'1967-1970' aka 'The Blue Album' - The Beatles Album
Created | Updated Feb 13, 2018
1 | A Collection of Beatles Oldies
Past Masters: Volume One | Volume Two
1962-1966 The Red Album | 1967-1970 The Blue Album
1967-1970, more popularly known as 'The Blue Album' is a Beatles compilation double album first released in 1973. It was released alongside 1962-1966, which is also known as 'The Red Album'.
The songs on this album showcase the Beatles in their later years, between 1967 and 1970. Compared with their early years, these songs are edgier and are about far more diverse topics than those from 1962-1966, which tended to be about love. Unlike 1962-1966 which contains only Lennon/McCartney compositions, 1967-1970 contains songs written by George Harrison and Ringo Starr too.
The Beatles in the 1970s
The lads had been drifting apart since the death of Brian Epstein in 1967, and one of the final straws that broke the group was when in 1969 John, George and Ringo signed the talented but disreputable Allen Klein as their replacement manager. Paul strongly distrusted Klein and refused to do business with him. Paul preferred to deal with John Eastman, his brother-in-law. The disagreements between Eastman and Klein led to the Beatles losing their song rights, held by the company Northern Songs, and they also failed to purchase Brian Epstein's company NEMS Enterprises. After John secretly left the band, Klein negotiated a new deal with record company EMI in which the group would receive 69% of record sales, a vast increase from the 10% they had been receiving since 1967. Although the band had split up there was still an album's worth of unreleased songs from 1969's Get Back sessions.
In December 1970 Paul McCartney instigated a High Court action that placed the Beatles' affairs in the hands of a receiver in order to rid himself of any involvement with Klein, shortly before Klein was convicted of ten counts of tax evasion and withholding tax from employees' wages1. Although soon all four lads were desperate to get rid of Allen Klein, the process was lengthy, complex and tied up the entire Beatles legal team.
While the lawyers were fully occupied, vultures circulated, sensing that they could take advantage of this. For example, producer and Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood, who took over managing many of Brian Epstein's acts, made an entirely unauthorised film entitled Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1978. There was also a dramatic rise in the number of bootleg albums being sold, with one two-volume anthology set entitled Alpha Omega actually advertised across America on radio and television in 1972.
The US 1971 Sound Recording Amendment Act stated that sound recordings made before 1972 would be subject to state copyright regulations rather than national copyright regulations. The copyright regulations in New Jersey, where Audiotape, Inc who released Alpha Omega was based, were comparatively relaxed. Alpha Omega was released as two double-albums of Beatles songs, arranged alphabetically, with some of their post-breakup solo work included too.
EMI were furious and decided that the only way to counter this was by issuing their own, authorised pair of double-albums. Almost immediately, in April 1973, the two double-albums 1962-1966 'The Red Album' and 1967-1970 'The Blue Album' were on sale while Allen Klein sued for $15 million in damages. Alpha Omega was soon removed from sale, although the exact details of the settlement have not been released.
1967-1970 'The Blue Album'
Both the 'Red' and 'Blue' albums were released in April 1973. Despite being made up entirely of previously released songs, 'The Blue Album' surprised everyone to become a US Number One and UK Number 2 album. When the album was re-released on CD in 1993 it again became a Number One US album and reached Number 4 in the UK, a position it again hit in the UK in 2010 when a digitally remastered version was released. The album is double-Platinum in the UK and multiple-Platinum in the US, where it has sold over 8.5 million copies (a million more than 'The Red Album').
The album covers for both 'The Red Album' and 'The Blue Album' show the lads in identical poses, looking down the stairwell at EMI House. Both photographs were taken by Angus McBean. One photograph had been taken for the cover of their first album Please Please Me (1963) and the other photograph had been taken in 1969 for the proposed Get Back album2 and showed the band in the same poses at the same place, only with longer hair and moustaches.
On 'The Red Album' the 1963 picture is on the front and the 1969 picture is on the back cover, while 'The Blue Album' has the 1969 picture on the front and the 1963 picture on the back cover. Later audio cassette and CD releases of these albums have the track listing on the back covers, but nevertheless both pictures can be seen on the front and back of the accompanying booklet, matching the original LPs.
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Below is a description of the songs, including which album the song was originally released on and whether it had been a single.
