Several people have recently commented on my unfinished A/B Road blog series comparing the track listings of the bootlegs to Doug Sulpy's catalog from his book Drugs Divorce and a Slipping Image. And indeed, I abandoned the project some months back after just four of the planned twenty blogs when I realized that (A) Sulpy revised his book in 2007, which in his own words was "pretty much re-written ... from scratch", rendering the original 1994 edition that I was using pretty much worthless; and (B) others have already done what I was doing (I tried hard to find some one else's work so I wouldn't have to do it all myself - it's VERY tedious! - but someone actually found me and shared his work, which I thoroughly appreciate). In any case, here is the finished product, a thorough comparison of the A/B Road track listings with the 2007 Sulpy catalog:
Doug Sulpy's book is officially out of print, but available as an E-Book from his website for just $10! (I would have paid ten times that amount for such an excellent piece of scholarship.) You can purchase it here:
And you can read my review of the book here:
Long before Phil Spector ever added orchestral overdubs to McCartney's ballad "The Long and Winding Road", the composer himself apparently intended to do so.
Sulpy #26.91P; A/B Road: January 26, Disc 6, Track 3
MARTIN: Paul's thinking of adding strings anyway.
HARRISON: Paul, are you going to have strings? Don't know. … It would be nice with some brass, just doing the sustaining chords.
PAUL: Yeah. … We were planning to that it anyway, for a couple of numbers, just have a bit of brass and a bit of strings.
Realizing how much Billy Preston's presence has helped the Beatles, John, Paul, and George discussed inviting him to join the Beatles, and George even suggests asking Bob Dylan to join. Paul adamantly refuses both.
Excerpt from Sulpy #24.08; A/B Road: January 14, Disc 1, Track 9
JOHN: I'd just like him [Preston] in our band, actually. That's how I'd like it. I'd like a fifth Beatle.
PAUL: I just don't because it's bad enough with four. With five on display, it's creating havoc. I dig him, he's an incredibly musician, but none of that.
JOHN: If he's around, then I'd use him.
GEORGE: If I asked Dylan to join then Beatles, then he would as well and we'd get them all in it.
PAUL: Yeah, but for that – that's the point: you don't need to join the Beatles.
JOHN: We'd call it “The Beatles & Co.”, that could be our band. It'd be great wouldn't it? “Beatles & Co.” and the “Co.” is the band!
GEORGE: It's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
PAUL: We can still have him. It's like you can have everything. You don't need to sign him up. You don't need to own him.
George Harrison, of course, eventually did rejoin the Beatles, and the day after Harrison returned, Billy Preston joined in, as well. The addition of an outsider immediately improved the atmosphere and working relations. This can be most easily heard through comparing their musical production before and after, but it can also be seen through their words, as the following transcript illustrates.
Excerpt from Sulpy #22.48; A/B Road: January 22, Disc 3, Track 3
[The band rehearses “Don't Let Me Down”, Preston solos after Lennon's invite]
JOHN: It's great – I say “take it” and he takes it! You're giving us a lift, Bill!
GEORGE: We've been doing this for days, you know.
JOHN: Just choking.
The next recording session after George Harrison quit the band took place on 13 January 1969. In an effort to not be disturbed, John Lennon stayed at home and repeated attempts to phone him resulted in busy signals, implying he deliberately took the phone off the hook so that he couldn't be reached. Consequently, the studio chatter recorded that morning is remarkably candid discussion between Paul McCartney, Linda Eastman (Paul's girlfriend), Michael Lindsay-Hogg (the film's director), and Neil Aspinal (the Beatles' roadie), about the absent John Lennon and his omnipresent companion, Yoko Ono.
Excerpts from A/B Road January 13, Disc 2, Tracks 4 and 6
PAUL: Yoko's very much to do with it from John's angle. And there's only two answers: One is to fight it and fight her and try and get the Beatles back to four people without Yoko, and ask her to sit down at the board meetings. The other thing is to just realize she's there and he's not going to split with her just for our sakes. But then it's not even so much of an obstacle as long as we're not trying to surmount it. While we're still trying to get over it, it's an obstacle. But it isn't really. It's not that bad. They want to stay together, those two. So it's alright, let the young lovers stay together.
MICHAEL: Can't operate under these conditions. There'll be no work coming out.
