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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Back b/w Don't Let Me Down

Cover photo shoot for the unreleased Get Back LP
You would think that after spending five months in the studio working on the "White Album" the Beatles would take a prolonged break, but only two and a half months later, on January 2nd, 1969, the group convened at Twickenham Film Studios to commence rehearsals for a new project.  The germ of the idea for these sessions had been planted while making the promotional film for Hey Jude in front of a live audience.  The band had been rejuvenated at that shoot, and the thought of performing live again no longer seemed out of the question.  The rough idea was to begin rehearsing a batch of new material that could be debuted in a high profile live concert.  Director Michael Lindsey-Hogg and a film crew would simultaneously shoot a documentary that would follow every step of the process leading up to the big show.

But the sessions for the double album had been fraught with tension, and while some fine ensemble playing had occurred, many of the overdubs and several of the songs had been solo work.  Now, in order to prepare for a live set, they were forcing themselves to be with each other every moment.  As a result, these rehearsals famously imploded.  By the end of January, after the historic rooftop concert (which, great as it was, was not the grand perfromance they had originally imagined), they pretty much abandoned the Get Back project, as it was then known.  Lindsey-Hogg did go off to begin putting together the documentary, however, and in March, John and Paul approached a fellow named Glyn Johns, who had served as producer much of the time in George Martin's absence, and told him to see if he could pull together an album from the thirty-plus hours of tape.

Since the sessions had technically been rehearsals, there were no proper takes, so it proved to be a monumental task for Johns to find decent runthroughs of any of the songs.  He did manage to find two strong performances from January 28th, and these were soon released as this single.

Get Back - McCartney wrote this jaunty, galloping little number as the title song for these sessions, the idea being that the Beatles were getting back to their rock and roll roots.  Except for a brief bit of harmony from John during one chorus, Paul handles the vocal chores.  John plays the subtle lead guitar on the track, providing some tasty licks.  Billy Preston is on electric piano, brought into the sessions mid-way by George both to enhance the live ensemble and to help put everyone on their best behavior, as Eric Clapton's presence had done on While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Preston certainly brings a style of playing into the mix that none of the Beatles could have duplicated.  After a false ending, Ringo brings everyone back in for a reprise which fades out on record, but which went on a while longer with Paul getting a bit goofy and throwing in some "ho ho ho's."  Glyn Johns used a piece of this for the final track on the Get Back album.

Don't Let Me Down - Lennon's best offering from these sessions was his first love song for Yoko.  The refrain is a cry of desperation balanced by the quieter verses and bridge.  Glyn Johns used a different take of the song for the Get Back LP on which you can hear John tell Ringo to let loose on his crash cymbal at the top "to give me the courage to come screaming in."  Paul plays an attention-getting bass line and supports John vocally with strong harmonies throughout.  Preston's playing on the track is absolutely indispensable.

The single was released in April of 1969 and hyped as being "the Beatles as nature intended" to promote the live aspect of the recordings.  It was a huge hit worldwide.  The UK version was still in mono, but the US single was in stereo for the first time.  There was no producer credit for either George Martin or Glyn Johns, but both sides of the record listed the artist as The Beatles with Billy Preston, the only time any other musician was so honored.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


In January of 1969, not even two full months after the release of the double album The Beatles, this album surprisingly appeared - surprising not only because of the closeness of the release dates, but because the film Yellow Submarine had been released back in the summer of 1968.  The group had not wanted the soundtrack album to come out months before the double album, fearing that it would hurt sales, yet they were okay with it coming out hard on the heels of the "White Album."  At any rate, they need not have feared the competition from themselves, because Yellow Submarine is far and away the weakest entry in the catalog.


Yellow Submarine - The title song is from August of 1966, available as both a single and as a track on the album Revolver.  For my look at this song, see my entry Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine.

Only a Northern Song - The basic track for this Harrison composition was recorded in February of 1967 as George's first offering for Sgt. Pepper.  Final overdubs were added in April of '67 after it was left off of that album.  The song is a throwaway, with the lyrics poking fun at George's junior status in the group and its publishing company, Northern Songs, Ltd.  The Beatles attempted to play the trumpet part themselves.  There is a lovely photo from the April overdub session of manager Brian Epstein smiling as John, Paul and George play around him, probably making a horrific noise.  A glockenspiel was also put to extensive use on the track.  The song is used quite effectively for the most psychedelic sequence in the film.

All Together Now - McCartney's only new song for the soundtrack is this fun singalong number recorded in May of '67.  John plays harmonica and sings lead on the bridge, and everybody in the room joins the chorus.  In Tell Me Why, Tim Riley points out how much discipline is required of the group to keep the gradual acceleration from spiraling out of control.  The song is used twice in the film - once for an animated sequence and at the end with the Beatles themselves.  The group had pretty much kept away from the project until it was nearing completion and they suddenly realized just how good it was.  Only then did they agree to make an onscreen appearance to bring the film to a close.

Hey Bulldog - Lennon's sole contribution was not recorded until February of 1968 while the group was making a promotional film for Lady Madonna.  Instead of miming to that song, they were seen in the studio working on this great little-known rocker.  During the extended fadeout, John and Paul have way too much fun trying to crack each other up.  This song was given to the film so late in the game that its sequence did not even make it into the American prints.  When the film was released on DVD in 1999, not only was the animated sequence restored, but the promotional film was re-edited and broadcast to show the boys really doing Hey Bulldog. 

It's All Too Much - The only Beatle with two new compositions on the album is Harrison, who adds this psychedelic number recorded in May and June of '67 at the De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios to the soundtrack.  The song begins with some Jimi Hendrix-like feedback before settling into a heavy, droning groove that lasts almost seven minutes.  The film only uses a few minutes of it, but still includes a verse not on the album.  Four trumpets and a bass clarinet were overdubbed.

All You Need Is Love - The single from the Summer of Love (also available on the American Magical Mystery Tour LP) closes out side one.  I cover this song in my entry All You Need Is Love b/w Baby, You're a Rich Man.


Sea of Time
Sea of Holes
Sea of Monsters
March of the Meanies
Pepperland Laid Waste
Yellow Submarine in Pepperland

All of the above selections were incidental music by George Martin.  Another reason for the delay of the album was that, instead of using the music as it appeared in the film, Martin wanted to rerecord these tracks for disc.  This did not happen until October of 1968 after completion of the "White Album."  As entertaining and inventive as this music is, it was not why most fans bought the record.  The Beatles had been highly critical of the American releases of their early soundtracks - the United Artists version of A Hard Day's Night and the Capitol version of Help! - both of which had intertwined the group's songs with incidental music from those films, yet here they were doing essentially the same thing.  Aside from separating the music on opposite sides of the album, the main difference in this instance is that the group's songs are of a decidedly inferior quality.

When the album was released, it became the only one during their career to not hit number one in both the UK and the US.  It was also criticized for reasons I have stated above.  Mark Lewisohn reports in The Beatles: Recording Sessions that they took the criticism to heart and had a master for an EP prepared in March.  The EP would have played at LP speed and included the four original songs plus a bonus track, the still-unreleased Across the Universe from February of 1968.  For some reason, it was never released.

Friday, March 16, 2012

THE BEATLES - side four

Revolution 1 - This is the first instance of the Beatles releasing an alternate version of a song that was already available.  The B-side Revolution had been out for almost three months when the "White Album" came out and offered us this earlier take on Lennon's political stance.  Though the lead vocal is much more laid back than the single version, this track features more layers of sound, including backing vocals plus trumpets and trombones scored by producer George Martin.

