During the day today, The Beatles attended a press screening of the soon-to-be-released Yellow Submarine movie. Or at least Paul, George, and Ringo did; John apparently had other things to do, so the three of them dutifully posed with a cardboard cutout. Probably the first time in weeks that they’d seen him without Yoko.

There was also a recording session, starting at 5 P.M. And if you are sick and tired of hearing about “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” as I am of writing about it, imagine the chagrin of the other Beatles and the studio staff upon hearing that Paul was dissatisfied with what they’d recorded the previous week. On Friday everyone had gone home assuming “Ob-La-Di” was over and done with; now Paul was saying he wanted to start over from scratch. The prospect was simply too much for one Beatle to deal with, says Geoff Emerick:

John went ballistic. Ranting and raving, he headed out the door, with Yoko trailing closely behind, and we thought that we’d seen the last of him that evening.

This is one of many moments in the second half of 1968 when The Beatles could have easily just split up, thus depriving us of the White Album, Abbey Road, and Let It Be. But Emerick continues:

A few hours later he stormed back into the studio, clearly in a highly altered state of mind.

“I AM FUCKING STONED!!” John Lennon bellowed from the top of the stairs. He had chosen to make his entrance through the upstairs door, presumably so he could quickly gain the attention of the three startled Beatles below. Swaying slightly, he continued, waving his arms for emphasis.

“I am more stoned than you have ever been. I fact, I am more stoned than you will ever be!”

…“And this,” Lennon added with a snarl, “is how the fucking song should go.”

Unsteadily, he lurched down the stairs and over to the piano and began smashing the keys with all his might, pounding out the famous opening chords that became the song’s introduction, played at a breakneck tempo. A very upset Paul got right in Lennon’s face. For a moment I thought fists would fly.

“Okay, then, John,” he said in short, clipped words, staring his deranged bandmate straight in the eye. “Let’s do it your way.”

Riding the momentum of John’s energy, The Beatles recorded 12 takes of the more upbeat version. (I don’t know if I’d call it a “breakneck tempo,” exactly, but I guess it sounded that way compared to the previous versions). A reduction mix was labeled take 13. And now we’re done, right?

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