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Friday, January 27, 2017

Come Together

The song Come Together can be traced back to the day pictured above when LSD guru Timothy Leary and his wife Rosemary visited John and Yoko in Montreal on June 1st, 1969 during their second bed-in.  Leary was running for governor of California and the slogan for his campaign was "Come Together, Join the Party", so he asked Lennon if he would be so kind as to write a song that could be used by the campaign.  John had some ideas and did give Leary a tape with a simple "Come Together" theme.

Leary's campaign ultimately collapsed, but John took what he had written to the Beatles a little more than a month later in the midst of the sessions for the album Abbey Road.  Still recuperating from an automobile accident in Scotland, John had been attending the sessions for almost two weeks, but he did not participate until the day that the group turned its attention to his new composition.  He had transformed his attempts at a campaign song into something altogether different - a jam-packed stream of bizarre imagery not unlike I Am the Walrus.

On July 21st, the crack rhythm section of Paul on bass and Ringo on drums plus George on lead guitar learned their parts well and, with John supplying a guide vocal, they laid down eight takes of the basic track.  Take one, available on Anthology 3, shows that the band had already perfected the menacing groove that drives the piece.  One can also hear John's handclaps and his exclamations of  "shoot me" before each verse quite clearly without the massive tape echo that would be applied to the master.   Take six (by some accounts) or take eight (by others) was deemed best.  All of the takes thus far had been recorded on four-track tape, so the best was now transferred to eight-track tape in preparation for overdubs.

Most of the overdubs were done the following day.  These included John's lead vocal plus his rhythm guitar part, Ringo on maracas and the electric piano.  Again, accounts differ as to whether John or Paul played the electric piano, with engineer Geoff Emerick claiming that John watched Paul play the part, then played it himself on the recording.  Vocal harmonies were added on the 23rd and 25th, and more guitars were overdubbed on the 29th and 30th.

Of course, the Beatles never played the song live, but this is one of the only numbers by the group that John later performed, doing so at Madison Square Garden in 1972.  Perhaps the most interesting cover of the song is by Aerosmith for the otherwise dreadful movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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