As I write this snow is falling outside the window to my left. Yesterday Kansas City was 60 degrees and sunny; today it is a winter wonderland. Well, life is impermanence, innit? I think that’s what George was trying to get at with “Old Brown Shoe,” which is the subject of today’s post. (You like how I did that?)

The Super Deluxe Edition liner notes tell us the following:

On 16 April 1969, the day of the Abbey Road session for “Old Brown Shoe,” at Apple’s Savile Row office he was posed the question, “Who is George Harrison?” His response had similar thoughts to those in the song he was about to record: “I’m life really, spiritually and mystically. I’m life and life is either up or down, in or out, left or right. It’s like the North Pole, there has to be a South Pole. You can’t have one without the other.”

In classic Harrison fashion, this walks that delicate line between deep profundity and absolute horsetwaddle. The same is true of “Old Brown Shoe,” which I’ve already written about at some length. One of the things I wrote was that April 16 was “the first time since February 22 that all four Beatles were in the studio together.” Turns out this is false; Ringo was still away filming The Magic Christian, and Paul played the drums that day. We regret the error.

Four takes of “OBS” were recorded, but take 2, say the liner notes, was “the first complete version of the song by the three Beatles.” It sounded a little like this:

You’ll notice there’s no bass, as Paul was on the drums. The bassline and additional guitar and vocal parts were overdubbed onto take 4, which was what became the B-side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and later was included on the beloved Blue Album:

One last note: The piano John played on this song was a Challen Multitone, also known as a “jangle” piano. According to one source,

It has an unusual “jangle” pedal fitted way over to the left which when pressed places small brass tabs in front of the hammers producing something close to a harpsichord sound, but with dynamics like a piano.

The actual piano used at Abbey Road went up for auction in 2010, but was withdrawn when the starting bid of £100,000 was not met. So if you’ve got an extra 129 grand (at today’s exchange rate), theoretically this baby could be yours. It would look good in your living room.

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