The Beatles Play ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ On the Rooftop: 40 Years Ago!

Here’s a clip of the latter-day Fab Four, forty years ago today, playing their massively underrated track “I’ve Got A Feeling” from the rooftops of the Apple Corps offices, Saville Row London.  It was a key scene in the Beatles’ Let it Be film, which was meant to be a document of their comeback as a live band, and became something completely opposite instead.

Some original ideas for this concert, their first since San Francisco’s  Candlestick Park in August 1966, was to film it as a grand finale appearance at the Parthenon, or Pompeii, or on a luxury cruise ship.  In the end, the Beatles settled for the lunchtime London bowler-hat-and-brolly set, an audience several storeys below them.  It was the middle-class business man’s lunch rush, interspersed with their secretaries, messengers, and tea boys filling the streets on their breaks, or on errands.  It would have been impossible for any of them to guess that the Beatles would never play in public again after this.  They would never know in that moment how lucky they were to have been so surprised to hear the Beatles during their lunch breaks.

This lack of historical foresight  is best evidenced first by the complaints in the street as captured by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and later by the borough council who sent a few bobbies up to the roof to shut the whole thing down.  It was hoped that the police would drag the Beatles away in a dramatic fashion.  But, being British, the police politely asked them to stop.  And the Beatles and their friends, being British (except for keyboardist Billy Preston of course), complied.  And that was it.

But, it was never about defying the police.  That was just an idea for an ending of the film. It was about them, as a band, playing together, and making an album.  Or, it was supposed to be.  By this time of course, they all had their own interests. Ringo was acting in movies.  George spent had time in upstate New York, visiting with the Band and envying what they had made of themselves as a supple musical unit without much fanfare or glamour.  John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono had him wondering why he needed to be in a group at all.  And Paul was becoming increasingly autocratic by all accounts, trying to hold everything together.  The whole thing was doomed, and each Beatle knew it.  And as a result the movie becomes  a study in artistic dissolution, rather than one of a band working as a unit to mount a comeback.

But, despite the state of the Beatles union, they still had their songs.  This one, “I’ve Got A Feeling” is an amalgam of two songs.  The main body is Paul’s, and the middle eight “Everybody had a hard year” was a fragment that John had been tinkering with.  In effect, this is more a Lennon & McCartney effort than most, from a writing point of view anyway.

But more importantly, it showcases the Beatles as a solid rock ‘n’ roll band, with Paul’s growling rock voice, John’s jagged guitar, George’s effortless rhythm, and Ringo’s thudding rock stomp.  Billy Preston’s laid back Fender Rhodes is an emollient to the brashness of Lennon’s guitar, which creates a really interesting contrast.  But mostly, this represents the Beatles as a rock group.  This tune has balls.  And you can tell that when they’re playing, all of the other stuff doesn’t matter.

The group would come together again later in the year to make their final album, Abbey Road.  And the soundtrack to the Let it Be film would be released the following year.  But,  by April 1970, the Beatles were over as a working partnership.  But as many have said, whatever happened they could count on a legacy which remains unsullied.  Everything else aside, they really were a great little rock ‘n’ roll group.

Enjoy!

John Lennon is Alive

Here’s a clip of the fresh-faced suited-and-Beatle-booted Beatles with the greatest opening track ever to grace one of their albums.  It is perhaps the greatest opening track on any album.  It’s “It Won’t Be Long” which appeared on their 1963 Parlophone  release With the Beatles. In North America, the song opened the album Meet The Beatles, released on Capitol. It is one of my top ten Beatles songs.

Well, it’s December 8th again. A few years ago I wrote a post about the circumstances and my feelings when my Grandma told me that John Lennon had been shot.   To say I felt saddened doesn’t quite cover it. I felt betrayed.  It was as if someone had killed someone in my immediate family.

OK.  Here it is.  I love John Lennon. I love all four of those guys. And this year, I don’t feel sad about his assassination.  I feel defiant.

Because John Lennon is Alive.  He is the reason I learned to play guitar, began to love all music, began to write this blog.  And his music has worked its way into my DNA over the course of my entire life.  I will pass it along to my daughter, who’s three right now.  And he’ll be more alive than ever.

So fuck the darkness. Fuck despair too.  Fuck anything that gets in the way of what the guy created in the minds and hearts of millions.  And fuck the idea that he’s dead.  He’s fucking not.

