Alternative Version, Cover Versions, Get This!

Plane Or Pan

I have a distinct memory from the mid 70s of being plonked in front of the telly to watch what must’ve been a repeat of Concorde’s maiden flight, all far-off (and far-out) shimmer and vapour trails and soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac‘s Albatross. It would be years later before I knew what the music was, but it fitted the imagery perfectly. The one note pulse of the bass and drum beat like the wings of some giant bird (an albatross, I suppose, now that I think about it) while the atmospheric cymbal splashes and swoops and sweeps of the slide guitar mirrored the way Concorde banked up and away to the right after take-off. The main riff is , I think, the reason I’m a total sucker for a harmonising guitar. On Albatross, the twin guitars harmonise practically throughout; tasteful and understated and nothing like the peacocking poodle rockers who appropriated it as their own in the coming years.

concorde

Living closed to Prestwick Airport, our skies were regularly ripped apart by Concorde’s impressive thunder. No matter how many times we’d seen it before, the school playground would be full of parka’d kids pointing at the sky. If the nose was up, the plane had just taken off. If the nose was down, it was coming in to land. That was playground fact. No matter how many times I’d seen it before, the same thing always happened. The world around me would fade away. The focus of everyone’s attention would magically drop into slow motion and Albatross would start playing in my head.

Fleetwood MacAlbatross

One time (1984 perhaps) the actual Space Shuttle re-fuelled at Prestwick, piggybacking atop a jumbo jet. Even then, as we stood, mouths agape and pointing towards the most exciting thing in the world, the slow motion blues of Albatross played in my head. I still didn’t know it was called Albatross at the time, or who it was by, or anything about it, but it was inextricably linked with man-made flight and Concorde. It still is.

For such an iconic tune, it’s surprising to find Albatross hasn’t been covered more than it has. Perhaps it’s the reverence in which it’s held that excludes respectful musicians from butchering it. Hank Marvin could never resist the lure of that twang though, so it’s not surprising to find The Shadows have their own sterile, Asda priced version kicking around like Val Doonican in the 100 Club. It’s not hard to find, but you won’t find it here.

lee-ranaldo

More interesting is the version by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, accompanied by fellow noisy Fender bender J. Masics. It’s soulful, respectful and sounds exactly as you might expect…

Lee Ranaldo Band feat. J. MascisAlbatross

Maybe it’s the textured layers of feedback, or the liberal dosing of effect pedal chaos, but it’s amazing version. I like to think that if (as rumoured) Concorde takes to the skies again, it’ll be this version that plays in my head if I ever catch it in the skies above Ayrshire.

Perhaps even more interesting than the version above is the remix/reinterpretation/call it what you will by ambient producer Chris Coco. A self-titled tastemaker, DJ, broadcaster, producer, music curator, musician and journalist, (phew!) Chris has been at the forefront of dance music since the acid house days in the 80s. At the start of the new millenium he co-presented Blue Room on Radio 1, a show that gave a platform to left-of-centre and new, emerging dance acts. I’m not the most qualified of people to write about such a show, but if you’ve ever been into warped-out, dubby, spacey, downtempo dance music, chances are it first appeared here. That Chris would then go on to become Robbie William’s Tour DJ of choice should not be held against him.

Chris CocoAlbatross

This 11+ minute version of Albatross is magic. Beatless and atmospheric, it takes the original, coats it in a sheen of tinkling electronica and processed trickery and stretches it for maximum blissed out effect. I doubt Peter Green ever had any idea his original would end up in such an altered state, but if it had been him and not Dave Gilmour who’d ended up playing with The Orb a few years back, we may well have had a whole album like this. Imagine that!

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, demo, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

By George!