'Strawberry Fields Forever' (Single, 1967)
John Lennon frequently stated that he considered this to be his favourite song. Written in Almeira when John was filming How I Won the War (1967), directed by Richard Lester3, Strawberry Fields is named after a former Salvation Army children's home called Strawberry Field [sic] located in Woolton, Liverpool, near where John grew up. As a child he regularly attended the fetes held in the grounds. As he was raised by his aunt, John felt he had much in common with the orphans who lived there.
John recorded this song between November and December 1966 and it was originally intended for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band4. However, as EMI were desperate for the group to release a single, this and 'Penny Lane' were released as singles instead, complete with early music videos. In Britain it was released as a double A-side with 'Penny Lane' where it got to Number 2 behind Engelbert Humperdink's 'Release Me'5, the first Beatles single since 'Love Me Do' not to top the chart. However, as it was one of the first ever double A-sides, the single's actual sales were officially halved for each song. In America Capitol Records did not think 'Strawberry Fields Forever' was a strong enough song to be a single, and so it was relegated to the B-Side of 'Penny Lane'.
The album version of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' can be found on Magical Mystery Tour, and demos can be found on 'Anthology 2' and 'Love'.
'Penny Lane' (Single, 1967)
Penny Lane is a road and district in Liverpool where both Paul and John grew up. The area had two banks, a fire station nearby in Allerton Road, a barber's called Bioletti's in Penny Lane and even a dilapidated bus shelter in the middle of the Smithdown Place roundabout, which has since become the Sgt. Pepper's Bistro. Paul said about the song:
It's part fact, it's part nostalgia. Penny Lane is a bus roundabout in Liverpool and there is a barber's shop showing photographs of every head he's had the pleasure to know – well, no, that's not true, they're just photographs of hairstyles, but all the people who come and go stop and say 'hello'. There is a bank on the corner, so we made up the part about the banker in his motorcar. We put in a joke or two, 'fish and finger pie'... a nice joke for the Liverpool lads who like a bit of smut.
'Penny Lane' is a song that is full of contradictions – the weather is described as both 'Blue Suburban Skies' and 'Pouring Rain'. The time of year is said to be summer, yet the pretty nurse is selling poppies6, an activity associated with the days leading up to Remembrance Day in November. Yet the song's strength is that these contradictions convey a clear image of Penny Lane. The piccolo trumpet was played by David Mason.
'Penny Lane' can be found on albums Magical Mystery Tour, 1, Anthology 2 and Paul McCartney's Paul is Live.
'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
The title song from the 1967 album that won four Grammy awards, was Number One on the UK album chart for 27 weeks on its original release and, when released on CD 20 years later in 1987, became a Number 3. The song was inspired by Paul's idea of the lads adopting the personas of a different band, which would enable them to leave their mop-top image behind and experiment with music in new directions. The types of band names that were popular in San Francisco at the time inspired him. Other theories about Paul's inspiration for the name are that it either came from a bottle of the soft drink Dr Pepper or that Salt and Pepper became Sergeant Pepper. The song also appears in the animated film Yellow Submarine and on the 1999 Yellow Submarine Songtrack album. Paul McCartney has regularly featured the song, sometimes coupled with 'The End', when performing live and it appears on his live albums Tripping the Live Fantastic, Back in the World, Back in the US and Good Evening, New York City.
'With a Little Help from my Friends' (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
Each album featured a song sung by Ringo and this was Ringo's song on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This song was written by Lennon and McCartney and recorded by Ringo on 29 March, 1967 in front of journalist Hunter Davis. John was particularly keen to use the question-and-answer format. At first glance this is a song about a singer worried about singing out of tune who gets by with a little help from his friends, which very much summarises Ringo's position in the band at this time. It also appears on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album.
In November 1968 this song sung by Joe Cocker became a UK Number One, in what is one of the best Beatles cover versions of all time.
'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
The lads have confessed that numerous songs including 'She's a Woman', 'Doctor Robert', 'Day Tripper' and 'A Day in the Life' were either about drugs or contained drug references, with John in particular delighting in shocking interviewers by going into great detail about his drug habit. However as the initials of ''Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'' are LitSwD, which is vaguely like 'LSD', many have speculated that the song must be about the hallucinogenic drug Lysergic acid diethylamide. However, John has always stated that the title of the song was inspired by a picture by his son Julian. This was of Julian's friend Lucy O'Donnell7 flying, surrounded by stars and diamonds, which he had drawn at the age of four in Heath House Nursery in Weybridge.
