October 20, 2010

Beatles '89

What if?
I've posted before about imaginary Beatles-reunion music mixes, but I'd never come up with one of my own. John Lennon's recent seventieth (wow) birthday had me thinking a bit more seriously about it. What if.....John Lennon hadn't been assassinated until 1989 (or not at all)? What if The Beatles had been able to reconcile their contractual/money and personal issues to reconvene (in earnest) to record at least one more album?

Obviously, all four Beatles never again recorded anything together after the Abbey Road sessions in 1969. So for the purposes of this mix, the limitations for choosing songs are for things recorded from Lennon's last creative output (for the Double Fantasy sessions in 1980) up to the year 1989, which was when Paul McCartney's above average (for him) Flowers in the Dirt was released. That album contains a couple of songs I can definitely imagine The Beatles recording, as I will explain.

So between 1980 and 1989, this would include, from John, Double Fantasy and the posthumously released Milk and Honey (recorded late August 1980, released in 1983). From Paul, McCartney II (released in mid-1980), Tug of War (1982), Pipes of Peace (1983), Press to Play (1986), and Flowers in the Dirt (1989). For material from which to possibly select songs, I'd exclude McCartney's movie soundtrack, Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), which except for a favorite of mine, "No More Lonely Nights," was simply re-recordings of Beatles compositions, and СНОВА Б СССР (1988), essentially McCartney's version of Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll. From George, Somewhere in England (1981), Gone Troppo (1982), Cloud Nine (1987), and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988). From Ringo.......well, er, I'll pretend the Fabs politely considered putting "Stop and Smell the Roses" (from his 1981 release Stop and Smell the Roses) on this imaginary album as the perfunctory one-per-album Ringo song, and then wisely decided against it.

This then, perhaps, might have been the album they'd have released in 1989, which I'd call Everest (or maybe A Doll's House?):

Side 1

"My Brave Face"
People compared McCartney's collaborations with Elvis Costello on Flowers in the Dirt to those he did with John Lennon. Costello provided the sourness sorely lacking from McCartney's overly sweet work of the years leading up to Flowers in the Dirt, just as Lennon could do. McCartney and Costello's harmonies on "My Brave Face" were, I think, purposely contrived to be similar to those he and Lennon did on "Here, There, and Everywhere," "Baby's in Black," "We Can Work it Out," etc., etc., etc. Listen to the line in the chorus "take me to that place" where the harmony vocal goes down on the word "place" -- that's Lennon and McCartney!

Also, I like to believe the lyric "Now I don't have to tell anybody when I'm gonna get back" is a reference to "Get Back." I think McCartney's expression at 1:16 in the video confirms my belief. "My Brave Face" sounds like a deliberate attempt by McCartney (and Costello) to be Beatlesque, right down to the first reappearance (the video for "Coming Up," notwithstanding) since the Beatle days of his Hofner bass (complete with Candlestick Park play list, still taped to it). Anyway, it could have been a pretty decent opening song to the first "real" Beatles album in twenty years...

"(Just Like) Starting Over"
Perhaps an obvious song to begin any "new" Beatles album, and it was difficult to decide whether I'd start it off with this or "My Brave Face," but I like how The Beatles ("The White Album) began with Paul's "Back in the U.S.S.R." and lead (bled) into John's "Dear Prudence." They even could have mixed it so as "My Brave Face" is fading out, the chimes at the start of "(Just Like) Starting Over" begin.

"This Is Love"



"Nobody Told Me"

Strange days, indeed.


"Coming Up"
Annoying in its way, perhaps, but The Beatles could have made it work (damnit)! John Lennon supposedly liked the song, and it is credited with having partly driven him out of retirement to return to "riding on the merry-go-round."

"Borrowed Time"
Ah yes, John Lennon - the voice of a generation, or should it be the voice of humanity?

"Heading for the Light"
A beautiful Harrison composition, recorded, of course, with the Traveling Wilburys. I've always imagined it was John and Paul (and George) doing background vocals.


"Beautiful Boy"
We know how Paul felt about this one. Don't you know he could hear himself doing harmonies with John? A nice way to end side one.


Side 2

"Tug of War"
As it was speculated to be a commentary of sorts on the post-Beatles break-up bitterness and quarreling between John and Paul back when McCartney released the album Tug of War (his first to come out after John Lennon's death), this song could have been a nice way of dealing with it on a "reunited Beatles" album. Bonus points for having been produced by Beatles producer George Martin. A lovely tune.


"When We Was Fab"
Favorite line: "Arrived like strangers in the night." Not as moving as "All Those Years Ago," but still a nice homage by George.


"This One"

"What opportunities did we allow to flow by
Feeling like the timing wasn't quite right?
What kind of magic might have worked if we had stayed calm..."


"Woman"
Yes, I'm afraid even in my little fantasy, make-believe Beatles album world, Yoko Ono is inextricably present...Just imagine Paul and George doing the backup vocals and Ringo reliably keeping the beat.


"Take It Away"
I've heard somewhere the video depicts the formation and career (in a way) of The Beatles. Ringo plays drums (for real!).


"Watching the Wheels"

No longer riding on the merry-go-round-hound!

I can clearly remember hearing this on the radio in those days after Lennon's death, back in December 1980.


"All Those Years Ago"

So beautiful...sigh.

The recording of the song featured all three remaining Beatles (Harrison, Starr and Paul McCartney), though this was expressly a Harrison single. It is one of only a few non-Beatles songs to feature three members of the group. Harrison and Starr recorded the song at Harrison's Friar Park studios between 19 November 1980 and 25 November 1980. After Lennon's death the following month, Harrison removed Starr's vocals (but left Starr's drumming track) and recorded his own vocals with rewritten lyrics honouring Lennon. McCartney, his wife Linda and their Wings bandmate Denny Laine visited Friar Park to record backing vocals. (source)

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