As their career entered its penultimate phase, The Beatles were evolving new ways of working that generally emphasized speed over precision. It was as if they knew, on some level, that their time was almost up and there was still a lot to get done. Today, for instance, while George was in one studio with Jackie Lomax — enlisting Paul to add a bassline to “Sour Milk Sea” — John was in another with Yoko, running through multiple takes of an as-yet-untitled new song (something about a monkey with nothing to hide).

This was not unrelated, of course, to the fact that they weren’t getting along terribly well. While the alliances among the four Beatles were constantly shifting, it was generally John and Paul doing a passive/aggressive dance around each other, with George and Ringo either caught in the middle or orbiting on the fringes.

Poisonous as this atmosphere might have been in some ways, it was also quite creatively productive, especially for John. During the making of Sgt. Pepper he had struggled desperately for material, basing one song on a newspaper story, another on a vintage poster, and a third on a cereal commercial. Now the music was just pouring out of him, so fast it was all he could do to keep up. Although nothing recorded today would end up on the final track — eventually called “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” — the floodgates were wide open, and would remain so for the next few months.

Was it the time in India, Yoko, a new drug regimen, a sudden sense of freedom from the restrictions previously placed on him by Beatledom? Some combination of all of the above, I suppose.

At the same time, John seems to have been growing increasingly insufferable to everyone around him who wasn’t Yoko. Geoff Emerick, in his recollections of the recording of “Sour Milk Sea” (in his book Here, There and Everywhere), makes a point of saying “There was an exceptionally good vibe that night — perhaps because John and Yoko weren’t around.” As the Rutles might have said… Ouch!

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