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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

All Time is Now • The Beatles solo years part II (1969)

The Beatles Solo years – Part II (1969) 

For The Beatles Solo years – Part I (1968)... link here

In this multi-part series, I am taking a look at The Beatleʼs solo years, beginning with the creation of Apple Records in 1968.

As we start the year 1969, The Beatles have just released their double disc LP, The Beatles (The White Album). The band had started their own label, Apple Records (signing James Taylor, Billy Preston and others). Only Paul and George are creatively involved in producing and writing for other artists. John is the only Beatle not playing on any Apple artistʼs records. The two solo side-projects released were Georgeʼs World music soundtrack to the film, Wonderwall and John & Yoko's experimental gobbled-de-gook, Two Virgins. None of these would be a threat to the band.

As a contrast, for example, the reason that Keith Richards was so pissed off with Mick Jaggerʼs first solo LP, Sheʼs The Boss in 1985 is because it was a clear attempt at Pop Chart success outside of the Stones with many songs that Keith felt, (rightly so) the Stones could have played so much better. 
“I mean, if heʼd done his favorite Irish Folk songs with a lady harpist… or have Liberace accompany him on Frank Sinatra songs, whatever. Something you couldnʼt possibly do with the Stones–that would have been fine." 
Keith was only more pissed off when The Stones all showed up to record their next LP, Dirty Work and Mick didnʼt have any songs (having used them all up for his solo LP).

But, The Beatles in 1969 are using their outside projects as true side-projects, nothing that threatens the group in any way.

So here we go, without further adieu, I bring you part deux, so let me introduce to you, the men you've known for all these years...


Only a mere six weeks after the release of their last two-disc LP, The Beatles (The White Album), they are all back in the studio (Jan 2nd) to start recording their next LP, Get Back/Let It Be, based on Paulʼs idea of recording live in the studio without overdubs just like they used to do back in the day, on their early albums.

The sessions were also filmed for a planned film or TV project based on the concept of filming from beggining to end how an album comes to be.

John is inseparable from his new girlfriend, Yoko (the two of them even went to the bathroom together). Ironically, John was worried that one of the ladʼs would steal her away. When they were only thinking, “So Johnny, wenʼs yur new bird leavin', weʼve got work t' do.” 

John & Yoko had also developed a heroin habit (“snorting it, 'cause we were both scared of needles.”). With John less engaged in the whole recording process, Paul took on more of a, “Come on lads…” leadership role which ocasionally didn't go down well with the others.

During the second week of the recording sessions, George quits The Beatles, only to return the following week. George felt that they should at least finish the album but demands that a planned live concert (for the end of the film) be scrapped. When George came back to the studio, he brought along (Apple recording artist) Billy Preston to play keyboards, thinking that maybe the others would behave better with someone else in the room.

The soundtrack to The Beatles' animated third film, YELLOW SUBMARINE is released. 
Charts: # 3 UK  /  #2 US

The album is split between, a song side, and the score on the flipside. Side A has six songs, the previously released "Yellow Submarine", the stand alone single, "All You Need Is Love" plus four new songs... Paulʼs “All Together Now”, Johnʼs “Hey Bulldog”, and two George songs, “Itʼs All Too Much, and “Only a Northern Song”. The Beatles wanted to release the new songs as an EP, but were contractually bound to also include a re-recording of the filmʼs score by George Martin (with a 41-piece orchestra).

Since George had shut down the grand ideas for performing a live show in a unique far off location (the planned event/end for the film), The Beatles with Billy Preston, decide to perform an unannounced show on the roof of Apple’s Savile Row office (Jan 30th). 

Starting at lunchtime (with five cameras on the roof, and cameras on the sidewalk below and across the street) they performed for forty-two minutes (multiple takes of their new songs) before being shut down by the police for “noise complaints”. It would be their last ever, “public” performance.

Of course we now have the wonderful Peter Jackson directed, six-part, rockumentary Get Back to see how it unfolded.

Released in UK Dec '68 - Feb '69 in US
Apple Records releases the self titled debut album from James Taylor in the US (produced by Peter Asher). 

Apple Records releases the debut album from Mary Hopkin, Post Card (produced by Paul).