George Harrison, the youngest Beatle, bullied by John and Paul into 2nd tier status in the band, was essentially the runt of the litter yet wrote some of their most enduring songs. When writing sessions were underway ahead of a new Beatles’ recording, poor George had to bide his time while the other two writers hogged the limelight with their latest offerings. Only after they had been given careful consideration would George be allowed to show off what he’d been working on. In any other band, he’d have been the principal writer and held in higher esteem, but in The Beatles he was lucky to get more than one of his tracks onto each album.

 george_harrison_1968

By 1968’s ‘White Album’, George had a handful of future classics under his belt. Writing sessions in Rishikesh in northern India proved particularly fruitful. The Beatles plus associated wives/girlfriends along with a raggle-taggle mismatch of musicians and actors (Donovan, Mike Love, Mia Farrow and her sister ‘Dear’ Prudence) gathered at the feet of the Maharishi to find out the ways of tanscendental mediatation.

1968

The trip was not without incident;  Ringo visited a doctor due to a reaction to the inoculation he’d taken before going, John complained that the food was lousy (Paul and Jane Asher loved it) and the Maharishi, as peace-loving and spiritual as he may have been, turned out to be a randy old man, intent on bedding as many of the female guests as he could.

George was particularly taken with meditation, leading John to quip, “The way George is going, he’ll be flying a magic carpet by the time he’s forty!

Against this backdrop, John, Paul and George wrote many songs that would appear on the new Beatles’ album at the end of the year. Donovan turned John onto a new style of fingerpicking that he’d picked up from the folk clubs and Lennon put it to good use on Dear Prudence. George might’ve been equally inspired, as the descending bass run that characterises Dear Prudence makes it into a couple of his own songs on the White Album.

beatles-india-68

While My Guitar Gently Weeps began life as a downbeat campfire singalong; folk in a minor key, with the ubiquitous descending bass line offest by an uplifting bridge. It’s understated and simple, nothing like the album version.

George HarrisonWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps (demo)

George had to wait an agonising 8 weeks from the start of the album sessions before being given the chance to showcase it. Quite how he kept his mouth shut as John ran through days and days of tape loops creating the arty (but tuneless, let’s be clear) Revolution 9 while Paul completed dozens of takes of the reggae-lite Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and even Ringo had his moment in the spotlight with his honky tonkin’ Don’t Pass Me By is very impressive, but when given his moment (“I always had to do about ten of Paul and John’s before they’d give me the break,”) he rose to the occassion.

george-h-abbey-road-68

The demo of While My Guitar Gently Weeps was used as the blueprint and added to with layer upon layer of guitar and vocals through the use of an 8-track recording machine (the first Beatles’ track to do so) until it was the super-heavy version that appears on the album. An uncredited Eric Clapton was asked by George to play guitar on it. George had been bemoaning the fact that he’d spent hours aimlessly trying to recreate a weeping sound for the track and asked his pal instead to play the solo, which he did with majestic, understated aplomb.

The BeatlesWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps

It’s a perenial favourite, never bettered than when Prince put the other ‘stars’  – heavyweights Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood – firmly in their place with his outrageously brilliant cameo at the 2004 Rock ‘N Roll Hall Of Fame. Two questions, the first rhetorical. How overjoyed does Dhani Harrison look when the wee man steps up and takes the song to a whole new level?

Secondly, what happens to Prince’s guitar at the end? Watch….

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, Get This!, Hard-to-find

The Great British Take-Off

Augustus Pablo is perhaps to the melodica what Les Paul was to the electric guitar. Until Augustus, reggae was all about the boom of the bass and the pistol crack of the snare. Pablo took his melodica and made it central to the dub reggae records he played on, fighting for ear space amongst the booms and the pistol cracks, the bringer of other-worldly melody in an already expansive soundscape. Dub reggae is proper long-form music. It’s widescreen, epic and simply massive to listen to. But you knew that already.


When Augustus Pablo teamed up with dub pioneer King Tubby, the results were dynamite. Their ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ takes the easy flowing lovers’ rock of Jacob Miller‘s ‘Baby I Love You So‘…..

Jacob MillerBaby I Love You So

…..and sends it into outer space with a heady treatment of clatters, bangs, melodi-ka-ka-ka-echos and all manner of sonic enhancements…..