John Lennon is alive.  I can hear him.

Happy December 8th, Beatle-heads.  In the cheap seats, clap your hands.  Everyone else just rattle your jewelry.

Enjoy!

The Beatles Perform ‘Revolution 1’ From the White Album

Here’s a clip of a recently released from Maharishi summer camp fab four with the original version of their single “Revolution”, billed as it was on the The Beatles (The White Album), released 40 years ago in November 1968, as “Revolution 1”.

The clip is a bit of a dodge in that the footage is taken from the promo of the single which was re-recorded and released in August of 1968.  That version, as you may know, is a bit louder, faster, and shoutier to suit the times.  The clip slows everything down to match the more languid pace of the original.

The White Album version is like a stoned acoustic doo-wop, with Lennon’s voice a little on the sleepy side.  Yet, there’s a real groove there, with a somnambulant veneer, a dreamy vibe which draws your ear into the lyrics a bit more than the single version does.   And of course there’s the “count me out…in” lyric that still has critics wondering what Lennon was getting at.  It was argued that the track was too slow to be a single.  So it was re-recorded as a double-A side with “Hey Jude”.

“Revolution” the single remains to be one of the hardest dirtiest statements the Beatles ever released.  When the group performed the song on David Frost’s show, featured in the clips, they performed it semi-live, with the record backing their live vocals.  Paul and George put the “a-womp, shoo-be-doo-wop” backing vocals back in, even if the single had taken them out.

Nineteen Sixty-Eight was a turbulent year historically, and for the Beatles it was certainly one for contrast.  It was a year of both self-contemplation and politicization too by the time the year was over.   In many ways, this year was the beginning of a new state of affairs for the Beatles, who since 1963 had lived in the insular world of recording studios, stages, radio stations, movie sets, and hotel rooms.  Times were changing, even for the fab four.

They had met with the Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, the previous year in Britain, and had attended a number of his seminars.  This included a weekend in Bangor, Wales, a kind of spiritual retreat.  This served as a means of introducing the group, their wives, and some of their friends, to the world of TM.

While away in Bangor, their manager Brian Epstein died of an accidental drugs overdose.  Even in this, they knew that things had shifted from one era to another.  Epstein had been the band’s manager in nearly every sense, from logistics, to finances, to publicity (with the help of press officer Derek Taylor).  Above all, Epstein had held them together as an entity, as a package.  When he was gone, part of the work cut out for them was to redefine who they were as a band, as people within that band, and ultimately what the relationship was between each.

Maybe this is why the group’s interest in TM would inspire them to take some time off and go to Rishikesh in India to take an expanded course in TM under Maharishi’s tutelage.  Along with their wives, they were also joined by celebrity friends, and other TM enthusiasts in a sort of spiritual summer camp, even if the span of months stretched from February to April of 1968.  And while there, each Beatle wrote songs – lots of them.

George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Donovan, and Patti Boyd.  Wheres Ringo?  He left early.  He was allergic to Maharishis cooking.
The Beatles in Rishikesh India. From Left: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Donovan, and Patti Boyd. Where’s Ringo? He left early. He was allergic to Maharishi’s cooking.

But even if the Beatles wrote about various subjects in their India-written songs, they certainly began to write about their times in a more direct way.  Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” is a direct reference to civil rights.  George Harrison’s “Piggies” discusses the narrow-mindedness of the middle-classes.  And of course, it’s Lennon who later pens “Revolution”, in the wake of the Paris student riots after his return from Rishikesh.  It seems that the look inward actually produced an opposite effect.  And with no Brian Epstein to rein in their political impulses in the songwriting, it was the first overtly political statement from the Beatles.

It was a tough year, particularly for the counterculture.  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated, the war in Vietnam raged on, and Richard Nixon came to power as President of the United States for the first time.  In many ways, the Beatles eponymous next album being something of a darker beast than the colourful Sgt. Pepper the year before was understandable.  And “Revolution” captured something of the zeitgeist, a feat which had always been something of a Beatles trait. Yet, it could be argued that this was the beginning of the end of the Beatles, as each member of the band began to realize that there was life outside of the bubble that had been made for them to live in up until then.

Enjoy!

[UPDATE, Aug 2, 2012: Check out these rare photos of the Beatles in India.]