While tracks for the planned Get Back/Let It Be LP are finished and being mixed, The Beatles (without any tour or promotional commitments) just keep on recording, starting on yet another new album, Abbey Road. This time with producer George Martin back and without any cameras filming them.

The Beatles take a break from recording so Ringo can star in the film, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN with Peter Sellers.

Yoko is asked (by poet Anthony Barnett) to perform at the Natural Music night at Cambridge University. She brings John along. With John on endless feedback from his hollow body, Casino guitar, and Yoko shrieking they perform a 26-minute piece. It later ends up as Side One on their next experimental LP, Life With The Lions

Apple releases James Taylor’s debut single, “Carolina On My Mind” (with Paul on bass and George on backing vocals). 
NOTE: I guarantee that most of you have NEVER HEARD this version as the better known version was James' re-recorded one for his Greatest Hits LP in 1976.

Apple releases Mary Hopkin’s next single, “Goodbye” (produced and written by Paul). 

Apple releases Jackie Lomax's debut LP, Is This What You Want? (produced by George). Among the musicians’ the album features George on guitar, Paul on bass/guitar and Ringo on drums. 

Glyn Johns is given the task of mixing the tracks for the new LP, Get Back/Let It Be. Glyn takes several days to go through all the various takes. Stereo mixes for 13 songs are completed.

Paul marries Linda (March 12th) in London. 

and a week later… 

John marries Yoko (March 20th) in Gilbraltar in Spain.

Paul and Linda honeymoon in New York

John&Yoko go on their honeymoon and “perform” their first Bed-In for Peace in the Amsterdam Hilton for six days. The press were invited everyday between 9am and 9pm to ask any question they wanted and to stay as long as they want. After John&Yoko’s nude Two Virgins, LP cover, the press half expected to watch the couple make love in front of them. (Can you blame them?!?)

The John&Yoko honeymoon suite
[Years later the room has been renovated in a 1969 style and is now available as "the John & Yoko honeymoon suite"]. 


45 – Get Back (single edit) by The Beatles with Billy Preston
The single “Get Back”/”Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles with Billy Preston is released in the UK. At the time a non-album single as the album, Let It Be wouldn’t be released ‘till spring 1970. A week later, the single is released in the US as a Stereo mix, a first for a Beatles single. 
Charts: #1 UK (six weeks) / #1 US (five weeks)

George hears a pre-release mix of the new Delaney and Bonnie album, The Original Delaney & Bonnie and signs them to Apple. Problem is they are already signed to Elektra Records. oops.

While on honeymoon John had written a new song, and he wants to record the new song like, right Now! Both George (on holiday) and Ringo (filming THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN) are unavailable so the, “The Ballad of John & Yoko” is recorded by only John and Paul playing all the instruments. While recording the drums, they can be heard referring to each other as the missing Beatles… “Let’s try it again, Ringo.” – “OK George.”

John legally changes his middle name to "Ono", saying, "She took my name so I took hers." Later that day they record the spoken word track, "John and Yoko" (repeating their names over and over again for 22 minutes) an obvious (but less funny) take on the 1951 Stan Freeberg, comedy track, "John and Marsha".

The Beatles continue recording songs that will make up Abbey Road

The Beatles’ create a new sub-label, Zapple Records specifically for experimental and spoken word releases. 
Original advertisement - click to enlarge
This new label imprint was suggested by The Beatles' new manager Allen Klein to help record stores (and radio stations) distinguish between the pop records and the way-out experimental records George and John were making. Planned (and recorded) releases for the label are from writers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and Lord Buckley [unfortunetly none of these would get released].

LP – GEORGE HARRISON - Electronic Sound 
Experimental electronic LP consisting of two long instrumental pieces. On Zapple Records. 
Charts:  #191 US  /  Does not chart in UK


LP – JOHN & YOKO - Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions 
John&Yoko’s second purely experimental avant-garde a clue LP on Zapple Records. Front cover is a picture in the hospital after Yoko had miscarried (Nov '68). John refused to leave her side and slept on the floor. 
Charts: #174 US  /  Does not chart in UK

(Yoko starts screaming at 17 secs in. Enjoy)

At a Beatles mix session at Olympic Sound Studios, Paul has an argument with the other Beatles over signing a new management contract with Allen Klein that the other three had already signed the day before. Paul had wanted his new Father-In-Law, Attorney Lee Eastman to manage the band. The three storm off leaving Paul and engineer Glyn Johns alone. Steve Miller happens to innocently drop by to check out the studio...

