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just some blokes mucking around in the studio
December 10, 2012 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Whoever let the tape roll on at a Beatles recording session at Abbey Road studio, 47 years ago, deserves our gratitude for several reasons. For reminding us that these exalted and almost absurdly famous musicians could sound like rank amateurs trying to teach themselves their newest song. For giving non-musicians a window onto the utterly mundane reality of the recording process, i.e. the endless waiting around for the engineer to get the tape cued up into the right spot. For giving us an audio glimpse of Lennon and McCartney's continual nutty banter, which can be quite entertaining. All that and more to be heard in The Beatles in Studio - Rubber Soul (1965) and Rubber Soul (Think For Yourself) 1965 Session.
posted by flapjax at midnite (49 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
NOTE: There is some overlap in the two linked clips, but each clip also features bits hat the other doesn't, so I included them both.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:40 AM on December 10, 2012


That was wond'
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 4:30 AM on December 10, 2012


Is John doing an American accent at 3:30 on the first link?
posted by goethean at 4:31 AM on December 10, 2012


That 'whaaarrp' noise the tape makes as it gets up to speed each time recording starts... man that gets me all nostalgic on a real visceral level.

As for their sky larking about... Spike Milligan must have been very proud and perhaps George Martin driven to distraction. :)
posted by adamt at 4:37 AM on December 10, 2012


[disclaimer - I haven't watched all of the clips yet]

If the only song they're working on is "Think For Yourself", the fact that it's a George Harrison composition probably accounts for Lennon and McCartney's "continual nutty banter". They were known for (whether consciously or not) taking George's songs less seriously than their own, and for only really getting down to work on their own material. This led, understandably, to some friction within the group and resentment by Harrison, which wasn't really resolved until he came up with both "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun" for Abbey Road. John and Paul both realized they really couldn't muck around during those songs.
posted by Curious Artificer at 4:54 AM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I seem to recall there being something like 20 CDs worth of recording sessions for The White Album floating around.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:39 AM on December 10, 2012


They were known for (whether consciously or not) taking George's songs less seriously than their own

Definitely true, that. Still, they'd chip in in some pretty important ways on George's tunes. Concerning this very one (Think For Yourself), I've heard an early version from before Paul added the fantastic "fuzz bass" line, and I can tell you that the bass sound and especially the bass part is what brings the tune into the realm of pop greatness. Before that it was pretty humdrum. That bass line is kind of everything about that tune. Well, except the biting lyrics, which are kind of pleasing in a nasty way:

"although your mind's opaque
try thinking more, if just for your own sake"

Another example is the totally slamming psychedelic guitar solo on Harrison's "Taxman". Played by Paul, it's a key element in making that song shine.

BTW, I just remembered that Rubber Soul was the first LP I ever owned, the first record of my very own! My older sister bought it for me when it came out. I was 8 years old. The jacket was a thing of wonder for me, with its funhouse mirror sort of distortion of the Beatles' faces. I didn't get the pun, though (soul/sole), at that age. I just took it at face value. Haha!

But wow, I thought they looked really cool, and even though I was too young to know exactly why, I definitely picked up on the fact that these Beatles were not quite the same Beatles I'd been listening to up til then. Something was changing. Then of course the next release, Revolver, and they were light years away from Love Me Do and I Want To Hold Your Hand, and I was getting just about old enough to have caught wind of the idea that maybe drugs had something to do with it all...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 AM on December 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I agree that the basis of the aimlessness is that Lennon & McCartney couldn't be arsed to put any effort into George's songs. Anyone who's ever been in a band recognizes the disingenuous I-can't-figure-out-the-chords malarkey, which George probably had to deal patiently with every time he had the gall to bring one of his songs to a session.

It must have been so infuriating for George, getting his best ideas dismissed while he had to indulge John and Paul's every stupid whim. "No, sorry, George, we can't do any more work on 'All Things Must Pass,' we've got to do take 71 of 'Bang Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer'."
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 5:49 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually I think the horsing around wasn't limited to George tracks at all, and was pretty constant.

Here's the isolated vocals on the final take of 'Sgt Pepper Reprise', in which Paul and John are still doing silly voices at each other right up till their cue (Paul: 'Twist it'; John: 'Shake it.')

