|The "Sessions" LP remained unreleased.|
|The single (front cover)|
On 26 Jan 1976, when The Beatles' nine-year contract with EMI Records finally expired, EMI immediately began to take stock of The Beatles' back catalogue, seriously considering for the first time the hundreds of hours of unreleased recordings stored haphazardly in the Abbey Road Studios' tape vault.
Ever since the break-up of the band, there had always been rumours of unheard Beatles titles. Titles such as Junk, The Void, Not Guilty, and What's The New Mary Jane were among the song titles that were talked about. In an article in the New Musical Express of 23 March 74 a list was compiled of Beatles' rumoured EMI outtakes. Titles mentioned included "How Do You Do It", "Suzy Parker", "If You've Got Troubles", "Jazz Piano Song", "You'll Know What To Do", "Pink Litmus Paper Shirt", "Penina", "Not Unknown", "India", "Annie", "When I Come To Town", "Four Nights In Moscow", "Colliding Circles", and "Always And Only". Some of these did indeed exist, some were misinterpretations apparently based on EMI session sheets (working titles etc) and some looks like they were just made up. The 1975 discography book "All Together Now" by Castleman/Podrazik mentioned all of these, plus the following: "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby", "Tell Me If You Can", "Peace Of Mind", and "I Should Like To Live Up A Tree".
Further rumored titles among the fans were "Baby Jane", "I'm Sorry", "Bad Penny Blues", "Echoes Of The Merseyside", "Home", "Just Dancing Around", "Maisy Jones", "Moonglow", "My Kind Of Girl", "Portrait Of My Love", "Proud As You Are", "Rubber Soul", "Swinging Days", and "Zero Is Just Another Even Number".
While people were speculating, EMI executives listened to all the material that had not been released. However, they only considered song titles which hadn't been released, ignoring four hundred hours or so of rehearsals, demos, alternate takes, arrangements, and mixes of familiar songs. So their initial research only came up with about ten titles considered worthy of attention. According to Mark Lewisohn, EMI "began doing in-house compilation cassettes" of this material - one of which found its way into private collectors' hands by late 1978. The tape was played in 1980 at a Beatles convention, and eventually released on a bootleg entitled File Under: Beatles.
|1983 File under: Beatles bootleg LP|
The whole boardroom tape eventually leaked in full, and has been released on a CD bootleg.
The material was all apparently dubbed directly from the session tapes, with no attempts at remixing or editing, and was more of a rough assembly of potential songs for a Beatles outtake LP. The titles were as follows:
- Leave My Kitten Alone
- One After 909 the 1963 recording
- If You've Got Troubles
- Christmas Time (Is Here Again!) Only excerpts of this was used on the 1967 Christmas single
- That Means A Lot
- Come And Get It Paul's demo for Badfinger
- Rip It Up / Shake Rattle And Roll from a Get Back sessions jam
- Not Fade Away / Bo Diddley Another one of those
- Dig A Pony Alternate take, but much like the released version.
|This photo was supposed to be on one side of the "Sessions" inner sleeve.|
In 1981, an engineer at Abbey Road named John Barrett found he had cancer, and was looking for a way to occupy his time while undergoing treatment. Ken Townsend, the manager of the studios at the time, thought that finally going through the vaults and seeing exactly was and was not there with regards to the Beatles' many recording sessions would be an excellent task for the ailing engineer.
Barrett ripped into his task with gusto, spending weeks listening through every tape and making up a detailed "catalog" of sorts, with multi-colored tabs and dividers for easy access to the various sections, and color codings for the multitudes of mixes and takes which were included. The first fruits of this research was used on the insert for the box of EMI's "The Beatles Singles Collection" issued in December of 1982, which featured for the first time the recording dates for the tracks enclosed. Also, an informative article in "Record Collector" by Nick Piercey in october 1983 included EMI mouthpiece Mike Heatley using Barrett's guide when answering Piercey's queries about various Beatles recording issues.
On 19 February 1982, Barrett notated the previously-blank tape box for the "Leave My Kitten Alone" session, pointing out "Track cuts off before end" (in other words, the tape ends abruptly before the song has finished) next to take 5. This take was again considered for single release at Christmas 1982 but nothing was done about it.
