It’s ironic and perverse, but also perfectly logical, that the most miserable period of The Beatles’ recording career is also the best-documented. Whose bright idea was it, anyway, to have a camera crew document the process of their preparing for a theoretical live performance — a decision all but guaranteed to further strain the already tense relations among the band? Well, Paul’s, of course. What’s hard to understand is why the others went along; well, Ringo always went along with everything, but you’d think John and George would have known better.

And in fact, they did; quoth Lennon,

It was time for another Beatle movie or something, and Paul wanted us to go on the road or do something. As usual, George and I were going, “Oh, we don’t want to do it, fuck,” and all that. He set it up and there was all discussions about where to go and all that. I would just tag along and I had Yoko by then. I didn’t even give a shit about anything. I was stoned all the time, too, on H etc. And I just didn’t give a shit.

Nonetheless, everyone turned up at Twickenham Studios today for the first day of sessions for the new project. After tuning up, they played around with two new John songs (“Don’t Let Me Down” and “Dig a Pony”) and two of George’s (“All Things Must Pass” and “Let It Down”).

I wonder if this was an intentional strategy by Paul to try to engage his bandmates’ interest; his own new compositions “Two of Us” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” would not make an appearance until late in the session.

As the day went on The Beatles played John’s “Child of Nature” and “Revolution,” Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and “The Mighty Quinn,” and songs by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Jackie Lomax. Also bandied about was “Sun King,” which would end up being recorded for Abbey Road.

There seemed to be no plan at all. The band jumped from song to song, playing some only once and some many times; sometimes they would do complete takes, and sometimes it was clear they were just fucking around. From the outside it sounds kind of fun, and maybe once in a while it was; but for the most part, said John,

It was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, and being filmed all the time. I just wanted them to go away, and we’d be there, eight in the morning. You couldn’t make music at eight in the morning or ten or whatever it was, in a strange place with people filming you and colored lights.1

And I could sit here all day sharing quotes where John bitches about the sessions, Paul, George, and pretty much everyone and everything else except Yoko. But there are a bunch of these still to get through, so let’s pace ourselves.