Elvis Costello Performs “So Like Candy”Co-written with Paul McCartney

Here’s a clip of Elvis Costello with a tip top tune from his early 90s “beard years”, “So Like Candy” as featured on his Mighty Like a Rose album. If you think this tune sounds slightly Beatlesque, it’s because there are bona fide Beatle ingredients in it, and I don’t mean Costello’s Lennon bed-in facial foliage. I’m talking about the song’s co-writer – Paul McCartney.

In 1988 or so, Costello and McCartney got together a wrote a bunch of songs, which was big news whenever either was interviewed.  On McCartney’s part, it was significant as he was about to bring out his Flowers in the Dirt album, featuring the Costello-abetted “My Brave Face” as the lead single.  McCartney had been saddled with a reputation for being the ambassador of twee when it came to writing pop songs.  The last number one he had was “Say Say Say” for gosh sakes!  So, the news that the two would be writing together was big news for many a rock fan.

As for Costello, when approached with this opportunity to write with one of his heroes, he was initially and understandably a bit apprehensive.  After all, everyone expected him to play the part of Lennon.  But in interviews at the time, he revealed that his  self-confidence in his own writing abilities (Lennon too had been a Costello fan, mind…)  sealed the deal; “why not me?”, mused Costello.

And indeed, the results were pretty great, even if they didn’t set the world on fire for the public at large the way that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” did.  Still, the collaboration produced Costello’s hit “Veronica” along with McCartney’s perceived return to form in “My Brave Face”.  And other co-written tunes were to follow on subsequent albums by both men into the mid-90s.

This song appeared later in 1991 on the Mighty… record, and a shining gem of tune it is too. Lush in arrangement and heavy on melody of course, I think Costello’s delivery adds to the undercurrents of darkness in it too. Although much like a Lennon-McCartney collaboration, it would be a mistake to think that the ironic elements in the song’s lyrics are down to Costello alone.

Allegedly, the collaboration was not as clearly demarcated along the words and music dichotomy as one might assume.  This fact of course is not unlike the assumptions popularly made during the Beatles era that positioned McCartney as the melodist, and Lennon (like Costello) the wordsmith.  Not so, not so.

For a bit of contrast, here’s the original demo version of “So Like Candy”, featuring its two writers singing it together.

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, John Lennon: 10 Great Musical Moments

John Winston (Ono) Lennon was born on this day, October 9 1940 in Liverpool to Freddie and Julia Lennon.  Had he lived, he would have been 68 years old(!).  To celebrate,  I figured we’d do it musically, as opposed to me rattling off his life story, most of which everyone has heard.

So, here are 10 cool moments that trace the history of a brief, yet very important life of a complex man and fascinating musician.  Each one of them shows a side to the man who should have been given more time to show us what more he had to give.

1963 – “There’s A Place”, The Beatles

John Lennon was something of a troubled youth, railing against authority, and getting into trouble on a regular basis from authority figures.  Yet, he was a deep thinker and intelligent.  Even at a young age, his wise-cracking persona was offset by a need from solace, for peace, and to be alone with his thoughts. And he had a lot to think about, being effectively abandoned as a child, facing the death of his mother just when she’d come back into his life as a teen, and of course the rise of his own success as a musician and songwriter which involved pressures of its own.  This song taken from the Beatles first album is a  very early example of Lennon introspection, which would come to full fruition only much later in his career. Even at this early stage in his career as a songwriter, he was examining his own mind, and putting it out there when he was supposed to be writing about girls.

1965 – “I’m Down”, The Beatles

On this McCartney song, Lennon takes keyboard duties at their historic appearance at Shea Stadium.  It’s clear that John is not fully in command of his instrument and feeling naked without his trusty Rickenbacker guitar.  He makes up for it by clowning around and cracking up his buddies on stage, who still manage to rock the house as they must have learned to do during their years as a Hamburg bar band.  This is the playful side of Lennon, all the while in the eye of the Beatlemania storm.

1966 – “I’m Only Sleeping”, The Beatles

John loved staying in bed, reading the newspaper, and watching TV, things most take for granted not being Beatles and having the obligations of whirlwind tours, fending off the press, and living up to the expectations of millions.  “I’m Only Sleeping” is the celebration of life’s simple pleasures, something Lennon clearly treasured.

