Might as well lead off with the big headline for the day, which was:

George Harrison Quits The Beatles

It can’t have come as any great surprise, since George had been fuming pretty much since the beginning of the Twickenham sessions, and had a notable (if actually rather quiet) outburst on January 6. After a tense morning where Paul was once again badgering George about getting a guitar part right, things came to a head at lunch. According to director Michael Lindsay-Hogg,

We’d finished the first course when George arrived to stand at the end of the table.

We looked at him as he stood silent for a moment.

“See you ’round the clubs,” he said.

That was his good-bye. He left.

This clip purports to have a snippet of George saying “I’m leaving the band,” then audio of his footsteps and whistling as he walks away. I can’t vouch for it.

In Lindsay-Hogg’s telling of the story, John almost immediately started talking about getting Eric Clapton to take George’s place, as if The Beatles changed members all the time. I’m pretty sure that was the inspiration for this legendary scene:

But there was little chance of Clapton accepting such an offer, had it been made; he was “a mate of George’s,” as he said, and wouldn’t have wanted to take his place. And even at his most drug-addled, he surely would have known better than to walk into the poisonous atmosphere of 1969 Pepperland.

So after George decamped the other three Beatles finished their lunch. And then they got back to work. But that afternoon’s session had a little different flavor to it; says Bob Spitz,

They pummeled and tore at their instruments as never before. Ferocious strains of feedback and distortion surged through the damp soundstage…

Yoko didn’t wait for an invitation to fill the void. She immediately lay claim to George’s chair and blue cushion. Looking quite pleased with the ominous events, flashing a fierce, tenacious smile, she jumped into the smoky spotlight, clutching the mike and screeching into it like a wounded animal.

The afternoon jam begins with what is theoretically a version of the Who’s “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” — which John had just seen them perform on The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, and was no doubt intended as a sly dig at his newly erstwhile bandmate — and spirals out from there. It’s a pretty wild ride. Don’t say you weren’t warned:

Frankly, I’m surprised that John didn’t agitate to have Yoko take George’s place in the band. Which would have been ridiculous, but when did that ever stop John and Yoko from doing anything?

George, meanwhile, “got my guitar and went home and that afternoon wrote ‘Wah-Wah’”:

I had never given much thought to “Wah-Wah,” which ended up as one of the many songs on George’s triple album All Things Must Pass. But according to The Beatles Bible,

The Wah-Wah of the title was superficially the foot pedal deployed by guitarists to create an onomatopeic [sic] effect. In Harrison’s song, however, it was a synonym for headache or other unspecified ailment, representative of his desire to break free from The Beatles and fame.

As for the Threetles, as the real heads know to call this configuration of the band, according to TBB:

The group performed jagged versions of I’ve Got a Feeling and Don’t Let Me Down, with Lennon screaming during parts of the latter. He also sang Maxwell’s Silver Hammer in an exaggerated German accent.1

After some half-hearted runs through cover versions The Beatles largely stopped work to discuss the future of the Get Back project with the crew, although McCartney returned to his piano. As he did, Yoko Ono began wailing to his accompaniment, seemingly oblivious to the tensions in the room….

A series of jams took place towards the end of the day, again with Ono moaning or screaming largely wordless vocals. Finally, McCartney moved to drums, Lennon played guitar and Starr took the microphone for some improvised spoken lines, words which summed up their aimless desperation at this time.

“Yeah, rock it to me baby! That’s what I like! You may think this is a full orchestra, but if you look closely, you can see there’s only two people playing and one person singing. I know it sounds like Benny Goodman, but don’t worry, it’s the big sound of 1969! You bet your life! Oh, sock it to me, sock it to me!”

It was a dark time, and it seems entirely appropriate that this day in 2019 coincides with the third anniversary of David Bowie’s death. The mood is somber here at The Beatles Plus 50 HQ; but then again we also have tickets to see Los Lobos in Eureka tonight. Life goes on.

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