Early Nineteen Seventy-Something Pt. 1

The BeatlesThe making of Come and Get It, the last Beatles album that never was…

A two-part series of the special kind of lunacy that sets in with avid mix tape/CD makers. What if the Beatles had made one more album? What would it sound like?

In December 1970, Paul McCartney had his Liverpool pals served with notice that he was legally severing the Beatles’ partnership. The following several years were full of legal wrangling, name calling in the press, secret messages on record, and a lot of really good music from the newly solo Beatles.

From that December in 1970 until that December in 1980 when John Lennon was killed in New York City, Beatle fans wondered if they’d reunite and if they did, what would another Beatles record be like? What if the Beatles, unsatisfied with Let it Be as their final statement as a band, regrouped to have a proper send off? Obviously, we’ll never know for sure, but we do have an idea of what that last album could have been by culling tracks from early solo records.

I first got the idea about a year ago when I stumbled across a conversation on the Mojo bulletin boards. It was a heated discussion of what tracks from the solo albums of John, Paul, George, and Ringo would make up subsequent “fantasy” Beatle albums. Now, this is the rock geek equivalent of fan fiction and the devotion and arguments for or against certain tracks can get surreal.

• You can’t pick “Instant Karma” because John demoed that with the band and it was rejected.

• John would never sign off on Paul’s “Dear Boy,” an obvious reference to Lennon’s divorce from the more palatable Cynthia to marry the universally despised Yoko!

It goes on and on like this. You half expect William Shatner to bust in and plead for these people to Get a Life!

Ah, but we are geeks after all and geeks obsess. It is what defines us.

Isolation

Every good mix has a common theme and parameters. I had the theme, so I had to establish the parameters of my fantasy mix. Some of the really nutty fans—you know, the ones you see at Beatlefest dressed up like Stu Sutcliffe or posing with cardboard cutouts of the Sgt. Pepper cover—go into painstaking detail justifying their selections and some go to incredible lengths developing not one fantasy album, but enough to bring us through to Lennon’s death.

But I am not that loony. No sir, I have a job and a lovely gal at home and things to do! I just needed an excuse to put some of my favorite solo material on one glorious mix. I limited myself to the first two solo albums and selected demos from the Beatles’ Anthology 3. That would represent the band around the time of the break-up and provide a cohesive sound—that special production style that bands have been trying to reproduce for over 30 years—that the Beatles developed together and brought with them to their first tentative steps as solo artists.

I also did not want to create a Greatest Hits album. Mainly because my favorite tracks from the solo years were not hits but also because I wanted songs I thought would make it through the selection committee of Messrs. Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starkey. I even struggled over whether I would include Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song so revered, so masterfully crafted, and so unmercifully overplayed that it now gets on my nerves. Not to fear Beatlegeeks, in the end my own reverence for the song and its absolute Beatle-ness won out.

I had my parameters set and sat down at my Hi-Fi and dug into the solo years to create the lost Beatles album.

Come and Get It

Years ago I swore to God I’d heard a version of Paul McCartney singing “Day After Day.” In fact, I was sure that it was actually written by Macca, even after I knew it was a Badfinger song. As it turns out, Badfinger’s Pete Ham wrote the song but the sound of Paul singing it still haunts me. While “Day After Day” is an expert counterfeit of McCartney’s songwriting style and voice, it’s another Badfinger song that has Sir Paul’s prints all over it.

1. Come and Get It – Paul

2. Instant Karma – John

3. Give Me Love – George

4. Oh Woman, Oh Why – Paul

5. Not Guilty – George

6. Every Night – Paul

7. Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul

8. Gimme Some Truth – John

9. My Sweet Lord – George

10. Back Seat of My Car – Paul

11. Imagine – John

12. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey – Paul

13. It Don’t Come Easy – Ringo

14. Heart of the Country – Paul

15. Crippled Inside – John

16. Dear Boy – Paul

17. Oh Yoko – John

18. Junk – Paul

19. Isolation – John

20. Working Class Hero – John

21. That Would Be Something – Paul

22. God – John

23. All Things Must Pass – George

The opening track of my mix was easiest to pick. Paul demoed “Come and Get It” in the studio before handing it off to Badfinger, the band Apple Records had recently signed, who made it a hit and subsequently had rumors surrounding them that they were in fact the Beatles under a different name. The song is classic McCartney and a shoe-in for the opening track of a Beatles album. While Badfinger was a good imitation of the Beatles, here on Anthology 3 was a version of the song with an actual Beatle singing. It’s also catchy, simple and slightly rockin’; three elements that would likely satisfy all four Beatles and the accountants who would be counting on a hit for the sinking Apple records.

