Friday, 12 December 2014

Mal Evans' article about the Get Back album

Reproduced in the Beatles' Anthology book, this was the original artwork for the Get Back album. Looks like it has been pasted over with a corrected cover from when the album's name was changed to "Let It Be", and then that paste-over has been removed again. According to John Kosh, John Lennon wrote the corrective measures on the artwork pictured here.
In July 1969, the Beatles' Get Back album was being readied for release in August, and Mal Evans wrote an article about the upcoming album for the official fan club magazine, "The Beatles Book Monthly". He describes the album thoroughly, and does a track by track detailed account about what's in the grooves. Here is the article, reproduced from #72 of Beatles Book Monthly.

THE BEATLES GET BACK

AUGUST LP SURPRISES


* 10-year-old song is included ! * Skiffling Beatles do "Maggie May" ! * No vocals from Ringo ! * "The Beatles with their socks off" - and they've re-recorded "Love Me Do" but it's not on the LP!

The Beatles' next LP album was finished at the end of May - with George the only Beatle remaining in Britain at the time, supervising the last of the re-mixing and re-balancing sessions to produce the final tapes from which the LP record will be made.

Release of the album is being held back until August so that it can coincide with the publication of a special book full of recording session pictures.

Apart from the LP and the book, there's the film which was made while the new numbers were being rehearsed at Twickenham and recorded in Apple's own new studio in the basement beneath 3, Savile Row, our London headquarters.
The fe!lows would like the film to go on television in August so that everything comes together at the same time. Before I go into the new LP in track-by-track detail let me set down some of the background information. The title of the album is The Beatles; Get Back. And indeed John, Paul, George and Ringo do get back with these recordings - all the way back to the simplicity of their earliest stuff.

Remember the fellows' first Parlophone album Please, Please Me, issued in May 1963? Well, the photograph for the new LP cover was taken in exactly the same place by the same photographer, Angus McBean. With the four fellows grouped over the staircase at the offices of EMI Records in London's Manchester Square, just as they had done six years earlier.
The Beatles; Get Back is by far the most informal set of records The Beatles have ever put out. Everything was rehearsed, as you know, down at Twickenham - both those sessions were really to get together the new songs and decide how each one would be treated. Once we moved from Twickenham to Apple all the recording we did was "live" with no "over-dubbing" of extra voices or instruments, no orchestras brought in boost the accompaniments, no special electronic happenings whatsoever. Just three guitars plus Ringo's drums - with piano and occasional organ contributions from Paul and from Billy Preston who was the only non-Beatle to work with us throughout the series of sessions.

The stereo version of the LP is particularly great - thanks to sound expert Glyn Johns who was the studio engineer for all the recordings.

Gradually since Please Please Me The Beatles have been going for greater and greater studio perfection, using every possible audio and electronic technique to add to and improve the finished productions. This time the policy has been entirely different. The Beatles; Get Back is The Beatles with their socks off, human Beatles kicking out their jams, getting rid of their inhibitions, facing their problems and working them out with their music. During and in between most of the tracks you will hear lots of studiofloor conversation, each of the fellows chatting, preparing for the next number, shouting comments up to the control room. On other albums all this type of ad-lib stuff has been cut from the tapes befare putting the tracks on disc.

This time everything is left for you to hear-just as it happened. You even hear a clapper board banging down and a yelled instruction from one of the filming crew people who were making the separate visual recording of everything which took place.

In all there are nine entirely new numbers on The Beatles; Get Back-plus both sides of the recent single, Get Back and Don't Let Me Down. At the very end of the second side they get back to Get Back again for a brief encore version of that number. And between a couple of other items are brief "link" tracks featuring Save The Last Dance For Me and Maggie May the only non-Beatle compositions the fellows have put out on record since they made Act Naturally and Dizzy Miss Lizzy for their Help! album in 1965.

The article is from The Beatles Book Monthly #72.

There is only one George Harrison composition – For You Blue - and it hasn't a trace of sitar or anything else Eastern about it.

Ringo stays with his drums all the way through this new programme and he doesn't have a solo vocal track of his own on this occasion.

Although this LP has only 11 main numbers on it, far more tracks have been recorded. The Beatles didn't want to repeat the "double disc" idea and make everyone buy a pair of LP records together. lnstead all the other tracks are held "in the can" so that they can be used later.

Amongst the stuff that "stays on file" so to speak is enough material for a special rock 'n' roll LP - including famous American rock hits like Shake Rattle And Roll and Blue Suede Shoes.

What's more we even did a re-make of Love Me Do, The Beatles first single from October 1962! But one of the recordings which you WILL find on the new album goes back even further than that. It's a number called One After 909 which John and Paul wrote as long ago as 1959 ! Oh yes, Ringo DID put down one vocal item, his own composition called Octopussy's Garden, but along with at least another 15 others by George, John and Paul, it's "in the can" for future release unless now that all the Beatles are back they decide to make last minute additions to the August LP.

