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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 10, 1969

George Harrison walked out of the studio today, unable to tolerate any longer the tensions within the group - just as Ringo Starr had temporarily quit The Beatles in August 1968,

The Beatles were at Twickenham Film Studios, where their rehearsals were being captured on camera. The day began with Paul McCartney working alone at a piano, playing through a number of songs that the group had been working on during the previous week. These included solo versions of I've Got A Feeling and Get Back, which were usually performed with guitars.

The Beatles, still as a group, worked hard on Get Back during the morning. McCartney still hadn't finalised the lyrics, but Tucson, Arizona was emerging as a setting. For one run-through John Lennon took the lead vocals.

Following several attempts at working Get Back into shape, The Beatles moved onto Two Of Us. After breaking for lunch, however, George Harrison walked out of the studio.

Everybody had gone through that. Ringo had left at one point. I know John wanted out. It was a very, very difficult, stressful time, and being filmed having a row as well was terrible. I got up and I thought, 'I'm not doing this any more. I'm out of here.' So I got my guitar and went home and that afternoon wrote Wah-Wah.

It became stifling, so that although this new album was supposed to break away from that type of recording (we were going back to playing live) it was still very much that kind of situation where he already had in his mind what he wanted. Paul wanted nobody to play on his songs until he decided how it should go. For me it was like: 'What am I doing here? This is painful!'

Then superimposed on top of that was Yoko, and there were negative vibes at that time. John and Yoko were out on a limb. I don't think he wanted much to be hanging out with us, and I think Yoko was pushing him out of the band, inasmuch as she didn't want him hanging out with us.

It's important to state that a lot of water has gone under the bridge and that, as we talk now, everybody's good friends and we have a better understanding of the past. But talking about what was happening at that time, you can see it was strange.

Source: Mark Lewisohn/The Beatles Complete Chronicles

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 9, 1969

The Get Back/Let It Be sessions began with Paul McCartney working alone on a number of songs on Day 6.

McCartney arrived first at Twickenham Film Studios, and he used the time to perform several songs at the piano. Making their debuts on this day were Her Majesty and Another Day, the latter becoming his first solo single in 1971.

Once the other Beatles arrived, work continued on several key songs, among them I've Got A Feeling, One After 909 and Two Of Us.  George Harrison played For You Blue. Less serious were performances of She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and Across The Universe, which featured The Beatles trying various non-serious arrangements and making several jokey lyrical changes and asides.

Let It Be was given more focused attention, and was played a total of 16 times. These performances were led by McCartney, who called out suggestions as the others played. John Lennon was on bass guitar for this part of the day, as the group were intending to record no overdubs and McCartney was at the piano.

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The Beatles' Get Back/Let It Be sessions were on Day 5 and the group continued to work. Early in the day, were rehearsals of Two Of Us, Don't Let Me Down, I've Got A Feeling and On . The Beatles were in reasonably high spirits at this point, playing through the songs with enthusiasm which was sadly lacking elsewhere for much of January 1969.

The group performed George Harrison's All Things Must Pass which the other Beatles remained unenthusiastic towards. Equally aimless were versions of She Came In Through The Bathroom Window and Maxwell's Silver Hammer, songs which The Beatles would return to with greater focus later in 1969.

Another Abbey Road song making its debut on this day was Mean Mr Mustard. John Lennon had recorded a demo of the song in May 1968, but it was not considered for the White Album. On this day The Beatles performed a rough version which wasn't much different from the final release, although in the lyrics Pam was known as Shirley.

Another Harrisong, I Me Mine, received more attention, with the group playing a total of 41 versions, although more often than not these were incomplete. This was the only day in January 1969 that The Beatles played it; although it was discussed in subsequent days, there was little inclination to return to it after this.

George Harrison had written I Me Mine the night before, and it began as a plain acoustic song. The Let It Be film showed some footage of The Beatles working on the song on this day, but the album version was a re-recording made in January 1970.

Two songs by Paul McCartney, Let It Be and The Long And Winding Road, had by this stage been established as proper contenders deserving sustained work. McCartney had by now completed writing both songs, so much of his efforts were devoted to helping the rest of the group learn the chord changes and arrangements.

Of the cover versions and improvisations, there was little from this day that was noteworthy, most of them being brief renditions in between proper rehearsals. Two early Lennon-McCartney compositions – Too Bad About Sorrows and Just Fun – were performed, but each lasted just seconds.

Source: The Complete Beatles Chronicle - Mark Lewisohn

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The Get Back/Let It Be sessions were a typical blend of original song rehearsals and jam sessions on this 4th day of recording.

Get Back was lacking most of its final lyrics in the verses. Although it was later held over for the Abbey Road album, Maxwell's Silver Hammer also made an appearance on this day.

They also performed early versions of Golden Slumbers and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, and Lennon led the group through three versions of Gimme Some Truth, a song which he'd later record for 1971's Imagine album.