I was off to a roaring start. “This is so fucking easy,” I thought to myself. I mean, come on, it’s the Beatles. How hard can it be to round up one CDR’s worth of songs? And that’s the problem. The volume of material is daunting. Strike that—the volume of GREAT material is daunting. We’re talking about two albums from four individuals who were in the greatest band of all time during the peak of their creative abilities! How do you whittle it all down to one album!? Panic was setting in. I poured myself a tall screwdriver (equal parts vodka and OJ). I was going to wrestle this four-headed monster down to the Very Best, again without being a Greatest Hits…oh, you get it.

Here are the albums I had to work with:

John: Plastic Ono Band; Imagine

Paul: McCartney; Ram

George: All Things Must Pass; Living in the Material World

Ringo: Blast from Your Past (a Greatest Hits collection from the 70s)

The Beatles: Anthology 3

So, I have John’s most personal and harrowing album (Plastic Ono Band), Paul’s most musically and lyrically adventurous from any point in his career (Ram), George’s three-record masterpiece (All Thing Must Pass), and Ringo’s greatest hits package—a CD that boasts three top ten hits and a variety of tracks featuring other Beatles. Plus I have the other albums, which happens to include Lennon’s most critically acclaimed and publicly canonized recording, Imagine.

From Anthology, I knew “Come and Get It” would lead off. Like I said, that was easy. I also knew that George’s “Not Guilty” would make the cut, not like when it was omitted from the White Album. How that ever happened, I’ll never understand. “Not Guilty” has so many elements that make George’s songs so uniquely his: snide, funny lyrics; killer guitar solo; spooky production; and George’s northern soul voice with more than a hint of Liverpool accent to keep it Beatle-y.

That took care of Anthology. Those two songs were the most completed and least known of the entire set. Now, onto the solo albums.

I started with Plastic Ono Band. So many great songs that on first glance I thought the whole album would end up in the mix. It also happens to be my favorite solo record of the bunch. But Plastic Ono Band is also the least Beatle sounding album of any of the solo albums. Even John’s voice and writing style was completely different from the songs he’d recorded with the Beatles for Abbey Road just months before, and this is a Beatles mix after all. Eventually only three songs from John’s amazing solo debut made my mix: “Isolation,” “God” (I’ll get to my thinking on this controversial track), and “Working Class Hero.”

“Isolation” and “Working Class Hero” sound like they could have been on the White Album with John just starting to articulate his JohnYoko ideals of oneness and also thinking about social politics. More importantly, I could hear how the other Beatles may have played on these songs (barring “Working Class Hero,” which is perfect as an acoustic solo piece), and that established my unwritten rule for the rest of the track selections.

I had to be able to hear how the song would sound with the other Beatles’ input. Some tracks were easier than others; “It Don’t Come Easy” sounds exactly like a Beatles track with Ringo singing and playing drums and George producing and adding guitar. (By the way, it is my solid opinion that George is what makes a Beatles song sound like a Beatles song—more so than even John or Paul. By the time he was 27 years old, George had developed a playing style so immediately identifiable as his own that it is in fact the defining element of a Beatles track.)

And George gave me quite a bit of trouble. The sheer volume of material coupled with the fact that he was coming off the high of the number one hit “Something” on Abbey Road, a song none other than declared rock and roll hater Frank Sinatra called the most beautiful love song ever written. The amount of stunning work on Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” a three-disk opus of lush orchestration and sighing guitars that George had been developing since that first throwaway track (“Don’t Bother Me”) from Meet The Beatles gives reason to pause. Surely the youngest Beatle would have more pull on any album following Abbey Road. From the criminally ignored “Not Guilty” to the song that landed G. Diddy in court for plagiarism, “My Sweet Lord,” George had it going on in the early 70s. But as it stands, I had to pare George’s participation down to just four songs, a decision I am rethinking at this very moment.