Other sources of inspiration include Lewis Carroll's novel Through the Looking Glass, particularly the chapter 'Wool and Water' in which Alice goes down the river in a rowing boat with the Queen, who turns into a sheep. Another inspiration was The Goon Show, which sometimes featured plasticine ties. John told Spike Milligan that he had inspired the line 'plasticine porters with looking-glass ties'.
The song also appears in the Yellow Submarine film and on the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album as well as on Anthology 2. William Shatner sang a notable cover version in 1968. Elton John's 1974 cover version was released as a single that reached Number One in the US; it featured backing vocals and guitar by John Lennon in exchange for Elton John performing on John Lennon's song 'Whatever Gets You Thru the Night'. Lennon made a guest appearance at Elton John's Madison Square Garden concert on 28 November, 1974, to perform 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' with Elton, along with two other songs. This was John Lennon's final live performance.
This song was on the radio in 1974 when anthropologist Don Johanson discovered the body of an Australopithecus woman from 3.5 million years BC, which he subsequently named Lucy. The Lucy skeleton inspired people at NASA who were working on a future mission to Jupiter; its insignia (logo) is diamond-shaped deliberately because of the song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'.
'A Day in the Life' (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
A co-written song that started out as two separate songs. John wrote the verses, while Paul had written the chorus about a typical journey to school by bus. John's verses had numerous inspirations, including the death of his friend, the Guinness heir Tara Browne, while his role in the film How I Won the War inspired the lines about the English Army winning the war and seeing a film today. Another key inspiration was a story on page 7 of the 17 January, 1967 issue of the Daily Mail that began:
There are 4,000 holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire, or one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey.
In order to link from John's verses to Paul's chorus a 24-bar gap was left in the studio. Paul decided that the gap would best be filled by a dramatic orchestral piece. Musicians from the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras were hired and instructed to play an ascending scale from their lowest to highest notes during that 24-bar gap, while the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mike Nesmith of the Monkees, and Donovan attended. This then leads into the chorus following the sound of an alarm clock. The final 42-second-long chord that ends the album was made by all four Beatles playing E major on three different pianos.
As the song contained the line 'turn you on' it was banned by the BBC. An early version of 'A Day in the Life' without the orchestra appears on Anthology 2.
'All You Need is Love' (Single, 1967)
The Beatles were asked by the BBC to represent Great Britain for the Our World television spectacular. This, the first ever live global television link, was a two-hour link up of 26 countries around the world via satellite. An audience of 400 million watched the programme and saw the Beatles and friends including Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Keith Moon sing 'All You Need is Love' live, although the rhythm track had been pre-recorded. The song contains snippets of international music including La Marsellaise, Invention 8 by Bach and Glen Miller's 'In the Mood' to symbolise world unity.
This song became the soundtrack to the so-called 'Summer of Love' and was a UK and US Number One. It is also included on the Magical Mystery Tour album, both the 1999 Songtrack and 1969 Soundtrack of the Yellow Submarine film, and 1. Their manager, Brian Epstein, summarised the song with the words:
It is a wonderful, beautiful, spine-chilling record. It cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything.
'I Am the Walrus' (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
The song began as three separate ideas for songs that John had. The first was inspired by the noise of a two-tone police siren and the words 'Mis-TER ci-TY police-MAN'. The second was inspired by John's English garden and the third was to write a nonsense song. Then the post arrived and John received a letter from a pupil called Stephen Bayley who was attending Quarry Bank School in Liverpool, which John had attended as a child. Stephen said that at school he was analysing Beatles' song lyrics. Bemused, John was inspired to merge all three ideas together. He added extra nonsense including the Walrus from Lewis Carroll's 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' as well as phrases from a playground rhyme; 'Yellow matter custard, green slop pie, all mixed together with a dead dog's eye'. This created a song that he felt would prove impossible to analyse.