1967 – “Strawberry Fields Forever”, The Beatles

When he was writing simple pop songs, Lennon also put out a book of verse with nonsense poems, malapropisms, and puns showing off his love of language.  The book was called In His Own Write, followed up by a second volume called A Spaniard in the Works.  It had never occurred to him to bring those worlds of pop music and of absurdist verse together until after the band had stopped touring in 1966. By the next year, with the help of producer George Martin, he proved that drawing his interests together was not only practical, but prudent.  And in so doing, he upped the ante for everyone.

1968 – “Hey Bulldog”, the Beatles

Appearing on the original Yellow Submarine Soundtrack, this may be the band’s most underrated track of all time.  Lennon shines on this, his vocals just light everything up, and the central piano riff provides the engine that keeps this song chugging along.  And I love his exhortations at the end – “That’s it! You’ve got it!” He’s clearly having a blast!  This is the sound of a band at their height not taking themselves seriously.  And Lennon leads the charge.

1969 – “Don’t Let Me Down”, The Beatles

John met Yoko in 1966 at an art show.  By 1968, they were involved.  By ’69, they were married. “Don’t Let Me Down” is the voice of a man in love, but one who has put all of his trust in one place again after having it dashed on the rocks in the past.  The tension here is palpable between love, devotion, and abject terror that it will lead to heartache after having weathered so much emotional abandonment already.

1970 – “God”, John Lennon

Written in a gospel style, with old friends Klaus Voorman (bass), Billy Preston (organ) and Ringo Starr (drums) backing him up, Lennon casts down the idols of his generation, including his own false image in “Beatle John”. This is a song which draws a line between one life and another, one determined by the expectations of others, and the other determined by a firm resolve to follow one’s own path.  It is a theme he would explore to a greater extent on his Plastic Ono Band album, effectively helping to shape the confessional singer-songwriter approach which would take off in the 1970s.

1974 – “Old Dirt Road”, John Lennon

By 1974, Lennon was living in LA, separated for the time being from Yoko, and feeling the pinch of living his life without someone with whom he’d spent almost literally every moment.  Yoko had decided that the couple needed a break, and set about sending John out the door, albeit with their P.A May Pang to keep him company.  According to many, John was both miserable to be without Yoko, and very happy in the company of May and the many old friends he would encounter while on the West Coast, including Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, and Ringo Starr.  Still, this period is referred to as “The Lost Weekend”, which may shed some light on Lennon’s state of mind in general.  Yet, this tune sounds like an Oasis in the desert, the sound of a man who might not yet have contentment, but who could see it on the horizon.  By the next year, his son Sean would be born on the same day he was born, 35 years later (happy birthday to you too, Sean…).

1980 – “Watching the Wheels”, John Lennon

Lennon spent five years taking care of Sean and baking bread while Yoko brought home the bacon, much to the confusion of John’s friends and fellow musicians who wondered why he’d chosen the sidelines instead of getting in the game.  The answer had to do with choosing his own destiny yet again – he still believed in himself, not the image people had of him.  That’s what this song is trying to say, although with the level of irony that a tune of this quality was just what his friends hoped he’d get around to putting out there.

1980 – “Nobody Told Me” , John Lennon

This song reveals that Lennon was OK with getting older and seeing the world get stranger around him, yet with a hint of the fire evident in the work of his younger self.  Most peculiar, Mama. This song says to me that Lennon was at last comfortable making music without  worrying about what that role had to mean to him personally in the eyes of others.  It’s exuberant, still revealing classic Lennon vulnerability, but is ultimately celebratory and optimistic.

This song was  released posthumously in 1984, taken from the album Milk & Honey, which were recorded during the Double Fantasy sessions three years previous.

***

So there it is – 10 great musical moments in celebration of what would have been John’s 68th year.  Happy birthday to the Walrus, who had become John, and taken too soon.

Enjoy!

‘Two of Us’ Beatles Movie with Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul & John

Here’s a clip of the 2000 film Two of Us, starring Aidan Quinn and Jared Harris as Paul McCartney and John Lennon respectively.  The two musicians are depicted in a fictional account of what might have gone down between them during an historic 1976 meeting which took place the day of the famous Saturday Night Live plea to get the group back together for $3 000.  The movie is directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who also directed the real Beatles in the 1970 film, Let It Be.

Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during the running on fumes period in the Beatles career.  Its hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying).
Two of Us was directed by Let it Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had watched the real Beatles interact during their 'running on fumes' period in 1969. It's hard not to think that this movie is what Lindsay-Hogg, and the rest of us, wished that Lennon and McCartney had been able to say to each other, rather than what they did say (or avoided saying) before the end of Lennon's life.

By 1976, Paul and John had gone down entirely separate roads.  Lennon was a househusband by then, and in contrast, McCartney was the biggest show on the road with his “Silly Love Songs” as a number one record and his smash Wings Over America live album in play in the top ten.  The film brings out these differences in career paths and lifestyle contrasts.  But in the film, historical details are secondary to the drama, the heart of which is the hope  that although the Beatles never got back together as everyone hoped they would, Lennon and McCartney were able to get it together in the end as friends before the end of Lennon’s life.

And this is where the film excels.  It hits an emotional stride, helped along by a very smart script that traces the course of a single day in April 1976.  Act one portrays McCartney’s visit to the Dakota, with the initial hesitancy and misgivings of two old friends catching up.  Act two follows the two men to a trip to Central Park while disguised as two English gentlemen, and then to a confrontation with fans in a local coffee shop.  Act three finds them back at the Dakota, talking over the past on the roof, and then in front of the TV, watching the now famous SNL sketch which, as legend has it, very nearly did tempt the two men to hightail it to the studio which was not far away from where they watched the broadcast.  Through out, this film takes its subject seriously, paying a great deal of attention to these musical giants firstly as people.  These are characters, not impersonations set to dialogue, which would have been an easy trap to fall into.

The range of emotions in the film is wide, from suspicion, to affection, to anger, to humour, and back again. My favourite scene is right after the elevator scene in the clip.  On the roof, Lennon explains that pain is his reality, the thing that drives him.  McCartney asks if whether or not it’s possible that the pain is in his own head, that if he lets it go long enough to love himself, he’d be OK.  A bemused Lennon asks, “what do you see?” to which McCartney answers:

“I see a scared little boy who is blaming himself for his father’s mistakes … I see a frightened man who doesn’t know how beautiful he is…”

The best bits are from Quinn in this scene.  Yet, the film lives and breathes due to the interplay between him and  the excellent Harris (son of Richard), who embodies Lennon as the man-child trying to find himself after basking in the limelight for so long.  It’s hard to tell whether or not the real people were as self-aware as they’re portrayed to be here.  But again, this is a fantasy, a version of history as it should have been, not necessarily as it was.

And to me, I think that even if the film was not about Lennon and McCartney, it would still be powerful.  Utltimately, it’s a story about friends who have a shared past which is tumultuous, a mixed blessing for both.  It’s about how people change, and how relationships must change along with it.  It’s about wanting to change someone’s mind, and getting them to look at themselves differently, even when they stand at opposite ends of the spectrum in every important respect.  It is about the glories of the past and the uncertainties about the future. And finally, it’s about how illusory fame is, and how unimportant it’s pressures are when compared to the value of love and the strength of friendship.

For more information about the film, check out the Two of Us Wikipedia entry, which fills out some of the details.

And just because I think a bit of music is needed here,  here’s a clip of the 1974 McCartney single “Junior’s Farm“.  And here’s Lennon with his single that same year, “#9 Dream“.

Enjoy!

Fantasy Albums: The Beatles 1971 comeback album

Or, how music history should have unfolded if I were in charge.

This is another possible series, should the spirit of the Delete Bin move me further. That is, the geekiest of all geekery among music geeks – the fantasy album. Most of these either come about because the albums haven’t happened, are unlikely to happen, or could never happen. But, fantasy albums are the stuff dreams by music geeks the world over (I have proof that this is the case, good people…). Here is one of mine, with more to (possibly … well, probably) follow. My Beatles album 1971.

Here’s the story:

Paul McCartneyThe Beatles decide to take a breather at the end of the Abbey Road sessions, knowing that they’re running on fumes. John makes the Plastic Ono Band album. George puts out All Things Must Pass as a double album (but holds back a few tunes). Ringo makes some coin as a guest musician on albums by Badfinger and Harry Nilsson, among others. Paul McCartney retreats to his farm in Scotland to write his first album, with some tunes held back. 1970 is otherwise a quiet year. But, by the end of it, The Beatles feel refreshed enough to come back to the Beatles with a renewed sense of vigour. This is because they’ve decided to take control of it, and not have it define them.