The mix is very heavy on Paul. I am a registered John guy. He has always been my favorite. I liked his attitude, voice, insane lyrics, everything. But Paul produced the strongest material of his solo career on McCartney and Ram. That and the fact that any albums post-Abbey Road would have likely been at Paul’s instigation leads me to the opinion that the album would have been driven by Paul’s material.

In the end I wound up with 23 tracks from seven albums over the three years immediately following the Beatles’ demise.

Stay tuned for Pt. 2 where the author loses his shit trying to figure out the order of songs.

Update: Pt. 2 is now online!

30 thoughts on “Early Nineteen Seventy-Something Pt. 1”

  1. Is Instant Karma the one that goes “Oh my lover, for the first time in my life … My eyes are wide open”? If so, I totally agree with your choice and placement! If not, what were you thinking? (Ha ha. The first of many reproaches, I’m sure.) I like this article a lot in its record of your deliberations about the songs and the fairness of the selections. I think overall it sounds like a great mix — you should release it, packaged as a fictional Beatles last album, and get into lawsuits that would make exciting reading material for GloNo.

  2. Different song, Kristy. You can’t imagine how much time I put into this dopey mix. I take these things way too seriously. But Jake will tell you, it is a dope mix.

  3. When D. put the songs together, I really noticed the different directions taken by the solo Beatles. Kind of like taking the difference between the first three songs on Abbey Road, and amplifying them. As good as the songs are, it’s hard for me to imagine that the songs would be good neighbors…

    The Beatles could have made an incredible album if they just could have remained friends. What if the Beatles could have gotten back in touch with each other, dropped their guard, listened to each other, had a few all-night conversations and vowed to make a cohesive statement, rooted in their time?

    That would have been a hell of a record!

  4. Imagine if Badfinger stayed together. What kind of album would THAT have been?

    Seriously, thanks for putting together a great summer mix.

  5. Ryan,

    I think you’d be surprised how good the songs sound next to each other. Again, the production styles they used on their solo work was similar to that on the last Beatle albums. Now, there are differences, for sure. But there are major differences between Beatle songs and albums. Listen to the white album for a good example of how completely different song styles can work together with the right pacing. Look at the recording differences between Abbey Raod and let it Be.

    But the pacing was a big issue and the coupling of songs was fucking hard. I discuss that in Pt.2 and lose my mind when Jake throws a wrench in the whole thing by pointing out a major omission, which sends the whole thing into a spin.

  6. I think “Uncle Albert” was pretty slight as a song, but then I’m not sure what I’d replace it with.

  7. I think we should play a new game designed just for Beatles geeks called “what’s the major omission D. made?”. My first guess is “Isn’t it a Pity” by George Harrison. My second guess is “Early 1970″ by Ringo Starr. My third guess is “If Not for You” by George Harrison. Any takers? Make it a double album? Triple?

  8. Kap’n,

    That’s exactly what went through my head as put it together! There are so many songs you want to include and a double disk probably would have made a good mix, but I wanted this to be awesome so I pared it down to one CDR (78 min).

    George is under-represented, for sure. I’ve thought so since I finished this damn thing.

  9. One Ringo song is plenty. Except “I’m the Greatest” was written by John so you’d think that would’ve made it… But I don’t miss it, that’s for sure.

  10. Oops, yup, “If Not for You” is a Dylan comp. But how ’bout “I’d Have you Anytime”, a Dylan-Harrison co-comp?

    And D. – you’re TOO hard on “Early 1970″! A dumb Ringo ditty is ALWAYS a must on a Beatles LP, and while I’d never have it replace “It Don’t Come Easy”, it would easily trounce “Uncle Albert” or “That Would be Something” (how ’bout writing a chorus, Paulie?) or even – SACRILEGE – “God”, which has NO humor about the Beatles’ end, which “Early 1970″ certainly does. “I play guitar – A – D – E” – right on Ringo! I laugh everytime.

  11. I agree with the post about Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. Lose the song. George would have walked off an album with this song on it considering how much he hated Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and this one is just about the same. Replace it with Apple Scruffs. John just loved that kind of play on words.

  12. Ah, but Uncle Albert has all of the weird changes Paul was so hot on during Abbey Road! Dopey song, yes. But musically it has the elements that Paul was so into at the time.