Augustus Pablo/King TubbyKing Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown

It‘s a very influential record. If you know your musical onions, you’ll spot traces of the production in all manner of records, from Massive Attack and St Etienne to New Order and Primal Scream. Would New Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’ be the record it was if Martin Hannett hadn’t turned to his inner King Tubby for inspiration; Other-worldly? Yep. Claustrophobic and menacing? Yep. Liberal sprinklings of melodica? Yep, yep and yep. It’s dub, man! A rainy, grey, 80s Mancunian, British take on dub, but dub nonetheless.

New Order In A Lonely Place


Primal Scream currently have a very good (and very limited) 12″ on release featuring a dark ‘n dubby remixed take on their own 100% Or Nothing which stretches towards the 10 minute mark, cramming in as many booms, bleeps, skank-filled echoing guitars and, yes, melodica as possible. Somewhere between New Order’s In A Lonely Place and King Tubby’s dub-in-a-cave production, with half-inched vocal refrains from Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove, it’s very good. Echo Dek part II, even. Forever with his finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not, Adam over at the ever-wonderful Bagging Area featured it last week.

In the early-mid 90s, Paul Weller was fond of adding tripped-out, elongated versions of the a-side or even his lesser-known album tracks to his singles. Remixed and re-tweaked almost exclusively by Brendan Lynch, they could usually be relied upon to be the best thing on the single. The Lynch Mob version of debut album track Kosmos is fantastic. Clearly influenced by King Tubby, Lee Perry and all those other progressive-thinking sonic architects, it’s waaaay out there. We have lift off!, to borrow the sample at the start.

Paul WellerKosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats version)

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it’s best listened to whilst you drive on the M8 on a hazy summer’s evening, just as the sun is setting and an aeroplane is taking off from Glasgow Airport, vapour trails shimmering in the mid-July heat, a stroke of luck that befell me once after dropping folk off at the airport.

le-mod-ica

Anyway, back to Baby I Love You So. Back in 1986, when alternative acts were trying to keep up with the rockist jangle of The Smiths or creating their own heavy, heavy monster sound of goth, 4AD act Colourbox released a very good version.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So

Replacing the melodica with electric guitars may have ‘indied’ it up a bit, but it loses none of its heavy dub or pulsing groove as a result. It’s a genuinely faithful version, replete with sonic wizardry and skanking galore. It’s also a tricky one to track down online, but here‘s the 7″ version, above, and the extended 12″ version below.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So (12″ version)


Alternative Version, Cover Versions

Maker’s Marc

Like most of you who visit here (my demographic stats tell no lies), I was the perfect age for 80’s pop. At the time I kinda took it for granted that the charts would always be filled with million-selling hit singles with shelf lives longer than the queue for a fake ‘Frankie Says…’ t-shirt at Saltcoats Market.

I spent the decade convincing myself that the era was rubbish for music – with the odd obvious exception, a million-selling single was no guarantee that it was any good. Living in the 80s just wasn’t fair.  My parents watched wide-eyed as the 60s unfolded right in front of them (unbelievably, much of it unfolded while they were in a pub stubbornly listening to or playing folk music. Yeah, yeah, yeah), and cool folk from school with groovy uncles or elder brothers and sisters had a gateway into the eclecticism of the 70s, but what did I have that was exclusively mine? Spandau Ballet? Amazulu? The Art Company? Living in the eye of the norm, it was all bland rubbish really, but when you cast a misty-eyed look backwards nowadays, it’s plain to see the 80’s might not have been half as bad as we convinced ourselves they were. Granted, the music soundtracked a depressing time in which to be a teenager; Thatcher’s self-prophesising comment that ‘there’s no such thing as society anymore’ was splitting the country into haves and have nots, and with mass unemployment, little prospect for school leavers and inner city unrest (thankfully, this never made it to the mean streets of Irvine) for the millions of have nots, it was truly a shite time to be alive. But the circumstances led to some of the greatest ever music – ‘our’ generation’s music; The Specials, The Smiths, you know them all….