Written and recorded days after the death of manager Brian Epstein, the song was a highlight of the Magical Mystery Tour film and appeared on the album. In the UK it was issued as the B-side to 'Hello, Goodbye' and also appears on Anthology 2. Sadly on original release it was banned from being played by the BBC because it contains the word 'knickers'.
'Hello Goodbye' (Single, 1967)
A Number One hit for seven weeks, including being the UK's 1967 Christmas Number One, this was the Beatles' most successful song in the UK since 'She Loves You'. Paul has described the song by saying:
'Hello, Goodbye' was one of my songs... it was a very easy song to write. It’s just a song of duality, with me advocating the more positive. You say goodbye, I say hello. You say stop, I say go. I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.
The song appears on the Magical Mystery Tour album, 1 and Anthology 2. Paul McCartney has also sung this song live, with it appearing on his live albums Back in the World and Back in the US.
'The Fool on the Hill' (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
A song written by Paul for the Magical Mystery Tour film about an 'idiot savant', a man dismissed by everyone, but who secretly is very wise. In his authorised biography Paul said:
I that I was writing about someone like the Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi]. His detractors called him a fool... the idea that everyone thinks he's stupid appealed to me, because they still do. Saviours or gurus are generally spat upon, so I thought for my generation I'd suggest that they weren't as stupid as they looked.
'Magical Mystery Tour' (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
This song was the title track of the Beatles' hour-long Christmas 1967 film, and had two main sources of inspiration. The first was memories of taking Mystery Tours as a child. These were essentially day coach trips where only the driver knew where they were going (although it almost always ended up being Blackpool). The second was the news that novelist Ken Kesey was driving across America in a psychedelically-painted bus. The song was also the title track of what in the UK was released as an experimental double-EP. It was released as an album in the US. The US album version has supplemented the British original since the 1980s. Paul has described the song with the words:
'Magical Mystery Tour' was co-written by John and I, very much in our fairground period. One of our great inspirations was always the barker, 'Roll up! Roll up!' The promise of something: the ad that says 'satisfaction guaranteed'.
'Lady Madonna' (Single, 1968)
A British number one hit that was the last single the Beatles released on the Parlophone label in the UK and Capitol Records in the US. Paul has described the song with the words:
The original concept was the Virgin Mary but it quickly became symbolic of every woman, the Madonna image but as applied to ordinary working-class women. It's really a tribute to the mother figure, it's a tribute to women.
The song can also be found on Past Masters: Volume 2 and 1. An early version of the song can be found on Anthology 2. This is Paul's favourite song to perform live, with versions appearing on his Wings over America, Paul is Live, Back in the World, Back in the US, Good Evening, New York City and Live in Los Angeles solo albums.
'Hey Jude' (Single, 1968)
'Hey Jude' was a song written by Paul when he was on his way to visit young Julian Lennon shortly after he was aware that John planned to divorce Julian's mother Cynthia. Paul has said:
I started with the idea 'Hey Jules', which was Julian, don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better. Here, try and deal with this terrible thing. I knew it was not going to be easy for him. I always feel sorry for kids in divorces.
Julian described what Paul had told him about the song's origins by stating:
[Paul] told me that he'd been thinking about my circumstances all those years ago, about what I was going through and what I would have to go through in the future. Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit – more than Dad and I did... there seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and Dad.
John, however, thought that the song was about him, and later said:
I always heard it as a song to me. If you think about it, Yoko's just come into the picture. He's saying, 'Hey Jude - Hey John'. I know I'm sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but... The words 'go out and get her' – subconsciously he was saying, 'go ahead, leave me'.
He wasn't the only person to misinterpret the song's lyrics; Judith Simons of the Daily Express was convinced the song was about her. Others have speculated that the song was really about the Beatles' manager, and that 'Hey Jude' was really 'Gay Jew'. Similarly, shortly after the Beatles' Apple Boutique had the words 'Hey Jude' displayed in its window to promote the single, all the windows were smashed in by a local Jewish businessman who thought that it said 'Juden Raus', German for 'Jews Out'.
The song was the first record released on their own Apple label and still holds the record for the best-selling debut release from a new record company. To celebrate, they sent copies to 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and to the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother replied saying how much she enjoyed the gift, while the Queen8 soon after remarked to Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of EMI, 'The Beatles are turning awfully funny, aren't they?'.