Paul and Steve end up jamming (Paul on drums ‘cause he wanted to thrash/hit something). They record the song, “My Dark Hour” which appeared on the LP, Brave New World. Paul is credited as Paul Ramon (his touring pseudonym) [you might recognize the guitar riff Steve used in a later song.]

George guests on Jack Bruce's (Cream) solo album. Playing guitar on the track, "Never Tell Your Mother She Is Out of Tune". George is credited as L'Angelo Misterioso.

The Beatles' debut LP PLEASE PLEASE ME (1963) and the Apple Records mock up for the planned GET BACK LP.
Photo shoot in stairwell at EMI Records, for the planned Get Back/Let It Be LP cover intended to replicate the cover of their 1963 debut LP, Please Please Me. The image was not used but later utilized for the Red/Blue compilations in 1973. 

45 – "The Ballad of John & Yoko" by The Beatles
The single “The Ballad of John & Yoko”/"Old Brown Shoe" by The Beatles is released. (first Stereo Beatles’ single in UK). Number 1 around the world, but problems with US radio stations uncomfortable with the lyrics (“Christ you know it ain’t easy…") kept it in the lower Top Ten. 
Charts: # 1 UK / #8 US

The Beatles take a few weeks off from recording. 

John&Yoko stage their second Bed-In For Peace in Montreal, Canada. On June 1st in room 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel they record the song, "Give Peace A Chance" on a rented 4 track. John and Tommy Smothers are playing acoustic guitars. In the room at the time are dozens of journalists and celebrities, including Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory, DJ Murray the K, Apple's Derek Taylor, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg and members of the Radha Krishna Temple. Many of them were mentioned in the lyrics, either directly or allusively. The song is finished at 10pm. Later that night, John & Yoko also record Yoko’s song, “Remember Love” at 3am.

John&Yoko (with John’s son Julian and Yoko’s daughter Kyoko) visit Scotland, where John crashes the car into a ditch. The Lennon’s spend five days in the hospital and receive many stitches.

The Beatles reconvene (July 1st) to continue recording tracks for Abbey Road. John, still recovering from the crash in Scotland misses the first week back in the studio. On the first day back, before the others showed up, Paul records “Your Majesty”. During the following week, the three Beatles record numerous takes of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” and “Here Comes The Sun”. 

45 – PLASTIC ONO BAND – Give Peace a Chance 
The first Beatle solo 45, John’s debut non-album single credited as the Plastic Ono Band. Recorded just a month prior in a hotel room in Montreal during their multi-city honeymoon / Bed Ins. The B-side is Yoko’s “Remember Love”. What will become a pattern is that every single John Lennon 45 has a Yoko Ono B-side.
Charts: #2 UK  /  #14 US

John finally arrives at the studio (July 9th). Unfortunately, John is not exactly enthusiastic in joining in with Paul's new song, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". John gets more involved/animated in the coming days when they start recording his new song, "Come Together".

Yoko in Studio bed LtoR: George's wife Patti, Apple's Mal Evans, Linda McCartney and Yoko.  And picture on the right is Yoko's POV of Paul and John 

Yoko was still recovering from the accident and was given orders to stay in bed. So John had a double bed delivered to the studio from Harrod’s so Yoko can be by his side. John asks that a mic be set up, hung over her head, incase she wants to join in. 

Apple Records release's the debut album from The Iveys, Maybe Tomorrow but it only comes out in Japan, West Germany, & Italy as (at the last minute) The Beatles' manager, Allen Klein, stops its release in the UK and North America until he can sort out The Beatles / Apple Records financial issues. Seven songs are later remixed and included in the now renamed band, Badfinger's debut to be later released in 1970. 

The Beatles continue recording and mixing tracks for Abbey Road.