Besides the discovery of great alternate versions ("I'm Looking Through You", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and "Norwegian Wood" for example), Barrett's work led EMI to take its first steps towards letting the public actually hear this material. It was decided that Abbey Road's Studio 2, during a summer 1983 renovation, would be opened to tourists - the highlight being a visual history of The Beatles' recording career, accompanied by a soundtrack featuring outtakes and alternate mixes. It was during the preparations for this show that copies of some complete EMI reels were made and eventually sold to bootleggers, ultimately resulting in albums like Ultra Rare Trax and Unsurpassed Masters.
When the presentation, The Beatles Live At Abbey Road, opened on 18 Jul 83, it was a mixed bag. I had the pleasure of attending one of these, and was delighted to hear new Beatles naterial. Songs like "Leave My Kitten Alone" and "How Do You Do It" were included, but incomplete. There was no sign of "If You've Got Trouble" or "That Means A Lot", the long "Helter Skelter", or known titles like "Come And Get It", "Mary Jane" and "Not Guilty". Beautiful stripped-down versions of "Because" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" were mixed in with less compelling things like early takes and false starts from "Don't Bother Me", "I Saw Her Standing There", "She's A Woman" and "A Hard Day's Night". Also, songs like "Rain," "Hello Goodbye," and "Penny Lane" were presented in remixed form, whereas "Love Me Do" and "Twist And Shout" were simply the standard recordings. The one that stood out for me was George Harrison's acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
Somehow, some people managed to smuggle a tape recorder past Abbey Road security, and new bootlegs appeared on the market. The show closed on 11 September 83, and EMI again started to seriously work towards coming up with a new LP of outtakes. Meanwhile, the engineer responsible for unearthing and making sense of the recordings, John Barrett, eventually died of cancer in February 1984.
In November 1984, a radio series called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: A History Of The Beatles Years 1962-1970" made use of different mixes and outtake recordings of some of the familiar Beatles songs, as well as featuring debuts of several other songs, mostly from acetates and demo tapes sold at auctions. One such notable recording was "Besame Mucho", from the Beatles' first EMI session, previously unheard and unreported.
Speaking of the Beatles' first EMI session: There was a book store here in Oslo which always used to have a good selection of music books in the eighties, many of them were Beatles books. The clerk who was in charge of the music books was interested in the group, and kept ordering new Beatles books as they appeared. Because of this, he became friendly with his customers, and I always had a chat with him whenever I was in the store. One day he told me that one of his customers had claimed that he was in possession of that entire session tape, with all four songs. It always struck me as strange that "Besame Mucho" was leaked, but not the rest of the songs. A few years later, George Martin discovered an acetate of "Love Me Do", which was released on "Anthology 1", but the remaining two still haven't found their way to a bootleg or an official release. So maybe they are in the hands of a Norwegian collector. Or perhaps it was just a tall tale.
Anyway, the recording of "Besame Mucho" was, in fact, one of the tracks EMI was considering for its own Beatles project, which had the in-house code name "Mary Jane", the joke working-title "Boots", and the penultimate title "One-Two-Three-Four". Throughout the summer of 1984, once the line-up was set, engineer Geoff Emerick did his best to desecrate the material by chopping it up and assembling new versions which in some cases scarcely resembled the original takes. EMI prepared a press release which claimed that Emerick merely "remixed them and enhanced the overall sound quality by transferring the tapes". In fact, over half the songs were severely edited, others more subtly faded or spliced to bring them into line with Emerick's (and EMI's) idea of 1984 commercial standards.