PAUL: It's like we're striking because work conditions aren't right. But it's not that bad.
MICHAEL: But he knows that, doesn't he?
PAUL: John knows that, sure.
MICHAEL: Does he talk about it at all?
PAUL: We've done a lot of Beatles now, and we've got a lot out of Beatles. I think John's saying now, obviously, if it came to a push between Yoko and the Beatles, it's Yoko.
NEIL: Whenever John talks these days it's like Yoko is talking through him.
PAUL & LINDA: Yeah.
NEIL: Or he shuts up and lets her do it for him. And that's become a thing for him – not ever talking to him like I'm talking to you right now. … When you're talking to John, you always (these days, anyway) tend to think that you're talking to Yoko more than you're talking to John.
PAUL: That's why I say writing a song with him is a bit embarrassing.
PAUL: They're under that thing – they just want to be near each other. I just think it's silly of me or anyone to try and say to them, “no you can't”. Okay, they're going overboard about it, but John always does. And Yoko probably always does. So that's their scene. You can't go saying, “Don't go overboard about this thing. Be sensible about it and don't bring her to meetings.” It's his decision. It's none of our business to interfere in that. Even when it comes into our business, you still can't really say much except “Look, I don't like it, John”. Then he can say, “Screw you”, or “I like it”, or “well, I won't do it”. That's the only way, is to tell John about it.
MICHAEL: Have you done that already?
PAUL: I told him I didn't like writing songs with him and Yoko.
MICHAEL: Were you writing together much more before she came around, or had you cooled it then, before her?
PAUL: We've cooled it because [of] not playing together. Ever since we didn't play together.
MICHAEL: On stage you mean.
PAUL: Yes, because we lived together when we played together. We were in the same hotel, up at the same time every morning, doing this all day. And it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're this close all day, something grows. And then when you're not this close all day physically, something goes.
PAUL: Neither of us compromise. If I can start to compromise, then maybe they'll bend a little for me.
MICHAEL: Yeah, but if her around so much has caused a lot of trouble, then you're compromising already. You've made a lot of compromise.
PAUL: I think it's because we've thought that the only alternative would be for John to say, “Okay, well, see you then”. And we'd not want that to happen.
These excerpts are all taken from 10 January 1969, following George Harrison's quitting the band.
Excerpt from Suply #10.74; A/B Road: January 10, Disc 4, Track 6
JOHN: I think if George doesn't come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play in it [the Beatles]. ... Eric would be pleased to join. He left Cream because they're all -
RINGO: All soloists.
JOHN: All soloists. But we're not in our group – all he's got to do is play guitar. The point is, if George leaves, do we want to carry on the Beatles? I do. … [But if not] I'd just get another band, another group, you know, and carry on.
Excerpt from Suply #10.74; A/B Road: January 10, Disc 4, Track 6
MICHAEL: Maybe for the show, you could just say George was sick.
JOHN: No, I mean, if he leaves, he leaves.
MICHAEL: But what's the consensus? Do you want to go on with the show and the work?
JOHN: Yeah. If he doesn't come back by Tuesday, we get Clapton.
JOHN: We should just go on, though, as if nothing's happening.
MICHAEL: I think we should go away.
Excerpt following Suply #10.83; A/B Road: January 10, Disc 4, Track 14
MICHAEL: It's looking like rehearsal's over. Would I be right in feeling that?
RINGO: I feel that.
PAUL: Yup. [sings] I've gotta feeling...
JOHN: I think your general attitude is right.
MICHAEL: I gotta feeling, too, that that's it. Well, are we meeting again on Monday?
MICHAEL: Just as chickens?
JOHN: I'll have Eric [Clapton], Jimmy [Page], and Tommy (?) [to replace George].
PAUL: [to Maureen] A7, D7, G7. Get them off over the weekend and you're in [the band].
George Harrison's quitting the Beatles on 10 January 1969 was the culmination of the several previous days' worth of tension in the recording studio, and the several previous years' worth of Lennon and McCartney 'looking down on' George as someone significantly younger and less musically talented. These excerpts help to illustrate how George was not taken seriously by either Lennon or McCartney.
Excerpt from Suply #3.125-3.126; A/B Road: January 3, Disc 4, Track 1
GEORGE: “All things must pass away.” All out. Back in. “All things must pass. All things must pass away.”
