This day marked the first time since February 22 that all four Beatles were in the studio together. The purpose of the session was to record full-band versions of two of the songs George had demoed at the solo session on his birthday: “Old Brown Shoe” and “Something.” We will have occasion to speak more in the future of “Something,” which ended up being re-recorded for Abbey Road, so let’s focus on “OBS” for a minute.

I have to admit that up to now I never thought much about “Old Brown Shoe,” other than to wonder vaguely why it’s called that. I’ve always assumed it was a reference to some quaint Britishism, but still don’t know for sure; because all the top search results are for George’s song, it’s hard to find out what else the phrase “old brown shoe” might have been used for.

According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write,

The lyric had its origins in George’s religious view that we must free ourselves from the reality of the material world as it is illusory. Once absorbed into the divine consciousness, there would be no right versus wrong, body versus soul, spirit versus matter.

Turner’s a reliable source and he echoes George’s own comments on the song, so I guess I’ll take his word for it; but on the page “Old Brown Shoe” reads pretty much like a straight-up love song:

I want a love that’s right
But right is only half of what’s wrong
I want a short haired girl 
Who sometimes wears it twice as long
Now I’m stepping out this old brown shoe
Baby, I’m in love with you
I’m so glad you came here, it won’t be the same now
I’m telling you

You know you pick me up 
From where some try to drag me down
And when I see your smile 
Replace every thoughtless frown
Got me escaping from this zoo
Baby, I’m in love with you
I’m so glad you came here, it won’t be the same now
When I’m with you

If I grow up I’ll be a singer
Wearing rings on every finger
Not worrying what they or you say 
I’ll live and love and maybe someday
Who knows, baby, you may comfort me

I may appear to be imperfect
My love is something you can’t reject
I’m changing faster than the weather
If you and me should get together
Who knows, baby, you may comfort me

I want that love of yours
To miss that love is something I’d hate
I’ll make an early start
I’m making sure that I’m not late

For your sweet top lip I’m in the queue
Baby, I’m in love with you
I’m so glad you came here, it won’t be the same now
When I’m with you
I’m so glad you came here, it won’t be the same now
When I’m with you

I guess this could be another one of George’s apparent love songs where the “you” referred to is actually God, but would he really say to Krishna or whoever, “For your sweet top lip I’m in the queue/Baby, I’m in love with you”? It seems unlikely.

Other parts of the song just seem totally random (“If I grow up I’ll be a singer/Wearing rings on every finger”). To be honest, I think that George, like John, sometimes just dug the way things sounded and didn’t worry too much about what they meant. Which is perfectly fine, and means that we don’t really need to spend any more time analyzing this perfectly nice little tune that will brighten your day for three minutes and change.