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=racFlXvoBws
posted by colie at 5:54 AM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the saddest things I've seen in London recently is what's happened to the outside of the Abbey Road Studios. The first time I saw them, something like 25 years ago, the white walls were covered with graffiti tributes to the Beatles. More recently, it's just random or nasty graffiti.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:20 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


They were known for (whether consciously or not) taking George's songs less seriously than their own

No wonder. I don't think George's songs weren't much cop until the White Album, it was only around then that he managed (largely) to shake off the whiney self-righteous tone of his songs. "Think for Yourself" being a good example.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2012


It must have been so infuriating for George, getting his best ideas dismissed while he had to indulge John and Paul's every stupid whim. "No, sorry, George, we can't do any more work on 'All Things Must Pass,' we've got to do take 71 of 'Bang Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer'."

I think it's pretty much an open secret that the reason the album All Things Must Pass was a triple album was because it was an unspoken message that "your loss you sods".

Although, agreed that they generally horsed around. The inclusion of the song "Maggie Mae" on Let It Be was because someone caught a tape of John and Paul goofing off in the studio; it's a Liverpool folk song they used to do in the old days. (You can also tell that Paul doesn't remember any of the words.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 AM on December 10, 2012


Poor George Harrison. If he'd been in any other band in the 60s he would have emerged as the Genius Visionary Poet Frontman of the group. Instead he's that guy who was in the band with Lennon and McCartney.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


They may have horsed around but their performance on Think for Yourself is pretty amazing. The fuzzy bass is great, the harmonies sound wonderful and Ringo is just perfect.
posted by octothorpe at 7:15 AM on December 10, 2012


We got a little taste of mucking about in the YELLOW SUBMARINE film, where a bit of the vocal rehearsal for "Think For Yourself" was pulled out of the session tapes and used on the movie soundtrack.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:20 AM on December 10, 2012


Just searching on YouTube for "Beatles Session" reveals an embarrassment of riches. This stuff is a lot of fun to listen to.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Dangerous if you actually wanted to get some work done today though.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:25 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


> which wasn't really resolved until he came up with both "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun" for Abbey Road.
> John and Paul both realized they really couldn't muck around during those songs.

George wrote a quantity of what I thought were self-important album fillers, namely those long droning chunks of Maharishi-derived, uh, philosophy, featuring sitar or sitar-soundalike guitar. But otoh he also wrote "Only a Northern Song" which is my pick for cleverist (sorry John) and all-around best (sorry L&M) Beatles song evar. I hope he got a decent amount of satisfaction from having solo writer credit on that one.
posted by jfuller at 7:27 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that said, "Only a Northern Song" is a work of hilarious genius!
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 7:30 AM on December 10, 2012


those long droning chunks of Maharishi-derived, uh, philosophy

I got so tired of all of those. "Within You Without You" and, uh, what were all the others?
posted by thelonius at 7:37 AM on December 10, 2012


Apparently the other three hated Only a Northern Song. I've always loved it! Like Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, it was, I think, slated for Sgt Pepper.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2012


Apparently the other three hated Only a Northern Song.

Not that surprising, as it may have been a subtle critique of Lennon and McCartney's publishing company.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rubber Soul was a pun?

Ah, crap. I'm glad I don't remember this stuff.
posted by mule98J at 8:55 AM on December 10, 2012


The entire album is written from the point of view of a pair of shoes.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:57 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


George wrote a quantity of what I thought were self-important album fillers, namely those long droning chunks of Maharishi-derived, uh, philosophy, featuring sitar or sitar-soundalike guitar.

That quantity would be "one", wouldn't it? Within You, Without You on Sgt Pepper.

(You might be thinking of The Inner Light, which is a B-side and possibly Blue Jay Way which is on Magical Mystery Tour, though that was recorded as a soundtrack and EP, whatever the American record company did with it afterwards.)
posted by Grangousier at 9:31 AM on December 10, 2012


"Only A Northern Song" is my favorite Beatle tune, always has been ... ever since I first heard/saw it as a tyke in Yellow Submarine.
posted by mykescipark at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2012


On that second link...did I just hear someone singing "do you want to hold a penis"? LOL
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2012


"Love You To" off Revolver was the template for "Within You, Without You" and presumably the other sitar song jfuller meant. But I loved George's contributions on that album. If any teenybopper band had previously had a rockin' go at Inland Revenue, I never heard it. And "I Want to Tell You" is Beatles pop at its best.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2012


And "I Want to Tell You" is Beatles pop at its best.

My own favorite Harrisong is "It's All Too Much". Actually, a crapton of my favorite Beatles songs are George's; admittedly, we shared a birthday so I sort of imprinted at an early age, but the more of his stuff I listen to and the more I learn about the man the more I am convinced that I actually do have A Favorite Beatle after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Poor George Harrison. If he'd been in any other band in the 60s he would have emerged as the Genius Visionary Poet Frontman of the group...

