Saturday, June 13, 2009

One After 909

History has left us a few versions of "One After 909" to contend with, so, lucky us! It was one of the first songs that John ever wrote, and was a part of their live act early on-- there are bootlegs of early performances out there. And it was almost an early single, first recorded in the same session in March of 1963 as "From Me to You" and "Thank You Girl," but deemed too weak to release at the time. That early version is now available on Anthology 1. Here it is below, with some clips from A Hard Day's Night for some reason. (YouTube beggars can't be choosers.)

This version is bluesy, sung with a nicely twangy vocal from John and a spirited harmony vocal from Paul, and boasts a very chill if slightly ragged solo from George.

Then there's the much more well known version. So you probably remember that the album that became Let It Be was edited out of sessions from the defunct Get Back project; Get Back was to be an album, produced by Glyn Johns, in which the Beatles rediscovered the classic rock and roll they loved (this after years of increased experimentation, psychedelic decadence, and studio wizardry on the likes of Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and even the White Album). They decided to also film the recording process for a movie (which eventually also got released as Let It Be), which means that every bit of studio banter and farting around got recorded, providing endless gold for bootleggers for years to come. Of course, the unfortunate thing is that it's all a bit hard to listen to, as the Beatles were at the height of their loathing of each other for various reasons.

Anyway, since old-school rock was the order of the day, there are a bunch of bootlegs of the Beatles in these sessions rocking out (sometimes more halfheartedly than others) to the likes of "Lucille" or whatever. "One After 909" was an old original number that they returned to at this point. They brought it back to play at the famous January 1969 rooftop concert in London, and footage of that made it into Let It Be (the movie). And when the Get Back project itself collapsed and got reworked into the Phil Spector-produced half-assery of Let It Be (the album), "One After 909" remained all that was left of the original concept. Anyway, here's the rooftop concert version, the same version that was released on the album with blessedly few production changes.

Most obviously, the tempo here is sped up, and the addition of Billy Preston's electric piano is a pretty kickass one. Most of all, George is rocking like crazy. It's like he's doing Carl Perkins and Eric Clapton at the same time! Except it's also all George! His solo in particular is just amazing-- nothing about it is predictable or boring at all. As intent as George looks, I think under that scowl he's having a pretty awesome time. The whole band is. Just listen!

The song itself? Well, it's pleasant, isn't it? Yeah, maybe there's less to it than some other songs, but considering that John was about 17 when he wrote it (apparently with a little help from Paul, I think) "One After 909" is a pretty kickass little skiffle-rock song. So I'm all in favor of it. And, you know, yeah, I find the later version much more satisfying. I'm inclined to agree with George Martin and the band that the older demo isn't anything much on its own-- it took them all those years in between (and what crazy years they were) to get back (so to speak) to the heart of this song. Weird, right? Weird and awesome.

"One After 909," released in the U.K. side B track 2 of Let It Be, May 8, 1970; in the U.S. May 18, 1970.

1 comment:

  1. I agree; this is a fine song, with nothing to apologize for.