Saturday, August 29, 2015

Christmas Messages for Radio 1966

On December 06 1966, during the sessions for the upcoming as yet untitled LP, The Beatles started working on a new McCartney song entitled "When I'm Sixty Four" which was an early composition written mainly by Paul but with a middle section about grand kids added by John. The very basic track of piano, bass, drums and some lead guitar at the end was attempted and left. Nothing from the very basic track and this date has been released in any form so far.
The other task for the session in EMI Studio 2 was to record some upcoming Christmas messages for the fans and to send these messages to the various off short/ alternate radio stations such as Radio Caroline and Radio Scotland in and around the UK island.
A three minute recording of the original session tape is available via youtube as well as on the bootleg CD "The Seven Years of Christmas". These messages have each individual Beatle sending a greeting backed by either a mellotron or a piano in the studio.  There are several "takes" or attempts at the greetings with some of them in various accents.
Four of the spoken word items ( one for each Beatle ) was eventually overdubbed onto an outtake of the 1967 "Christmas Time Is Here Again" tune and used on the 1995 EMI vinyl single/ CD single "Free As A Bird" and is available commercially.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Strawberry Fields Forever" Takes 5,6 and 7

On November 29 1966, The Beatles once again entered Studio two in order to once again attempt a better recording performance for the new Lennon song: "Strawberry Fields Forever".
Take 5 starts with Paul's introduction at the mellotron but this doesn't last very long as he doesn't end up playing it very well and the false start is aborted.
Take 6 is great with the introduction we all know and love, great drums from Ringo, guitar from George and vocals from John. The entire song is played through with an extend ending similar to a King Crimson sounding coda, especially the flute sounds and guitar. You can also hear remnants of previous attempts/performances of the basic track.
Finally, take 7 is a tape reduction of take 6 with some added bass guitar by Paul and effects (ADT) added to John Lennon's vocal.  The Beatles were supposedly given acetates of the results to take home and ponder the performance.
These studio takes can be heard on various vinyl and CD bootlegs: the vinyl bootleg "Ultra Rare Trax, Volume 5 and 6" and the CD equivalent "Unsurpassed Masters, Volume 3" also has these takes.
I've also included a youtube posting:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Strawberry Fields Forever" Takes 2,3 and 4.

On November 28 1966, The Beatles entered EMI Studio 2 with their producer George Martin in order to continue work on the new Lennon penned song "Strawberry Fields Forever". Since take 1 was not used nor released at the time, this was an attempt at a rhythm track in order to lay overdubs. Take 2 consists of the famous mellotron with flute setting introduction played by Paul, maracas by John, guitar by George and drums by Ringo.
Take 2 is a fairly completed take and almost makes it all the way through although you can hear various small mistakes on the keyboard (mellotron) and a bit of glitches with the guitar. Ringo is perfect as usual.
Take 3 is basically just the introduction on the mellotron before John interrupts with the statement of this being too loud !!
Take 4 is another attempt at a rhythm track and this time John adds his vocal and there is also a bass part added by Paul. Probably the best place to hear this material is from the CD "Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 3".

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas" Fourth Fan Club Flexi

On November 25 1966, The Beatles recorded their fourth Fan Club Christmas message in the old traditional form of the English Pantomime/ Vaudeville type play or show. This recording was not done at EMI Studios but was recorded and completed at Dick James' House ( Dick James was their music publisher at the time). The producer and probably editor for this material was George Martin although the scope of his work was most likely "final say" in how the edits and the material sounded at the end.
For this fourth time, The Beatles decided to give their Fan Club something a little different and more creative. The previous Fan Club flexis consist mainly of speeches thanking their fans by the individual members or by the group and/or a singalong or traditional Christmas carols or an older song or even a current hit (i.e. "Yesterday" from the previous year).
The flexi for 1966 consists of edits with some songs and some of the Beatles humour thrown in using the short narrative form that was being used in old traditional British music hall.
The flexi starts with the theme song: "Everywhere It's Christmas" which features Paul on piano and the theme sung by each member of the group in turn. This is followed by "Orowayna" sounding like a choir - the credits stating that this is "conducted by a bearded man in glasses". This segment is narrated by Paul who is likely still on piano. Ringo narrates the next section of "A Rare Cheese" (Two Elder Scotsmen) with George commenting on (wonderful stuff, this)!. John narrates "The Feast" (The King Overindulges). So much indulgence that a doctor is called at the end of the segment. Next up is "The Loyal Toast" which is narrated by George and takes place on the HMS Tremendous. The Toast is conducted to Her Majesty by none other than Ringo !!
The fun continues with the story of "Podgy The Bear and Jasper" narrated by John with George who both play the characters and this segment explains a memory issue and how to solve it without paper - matches, candles and buns !! The next segment of the flex deals with "Felpin Mansions - Part One (Count Balder and Butler)" starring the eccentric son of Baron Landsberg, the inventor of the Rack. This segment segues into "Felpin Mansions - Part Two ( The Count and the Pianist)" whereby the request to play old tunes is accepted by Paul which segues into the next section of the flexi as "Please Don't Bring Your Bango Back". The ending fades with everyone joining in. The next segment features Mal Evans telling the Fan Club members that "Everywhere It's Christmas". The last section of the disc repeats the theme song and title track "Everywhere it's Christmas" sung by all members of the Beatles with the accompaniment of piano. The track ends with the quote "Jolly Good" and lots of clapping.
It must have been weird for the North American market to receive this gift as they would not be familiar with the form of Pantomime so they probably thought the Beatles were getting a little "out there" ...LOL !!
The front cover of the flexi disc has a design by Paul McCartney (photo above) and the back cover consists of the credits, titles, etc. My copy is the UK version. The disc is one sided and has brown lettering with the catalogue number LYN 1145. The Fan Club logo is at the top and the logo is also featured at the top of the back cover.
The flexi disc was never commercially released and only issued to the Fan Club the following month on December 16 1966. It can be found on the bootleg vinyl and CD Christmas Collections readily available as well as on the official Apple LP "The Beatles' Christmas Album" in North America and "From Then To You" as the UK version of same which were also only issued to the Fan Club members. I've added a clip: