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Friday, October 19, 2012

GET BACK - side one

The story goes that in the spring of 1969 Glyn Johns was called into a meeting with Lennon and McCartney.  They pointed to a large pile of tapes and said to him, "Remember that idea you had about making an album out of those sessions?  Do it."

"Those sessions" were the infamous Get Back sessions of January '69.  Glyn Johns had been the engineer then, and in the absence of George Martin (who was absent for much of that time), he had also served as producer.  The problem was that hours upon hours of music had been taped with no proper takes because the sessions were technically just rehearsals.  Now, Johns was given the daunting task of finding an album's worth of releasable material from the mostly unstructured days of jamming, chatter and occasional bursts of complete song.

His strategy was to treat the project as the Beatles themselves had originally conceived it - as an attempt to "get back" to their roots and perform live in the studio with no overdubs as they had done on their very first album Please Please Me.  The culmination of those sessions was to have been the group's first concert in years, broadcast on television and later released as a live album.  Since that idea had been scuttled, this album and the accompanying documentary film would have to do.

Johns presented his finished album to the group in May of '69, but they rejected it for being too raw.  In January of 1970, as the documentary was nearing completion, he made a second attempt with a slightly different track list.  McCartney's song Teddy Boy was dropped and two songs featured in the film were added.  This entry is based on that second version of the album.

One After 909 -The album opens with guest keyboard player Billy Preston sliding his fingers down the electric piano followed by some barely audible chatter before the band launches into this first number.  We are on the rooftop of the Apple building in Savile Row where the group performed an impromptu lunchtime concert on January 30th in lieu of the grand live show they had originally planned.  Sadly, this is the only piece Johns uses of that historic event, the same take that Phil Spector would use on the Let It Be album.  It serves as a great kickoff to the proceedings.

Rocker - Unfortunately, things go rapidly downhill with this snippet of a jam recorded days earlier in the studio.  Though we only hear a brief bit of it, the riff becomes immediately tiresome before it fades out.

Save the Last Dance - After a little more chatter, Paul and John sing a sloppy version of this song by the Drifters.  A nice moment occurs when they suddenly and unexpectedly shift into Don't Let Me Down.

Don't Let Me Down - A rather good performance of Lennon's best song from these sessions is turned in after a false start.  It is marred by Paul's falsetto "One more time!" near the end, the kind of ad lib that would probably be mixed out of a proper studio album.

Dig a Pony - After John's statement "We'll do Dig a Pony straight into I've Got a Fever" - a typical Lennonism - the band proceeds to do exactly that, turning in a fine performance of this Lennon number.

I've Got a Feeling - The runthrough of this joint Lennon/McCartney collaboration breaks down, however, just before the point where Paul and John would have sung their sections simultaneously.  Too bad, because Paul's vocal on the bridge is a nice variation from the rooftop concert version Spector chose for the Let It Be album. 

Get Back - The title track is the same version that Johns had chosen for the single released in April of 1969.  This and the B-side version of Don't Let Me Down (also selected by Johns) would be the only pieces the world would hear from these sessions for almost a year.

Let It Be - This is the same take that would appear on both the single and the album a year later.  Johns opted to use George Harrison's guitar solo from April '69, also used by George Martin for the single.  This is the only instance of Johns using an overdub on the entire album.  Thus, we get to hear John and George's original, simple backing vocals and some other guitar work from George mixed out of the later versions.