On the LP the version you will hear of Get Back is the same one which went on the single but we did a special LP version of the single's other side, Don't Let Me Down. Everything you hear on The Beatles; Get Back was recorded at Apple and the starting dates for all recordings were during the last fortnight of January. The first one to get under way was Dig A Pony on January 20 and the last one we started work on was One After 909 (May 28).

As you may remember if you saw all the newspaper stories at the time or read what I had to say about it several Beatles Monthly issues ago, we recorded five numbers in the open air on the roof of the Apple HQ building. The five were One After 909, I've Got A Feeling, Don't Let Me Down, Get Back and Dig A Pony BUT only ONE roof-top version is included on the LP-and that's One After 909. We did fresh versions of the other items way down below in the basement.

O.K.-it's time to get back. Here's my run-down on all the LP recordings, the ones The Beatles have made just to please, please you :

SIDE ONE

I. ONE AFTER 909

One After 909 was written by John and Paul ten years ago when they were not Beatles at all but The Nurk Twins or something like that. Like I said a little earlier, this is the album's only Apple roof-top recording. It makes a punchy kick-off to the Get Back programme with Paul's raw voice ravin' all the way. It opens with a piano run and a guitar chord echoing out around the January sky - but that's just a false start. Then straight into the heavy rocking. Ringo on drums, John playing rhythm guitar, George on lead guitar, Paul playing bass guitar and good old Billy Preston adding his electric piano work. The vocal is shared by Paul and John. You won't catch all the words at first hearing---except, perhaps, the line about ''she said she was travelling on the one after 909" which tells you a missing bird and a train are involved in the story. Make up the rest for yourself. Sounds to me as if this fellow really knows how to mess things up. His bird isn't coming on the next train either. He's a right loser!

LINK TRACK: SAVE THE LAST DANCE

At the end of the first track there's a bit of applause and you'll hear Paul saying "Thanks Mo" to Ringo's Mo because she was clapping hardest! Then you'll hear a fragment of freaky vamping, just a nice bit of guitar stuff, and Paul saying ''Just a minute boys". Then John and Paul go into the familiar old Drifters' hit Save The Last Dance - not much of it because this wasn't meant to be on the new LP at all but we left this bit to maintain the fun atmosphere of the whole session. Then:
Paul: "Do your thing man."
John: "I can't keep off it."
John again: "Give me the courage to come screaming in".

2. DON'T LET ME DOWN

Nobody ever loved me like she does. You know that - and you know this track unless you've just never played the ''B"-side of the Get Back single. For this LP version of Don' t Let Me Down John sings with the guitar and drums line-up just as it was for One After 909 but Billy didn't play this time.
Paul sings too but it's mostly John. I love this slow, bluesy one with its banging beat and great wailing guitar from the fingers of G.H. At the end of the track you'll hear this:
John: "We'll do Dig A Pony straight into I've Got A Feeling."
And, friends, that's what they do.

3. DIG A PONY

Mostly John this one, with occasional Paul again. Billy's back on electric piano, Paul on bass and lots of metal coming from Ringo's department. A bit of blues this, nicely heavy, with emphasis on the tune rather than the words.
In gist the line is that you can do anything you want to do so long as you set your mind to it. Overcome everything if you really try to work it out. You can even dig a pony. Lots of ad lib comments flung around, a crash of the cymbal and we're straight on into ...

4. I'VE GOT A FEELING

Paul and John sharing the vocal. Paul coming in with that great screamy style of his. John replying to Paul's lines and, later, coming in to take over the lead singing for a verse. And you'll just about hear him mutter to himself "I cocked it up trying to get loud."
Story comes in the middle with the tag-line "All that I was looking for was somebody who looked like you."
Between I've Got A Feeling and the last track of the first side you'll hear Ringo thump his tomtoms and ask: "What does that sound like?"

5. GET BACK

Get back to where you once belonged-obviously the main theme not only of this terrific track but of the whole album, The Beatles' whole frame of mind for 1969. Paul does a great job of the vocal. Again it's George on rhythm, John on lead, Paul on bass, Ringo drumming and Billy doing his bit on the electric piano.

SIDE TWO

1. FOR YOU BLUE

George's composition, George as vocalist. You'll hear him say "O.K.''? and give a bit of a false start on his guitar. Then he gets into this beautiful love song about the girl you're always dreaming of, the one who haunts you, the one you never quite meet up with. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.
No bass here or on the next couple of tracks. Instead we had George playing acoustic guitar, John on steel guitar, Paul on piano-plus Ringo's drumming. Interesting middle with 12 bars guitar and 12 bars piano. Almost like a South Sea Beat Ballad with the "island" effect of John's Fender running through here. "You're a sweet and lovely girl, I love you". Nice words, neat tune. When you hear this one you'll agree that George's songwriting is better than ever these days. I'd say this is one of the most pleasing things he's ever done. Thank you George and now for ...