Honey Pie - Though he was equally represented on sides one and three and dominated side two, this is McCartney's only credited composition on side four.  The song sounds like it could have come straight out of a 1930's Hollywood musical.  Paul helps to set up this illusion in the introduction by making the line "now she's hit the big time" sound as if it is playing on an old 78 rpm record.  All four Beatles play on the track, with George on bass and John adding some fine period guitar work.  And Martin writes a fabulous score for clarinets and saxophones.  The recording was not made until October, but on Anthology 3, you can hear Paul's demo from the Esher sessions way back in May.

Savoy Truffle - Harrison wrote this nice rocker about, of all things, Eric Clapton's chocolate addiction.  Once again, only George, Paul and Ringo play on the basic track, with John unfortunately getting into the habit of skipping out on George's sessions.  Chris Thomas was persuaded to write the score for saxophones by Martin, and it is a fine piece of work, featuring some great interplay between George's lead guitar and the saxes during the instrumental break.

Cry Baby Cry - A haunting number from Lennon.  Lyrically, it is the dark side of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  Anthology 3 presents us with take one, demonstrating that all of the elements (minus overdubs, of course) were in place right from the start.  The track builds very slowly in intensity, something the group was always intuitively capable of.  At the end, the song comes to a full stop, but after a second's pause, we hear an uncredited song snippet from McCartney, which sounds as if it were written expressly to link up with John's song.  However, this "can you take me back" section is simply an ad lib from the I Will session.  It is an intriguing piece, and certainly not a throwaway on the order of Wild Honey Pie from side one.  

Revolution 9 - This sound collage from Lennon is the reason many people either did not listen to side four or simply picked up the needle after Cry Baby Cry, but it is a fascinating piece and definitely worth a listen.  The basic track running underneath is actually the last five minutes of Revolution 1, which became a chaotic jam by all four Beatles.  This track rarely bubbles to the surface, but John built everything else on top of this.  In addition to the dozens of sound effects and samples of music, John and George read a series of phrases that are heard from time to time.  Most famous of all is the anonymous voice intoning "number nine" on a tape loop.  With the influence and assistance of Yoko, John managed to weave an amazing tapestry of sound over eight plus minutes, which may seem random at the first listening, but, as Tim Riley says in Tell Me Why, "the track has its own inchoate logic."  Furthermore, "no musical novice would have arrived at just this set of combinations."  There is clearly someone with a musical sensibility at the helm.

It was not the first time that the Beatles had created such a work.  Back in January of 1967, during sessions for Sgt. Pepper, Paul had taken the lead in recording a piece called Carnival of Light for a London theatre.  And George had done a brief sound collage as part of the Wonderwall soundtrack.  But never before had they included such a piece on one of the group's albums.

Good Night - The album closes with a lullaby and another solo performance, this time by Ringo, but, as the selection on Anthology 3 illustrates, it was a group effort.  As poor Ringo is learning the song, all three of the other Beatles and George Martin are giving him instructions.  And, at that time, someone is accompanying him on piano.  Lennon wrote the song, and he ultimately asked Martin to write a score for orchestra and chorus.  In 1980, John told Playboy that the score was "possibly over lush," which is an understatement.  The song itself is simple and beautiful, written for John's son Julian, and Ringo is the perfect choice to sing it.  It provides the most unexpected ending to any Beatles album, especially on the heels of Revolution 9.  Yet, given the wild, eclectic nature of the entire album, it absolutely makes sense.

When the album was released in November of 1968, it had been almost a full year since Magical Mystery Tour, and fans everywhere gobbled it up.  Because of the stark white cover, conceived as the antithesis of the psychedelic collage on Sgt. Pepper, it was immediately nicknamed the "White Album."  It quickly became the best-selling double album in history, until it was eclipsed in 1977 by the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever.               