John Lennon tried to get the group interested in Across The Universe, which they had recorded in February 1968. Nearly a year on, and Lennon struggled to remember the words, and the performance lacked the elegantly light touch that the earlier recording had.

The day was spent on I've Got A Feeling and Don't Let Me Down, which had been earmarked early on during the Twickenham sessions as contenders for the mooted live performance. At this stage the songs weren't developing significantly, but were instead being rehearsed multiple times until The Beatles were happy they were familiar with the structure.

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Get It Back/Let It Be Sessions - Today was made up of various jams, cover versions, improvisations, and attempts at recording the more complete songs. And this came with lots of tension within the group.

The songs rehearsed were Don't Let Me Down and Two Of Us. Various arrangements of the former were tested, including a Latin-style rhythm and some harmony vocals by Paul McCartney in the middle section.

Two Of Us was, at this stage, more of a straightforward rock song than in its final incarnation. During rehearsals for it, a terse exchange took place between McCartney and George Harrison which was included in the Let It Be film, and which seemed to encapsulate the strained relations within the group at the time.

The Beatles evidently lacked enthusiasm for a new Harrison song, Hear Me Lord, which its composer first performed acoustically, then on an electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal. He also attempted to enthuse the group in his All Things Must Pass, but to little effect.

Carry That Weight, later to feature on Abbey Road, made its debut on this day, and featured a bridge which was omitted in the final version. Also making first appearances were Octopus's Garden and For You Blue, both of which were brief, incomplete performances.

John Lennon, doubtless aware that his songwriting rate had slowed dramatically since the completion of the White Album, revived Across The Universe – a song the group had recorded early in 1968 but which remained unreleased.

Notable among the improvisations and jams were The Palace Of The King Of The Birds, a McCartney instrumental recorded years later for the unreleased Rupert The Bear album. It featured blues-style guitar and a flowing organ part. He also sang a blues improvisation, You Wear Your Women Out, and did a bit of Primal Therapy-style screaming on My Imagination.

George Harrison sang a song known as Maureen, accompanied just with wah-wah guitar. He is heard to claim that Bob Dylan wrote the song, but it is otherwise unknown and may in fact have been an original composition. Harrison also suggests that it might be a suitable single for Ringo Starr.

The day ended with some lengthy rehearsals of McCartney's new song She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.

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The Beatles working at Abbey Road Studios "Get Back" sessions.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 4, 1969

The Beatles working on "Get Back" Sessions.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 3, 1969

The Get Back/Let It Be rehearsals had The Beatles playingy a number of songs, many of which were rough versions of rock 'n' roll oldies, improvisations and numbers from the Lennon-McCartney back catalogue.

John Lennon arrived late at Twickenham Film Studios, Paul McCartney was on piano the first part of the day. He worked through a number of works-in-progress, including several songs which ended up on Let It Be and Abbey Road.

Ringo Starr played brief versions of songs he had written. After Lennon arrived most of the day was spent playing rock 'n' roll classics, including several from The Beatles' Cavern Club and Hamburg years. They also played a version of I'm So Tired with McCartney on lead vocals, and a swift rendition of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: January 2, 1969

The Beatles have their first sessions of Get Back/Let It Be.

THIS DAY IN ROCK HISTORY: January 2, 1969: The Beatles go into the studio to begin recording the LP "Get Back" which was renamed "Let It Be.

The Beatles recording of "Get Back" was not a good time for the group. With the exception of Paul McCartney, there was little enthusiasm for to do a live appearance or record songs for a television appearance. The group were still exhausted after the lengthy sessions for the White Album, and the presence of film cameras during the rehearsals created a further strain.

During the January 1969 sessions, the atmosphere was tense, The Beatles were often at odds with one another. George Harrison found McCartney bossy and domineering, John Lennon was addicted to heroin and unwilling to be parted from Yoko Ono, and Ringo Starr was largely subdued throughout the month.

Only Paul wanted to make the effort – George Harrison walked out of the group on on January 10, 1969, and the plans for the television special were abandoned. He agreed to rejoin The Beatles only if they moved from Twickenham Film Studios to their new recording studio in the basement of their Apple HQ in London's Savile Row. This they did from January 21st, in the process dropping plans for a live concert.

The Get Back sessions followed a Monday to Friday schedule, and each day started between 11am and 1pm. On this first day the group arrived at Twickenham at 11am, apart from Paul McCartney who was delayed on public transport, and arrived at 12.30pm.

This first day officially began at around 9.30am, however, with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg filming as Mal Evans and Kevin Harrington set up The Beatles' equipment onto stage one before the group began playing. The shots would eventually be used for the opening sequence of the Let It Be film.

The Beatles spent much of their time working on three songs: Don't Let Me Down, I've Got A Feeling and Two Of Us.

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