The song was a revolutionary seven minutes 11 seconds long at a time when the average song length was still around the three-minute mark. It not only was the longest-ever single released to date, it was also the longest Number One in both the UK and US. It was the Beatles' best selling hit in America and indeed the best-selling single in America in the 1960s. In the UK it was the best-selling single of 1968. It sold over a million copies in the UK alone, with over eight million copies being sold worldwide. Though it won none of the three Grammy awards it was nominated for, it won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Selling Song. The song also appears on 1, Past Masters: Volume 2 and Anthology 3. Paul frequently performs this song live, such as at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival, and an eight-minute version is heard on Paul's album Tripping the Live Fantastic.
'Revolution' (B-Side, 1968)
The B-Side to 'Hey Jude', 'Revolution' was the first song to be recorded for The White Album. It was a song that John was keen to release as a single. Both George and Paul felt that the song was too slow and were worried by its political context. John persuaded them to record a much-faster version, although the slow version, named 'Revolution 1'9, remained on the White Album. The speed is not the only difference. It lacks the 'shoo-bee-do-wop' backing and has an additional instrumental break. Most notably, one line on the earlier version says indecisively 'when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out/in', whereas in this version John firmly says 'you can count me out'.
This version of the song also features heavily distorted guitar sounds, which reportedly led to a number of record buyers taking the song back to the shop thinking there was a fault with the recording, only to be told the song was supposed to sound like that. John's school friend and personal assistant Pete Shotton described the song by saying:
'Revolution' meant more to John than any song he'd written in years, and he was determined that it should appear as the A-side of the Beatles' debut release on their soon-to-be-launched Apple Records. Apart from marking a return to the high adrenalin, no frills rock 'n' roll that had always remained his first musical love, 'Revolution' was the first Beatles song to constitute an explicitly political statement, which in turn is precisely why Paul felt so wary of it.
Despite the changes made, Paul and George vetoed its release as a single and so this newer, faster version was relegated to being a B-Side. Controversially, it was used to advertise Nike shoes in 1987, resulting in Apple Records suing Nike and Capitol Records. George Harrison remarked:
If it is allowed to happen, every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women's underwear and sausages. We've got to put a stop to it in order to set a precedent... They don't have any respect for the fact that we wrote and recorded those songs, and it was our lives.
'Back in the USSR' (The Beatles aka The White Album, 1968)
In 1968 the Beatles and Beach Boy Mike Love were in Rishikesh together and at one point Love wondered aloud how a Russian version of Chuck Berry's 'Back in the USA' would sound. Paul then wrote 'Back in the USSR', using both Berry and Beach Boys hits such as 'California Girls' as an inspiration, as a warm tribute to both. This became the opening song on The White Album, with Paul trying to emulate the Beach Boys' vocal style. This harmless fun led to some crackpot theories being published in America suggesting that the Beatles were using this song to hypnotise the younger generation into adopting Communism.
Paul McCartney frequently sings this song live, with it appearing on the albums Tripping the Live Fantastic, Back in the World, Back in the US, Good Evening, New York City and Live in Los Angeles.
'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (The Beatles aka The White Album, 1968)
The first song on the album that was composed by George Harrison. A musical masterpiece, sadly like many of George's compositions it was initially overlooked by the other band members. George has described it with the words:
I had a copy of the 'I Ching – the Book of Changes' which seemed to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is related to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps' then laid the book down again and started the song... I worked on that song with John, Paul and Ringo one day and they were not interested in it at all. And I knew inside of me that it was a nice song.
As the others were uninterested, George invited Eric Clapton to play electric guitar on the record, making him the first rock musician other than the Beatles to play on one of their songs. It took a while for the lyrics to be finalised – a different verse can be heard on a demo found on Anthology 3. The song also appears on The Best of George Harrison, a live version is on Songs of George Harrison, and a live version performed by Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton can be found on the Concert for George album.