Monday, March 12, 2012

THE BEATLES - side three

Birthday - Some of the best ensemble playing is on side three, this song being a case in point.  McCartney had the riff in his head when he showed up at the studio, finished writing it, taught it to the band and they recorded it - all in one night.  Yet, as any band that tries to learn it soon discovers, it is a deceptively tricky little number.  Everyone gets in on the fun, with John singing the "Yes, we're going to a party" section, and Yoko Ono and Patti Harrison singing the high "birthday"s.  Paul is once again credited with playing piano, but it has to be an electric piano or an organ.

Yer Blues - It's an odd choice, I know, but this brutal number by Lennon has always been one of my favorite tracks.  All four Beatles rock hard and heavy, and John delivers a killer vocal.  After the final verse, the band switches into a swinging tempo for the instrumental break, with John playing a two-note solo that would make Neil Young proud, then George taking over with a stinging lead of his own.  An edit into another take is used for the fadeout, with John's guide vocal off-mike.

In December of '68, John played this number with a one-time group called the Dirty Mac on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus television special.  This supergroup consisted of Lennon and Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richard on bass and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums.  A year later, he performed it in Toronto with the Plastic Ono Band, also featuring Clapton.

Mother Nature's Son - This beautiful McCartney composition was inspired by one of the Maharishi's lectures in India.  In the Playboy interview from 1980, John claims that the same lecture prompted him to write a song called Child of Nature, which later was given new lyrics and became Jealous Guy.  Producer George Martin writes a score for brass instruments for this number; otherwise, Paul once again plays everything else.

Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey - This is a little-known and underrated rocker by Lennon.  One can argue that the lyrics are trite, but so are the lyrics to Birthday, and this song rocks just as hard, if not harder.  Using vari-speed, half a minute was cut off of the rhythm track, which is why the band sounds so incredibly fast.  On an album full of outstanding bass lines, Paul's little solo run near the end of this track takes the prize in my estimation.  And, for much of the song, someone is going crazy on cowbell.  This number should have been included on the compilation Rock and Roll Music in 1976, which is heavily weighted toward the first half of their career. 

Sexy Sadie - A nasty song from Lennon directed at the Maharishi, who had the misfortune to be the latest in a line of father figures that John at first idolized, then scathingly rejected.  In The Beatles: Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn prints an original verse that John sings for Paul which is so vile that the Beatles could never have released it.  An early take of the number is presented on Anthology 3.  The tempo is a bit slower, but it is not radically different from the released version, yet the song was remade twice in sessions spread out over a few weeks.  Though the track has a heavy 1968 feel overall, John adds a throwback doo wop element to it, as he did with Happiness is a Warm Gun. 

Helter Skelter - In 1985, McCartney told Musician magazine that he read a quote from Pete Townsend saying that the Who had just recorded the loudest, most raucous rock and roll song ever.  Taking that statement as a personal challenge, Paul claimed that his composition was a deliberate attempt to top the Who.  Yet the first three takes, recorded in July, were slow and somewhat bluesy.  These takes were also remarkably long for the Beatles, each becoming an extended jam.  A section of take two is presented on Anthology 3, giving a taste of what would have been a very different release.  The group returned to the song in September and attacked it with a vengeance, resulting in the cacophonous version on the album.  Paul's vocal, Ringo's drumming, the dissonant guitars - everything is an assault.  John tackles the saxophone, and assistant Mal Evans the trumpet, but all they can get out of them are squeals and squeaks.  The mono version of the recording ends at the fadeout.  The stereo is a different mix and runs a minute longer, fading back in and then crashing to a halt, followed by Ringo's famous cry of, "I've got blisters on my fingers!"  The mono is available on the US Rarities LP from 1980.    

Long Long Long - At the end of the hardest rocking side of the album comes this quiet mood piece from Harrison.  George revealed in later years that what sounds like a straightforward love song is, in fact, the first of many devotional songs he would write in his career.  Only he, Paul and Ringo play on the track, which moves from hushed verses to a strident bridge and back again before a very strange ending.  When Paul hit a certain note on the organ, a bottle of Blue Nun wine on the speaker began rattling around.  A microphone was set up to capture this sound over which George moaned as he and Ringo added to the mix with guitar and drums before a final thud.                     

