Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Beatles' Sixth Christmas Record

Usually the Beatles would be together in the studio to record their annual Christmas flexi discs for the Fan Club but this would be the first time that the Christmas messages would be recorded separately. Most of the tapes were probably recorded in early November 1968. The tapes would be co-ordinated by a radio DJ Kenny Everett and edited and presented as a whole piece.The recordings were produced as follows: Ringo's contribution was from his home; Paul's contribution was probably recorded at Trident Studios in London where he was working the Mary Hopkin LP for Apple; John and Yoko recorded their contribution at John's Kenwood attic studio and George recorded his contribution at Nat Weiss's apartment with Tiny Tim at the end of November.
The flexi disc starts with Ringo's greeting, Paul's ditty about the old and new year and then John and Yoko's poem "Jock and Yono" with Yoko playing piano and John reciting the poem. George then gives a greeting along with Mal Evans who also greets the fans. It's back to Ringo for an introduction to Paul's acoustic/vocal contribution and then back to John for his second poem entitled "Once Upon A Pool Table" with some eerie effects on his voice. Finally, we go back to George who introduces Tiny Tim who plays his version of "Nowhere Man" and is thanked by George. An orchestra IV-I outtro  and the final drumbeat of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" completes the disc.
Interestingly, there are two unedited versions of the John and Yoko poems which were aired on the "Lost Lennon Tapes" and can be found on the bootleg CD "The Ultimate Beatles Christmas Collection".

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Life With The Lions Project

Between November 4 and November 25 1968, Yoko Ono and John Lennon were at the Queen Charlotte Maternity Hospital in London, UK due to complications whereby Yoko would require an emergency blood transfusion. The couple were holed up in a hospital room for three weeks where unfortunately, Yoko had a miscarriage.
During this time, John had brought his acoustic guitar and recorded some material for an upcoming John/Yoko experimental event. Included in the collection is "No Bed For Beatle John" with Yoko reciting newpaper headlines and articles relating to recent Beatle activities.This would appear on the John/Yoko LP "Life With the Lions" opening side two. This is followed by a baby's hearbeat and then two minutes of silence. Finally, the last track  "Radio Play" is a radio dial being "played" by John whereby he would turn the dial and get a millisecond of sound from the radio - back and forth.
A medley of songs was also recorded for a flexi disc issued with "Aspen" magazine #7 including the titles : "Song for John/Let's go On Flying/ Snow is Falling All The Time/ Mummy's Only Looking For her Hand In the Snow". There is also a John and Yoko duet guitar/voice rendition of  "Don't Worry Kyoko" as a bonus track on the CD "Wedding Album" version recorded during this time. Also included as a bonus track on the CD "Wedding Album" is another piece from this time frame entitled "Mulberry" consisting of Yoko mouthing the words in her various styles while John plucks at a guitar.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Paul/Donovan Tape

At the end of November (probably the 22nd) 1968, both Paul McCartney and Donovan appeared at Trident Studio in London to work on Apple artist Mary Hopkin's LP eventually entitled "Postcard". The reason for the session seems to be that they were looking to cover an original song written by either of them in recent times.
Paul McCartney and Donovan both are playing together on acoustic guitars. Paul sings a song entitled "How Do You Do" which remains unreleased in commercial form. Paul also performs the current "Blackbird" for Donovan with Mary Hopkin joining in here and there. A third "Paul" song is introduced as "Heather" which is a musical nursery type song probably played to Linda's daughter for her entertainment.
Donovan plays "The Unicorn" which sounds like it's a very recent idea of a song. He also plays his current US single "Lalena" for Paul. Donovan completes the titles with three children's songs entitled "Mr. Wind", "The Walrus and The Carpenter" and finally "Land of Gisch".
As a side note, Mary Hopkin covered some tunes featuring both Paul and Donovan on acoustic guitars notably "Voyage of the Moon" and "Lord of The Reedy River" and the Donovan composition "Happiness Runs".
All of these acoustic tunes can be found on the vinyl bootleg "No.3 Abbey Road NW 8" although ironically none of it was recorded there, but at Trident.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

" I Will" (Ballad)

On September 16 1968, work began at EMI Studio2 to complete a basic track for a new Paul McCartney composition entitled "I Will". It was also known very briefly as "Ballad". The song was written earlier in the Spring while The Beatles were in India. Paul plays acoustic guitar while John and Ringo play various percussion instruments.
You can hear take 1 with an edit of takes 34 and 35 of the song commercially released on the Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 3" project. This version is great with the exception of a few lyric changes. Also interesting is Paul's improvisations during these sessions. During take 19, for example, one of the improvisations include the snippet of "Can You Take Me Back" which would wind up on the new LP as a fragment before "Revolution 9".
The band is in an improvisational mood as well during take 30 and you can hear Paul singing a tune about the city of Havana for what is now entitled "Down In Havana".
During takes 34 to 36, you can hear Paul covering one of his recent compositions, a tune written for Cilla Black entitled "Step Inside Love" and eventually into another improvisation entitled "Los Paranoias" which is probably an inside joke as the band utilizes their percussion/acoustic guitar instrumentation to full use including a somewhat samba beat. Finally, during take 36 you can hear Paul covering the song "The Way You Look Tonight" somewhat mixed in with an attempt at "I Will".
The take selected for the commercial release was take 65, taken from a four track machine and copied to an eight track machine and re-named take 68.
The following evening on September 17 1968, Paul overdubbed another acoustic guitar, a second vocal, a mouthed bass and maracas. The song was mixed for mono on September 26 1968 and stereo on October 14 1968. The mono mix has the mouthed bass starting later in the song than the stereo mix.
The outtakes/ improvisations can be heard on various bootlegs including the CD versions of "Turn Me On Dead Man", "The John Barrett Tapes","Down In Havana" and "Mythology Volume 3",