    “That Would Be Something” has a great country feel though. Kind of like “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road”

    I sense some Paul bashing coming up. Easy…easy…

  13. I’m not going to engage in any Paul bashing here, but since you concede that George is under-represented given his blossoming as a writer and singer, and you also agree that “Uncle Albert” is “dopey,” I think it would be easy to swap in another track by George. See? Easy as pie.

  14. D., what a great idea and list. I’m glad you explained the thought process; I would have definitely stacked more George tunes, ah! but this is the “lost Beatles album,” and indeed, in that time, would have been Paul-o-centric. A fellow geek, I commend you on your discernment.

    Regarding Paul bashing: It’s fun because Paul can be so pompous, but it is my opinion that Paul, as famous and recognized as he is, is actually habitually underrated. I think he thinks so too, hence his genial pomposity.

    That said, I’m embarrassed to admit that I am totally unfamiliar with his first two solo records.

  15. If The Beatles had made another album, I don’t think it would have been totally Paul driven. That’s the whole point & part of the reason they broke up, just watch Let It Be and the famous Paul/George row. If they had made another album, Paul would have had to reconcile his creative differences with George and George would have been better represented. Think of Piggies and Savoy Truffle. Apple Scruffs would have made it.

  16. I was first introduced to Badfinger back when I was a freshman in college. I worked third shift in a grocery store. One of the other night stockers was this guy who constantly moaned about how rock music suck nowadays (1990). When he realized I was open to a lot of 60s and 70s rock, he started in about Badfinger.

    God, I must have known all their lyrics before I ever heard them through a speaker. This guy seemed determined to turn me into a badfinger fan. On and on he would talk all night, over the aisles while we worked, about how Badfinger was going to be the ‘next’ Beatles. Badfinger was the best thing since the Beatles. Etc. etc. etc.

    I just never could buy it. There’s the sound alike thing, but it was like a plastic facsimile. Not the real thing.

    I thought I might never hear of Badfinger again. I was wrong.

  17. I actually completely agree with Phillips’s choice of songs, including Uncle Albert. While it might be bit of, for lack of better words, a goofy song, it’s also extremely Paul sounding. Like Phillips said, it has all of the changes that Paul was using around that time. Besides, if nothing else, it’s a fun song.

    Also, Barabajagal, what’s so pompous about Paul?

  18. oh jesus. geeking out is fine, and making mixes is lovely, but this beatles insanity has to fucking stop.

    even i enjoy some of the solo stuff, but this sort of project makes my idea in passing of compiling every version of ‘river deep, mountain high’ i could find look like a translation of etruscan into ancient greek.

    give it a rest.

  19. For some reason, maybe it’s the weather, I’ve been really wanting to tell people to fuck off on discussion boards lately. I know it’s a stupid, unproductive thing that only detracts from the flow of a thread, but seriously, the first thing to come to my mind lately as I’m reading a lot of new messages is, “Fuck off.” It’s probably just me.

  20. it’s alright, half the time i want to tell the people here to fuck off, but then i restrain myself and stick it into something positive. Occasionally, I’m in a bad mood and I’ll post, but usually I won’t bother if it isn’t something I’m really into.

    Anyways, I really would have put more George on, seeing as he’s my favourite…rip george. but otherwise this sounds great.

  21. Just read this article… how many months late? George is my favorite, too, but I don’t think “My Sweet Lord” would have made it past the cutting-room floor as a Beatles song. Paul and John mocked the frank religiousness of the song when it came out solo and, with all four of them, might have noticed how similar the hook sounded to that other song.

    All the more for George, anyway.

  22. This would have been a wonderfully bi-polar (or tri-polar) album in the vein of the white album. Originaility would have been sacrificed to eclecticism. It also would have been yet another document of a band disintegrating. Not all that flattering, but hey, it’s the Beatles, I’ll take it….

  23. Cold Turkey.

    You left out Cold Turkey.

    By the way, did something like this back in about 1999. Missing a few of the Paul’s and, I’m sorry to say “Not Guilty”, but has “Cold Turkey” and “I Found Out” from John.

    Oh well. You’re right… this is all Nerdsex, anyway.

    Its a fun read and a good listen, so its worth it.

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