Says The Beatles Bible,

Although none of them knew it at the time, 1 August 1969 was a significant date for The Beatles: it marked the final time that all four members began recording a song together.

The song in question had been born, according to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write, when “John was relaxing on a sofa at home, while Yoko played the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor (Moonlight Sonata) on the grand piano.” And if the idea of Yoko playing Beethoven in her spare time strikes you as odd, you’re not alone. But this is how the story goes. (One wonders if, at any point, Beethoven actually rolled over.)

John always claimed that he inverted the chords of the sonata to create “Because,” but that does not seem to be the case. Turner says:

Close scrutiny reveals it to be a straightforward lift rather than the reversal of notes John suggested. Musicologist Wilfrid Mellers, author of Twilight of the Gods: The Music of the Beatles puts it this way, “The affinity between the enveloping, arpeggiated C sharp minor triads, with the sudden shift to the flat supertonic, is, in the Lennon and Beethoven examples, unmistakeable.”

Whatever the hell that means. Another musicologist, Walter Everett, says:

Both arpeggiate triads and seventh chords in C♯ minor in the baritone range of a keyboard instrument at a slow tempo, move through the submediant to ♭II and approach vii dim7/IV via a common tone.

Which is not much help either. Tim Riley’s Tell Me Why says that “the progression [of ‘Because’] bears only a small resemblance” to the sonata. Well, you can decide for yourself:

As for the words, some people, including Paul McCartney, suspect Yoko may have been involved. “It’s rather her kind of writing,” said Paul, “wind, sky and earth are recurring, it’s straight out of Grapefruit” (Yoko’s book of poetry). John himself said, “The lyrics speak for themselves; they’re clear. No bullshit. No imagery, no obscure references.” But there may be a reference in the words “because the world is round” to this image, which had just been published:

The band recorded 23 takes of “Because” today, with take 16 considered the best. The lineup was

George Martin playing a Baldwin spinet electric harpsichord, John playing a repeated electric guitar riff and Paul adding bass. Ringo was there too, gently tapping out a beat on the hi-hat, but this was for the musicians’ headphones only – it was not recorded on the tape. “Ringo was our drum machine,” says George Martin. (The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)

John, Paul, and George then added the first layer of vocals; they would return to the studio three days hence to record two more.

I could rant on at length about “Because,” which to my mind is one of the most mind-bendingly beautiful things ever recorded, and should definitely have been considered for inclusion on the Golden Record. But time is short and the road is long, so over and out for now.

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