, than the version which was released.

Moving on to the true "outtakes"... The most well known is the improvised (and Lennon-led) song "Suzy's Parlour", a condensed version of which showed up in the film "Let it Be". This is the whole thing, though, in all it's ragged, loose glory.

Second is a goofy series of performances that three apparently drunk Beatles performed, after returning from lunch on January 10th, and after George had announced he was quitting the band effective immediately. John riffs on "Don't Be Cruel", and then the three of them wander around with some Bossa Nova songs for a few minutes, with Paul offering some ridiculous vocalizing, and a few lines from Elvis songs, as well. I find this little segment endlessly entertaining.

Finally is a song I might very well put in my top ten favorite Beatles songs, even though it was never released, and was, in fact, an improvisation. It's January 9th. George complains about the way the band is set up, and plays a few chords to demonstrate. Paul joins in on bass, continuing, even though George stops almost immediately, and leads the rest of the band into what becomes a rockin', if somewhat disjointed, song, a song poking very sarcastic fun at a politician, Enoch Powell, who was making news that week by making some extremely distasteful comments about Pakistani immigrants. The song is called "Commonwealth", and I'm posting it for John's birthday, even though it's Paul's improvisation, first because it's such a great little number, but also because John's addition to the song (the "Yes" shouts in the chorus, and a few other comments), help make the song much better, especially in that Paul cracks up a few times in response to John. (It is not, as some casual listeners have thought from time to time, proof that Paul holds racist views - he's clearly satirizing a racist.) I once wrote out the words to this song (as I heard them), including the points at which Paul mumbles gibberish, unable to think of a rhyme, and will happily send them out or post them, if anyone is interested.

Hope that some of these, if not all of them, are new to you, and that you enjoy them. Happy birthday John, wherever you are.


Michael said...

I've heard "Born In A Prison", heheh. I prefer "Sisters O Sisters" myself, I love that song. Used to play the fast version of "Two of Us" in a band, when I was 14! I should send you a copy of the tape, since I know you collect odd home recordings like that. Also used to play Suzy Parker/Parlour. And always loved Commonwealth, haha.

GJersey said...

Yes! Loved this - heard some of this before but not all. Loved alternate version of "Two of US" as the standard is one of my favorites. Thanks!

paul said...

It's actually "Suzy Parker" who was a popular model at the time. Parker Posey was named after joke!

chessman said...

suzy's parlour sounds like it would've been a better song