George HarrisonThey decide to have solo careers, while coming back to the Beatles by treating it as their hobby band. They deflate the myth by taking it less seriously, while at the same time always making a commitment to bringing their best to it, out of respect. This attitude will create a certain thematic cohesion for the ensuing sessions for their next record. Meanwhile, they’ve cut ties with Allen Klein to find new management in a local firm out of Liverpool with a charismatic leader at the head of it who also happens to be a fan of the music. Through this firm, they are able to re-negotiate their publishing deal with Northern Songs so that they own their own back catalogue outright, as well as control of all materials they put out going forward, either as a group or as solo artists. So, the first year of the decade is a good year indeed.

Ringo StarrThey go into Abbey Road studios with George Martin to record this album, with Geoff Emerick as engineer. And Klaus Voorman will do the album cover (as he did for 1966’s Revolver…), as well as playing bass on a few tracks. Billy Preston will appear playing organ and Fender Rhodes.

Beatles ’71

1. Too Many People – Now not about how obnoxious John and Yoko are, but a song about the disillusion of the hippie ideal. I think John Lennon would add some interesting lyrical content to this. The arrangement would be the same, but with Macca/Lennon/Hari three part harmonies on the “this was your first mistake/you took your lucky break and broke it in two” section. And Harrision would get a slide solo somewhere.
2. What is Life – with more three-part harmonies. It would otherwise remain unchanged.

3. Jealous Guy – No strings on this one, but a bit bluesier, with some Billy Preston organ to make it sound more like a gospel tune. Macca’s bass would be almost a lead instrument on it (his compositional contribution), providing a counter melody under the vocal. The first verse would be John at the piano, and the band would come in on the first chorus.
4. How Do You Sleep? – Equally, this is no longer about Macca, but about the American government and its involvement in Vietnam. John’s lyrics are bolstered by tougher playing and grittier production, making this rock harder than anything they’ve done up until this point. Still featuring the blistering Harrison slide riff, it will also feature a lead guitar as played by Macca that offsets the riff , making it about 12 bars longer. Also, there is a new middle-eight section added by Paul as well, which features his vocal.
5. It Don’t Come Easy The Ringo song! This time, it’s not a mercy track.

Side Two

1. Maybe I’m Amazed Pretty much as is, but with more three-part harmony bits. John would still get a co-writing credit.
2. Wah-Wah George leads an extended version of this tune, allowing for riff-trading with John, Paul, and Preston on Fender Rhodes. This will be the collective statement of the group in many ways, since the sentiment of the song is not being tied to someone else idea of your identity. All the Beatles faced this, and this tune would speak to that issue, along with George’s personal ones. As such, the song would be even harder, and more exhuberant!
3. Gimme Some Truth More chances for cascading “ah” backing vocals a la “Because” on this. Macca would add an intertwining countermelody sung as a backing to John’s lead. It will rely for the main on the strength of the vocals, both lead and backing. As such, it will be entirely a cappella.

4. Reeperbahn Days– This will be a tune that uses the melody of “Oh Yoko!” with Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr contributions to the lyrics. The song is about their Hamburg days, and about their sense of innocence, just playing rock n roll and discovering the world as young men before they were famous. It will feature a rockabilly middle eight section contributed by McCartney which ups the tempo, and on which they will play as a four piece without any keyboards or production flourishes. The song will resolve back to the descending Lennon melody. It will be good natured and celebratory, but the sentiment will resolve on the idea that the past is behind and serves only as a means to understand the present.

5. Imagine – This would be as is, sans strings, with John doing this entirely solo, no drums.
6. Junk This would be a laid back, back porch acoustic guitar strum, with Ringo on a streamlined drum kit and brushes. George would play a tasteful acoustic slide. It would be cut live, with as much of a “just felt like playing” feel to it as possible.

The Beatles would not do a full tour, but would appear at the Concert For Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison. They will perform three songs together: “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Across the Universe”, and “Too Many People”. In addition to Harrison’s solo set, John Lennon will have a solo tune (“Imagine”), and McCartney will perform “Blackbird” solo to close the record. The money from the concert would be more effective too, with less of it going toward administration, and more to the people who needed it. Royalties from the record would continue to serve development agencies in the sub-continent for many years to come.

In 1976 after the four concentrate on solo careers, there’s a live album …

So there it is, good people. This might be my geekiest article yet. So, there’s no reason for you not to tell me about your fantasy recordings, ones that never were or never can be.