2. TEDDY BOY

George switches to electric guitar here, John plays acoustic and Paul sings a simple story about a mother comforting her boy. Mama's going to see you through. We all need someone to turn to-that's the message. We need people. No man is an island. Later on the whole session gets a bit like a square dance with genuine (genuine?) calls. And we didn't cut out the electronic squeal that came halfway through this recording. The result of feed-back from one of the amps. All through the making of the LP we used portable equipment fetched over from EMI because the stuff being built into the Apple Studio wasn't ready for action.

3. TWO OF US ON OUR WAY HOME

Two of us riding nowhere. You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead. We're on our way back home. We're getting back. John and Paul share the vocal on this pleasant mediumpaced lazy Sunday afternoon sort of number. The two of them with their voices in good harmony. Still not using a bass here but George reaching his fingers down low to the bass lines of his electric guitar. All fades away . . . "So we leave the little town of London, England...." (Paul).

LINK TRACK: MAGGIE MAY

This is a riot. All the fellows getting together for a brief reminder that we're all Mersey Beat Boys at heart. Yes, this is THE Maggie May, dirty Maggie May who'll never walk down Lime Street anymore. Sung with much Liverpool gusto.

4. DIG IT

Fast and very rhythmic. A great big free-for-all. John takes over the bass guitar playing for this and the next two tracks with Paul playing piano and George on acoustic again. Paul singing here with John shouting enthusiastic remarks like "I can hardly keep my hands still." Scatty vocal vamping above the piano and rhythm laid down as a solid base. "I want it, I want it" (George). "You're gonna get it all right, get it good" (John). The words are saying you can't really knock anything – BBC, Doris Day, anything because SOMEBODY digs it even if you don't.
John: 'That was Can You Dig It. Now we'd like to do Hark The Angels Come." Yes the voice you'll hear at this point belongs to J. Lennon and not G. Fields.
Then you'll hear a voice say 'Take 27" which is nothing to do with 27 different recording "'takes" - just the filming people readying themselves to roll their cameras on the day's 27th bit of shooting.
"Take 27" (clap) "Sync the second clap" (clap).

5. LET IT BE

This is the track I like best of the Get Back LP bunch. It's Paul using his soulful voice, sounding so very sincere, backing himself on piano. When all the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there'll be an answer Let it be. Behind Paul we had John and George doing the harmoney. There's a lot of flowing piano above and around the vocal. George plays his Lesley guitar-which can sound like organ and does here. Light metallic beat from Ringo with his foot right down to close up the hi-hat.

6. THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Paul again here on another slow, sentimental piece with much piano surrounding his plaintive balladeering. About the girl who teft him standing there all alone and the many times he's cried. But "you'll never know the ways I've tried." Don't leave him there lead him down the long and winding road to your door.

GET BACK (REPRISE)

Back to the beginning to remind you what the album's all about. What else can I say in July about a recording which has sold a few million singles and was still at the top of the charts in Britain and America when we came out with The Ballad Of John And Yoko at the beginning of June?

So that's The Beatles; Get Back - the record, the book that's coming out with it and the film we've made to show people what LP making is really like. In fact that's the real intention of the album itself. All the off-the-record bits left ON the record for you to hear. None of the loose ends tied up. Just a friendly album that invites you to join in what happens in The Beatles' recording studio. Certainly something different. Quite unlike the carefully prepared, expertly edited LP productions the fellows have spent so many months on in the past. In just a few weeks from now you'll have the chance of hearing it all for yourselves. I hope you'll agree that The Beatles; Get Back is a very interesting addition to your collection and that you'll enjoy the come-and-join-us informality of the whole thing.

MAL EVANS

A bootleg reproduces or mimics the album cover after the name change to "Let It Be". Of course, after this the idea for the retro front cover was dropped and a totally new design, based on the "Get Back" book and "Let It Be" movie poster favoured.

2 comments:

David W said...

There are so many interesting stories around the Let it Be filming. When I was in London this year I visited 3 Saville Row to take a look at the old Apple Headquarters, but I was disappointed because the front of the building was all boarded up. At least I could still cast my eye up to the top where the famous concert was on the roof.
Thanks for the article!

bri286 said...

As reported under a previous entry, I was recently lucky enough to meet Get Back producer Glyn Johns at a Q&A in the former Studio One at Olympic Studios in Barnes, South West London.

The recording studio is now a cinema, keeping many original features, and made the perfect setting for Glyn to reminisce about his work in Studio One with the Stones, Who, Eagles etc.

Naturally I asked him about Get Back, which he mixed at Olympic, and he explained what he was originally trying to achieve with the track and take selections he made, with an emphasis on the "fun" element of the sessions - hence the inclusion of busked versions of "Rocker", Save The Last Dance For Me, etc.

As the project continued, resulting in further variations in the track line-up, Glyn kept the album's ethos faithful to his original idea - and we mused that, with hindsight, perhaps it was the "trousers down" looseness of some of the chosen material which led to the album ultimately being canned.

One can't help but feel that some minor but judicious editing of the final tracklist, essentially just taking out the busking, would have created an album with which everyone would have been happy - let's face it, "Let It Be" doesn't offer any other significant enhancements (to say the least), as Glyn was very happy to point out in his book "Sound Man"!