I think George was the most highly-motivated songwriter ever.
posted by ovvl at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2012


Here's the isolated vocals on the final take of 'Sgt Pepper Reprise', in which Paul and John are still doing silly voices

That so much of this stuff was never fully mixed out and was instead pancaked and layered onto everything else contributed to Beatles recordings having a certain depth of sound that even non-fanatics are able to identify if never quite name. I don't find this as much anymore, but I still look for it, hiding in the cracks between moments.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:53 AM on December 10, 2012


I'll speak up for "Within You, Without You." Great lyrics, fine melody, fantastic orchestration by George Martin with a propulsive 5/4 interlude in the middle. Not whining unless you're self-satisfied, not dull unless your ears are closed.
posted by Greenie at 1:00 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but the best George Harrison song is Long, Long, Long.
posted by swift at 1:44 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


On that second link...did I just hear someone singing "do you want to hold a penis"?

Yup. Lennon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:52 PM on December 10, 2012


On that second link...did I just hear someone singing "do you want to hold a penis"?

Yup. Lennon.


This somehow doesn't suprise me. Lennon could get snarky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2012


...And yes, I know saying "Lennon could get snarky" is like saying "sometimes the Amazon gets damp".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am probably in the right thread to admit I like that song "Savoy Truffle" on the White Album. Sorry, but I do. I also like "She's so fine" on Axis Bold as Love by Hendrix. Sorry. Sorry. *hangs head in shame*
posted by marienbad at 3:43 PM on December 10, 2012


Wasn't Humph wond?
posted by bink at 3:52 PM on December 10, 2012


I think "Savoy Truffle" is a great song. I'm a little less partial to "She's So Fine" but it's a heck of a lot better than "Little Miss Strange." Now, Noel Redding, there's a guy that could barely get a word in edgewise, musically speaking.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:09 PM on December 10, 2012


Now, Noel Redding, there's a guy that could barely get a word in edgewise, musically speaking.

I don't mean to sound cruel here, but I don't think he had all that much to say.

Does sound cruel, though, doesn't it?

He was bitter as hell about having played bass with one of the greatest figures of rock history, though. I met him years back, at a festival in Switzerland. Spent the better part of an evening with him. That night he continually referred to Hendrix as "henpecked". I mean called him that, never said "Jimi" or "Hendrix". I thought WTF? Is he joking? I mean, come on, Hendrix was surely anything but "henpecked".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:21 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lennon could get snarky.

Snark was a special gift of all four of the lads.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:52 PM on December 10, 2012


I don't mean to sound cruel here, but I don't think he had all that much to say.

The truth hurts. But that doesn't make it any less true.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:49 PM on December 10, 2012


I am probably in the right thread to admit I like that song 'Savoy Truffle' on the White Album

I saw some Montélimar in the deli the other day and I thought, "Savoy Truffle!"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:58 PM on December 10, 2012


I saw some Montélimar in the deli the other day and I thought, "Savoy Truffle!"

Thanks, I never knew what that referred to.

There was never any doubt, though as to the meaning of "we all know obladiblada, but can you show me where you are?" Ol' George was fed up with Paul at that point!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:48 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poor George Harrison. If he'd been in any other band in the 60s he would have emerged as the Genius Visionary Poet Frontman of the group.

Not the only time that happened. As someone once said of The Who, "John Entwistle had the poor luck of being a good songwriter in a band that already had a great one."
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:34 PM on December 10, 2012


John Entwistle had the poor luck of being a good songwriter in a band that already had a great one.

Pete Townshend only discovered that Entwhistle had been a life long Freemason at his funeral. I'm sure that fits in somehow here.
posted by colie at 12:01 AM on December 11, 2012


Poor George Harrison. If he'd been in any other band in the 60s he would have emerged as the Genius Visionary Poet Frontman of the group. Instead he's that guy who was in the band with Lennon and McCartney.
If he'd been in any other band in the 60s, he wouldn't have learned songcraft firsthand from Lennon and McCartney. I love his best songs as much as anything, but he took a long time to become a great songwriter.
posted by dfan at 8:59 AM on December 12, 2012


If he'd been in any other band in the 60s, he wouldn't have learned songcraft firsthand from Lennon and McCartney. I love his best songs as much as anything, but he took a long time to become a great songwriter.

So did Lennon/McCartney.

John Lennon did not emerge from the womb at full songwriting strength. By that same token, nor did George Harrison emerge from the womb as talented a guitarist as he became. They all learned together, and taught each other as they went.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2012


he took a long time to become a great songwriter.

For all us middle agers, it's a humbling thought to remember that George was only 26 when the Beatles split up...
posted by colie at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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