Sunday, May 17, 2009

For You Blue

Happy HarriSunday, a day which is a little harried for me because today I'm singing with my chorus in our spring concert, and my head is filled more with that contemporary classical choral sound than with the Beatles. At least for today. If you like reading this blog, and you also like that sort of choral music, then... well, honestly, you're probably me. Or else you're Tom R. (Hi, Tom!) But if there is another person out there whose interests intersect in this way, you should come and hear Coro Allegro.

But enough with sales pitches! Let's check out "For You Blue," a happy little ditty that George and the band knocked off during the Get Back sessions and eventually appeared on Let It Be.

This isn't actually the version that appeared on the album-- it's the part in Let It Be (the film) that they're all working on it. Note that John is playing a lap steel guitar, which has got to be a first-- Lord knows I can't think of another song in which he or any of them pulls one of these out. Note, too, that he's playing it with a cigarette lighter. That's because he's the coolest person ever. As for the song itself, it's one of the only (I think?) straight-up, unmodified 12-bar blues in the Beatles' canon (they tended to take this structure and fiddle around with it a bit). But that's just the structure, because the content is of course all breezy and sweet and adorable. There are a lot of versions of this song out there, and thus a lot of variations in the accompaniment, but unlike "12-Bar Original" the Beatles seem to be at least enjoying the laid-back improvisatory stuff. Or at least enjoying it as well as they enjoyed anything during the Get Back sessions.

Like all the Get Back tracks, "For You Blue"'s recording history is long and complicated-- frankly, more long and complicated than such a light, pleasant little song really deserves to be, but there you go. For instance, the version that appears on Let It Be features a lead vocal laid down almost a full year after everything else, in January of 1970, around the time when producer-of-the-moment Glyn Johns was remixing songs from the Get Back sessions. (Phil Spector, of course, made the final edits, and Let It Be went out with his name on it.) Glyn Johns, bless him, really did try to put together a Get Back album in the spirit of the original project, which was to have the Beatles mixing up covers of the old rock songs they played before they got ridiculously famous, along with new originals written and performed in old school rock and roll mode. (I recently found this internet radio station, Turn Me On Dead Man, which is awesome, and he's got a good summation of what the Get Back album might have looked like had Johns gotten his way-- check it out if you're curious.)

This is all to say that at some point in 1969 while Glyn Johns was still producing this project, an acetate from the sessions somehow made it out into the world and onto radio stations. Kum Back was one of the first Beatles bootlegs, maybe even THE first, but it still stands out for its relatively (in the bootleg world) good sound quality.

I prefer this version of "For You Blue" to the Let It Be official version entirely because of George, who is singing more soulfully and playing his acoustic with a lot more panache too. But in many ways, it's not that different. Which just goes to show what a simple song this was, I guess.

George was fond enough of "For You Blue" to sing it on the 1974 Dark Horse tour, too. He sped the thing up and let his all-star band jam the hell out of it. I can't love it as much-- the fast tempo pushes it to the edge of corniness, in my opinion-- but it's always nice to hear a band that includes Eric Clapton and Nicky Hopkins and Ringo Starr and Billy Preston and God knows who else play pretty much anything.

"For You Blue," released in the U.K. side B track 4 of Let It Be, May 8, 1970; in the U.S. as B-side to "The Long and Winding Road" single, May 11, 1970 (and on Let It Be May 18, 1970).

1 comment:

  1. Hey Megan, you (and this blog) rock! (As does Coro, I must say...)
    Tom R.