PS- In December 1980, a city bus would jump the curb in New York City and take out a single victim standing outside of the Dakota apartment, knocking a signed copy of Double Fantasy heavenward…

John Lennon Interview, 1975

Here are two clips from a 1975 interview with John Lennon, which will make you smile, and make you feel a sense of loss in equal measure.

[Update, October 15, 2015: Here’s a new upload of the interview]

What I see here is a guy who’s very comfortable with his life, having gone through his divorce period from his three bandmates in the Beatles five years previous, and through a brief separation from Yoko Ono too (aka the Lost Weekend era from 1973 – 1974). Although still in the throes of a Green Card dispute with the American government, Lennon is beginning to feel at home in New York City, a place which (as he explains) is “24 hours”, with every nationality converging. And very sweetly, he shows his affection for England- he misses English chocolate biscuits.

John LennonAt this point in his career, he’d completed his rock n’ roll covers album appropriately titled Rock ‘n’ Roll, and had done a guest appearance with Elton John at Madison Square Garden (his first live appearance in some time at that point) in 1974 and on David Bowie’s song “Fame”, which he co-wrote. Most importantly, he’d reconciled with Paul, George, and Ringo (well, he never fell out with Ringo…), and no longer felt as if a Beatles project was entirely out of the question. This is a striking contrast to the bitter Lennon from 1971’s Rolling stone interview “Lennon Remembers”. In this interview almost five years afterwards, Lennon is full of humour, eager to talk about his Beatle days, and just plain gracious. In this interview, he’s laid-back and likeable – not the intense, angry icon which many people think of when his name is mentioned. I really like this John.

There are some heartbreaking concepts to be considered here, given that we’re viewing this in a post-assassination context. When watching this, I got the feeling that we are living in an alternate universe, that someone has messed with the space-time continuum. Lennon was supposed to live. And the Beatles were supposed to make more albums, maybe concurrent with their own solo careers. They were meant to reconvene for a tour in 1981, as was the rumour at the time before Lennon’s death. At very least, Sean and Julian were supposed to get to know their dad.

What do you think, good people? What stands out in this interview for you?

John

I remember who it was who told me. It was my Grandma, who was taking care of me for a week or two at the end of 1980. That was the year I really discovered the Beatles by way of an ancient reel-to-reel compilation made by my Dad. It was the year that “Starting Over” hit the ariwaves, and I knew that this was the return of someone great, someone who had been away and was back to put out more greatness for the benefit of my thirsty ear for pop music, and particularly all things Beatles. But Grandma said, upon my coming home for lunch that day, “Someone shot him.” My first question was asked with incredulity;

He’s dead?

Shot.

Five times.

Died on the way to the hospital.

But, that’s John. That’s the guy who answered the question “How do you find America” with the answer “Turn left at Greenland.” Beatle John. The Walrus. How could he be dead? He’s just come back. He’s got a number one on the charts. The song was even called “Starting Over.” That’s not fair.

It was a strange feeling to have that kind of reaction to the news. He was someone I hadn’t met, but he had made an impact on me in any case. I couldn’t put a name to it then, but I went into mourning. The Beatles had changed my life – they gave me a passion in music, something that could be mine. They created a mythic presence in my imagination that is still there to this day, and there it will always be. It was only later in life that the true dimensions of the life the group lived as a unit and those who were in the group became apparent to me. These were mortal men, real people who had lives apart from one another, the group and the preconceptions of those who adored them as I did. But the basic feeling of unfairness, that I had somehow been robbed of something, remains. That the story should end in such violence, such a senseless and meaningless way was unacceptable to me, and yet there was nothing else left to say. He was gone.

It was later still that I understood that he had been killed by a fan, someone who felt the same way about the Beatles as many of us do and as I certainly did. This made no sense to me either, but it is a sobbering thought that the thing which inspires to such a degree, can inspire one to greatness and to destruction in a like manner. Had he been considered merely as a husband and father, would he still have been murdered in the street? This gives my outrage another dimension because this violent act casts a shadow on the very heart of my admiration for what John created and who he was. The shooter, who has gained fame of his own as he wished (and so I don’t name him) ruined it for everyone. Maybe we should have listened more closely. The dream was over. It was time to allow The Walrus to be John and the fact that we couldn’t proved to be his downfall.