'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' (The Beatles aka The White Album, 1968)
Paul met Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott in Soho's Bag o' Nails Club, the place where he also first met Linda. Scott came from the Yoruba tribe and told Paul that 'Ob-la-di ob-la-da' in his home tongue meant 'life goes on', which inspired Paul to write this song. It has a Reggae rather than Nigerian sound, and Scott can be heard playing the congas on it. Scott then tried to sue Paul for a co-writer credit only to drop the case after Paul paid to have him released from prison after failing to pay his ex-wife's maintenance payments. Paul had hoped to release it as a single but this was vetoed by John and George although a cover version by Marmalade got to Number One. A demo can be found on Anthology 3.
'Get Back' (Single, 1969)
This Number One single had a long gestation period. Paul had originally intended 'Get Back' to be a political song criticising the passage of the Commonwealth Immigration Act. He intended to satirise those who felt immigrants should 'Get back to where they once belonged'. Although he has confirmed his intention, and said 'The words were not racist at all, they were anti-racist', he realised that his original aim was not working and his song could easily be misinterpreted as racist. The verses were rewritten with ambiguous nonsense10, although he retained the original chorus.
The single version of the song was credited to 'The Beatles with Billy Preston' - Preston was a friend they had met in the early days of their career in Hamburg, and he played electric piano for this track. It was recorded on 27 January, 1969 with a coda recorded the day after. It was then re-dubbed and edited by Phil Spector to create the version that appears on the Let It Be album. The unadulterated version appears on the Let It Be... Naked album. Versions can also be found on 1, Past Masters: Volume 2, and Anthology 3.
'Don't Let Me Down' (B-Side, 1969)
The B-Side to 'Get Back', 'Don't Let Me Down' is a heartfelt, impassioned plea from John to the new love in his life, Yoko. Having been abandoned by both his parents as a child, John was very insecure in his relationships. The Beatles performed the song during the Apple rooftop concert, their last live performance. The song can be found on Past Masters: Volume 2.
'The Ballad of John and Yoko' (Single, 1969)
John wrote 'The Ballad of John and Yoko' as an autobiographical song that summarised his wedding to, and honeymoon with, Yoko Ono. After seeing the fuss caused by Paul and Linda's registry office wedding, they hoped to get married outside the UK. The first verse, which states: 'standing at the dock at Southampton, trying to get to Holland or France, the man in the Mac said, 'You've got to go back', you know they didn't even give us a chance' implies that John and Yoko were deliberately prevented from entering mainland Europe. The truth was that they did not have their passports with them. They eventually flew to France and, as the song says, got married in Gibraltar.
Only John and Paul perform on the song, which was recorded when George was out of the country and Ringo was filming The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers. In the US the song was criticised for its chorus, in particular the use of 'Christ', and was kept off the top spot, possibly because it had been released when 'Get Back' was still Number One. However, it got to Number One in the UK.
The song also appears on Past Masters: Volume 2.
'Old Brown Shoe' (B-Side, 1969)
George Harrison's B-Side to 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'. The song expresses George's belief that the material world is an illusion and should be rejected. In his autobiography I Me Mine, George simply described the song by saying it was about 'the duality of things – yes-no, up-down, left-right, right-wrong etc.' The song can also be found on Past Masters: Volume 2 and Anthology 3.
'Here Comes the Sun' (Abbey Road, 1969)
A song written by George Harrison when, during early Spring, he decided not to attend yet another never-ending Apple business meeting and instead visited Eric Clapton's home and spent time outside in the garden, enjoying a sunny day. The song was recorded on Ringo's 29th birthday, although John was absent during the recording session. The song also appears on George's albums The Best of George Harrison and The Concert for Bangladesh. A live version appears on Songs by George Harrison and a version sung by Joe Brown is on the Concert for George album.
'Come Together' (Abbey Road, 1969)
'Come Together' was the last track recorded for Abbey Road and was one of John's favourite Beatles songs. It was also the first song John had written for the band in six months. It had been inspired by Harvard Professor Timothy Leary11, who planned to run for Governor of California against Ronald Reagan. Leary’s slogan would have been 'Come Together and Join the Party' had he not been imprisoned for drug offences during the closing stages of the election.
The line 'here come old flat top', an affectionate nod to Chuck Berry’s song 'You Can’t Catch Me', resulted in John being sued for plagiarism. This was finally resolved in an out of court settlement when John agreed to cover two Chuck Berry songs12. The BBC, which had not censored 'The Ballad Of John And Yoko', completely banned 'Come Together' for its use of a different C-word: 'Coca-Cola'.