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Peter Sellers Tape

In late August of  1968, Ringo Starr was busy at home compiling a cassette tape of the upcoming new Beatles' songs up to that point for his friend Peter Sellers. Ringo was scheduled to appear in a movie with Peter Sellers eventually released as "The Magic Christian" whereby Ringo plays the son of the title character played by Sellers.One of the connections with Peter Sellers is that George Martin (The Beatles' producer) recorded Sellers during the late 50s/early 60s for his comedy records and released by EMI at the time.
The duration of the tape is approximately 60 minutes and contains recent "White Album" recordings started back in May of 1968. Some of the tunes have early mono mixes and they are as yet incomplete so you get various edits that would be changed before the final mixes were authorized for disc which is why this tape is so interesting.
Side one opens with "Back In The USSR", "Rocky Raccon", "Wild Honey Pie", "Mother Nature's Son", "Sexy Sadie", "Don't Pass Me By" and ends with applause and Ringo announcing - "What A Show! Bravo! More !, etc". You can hear Ringo instruct Mr. Sellers to turn over the tape for more crazy music !!
Side two opens with some exotic music and noises made up by Ringo until we hear "Yer Blues" followed by "Good Night", "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey", "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", "Blackbird" and "Not Guilty". All of this is in mono.
Some of this material can be heard on the CD "Unsurpassed Masters, Volume 4" as well as "The Peter Sellers Tape". An excellent vinyl bootleg including the entire tape in order can be heard on the title "How Pink Is Your Panther?".

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Dear Prudence" Mixes

"Dear Prudence" was a John Lennon composition written about Mia Farrow's sister, who was constantly meditating in India during the Beatles' 1968 spring visit in that area of the world.
On August 29 1968, The Beatles entered Trident Studios in London to record the song. The studio had an eight track machine at the ready whereby EMI Studios still relied on four track for the moment. After 14 hours of work, take 1 was used for the basic track and all other instruments and voices could be added without any reductions in tracks. Ringo was absent for this session and it was Paul McCartney who handled the drums on this track as well as adding backing vocals and percussion. John and George handled the electric guitars while Paul played piano and backing vocals were done with all involved including a visiting Jackie Lomax (Apple artist) and roadie Mal Evans amongst others. Bass guitar by Paul was also overdubbed on to take 1.
The next day August 30 1968, mono and stereo mixes were created at Trident Studios. There are two alternate mono mixes that have seen the light of day and are available on bootleg. The first alternate mix may have come from John Lennon's collection as this was aired on the radio series "The Lost Lennon Tapes" in the late 1980's/early 1990's. The mix contains a round of applause at the end of the song along with John Lennon asking "Should I Just Do The Last Verse?", a blast of a horn and a drum roll. It can be found on the vinyl bootleg "The Lost Lennon Tapes, Volume Six" as well as a bonus track on the Retro-man version of a bootleg CD entitled "Gone Tomorrow, Here Today".
The second alternate mix of "Dear Prudence" has some extra bass guitar notes occurring during the opening verse and the last verse of the song. There is also a round of applause contained at the end and the extension of the tune includes the horn blast, drum roll, some extra guitar and a voice saying "OK. Rolling". This version is contained within the Midnight Beat version of a bootleg CD entitled "Gone Tomorrow, Here Today" (an earlier version of the above) as well as being available on the bootleg CD "Mythology, Volume 3".
The commercial mixes for the "White Album" were completed at EMI Studios on October 13 1968. The vocals on the song have less reverb (drier) than the alternate mixes listed above.

Friday, January 6, 2017

"What's The New Mary Jane" Session and Mixes

On August 14 1968, John, George, Yoko and Mal Evans were present at EMI Studio 2 and were feeling a bit out of their heads as John would later say. It was decided to record a new composition by John entitled "What's The New Mary Jane". John was playing piano and vocals while George would strum the guitar.
The fourth take would last over six minutes long - the main body of the song is only two minutes and the rest of the tune consists of experimental noises by all involved. The piano and guitar were doubled and a second vocal was added to the first part of the song; the second part of the song includes percussion like rachets, handbells, cowbell, tambourine, drums, etc.) as well as Yoko's wailing. The song ends with the John Lennon statement "Let's hear it before we get taken away"!
A stereo mix of the song let's us hear the first two minutes including three verses and choruses, Yoko joins in with the addition of an accordian and piano (with someone just playing the strings of the piano), some slide whistle is also added before the percussion and chaos continues.
On September 25, 1968 two mono mixes and two stereo mixes were completed and the song was edited down to just over three minutes. One of these mixes can be heard on a very early vinyl bootleg entitled "Mary Jane" and on "Spicy Beatles Songs" (in mono).
Of course, the song never made it to the new LP but it re-surfaced later in the next year when John thought he may use the tune as a Plastic Ono Band single. Fresh stereo mixes were completed and a stereo mix from November 26 1969 is used on the 12 inch vinyl bootleg: "What A Shame Mary Jane Had A Pain At The Party".
Finally, circa 1984, a stereo mix was created by Geoff Emerick using the original tapes and going back to the original length of six minutes. The mix remained slated for release on the cancelled "Sessions" commercial LP but ended up on the Apple 3-LP/2-CD "Anthology 3" project.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQenMbs_v5s