Paul is in the studio producing Apple artist, The Iveys (Badfinger) who record the Paul song, “Come and Get It” (written for Ringo's film, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN).

The Beatles take a short break from recording to be photographed (right outside the studio) by Iain Macmillan (based on an idea of Paul's) walking across the Abbey Road crosswalk. 

Apple releases artist Mary Hopkin’s third single “Que Sera, Sera”/”The Fields of St, Etienne (produced by Paul with Ringo on drums).

Apple Records releases the debut album from Billy Preston, That’s The Way God Planned It (produced by George). The lead single is a top 20 hit in the UK and the backing band is... George Harrison and Eric Clapton on guitars, Keith Richards on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums!

Three days after (what would be) their last recording session as a group, The Beatles meet up (Aug 22nd) at John&Yoko's estate for (what would be) their last photo shoot with photographers Ethen Russel & Monte Fesco.

Apple Records hosts a launch party for the debut single from Radha Krsna Temple, "Hare Krishna Mantra"/"Prayer To The Spiritual Masters" (produced by George). George played electric guitar, bass, and harmonium on the track. At the party vegetarian Indian food was served and no alcohol.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London hosts a John&Yoko film night to show five short films and two premieres. The films are; RAPE, SMILE, TWO VIRGINS, Mr. & Mrs. LENNON'S HONEYMOON, and SELF PORTRAIT (a 15 minute slow motion single shot of John’s penis becoming erect). 

John&Yoko's film RAPE, is online for viewing [no nudity]: The film is a real life / real time media-stalking of a woman who stumbles across a film crew who will not leave her alone. Reality TV in the extreme. Prior to filming they had gotten the keys to the woman’s apartment from the her sister. 
A Canadian promoter calls Apple's office to personally invite/fly in John&Yoko to attend the Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival happening the next day in Toronto. John misunderstands and agrees to perform!?! With less than 24-hour notice, he corrals, Eric Clapton on guitar (after George says, “um, No Thanks”), Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White on drums. They rehearse on the plane ride going over to Toronto. 

During the flight to Toronto, John tells Clapton and The Beatles' new manager, Allen Klein that he wants to leave The Beatles... “The Beatles are done. It’s over.” Because of some upcoming business contracts/issues, Allen Klein convinces John to keep it all quiet for now, at least until they sign the new deals. 

The Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival 1969 at Varsity Stadium featured, The Doors, The Alice Cooper Band, Chicago Transit Authority and legendary rockers (and John's hero's)... Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley.

Here is the full Plastic Ono Band set 
minus the 20 minute Bag Jam (Yoko screaming in a bag).

Lennon's Plastic Ono Band set is made up of '50s Rock 'n' Roll covers, John's new song "Cold Turkey", and a long shriek fest from Yoko that was not reviewed well. But the experience rejuvenated John and gave him more confidence that he could make it outside The Beatles. 

LP – Abbey Road by The Beatles
Abbey Road by The Beatles is released on Apple Records. 
Charts: #1 around the world.

John records and mixes solo single, “Cold Turkey” (a song about kicking heroin that was rejected by The Beatles) and the Yoko written B-Side, “Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)”. The band consists of John, and Eric Clapton on guitars, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Ringo on drums. This is significant as while Paul and George were producing other Apple artists John is recording solo tracks. 

The Beatles sign a new record deal (Oct 20th) instigated by Allen Klein giving them a better royalty rate. At the meeting, Paul starts talking about doing some small secret gigs, and John keeps saying “No. No.” until eventually he just blurts it out… “No! No gigs, I’m leaving the band. I was only waiting ‘till we signed the deal. The Beatles are over.” Alan Klein convinces The Beatles to keep it a
ll quiet. They all mutually agree. Paul thinks, “Well maybe if we don’t say anything, it’s not gonna happen anyway.”


The Beatles agree to have the unreleased Get Back/Let It Be track, “Across The Universe” be included on the World Wild Life Fund’s benefit album. George Martin mixes the track. Phil Spector would later remix it for the Let It Be album. 

The other three Beatles encourage Ringo to record a solo album. Unlike the experimental LP’s from John and George, this would be a covers album of standards (a unique concept at the time) filled with songs that “Ringo's Mum liked”. George Martin produces with arrangements from, Quincy Jones, Maurice Gibb, Paul McCartney, and others.

