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George Harrison Would Have Gotten More Songs on Next Beatles LP

George Harrison Would Have Gotten More Songs on Next Beatles LP

George Harrison Would Have Gotten More Songs on Next Beatles LP
September 12
11:38 2019

The Beatles discussed radically shifting their approach on a potential follow-up to Abbey Road.

John Lennon suggested the proposed recording more fairly showcase each from the group’s principal composers, giving George Harrison equal footing for the first time. He would have the opportunity to contribute four songs, the same as Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Ringo Starr, Lennon added, could have two – “If he wants them.”)

The news comes courtesy of Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, who unearthed a tape from a meeting the Beatles held on Sept. 8, 1969, at Apple headquarters on London’s Savile Row. The recording was made while Starr was hospitalized with stomach problems. “Ringo – you can’t be here, but this is so you can hear what we’re discussing,” Lennon says at the beginning of the tape.

“It’s a revelation,” Lewisohn told The Guardian. “The books have always told us that they knew Abbey Road was their last album, and they wanted to go out on an artistic high. But no – they’re discussing the next album. And you think that John is the one who wanted to break them up but, when you hear this, he isn’t. Doesn’t that rewrite pretty much everything we thought we knew?”

McCartney still seems taken aback by Harrison’s recent songwriting successes, which included the chart-topping “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” a key album track. “I thought until this album that George’s songs weren’t that good,” McCartney said on the tape, despite the fact that Harrison’s “Taxman” opened the Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece Revolver.

The responses to this swipe, however, showed that some tensions remained.

“That’s a matter of taste,” Harrison fires back on the recording. “All down the line, people have liked my songs.” Lennon then openly complains about “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” a McCartney contribution from the soon-to-be-released Abbey Road that began with 21 grueling takes.

Lennon suggested that McCartney give things like that to other artists, including Mary Hopkin – who had just scored a No. 2 U.K. hit with a discarded McCartney tune. He stands firm: “I recorded it,” McCartney says of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “because I liked it.”

An expanded 50th-anniversary reissue of Abbey Road is due on Sept. 27. Lewisohn will also debut a stage production focusing on this era later in September at the Royal and Derngate in Northhampton, then begin a U.K. tour that lasts through December. Hornsey Road features rare recordings like this one, along with film, photographs, remastered and remixed audio, memorabilia and Lewisohn’s personal anecdotes.

Beatles Albums Ranked

13. ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1969)

The soundtrack to the animated Beatles movie (which they didn’t provide the voices for, by the way) includes two previously released cuts, a handful of leftover session tracks from the era and an entire side of orchestra music from the film. Completists probably need the four new songs; everyone else can skip them.

12. ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (1967)

Released as an EP in the U.K. and as an album in the U.S., ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ is spotty, especially when compared to the Beatles’ other records from the era. But several of its songs – “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane” and “All You Need Is Love,” especially – rank among the group’s all-time best.

11. ‘Beatles for Sale’ (1964)

Tasked with recording their fourth album in a little more than a year, the Beatlemania-battered quartet quickly shuttled to the studio for a loose set of covers, tossed-off originals and a few gems. Success was taking its toll on the group by now, and the tired, ho-hum ‘Beatles for Sale’ proved it. Just look at their weary faces on the cover.

10. ‘Help!’ (1965)

Ostensibly the soundtrack to their second movie, the Beatles’ fifth album is their first real declaration of independence. They’d launch a creative whirlwind a few months later on ‘Rubber Soul’ that would pretty much last until the end of their career. But that album’s seeds are planted here on songs like “Ticket to Ride,” “Yesterday” and the hit title track.

9. ‘Let It Be’ (1970)

The last album to be released by the Beatles was recorded before ‘Abbey Road,’ but tumultuous sessions and a messy post-production schedule delayed its debut for a year. In a way, ‘Let It Be’ makes a pivotal swan song, with many of the songs coming off as eulogies for a once-great group. They’re still mostly excellent here, but the cracks widened beyond repair.

8. ‘Please Please Me’ (1963)

The Beatles recorded their debut album in one 13-hour session. And it sounds like it. The group is energized as they plow through a stage repertoire of jumpy original tunes (opener “I Saw Her Standing There”) and revitalized covers (closer “Twist and Shout”). They’d get sharper and tighter in the studio, but this is the sound of the band in all of its primal, ragged glory.

7. ‘With the Beatles’ (1963)

The Beatles’ second album was sorta reworked as ‘Meet the Beatles!’ for the group’s U.S. debut, and we prefer that version. But the original U.K. ‘With the Beatles’ stands as the official record these days. And it’s not bad, mixing sprightly originals (“All My Loving”) with well-oiled covers (“Please Mister Postman”). Beatlemania pretty much starts here.

6. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (1964)

The first album to include songs written entirely by the band (well, John Lennon and Paul McCartney), ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is pretty much 30 minutes of pure Beatlemania. From the shimmering chord that kicks off both the album and the title track, the Beatles never let up. It’s easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm.

5. ‘Rubber Soul’ (1965)

The Beatles responded to Beatlemania, Bob Dylan and pop music in general with their milestone sixth album. It inspired tons of artists – including Brian Wilson, who crafted the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ in reply; the Beatles, in turn, responded with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ – to move into a new era, free of commercial expectations and LP filler. They were only just beginning.

4. ‘Abbey Road’ (1969)

The last album recorded by the Beatles (but released before the temporarily shelved ‘Let It Be’), ‘Abbey Road’ presented a briefly reinvigorated group trying one last time to pull it all together. George Harrison delivered two of his best songs (“Something,” “Here Comes the Sun”), John Lennon plugged in and rocked out (“Come Together”) and Paul McCartney checked in with a sprawling centerpiece, the eight-song, 16-minute medley that stands as one of his greatest achievements.

3. The White Album (1968)

The Beatles all but splintered into four solo artists on their messy, epic and brilliant self-titled LP (commonly known as the White Album). It took two records to contain all their ideas – some of them great, some of them maddening, all of them fascinating. It was only a matter of time before they went their separate ways; the White Album, for better or worse, leads the charge.

2. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967)

Pop music grew up in 1967, when the Beatles forged a masterpiece of sound, texture and melody. Its kaleidoscopic approach to record-making – layer after layer of instruments and voices piled on top of each other until it all blurs into one colorful explosion – would become a marker and pattern for everything that came after it. In many ways, it still hasn’t been topped.

1. ‘Revolver’ (1966)

The Beatles turned themselves inside out on ‘Revolver,’ exercising a creative freedom following their retirement from the road. They used the studio as their playground, turning the record’s 14 songs into the sort of mind-expanding musical template that would influence artists for generations to come. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ may be the more complete work, but ‘Revolver’ is way more fun.

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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