'Come Together' became a Number One hit in the US and can also be found on 1 and Anthology 3. It is the only Beatles song John sang at both Madison Square Garden concerts in 1971. The two performances were later released, one on his Live in New York City album and various compilation albums and the other on the John Lennon Anthology13.
'Something' (Single & Abbey Road, 1969)
'Something' was the only George Harrison Beatles song released as an A-Side. It was also the first Beatles single in Britain to have been previously an album track - the single was released over a month after the song appeared on Abbey Road. This was the main reason why it did not reach Number One in Britain. Paul and John initially largely ignored 'Something' and only the insistence of Allen Klein made them agree to release it as a single.
George describes the writing of the song in his I Me Mine autobiography as:
['Something'] was written on a piano while we were making The White Album. I had a break... so I went into an empty studio and began to write. That’s really all there is to it.
'Something' received the Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. It can also be found on 1, Anthology 3, The Best of George Harrison, Songs by George Harrison and on Concert for George sung by Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. Since George's death Paul has often included the song in his live performances in tribute to George.
'Octopus's Garden' (Abbey Road, 1969)
The second and last Beatles song written by Ringo Starr. During the recording of The White Album in 1968, Ringo decided to quit the Beatles. He spent a fortnight enjoying a family holiday to Sardinia aboard Peter Seller's yacht, during which time the ship's chef told him all about octopuses. Relaxed by the holiday, he returned and rejoined the Beatles as the others had missed him and were determined to make him feel wanted. An early version of the song can be found on Anthology 3.
'Let It Be' (Let it Be & Single, 1970)
'Let It Be' was a song written in January 1969, at a time when the Beatles were beginning to fall apart. It was inspired by a dream Paul had about his mother Mary, who had died when Paul was 14. The hymn-like style suits the song perfectly, with 'Mother Mary' evoking thoughts of the Virgin Mary.
Phil Spector's unauthorised remix of 'Let It Be' was a major factor in the Beatles' break-up, angering perfectionist Paul in the extreme. This song was finally released as Paul originally conceived on Let It Be... Naked.
'Across the Universe' (Let it Be, 1970)
This song was written by John at 7am one morning in early 1968, when John couldn't get back to sleep following an argument with his then-wife Cynthia. John had hoped it would be released as their next single, but it lost to 'Lady Madonna'. A version of the song containing animal noises was released on a charity album that Spike Milligan had organised to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. The neglected song then waited two years before it appeared on Let it Be, the final Beatles album to be released before the group officially disbanded. Let it Be tied up the last few odds and ends the lads had recorded but not released, as well as the very last songs they had made together.
When David Bowie recorded a cover version of this song for his 1975 Young Americans album, John played guitar. The charity version can be found on Past Masters: Volume 2.
In 2008, 'Across the Universe' was transmitted as an interstellar radio message (IRM) towards the current Pole Star Polaris (alpha Ursae Minoris) as part of NASA's 50th anniversary celebrations. Appropriately, it was also the 40th anniversary of the track being recorded by the Fab Four. Sir Paul McCartney wholeheartedly approved, relaying the wish for NASA to 'give his love to the aliens' and wishing the project 'all the best'. Yoko Ono said:
I see this as the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the Universe.
'The Long and Winding Road' (Let it Be, 1970)
When Phil Spector edited perfectionist Paul's 'The Long and Winding Road' against his express wishes it was a major factor in the band's break up. One of the three reasons Paul listed in his writ to dissolve the Beatles was that Phil Spector had been employed to alter 'The Long and Winding Road' without consulting him. The song was overdubbed with a full orchestra, violins, harp and female choir. Paul finally released the song as he had intended on Let It Be... Naked, an album devoid of Spector's contributions. This Number One song can also be found on Anthology 3. Paul McCartney regularly sings live versions.
For those who want to know, the inspiration for 'The Long And Winding Road' came from the B842, which runs from Paul's farm at High Park, Scotland, 16 miles along the east coast of Kintyre to Campbeltown, the nearest town to the farm14. Paul described it with the words:
It's a sad song because it's all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road you never get to the end of.
Yet it was the end of the road for the Beatles, who never fully regrouped to release another song.