Apple Records release the debut single from the Hot Chocolate Band... 

The Hot Chocolate Band (later of “You Sexy Thing” fame) had recorded a reggae version of “Give Peace A Chance”. Frontman Errol Brown was told (since he added some new lyrics) that he needed permission from Lennon. Errol contacts Apple for approval, John hears it, loves it, and signs the band to Apple records.

45 – PLASTIC ONO BAND – Cold Turkey 
John’s second non-album solo single (again credited to Plastic Ono Band). And the first song to credit Lennon as sole song-writer. No other Beatle has yet released a solo single.
B-side is Yoko’s “Don't Worry Kyoto (Mummy's only looking for a hand in the snow)”. 
Charts: #14 UK  /  #30 US

After rumours had been brewing for years, Paul denies reports of his “death”. [This is worthy of its own separate blog]

45 – "Something"/"Come Together" by The Beatles
The double A-side single, “Something”/”Come Together” is released. George writes the A-side for the first time!
Charts: #1 around the world


LP – JOHN & YOKO - Wedding Album
Packaged in an elaborate Box with poster, post card, booklet (press clippings, photos, and drawings by John), a mylar bag with the label “Bagism”, a photo-booth strip, reproduction of their wedding certificate, and a picture of a slice of wedding cake. And the music?? It is another purely experimental LP.
Charts: #178 US  /  Does not chart in UK

Listen to as much as you like of the track "John and Yoko" repeating each other's names for over twenty minutes...

Or better to enjoy the original version (banned) single “John & Marsha” by Stan Freberg from 1951...

Ringo continues to record his debut solo LP. 

George Martin mixes new Stereo mixes of “Lady Madonna”, “Rain”, “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” for the North America only compilation LP, Hey Jude (made up of non-album singles and B-Sides). 

Apple Records artist, Badfinger’s single “Come and Get It” (written / produced by Paul) is released, becomes Top Ten around the world. It will also be featured in Ringo's upcoming film, THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN.

LP – JOHN PLASTIC ONO BAND – Live Peace in Toronto 69 
Live LP from the Rock 'n' Roll Festival in Toronto. The band is John, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Alan White and Yoko on screaming bag. If you find a used copy you will notice a well-worn Side A of various Rock 'n' Roll covers and John’s new song, “Cold Turkey”, and a pristine Side 2 with the 20-minute almost unlistenable, "Bag Jam" (i.e. Yoko screaming in a bag). 
Charts: #10 US  /  Does not chart in UK

George (and Eric Clapton) go out on a brief UK tour backing up Delaney & Bonnie. Ironic as George was the most vocal of all The Beatles about hating touring (admittedly a very different experience here as a side-man). 

John&Yoko record another experimental album. Intended to be their fourth in a series of "Unfinished Music". Side one is all laughing and Side two is nothing but whispering. It has never been released.

Plastic Ono Band performs as part of a Unicef Charity concert in London. John enlists the same guys that played with him in Toronto as well as Billy Preston on keyboards. Eric Clapton shows up with the entire Delaney & Bonnie touring band including George Harrison! Gig is recorded and later released as the second disc in John & Yoko’s Sometime In New York City LP. 

John&Yoko launch the WAR IS OVER! billboard campaign in twelve major cities in twelve countries.

And as in every year...

The Beatles Fan Club Christmas single is sent out to their fan club members. This would be their seventh, and last of The Beatles Fan Club Christmas singles.

End of the sixties – 1969
The album, Get Back/Let It Be is unreleased. A mix by engineer Glyn Johns was rejected by the band.
John is the only Beatle regularly releasing solo singles and (experimental) albums. George has been producing Apple artists, and releasing experimental albums. Ringo stared in a film and is recording a proper solo album. And Paul has written and produced several #1 hits for other Apple artists, and has yet to record any solo music (experimental or otherwise).

In case you missed it, Check out...
The Beatles solo years Part I (1968)
link here

Stay tuned for The Beatles solo years Part III (1970)

After all is said and done, 
It's only Rock 'n' Roll. 


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