By August 1984 a near-final track listing was set:
1. Christmas Time (Is Here Again!) / Come And Get It (presumably crossfaded)
2. Leave My Kitten Alone
3. Not Guilty (very edited)
4. That Means A Lot
5. I'm Looking Through You
6. What's The New Mary Jane (another one with lots of edits
1. How Do You Do It (with the ending chopped up)
2. Besame Mucho
3. One After 909 (using an edit piece as The Beatles had intended)
4. If You've Got Trouble (edited)
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Unfortunately the last guitar phrase is looped, repeated and faded)
6. Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues (edited from a 1969 jam session)
7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Christmas Time (Is Here Again!) (crossfaded)
Then they found another, final album title: "Sessions".
|The proposed back cover of "Sessions". A nod to the bootleggers?|
The album was planned for release in November 1984, with "Leave My Kitten Alone" and the "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" / "Christmas medley" (which was dropped from the LP lineup) supporting it as a single. However, Paul unwittingly intervened by scheduling his "Give My Regards To Broadstreet" album for release the same month. So EMI bit their tongues, sat on their hands and watched the profitable Christmas season pass by rather than compete with Paul's release. In fact, so eager were they not to upset Paul, EMI didn't bother to tell him (or George and Ringo) about "Sessions" until it was almost out of the gate.
|The right side of the inside part of the fold out cover|
Sleeves for the LP and 45 were designed, sleeve notes written (in August 1984 by Allan Kozinn, later replaced by Brian Southall's notes), label copy was prepared (on 14 December 1984), catalogue numbers were assigned (Parlophone EJ 2402701 and Capitol ST-12373 for the LP, Parlophone R6088 for the single), and release dates were set. 28 January 1985 for the single and George's birthday, 25 February 1985 for the LP.
On the inner sleeve was a message from Geoff Emerick:
"The advantages that have been made technically, over the years, have enabled me to enhance the original sound of these songs and to present them to you at their full potential, musically and artistically. Hope you enjoy it. GEOFF EMERICK"
The final line-up of the tracks on the LP was as follows:
- “Come And Get It” Eventually released on Anthology 3.
- “Leave My Kitten Alone” Eventually released on Anthology 1.
- “Not Guilty” Eventually released on Anthology 3.
- “I’m Looking Through You” Eventually released on Anthology 2.
- “What’s The New Mary Jane?” Eventually released on Anthology 3.
- “How Do You Do It” Eventually released on Anthology 1.
- “Besame Mucho” Eventually released on Anthology 1.
- “One After 909″ Eventually released on Anthology 1.
- “If You’ve Got Trouble” Eventually released on Anthology 2.
- “That Means A Lot” Eventually released on Anthology 2.
- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Eventually released on Anthology 3.
- “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues” Eventually released on Anthology 3.
- “Christmas Time Is Here Again” Short edit. Eventually released in a longer edit on the “Free As A Bird” CD single.
And then The Ex-Beatles found out about the project.
Everything came to a dead halt; EMI tried to put the best face on things. An article published 26 May 1985 quoted EMI representatives as follows: "We're now discussing the matter with the remaining Beatles and representatives of John Lennon's estate with an aim to releasing an album sometime. The format that (EMI) suggested was not acceptable, but one obviously has to start somewhere. And then we move on from there. We move on to other formats now, other suggestions and discussions."
Which we now know eventually became the Anthology project.
However, a copy of the Sessions master reel was traded around collectors and pressed onto bootlegs by early 1986, eventually becoming probably the best seller of all Beatles bootlegs.
|The most common cover for the "Sessions" bootleg.|
All of the tracks above using the same edits and mixes, were featured on The Beatles "Anthology" sets in the mid-nineties with the exception of “Christmas Time Is Here Again” which is only a short edit lasting just over a minute on "Sessions". A longer edit of “Christmas Time Is Here Again” appeared as a b-side on the “Free As A Bird” CD single which was released in December 1995 in conjunction with the Anthology releases. The song was originally recorded by The Beatles in 1967 for use in their annual message on flexi-disc issued to fan club members over the Christmas holidays each year.
A complete slick set for the gatefold cover for the "Sessions" album was auctioned on ebay recently by Perry Cox, but the bidding stopped at US $2,910.00, which failed to meet the reserve. the size of each slick is approximately 30" x 18". This was the complete artwork including the front cover, the back cover, and the inner sleeve.
This was as far as production ever reached before the entire project was cancelled by EMI Records and no album was pressed for it.
There was also one 7" picture sleeve made in the U.S.A. to final production for "Leave my kitten alone" which was made, but also not issued.