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

THE BEATLES - side two

From the photo shoot known as Mad Day Out with Don McCullin
When John, Paul and producer George Martin laid out the four sides of the album on October 16th and 17th, 1968, they set themselves a few guidelines, according to Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles: Recording Sessions.  Though none of the songs were related in any way, they decided to eliminate the gaps between tracks, as they had done on Sgt. Pepper.  Furthermore, no composer would have more than two tracks in succession.  In most cases, strong contrasts from one song to the next were emphasized; in only a few others, similar tracks were paired.  And on this side, which is predominantly acoustic, all of the animal titles were grouped together.

Martha My Dear - An unexpectedly elegant piano solo opens side two, setting up this delightful McCartney number.  Lewisohn, who has listened to every tape from every known session, believes that Paul is the only Beatle playing on this track.  Paul and Martin had obviously conferred in advance, because strings and brass scored by the producer were recorded on the same day that Paul laid down the basic track of piano and drums at Trident Studios.  Overdubs of guitar and bass at the same venue completed the song the following day.  A descending bass line at the end is used to create a clever segue into the next track.

I'm So Tired - A similar bass line climbs up to begin this Lennon composition written in India.  All four members of the group play on what Lewisohn accurately termed a "lethargic rocker."  The sense of sleeplessness is palpable in the sound they create in the verses, punctuated by the frustration in the bridge.  This short, simple recording only required a few overdubs before moving onto, and completing, Bungalow Bill in the same session.

Blackbird - There is no question that this is a solo performance by McCartney.  Engineer Geoff Emerick used three microphones - one for the vocal, one for acoustic guitar and one for Paul's tapping foot.  After thirty-two takes, the recording was completed with a vocal overdub and the sound effect of a blackbird.  This absolutely gorgeous piece has proven to be a fan favorite over the years.   

Piggies - This is another social satire number from Harrison, in the same vein as Taxman.  Though George Martin scored strings for the track, the master was produced days earlier by Chris Thomas, who also plays the all-important harpsichord part.  John does not play on the track, but he did put together the sound effect tape loop of pigs.

Rocky Raccoon - This country and western tune is a performance by the whole group, the only such instance on a McCartney song on this side.  John pulls out his harmonica for the final time with the Beatles, and Martin plays his signature honky-tonk piano.  As you can hear on an earlier take on Anthology 3, Paul was pretty much making up the lyrics as he went along.

Don't Pass Me By - The first solo composition credited to Richard Starkey.  Ringo returns to the country and western style that had suited him so well earlier in the group's career.  Sadly, only Paul joins him from the group to play bass and organ (although most sources say this is a piano!) on the track.  A fiddler named Jack Fallon adds the distinctive country touch.  The mono version of this track has a vari-speed lead vocal that is higher in pitch, and a different fiddle part during the fadeout.  It was made available on the US version of Rarities in 1980, since the double album had never been released in mono in America. 

Why Don't We Do It in the Road? - An outrageous little ditty by McCartney.  Ringo plays drums; Paul does everything else.  Originally, he sang one verse sweetly and gently, switched to his raucous voice for the next, and then alternated back and forth.  Even take four on Anthology 3 is done this way, but for take five, the master, he just let it rip throughout.  In an interview for Hit Parader magazine in 1972, John said that this was one of Paul's best songs, which sounds like a back-handed compliment, but I believe he truly appreciated the boldness and simplicity of this number.

