“Sexy Sadie (take 3)”: I believe that’s George at the beginning warbling “It’s getting better all the time”; a reference, I’ll wager, to each take of this song being a little better than the last. My favorite part of these tracks is hearing the interaction between the four Beatles (and sometimes George Martin) as they work to make the most of each song. I think part of the reason their solo careers never reached the same heights was because they never had a true equal in the room to offer pushback. (For this same reason, whenever more than one Beatle worked together in the future, the results tended to be better.)

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (take 2): This is not very different from the version on Anthology 3, but features some additional studio banter.

“Hey Jude” (take 1): It you’re a big fan of “Hey Jude,” you will probably find this first take — which is already pretty close to the finished version — wonderful. I could barely get through it.

“St. Louis Blues”: A fragment, really. Amusing.

“Not Guilty (take 102)”: That’s right, take 102. As previously discussed, the recording of “Not Guilty” was a long and frustrating process that resulted in a song nobody liked that much. 50 years later, it has not substantially improved.

“Mother Nature’s Son” (take 15): Not so different from the Anthology 3 version, which is itself not so different from the album version. But worth it for the (somewhat snarky) back-and-forth at the end between Paul and George M.:

Paul: I beg your pardon. What’s been happening so far, Mr. Martin?
George M.: I think there were one or two nice ones… um… [unintelligible mumbling]
Paul: Is there no one listening up there, by any slight chance?

“Yer Blues” (take 5 with guide vocal): Kind of fun because you can imagine that you’re huddled up in the corner of the tape room opposite John, whose vocals are barely audible in the noisy mix. At the end you can hear the boys once again agree that the song is “getting better” — maybe this was an in-joke that they returned to again and again?

“What’s the New Mary Jane” (take 1): A relatively harmless version of this one, at barely two minutes. And the lyrics are pretty funny. My new question on this listening: Is she “jumping as Mexican bean/to make that her body” “morphine” (as the web says) or “more thin” (pronounced “theen”)? Please discuss.

“Rocky Raccoon” (take 8): This is the same take that appears on Anthology 3, with the whole “sminking of gin” business, but with a little extra snippet at the end that gives the story a different ending. Worth a listen, I suppose.

“Back in the U.S.S.R.” (take 5, instrumental): OK.

“Dear Prudence” (vocal, guitar & drums): Kind of interesting to hear the song stripped down this way. But essential? I don’t know.

“Let It Be” (unnumbered rehearsal): Yes, “Let It Be” was already kicking around at this early date. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet. At the end George says “Cans on, Eric”; was this perhaps the same day that the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” solo was recorded? Maybe Paul was just killing time until Clapton arrived.

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (third version, take 27): Before counting it in, George Harrison asks for a “cheese and lettuce and Marmite sandwich. And coffee.” Marmite, as we all know, is a popular British food spread made from yeast extract. It is not dissimilar from the Australian Vegemite, which also figures in music history. Anyway — this take of “Gently Weeps” is similar to the master, which was take 25, but breaks down when George strains his voice trying to “do a Smokey” [Robinson].

“(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” (Studio Jam): Pretty raucous, with Paul (I think) doing his best Elvis imitation. Probably something they played back in the Hamburg days, which would explain the speed-freak tempo.

“Helter Skelter” (second version, take 17): Much closer to the finished version, with a lot a lot a lot of reverb. Kind of fun to hear them playing around, then bashing away. Love the bit at the end where Paul says, “Keep that one. Mark it Fab.”

“Glass Onion” (take 10): Begins with Lennon asking for feedback from the control room: “What do you think upstairs?” I can’t quite make out the name he uses, nor do I recognize the answering voice. Then at the end he inquires, “How was that?”

No answer is given, so I’ll jump in: Not bad, John. But let’s try it again.

To be continued…


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