When John and Paul recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko” back on April 14, they’d done 11 takes of the basic track, with John on vocals and acoustic guitar and Paul playing the drums. They decided that take 10 was the best, and it was that take to which they added overdubs: electric guitar played by John; bass, piano, maracas, and backing vocals by Paul. (There’s also what the studio log sheet calls “John’s Back of Gtr”: rhythmic thumping on the body of the axe.)

The version included on the Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition is take 7, preceded by some studio chatter from a previous take that was aborted when John broke a string. “Mal…” says John, calling for the attention of stalwart Beatle enabler Mal Evans. “Un string avec kaput, Mal.” John then says to Paul, sitting at the drum kit, “It got a bit faster, Ringo”; Paul replies, “OK, George.”

After that we get a chance to hear what “Ballad” sounded like before all the overdubs.

But there’s really no way to keep yourself from mentally filling in the missing parts. As is, the song is a bit monotonous. It’s rather refreshing to listen to the complete version afterwards:

One little factoid I learned from the liner notes: The original version of the lyric, which Paul had scribbled in his notebook for reference, contains the line:

You can marry in Gibraltar in Spain

Had it stayed that way, an international incident would have been averted. Gibraltar was disputed territory, and when John changed the line to “You can marry in Gibraltar near Spain” — implying that Gibraltar was not actually a part of Spain — Generalissimo Francisco Franco got muy furioso and banned the record from his country. It’s amazing what a difference a preposition can make.