I Will - McCartney goes from the ridiculous to the sublime with this beautiful ballad (I always thought the layout of these two songs was a deliberate joke).  The basic track has Paul on acoustic guitar, with John tapping wood on metal and Ringo supplying various other bits of percussion.  It took sixty-seven takes to get it right (a number I mistakenly attributed to Happiness is a Warm Gun in my previous blog - that track required seventy takes).  It was a fun session, featuring Paul slipping into a version of Step Inside Love, a song he wrote for Cilla Black, immediately followed by an ad lib piece called Los Paranoias, prompted by a comment from John.  This sequence is presented on Anthology 3.  Another ad libbed piece found its way onto side four of the album.  Paul later overdubbed all other instruments and, for some reason, decided to sing the bass line.  Listen closely - that is not a bass guitar.

Julia - Side two closes with this poignant, heartfelt song by Lennon about his mother and his new love, Yoko, the "ocean child."  This is a major composition for him, moving directly into the personal style of writing that he had been drifting towards ever so slowly for years.  It is also the only solo recording he ever makes for release by the Beatles.  He once again plays guitar using Donovan's fingerpicking technique and double tracks his vocal, overlapping it in places as he did years earlier on Any Time at All.

Anthology 3 reveals that, though it is a solo recording, Paul was in the control booth for take two, which breaks down.  John then nailed it on take three, but before he did, he and Paul have a little discussion about the song.  Amazingly, John sounds sheepish, almost embarrassed, as Paul encourages him.  This is reminiscent of an exchange on Anthology 2 where a take of Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite breaks down and Paul offers John some advice on how to sing the song, even demonstrating how he would phrase it.  While it is impossible to know exactly how John felt about this, the fact is that he takes the advice and sings in that manner on the released version.  I find these little snippets fascinating; they speak volumes about the relationship between the partners.                

Thursday, March 1, 2012

THE BEATLES - side one

My favorite trivia question: What is the actual title of the album known as the "White Album?"  Few know that it is simply called The Beatles.  Critics are quick to point out the irony in the fact that the album named after the group is the album where the break-up began, and the album with the most solo tracks.  But there is also more ensemble playing on this record than on Sgt. Pepper, and it stands with some of the best work of their career.  Though it is not generally considered to be one of their masterpieces, it is my personal favorite.  It is one of the most eclectic batches of song ever released in one collection, displaying an astonishing range that few acts could ever hope to achieve.

Before commencing, the group met at George's house in Esher and recorded twenty-three demos of songs that they had written, most of them in India armed with their acoustic guitars and fellow musicians Mike Love of the Beach Boys and Donovan Leitch on hand.  The actual sessions were spread over five months from May 30th, 1968 to a 24-hour sequencing session run by John, Paul and producer George Martin on October 16th and 17th.  It was perhaps inevitable that such a long stretch together, even doing the one thing that they all loved to do the most, should test the limits of their friendship even more than years of touring, movie making and sporadic recording sessions had done.  The evidence is apparent on the first two tracks.

Back in the U.S.S.R. - Only three Beatles played on this rocking opening number by McCartney after tensions boiled over and, of all people, Ringo quit the group.  He had always done what he had been told, either playing endless takes of the same song or being kept waiting for hours as other details were worked out.  On this occasion, he couldn't get exactly what Paul wanted and left in frustration.  Though they petitioned to get him back, the others carried on in his absence.  By all accounts, Paul played drums on the basic track with John on bass and George on lead guitar.  Overdubs include more layers of each instrument, plus piano and the sound effect of the jet that opens the track and reappears sporadically.  Great backing vocals by John and George confirm the fact that the song is a Beach Boys parody, with Russian women taking the place of the typical California girls.

Dear Prudence - Ringo was still holding out a few days later when the others returned to Trident Studios, where they had recorded Hey Jude, for the opportunity to record this beautiful Lennon composition on eight-track.  The jet sound from the previous number is used as a segue into the gentle fingerpicking guitar technique which Donovan had taught John and the others in India.  Paul plays drums again, turning in a fine performance as the track slowly builds in intensity.  He and George play surprisingly heavy bass and guitar lines under John's mellow lead.  Backing vocals by Paul and George also include Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax, among others.  Multiple sources credit Paul playing a flugelhorn part, though I have never been able to hear it in the mix.  

