Monday, July 27, 2009

Forty Years Ago Today

Forty years ago this month the Beatles were in the studio recording their Abbey Road album.

There were splendid songs on this album. I'm thinking of the delightful ‘Something,’ ‘Come Together’ which I've written about on another forum, and ‘I Want You (She's So Heavy)’ which is a wonderful collision of what is basically two different songs edited together. The bluesy I Want You verses were recorded during the White Album sessions and the crazy-arse 6/8 She's So Heavy refrains were spliced in to make a tour de force which, as far as running time is concerned, was topped only by ‘Revolution 9’ in the Beatles canon — and, of course, ‘Revolution 9’ doesn't count because it is stupid.

There were duds too, of course. Yes, I'm looking at you ‘Octopus's Garden,’ that godawful ‘Her Majesty’ drivel, and ‘Maxwell's Silver Hammer’.

Ringo Starr said ‘Maxwell's Silver Hammer’ “was the worst track we ever had to record.” John Lennon called it “Paul's Granny Music” and refused to take any part in recording it. The story is that his only contribution was to drop his trousers in the studio and moon Paul McCartney as he was recording the line “So he waits behind” (you can hear McCartney laughing at it as he sings the next line “Writing fifty times ‘I must not be so…’”)

It is encouraging to note that in, for example, the goodtime rocking tune ‘Polythene Pam’ Lennon copies the patented Squid Ink song form of

|Verse|Chorus|Verse|Chorus|Solo|Sudden end|

While we're talking about ‘Polythene Pam’ allow me to point out that you can hear Lennon counting out the bars in the left channel during the guitar solo. For those who don't know why that would be done, they would have recorded the backing tracks — that is, the drums, the bass and the acoustic guitar — at the same time (my sources tell me they recorded the backing tracks for this song on 25th July 1969 — they played it no less than 39 times before they had a take everybody was happy with). They would also have recorded somebody doing a guide vocal so that the musicians know where they are in the song but there is a long stretch in this song where the musicians are playing the same thing over and over (D-A-E chords) where the solo will go in later. You need to know when this is going to end which is easy enough if you're in the same room looking at each other but you need to have something on the recording to help those who will later do some overdubs. The Beatles did this by having somebody, usually Lennon, count the bars into a microphone as they go. You can hear this counting throughout the Beatles's œuvre.

I bring this up only because, on the evidence of the previous post on this blog, perhaps we in Squid Ink ought to get into the habit of counting the bars in songs like ‘Deadpan.’ Or, at least, we should get John Lennon in to do it for us.

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Anonymous Gilly said...

Ahhh, I see you do have something to say. I like the image, though I like the "pink" pistol better.
I am guessing that the reason this hasn't been picked up by the masses is that 40 years ago this week - everyone was talking moon stuff and John Lennon mooning Paul doesn't quite cut it.

28/7/09 13:27  
Blogger Dan said...

the B side is the best thing ever, since the history of forever. the A side kind of bores me. And I include Come Together in that, everybody loves come together, I just don't get it.

I love Polythene Pam, despite Pam being my mum's name and that all being a bit weird given the content.

28/7/09 13:35  

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