JOHN: [mock sermon] In the beginning was the word. The word was God.... [singing] I think I'll pass away.
Excerpt from Suply #3.130; A/B Road: January 3, Disc 4, Track 6
GEORGE: [to Paul] It should be where if you write a song I feels as though I wrote it. You know, in order to be involved in it as much. That was the good thing about the last album [The White Album] – it's the only album so far I've tried to get involved in.
Excerpt from Suply #6.04; A/B Road: January 6, Disc 1, Track 9
GEORGE: I wrote a gospel song over the weekend.
JOHN: According to Saint who?
GEORGE: According to the Lord. “Hear Me Lord”.
Excerpt from Sulpy #8.01; A/B Road: January 8, Disc 1, Track 1
GEORGE: [to Ringo] “I Me Mine” it's called. Should I sing it to you? I don't care if you don't want it. I don't give a fuck. It can go in the musical. It's a heavy waltz. [sings]
Excerpt from Suply #10.49; A/B Road: January 10, Disc 3, Track 2
JOHN: [plays the intro to Chuck Berry's “I'm Talking About You”]
GEORGE: I'm leaving the band now.
As I prepare for my June 11 debut of Let it Be: The Beatles, January 1969 at Cook Memorial Public Library (413 N Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, IL), I've found myself in need of transcriptions of the A/B Road recordings to supplement what is less than stellar audio fidelity. My next several blogs will be such transcriptions, starting with perhaps the most famous: the "fight" between Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
PAUL: It's not together, so that it's not sounding together.
GEORGE: So we keep on playing until we find the bit.
PAUL: Or we can stop and say it's not together.
GEORGE: Yes. Then you've got to carry on until you get it together. I mean, that's all I'm going to play until it's found the blending with the rest.
PAUL: Okay, well, you know, I never know what to say to that, because what I want to say is, “Now, come on” and play, you know. But I can't, you know, and we get into that one.
PAUL: See, if we can get it simpler and then complicate it where it needs complications. But it's complicated in the bit-
GEORGE: It's not complicated. I mean, all I'm playing is the chords.
PAUL: No, no, come on, you always gotta knock me when I say that. I'm trying to help you, but I always hear myself annoying you.
GEORGE: No, you're not annoying me.
PAUL: It gets so that I can't say...
GEORGE: You don't annoy me anymore.
PAUL: You know what I mean. But doesn't everyone agree that it's confused at the moment? So all I'm trying to say is let's get the confusion unconfused, then confuse it. But that's what we've been doing all afternoon. This is why we're not getting anything done. We're just rolling on with it, and we've only got twelve more days. So we've really got to do this methodically.
PAUL: I really am trying to just say, “Look, lads, the band, you know. Should we try it like this?” You know.
GEORGE: It's funny, though, how it only occurs when we record the, um-
PAUL: I know, on this one, it's like should we play guitar all the way through “Hey Jude”, and I don't think we should.
GEORGE: Okay, well, I don't mind. I'll play whatever you want me to play. Or I won't play at all if you don't want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I'll do it.
(excerpt from Sulpy #6.02)
January 7 lines up pretty well between A/B Road and Sulpy's book. There are, however, a few notable discrepancies. Several #s are out of order, but most significant are the omissions. Sulpy #s 7.15, 7.16, and 7.17 are apparently missing from A/B Road, as are Sulpy #s 7.25, 7.26, and 7.27. The second part of Sulpy # 7.93 is also apparently not found in A/B Road. I suspect I may find these, as I continue my comparison, listed under different dates.
Where Part 1 of this series was very clean (no discrepancies between A/B and Sulpy, Part 2 had a few chronological errors and conflict over which dates certain tracks were recorded. Part 3 is even more sloppy.
A/B #6.19 corresponds in part to Sulpy #s 3.99 and 6.67 (it appears to be the same recording from January 6, not two different recordings from Jan 3 and Jan 6 as Sulpy lists). But Sulpy also describes bits of dialogue in his 6.67 that are not in A/B 6.19. Where that dialogue came from is beyond me...
Sulpy #s 6.16 through 6.20 is out of chronological order.
Sulpy #s 6.52, 6.66, and 6.72 do not correspond with any A/B tracks - at least not as far as I have been able to find.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.