Glass Onion - All four Beatles play on this angry follow-up to I Am the Walrus.  Once again, Lennon targets those who were reading too much into the group's lyrics, this time mentioning numerous songs to confound things even further (although he had mentioned Lucy in the Sky in the earlier song).  The most obvious red herring, "the walrus was Paul," only added fuel to the fire during the "Paul is dead" hysteria a year later.  This track is the first example of the full group turning in a fine ensemble performance, with Paul playing an exceptionally heavy bass line and adding a brief bit of recorder after the Fool on the Hill reference.  George Martin also took a break from the group during these sessions and was away while this track was recorded, prompting John to add sound effects to the song.  Upon his return, Martin scrapped the sound effects and added a slurring string section, which brings the song to an eerie fadeout.  The version with sound effects is available on anthology 3.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da - This perky McCartney number drove the other Beatles to distraction as they spent almost two weeks in early July working on it.  After spending three consecutive nights recording it, and bringing in saxophone session players to boot, Paul was unhappy and wanted a re-make.  This first version is on Anthology 3.  According to Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles: Recording Sessions, John arrived very high on the fourth night and pounded the keys of the piano, shouting, "This is it!  Come on!" and inadvertently created a new intro to the song.  On the fifth night, they started a re-re-make before going back to version two.  Days later, after many takes and another sax overdub scored by Martin, it was finally complete.  Paul wanted it out as a single, but John and George vetoed the idea.  Despite its fitful creation, it has proven to be highly popular with fans of all ages right from the get-go.  In the June 1988 issue of Musician magazine, Stewart Copeland of the Police called it " of the first examples of white reggae."

Wild Honey Pie - A solo ditty by McCartney that defines the term "throwaway."  Even as a link between other songs, it is uninteresting and unnecessary.   

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill - An odd, but fun number from Lennon, written in reference to a fellow student at the Maharishi's camp.  The intricate flamenco guitar flourish which opens the song had long been a mystery to me until I learned that it is one of the earliest known instances of sampling, lifted straight off of the Mellotron used at the session.  The Mellotron was played by a young assistant named Chris Thomas, who actually produced several sessions in Martin's absence.  This recording was made on the same October night as I'm So Tired and begun after midnight, involving everyone in the room for the singalong chorus.  Maureen Starkey and Yoko Ono took part, with Yoko also getting the solo line "not when he looked so fierce."

While My Guitar Gently Weeps - One of Harrison's all-time great compositions, although John and Paul somehow did not recognize it at the time.  George made an exquisite demo of the song in July, with an extra verse omitted in the released version.  This demo is available on Anthology 3.  The Beatles made many lackluster takes of the song in sessions scattered over August and September before they started a re-make on September 5th.  The next day, George brought in Eric Clapton to play lead guitar and interest in the song suddenly spiked, resulting in a rock classic.  It was during sessions for the first version that the group learned that Abbey Road had acquired an eight-track machine and brought it into Studio Two for their own use.

Happiness is a Warm Gun - Side one ends with this outrageous pastiche by Lennon which combines three or four unfinished songs in about two and a half minutes.  On Anthology 3, he demos the "I need a fix" and "Mother Superior" sections during the Esher sessions in May, also adding a section about Yoko.  The master required 67 takes, mostly because of the tricky time changes.  Measures are dropped during the "Mother Superior" section, and in the section that begins "When I feel my finger..." Ringo stays in 4/4 time as the guitars and vocals switch to 3/4 to create a sense of disorientation.  The heavy guitars, "bang bang shoot shoot" backing vocals and lurid lyrics all blend together to make the track live up to its nasty name.  George and Paul both claimed it to be one of their favorites on the album.  For Paul, John's skillful weaving of unfinished songs proved to be a big influence a year later and, indeed, throughout his solo career.