soft cell 2

Soft Cell‘s 1981 take on Tainted Love remains just one reminder of how decent the 80s actually were for music. At the time, Tainted Love was nothing more than a non-political catchy single, something that Bruno Brookes played between Swords Of A Thousand Men and Kim Wilde’s Cambodia, something that Steve Wright played before Mr Angry, something that Kid Jensen played immediately after the latest Teardrop Explodes session. You might want to cross-reference artists and release dates here, but I’m sure you catch my drift. Tainted Love was everywhere. Minimalist electro-lite and bouncy, with mysterious gassy hisses every now and again, it was infectious and catchy and even now as I type, it was clearly instantly memorable. Did I as an 11 year old spot the mild whiff of submissive, dangerous, homo-erotic je ne sais quoi emanating from Marc Almond. Of course not! Marc Almond was a pop star. It was his job to dress funny, jaunty leather joy-boy cap or not. Just ask Adam Ant, a man who’s make-up-caked face plastered my bedroom wall, much to my dad’s unease. I doubt he’d ever heard those Marc Almond stomach-pumping rumours, given the enthusiasm by which he cheerily battered the dashboard of our Ford Cortina – “Sometimes I feel I’ve got to (thump thump!!) run away!” – whenever Tainted Love parped it’s way out of the tinny AM radio.

Here‘s the super-extended 12″ version, where Tainted Love breaks down into the band’s skeletal yet soulful take on The Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go?

Soft CellTainted Love (12″ version)

soft cell

I suspect I wasn’t alone in thinking Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love was the original. It would be a few years later before I discovered the truth (mid 60’s brass-led stirring soul stomper, Gloria Jones, Marc Bolan, etc etc) and when I did, wow!, a whole new world opened up for me. Why couldn’t my mum and dad have been listening to this instead of Hamish Imlach in 1964? Eh? EH?!?

gloria jones

Gloria JonesTainted Love

Here‘s Inspiral Carpets‘ version. Unfairly relegated to 2nd Division Madchester also-rans, early Inspirals were a riot of bowl cuts, bass players called Bungle and badly-rhymed beat-driven garage punk. Easily identifiable by Clint Boon’s skirling Farfisa, many of those early tunes still endure to this day, in my house at least. A proper Plain Or Pan piece must surely be in the offing (I was supposed to be interviewing Tom Hingley recently, but that’s a whole story in itself), but until then, here’s their menacing attempt on Tainted Love, recorded to celebrate 40 years of the NME, a mag (free nowadays) that’s somehow in its 64th year. That’s a pension and a gold watch in old money is it not?

Inspiral CarpetsTainted Love

inspirals

Alternative Version, Hard-to-find

Rimbaud 3

There’s a clip that’s been doing the rounds recently of The Waterboys in session for Chris Evans on Radio 2. They’re tearing their way through a terrific version of Purple Rain, Mike Scott competing for centre stage with an electric violin that thankfully sounds more Hendrix than Nigel Kennedy. If you’ve not seen it you should head off to the usual places forthwith. You can thank me later.


Mike Scott is quite a complex character. From Ayr in south-west Scotland, just down the road from Plain Or Pan Towers, he’s done well to maintain the image of the scruffy-heided beatnik poet hippy who’s the androgynous offspring of Mick Jones and Patti Smith, both in look and musical/poetic vision.


In reality, he’s quite a switched-on guy; arguably more Rambo than Rimbaud. Stories abound that he’s  a sound engineer’s nightmare (“A little less reverb on the snare, thanks, more flange on the subwoofer and can we keep the room temperature to a steady 18 degrees?“) and a promoter’s worst headache (only the very best hotels, with a room as far away as possible in all directions – up and down and either side – from select members of whoever constitute The Waterboys on that particular tour, a strict macrobioticveganwheatfreeglutenfreewhatever diet and a propensity to change the goalposts at the last notice). A perfectionist, then. Or difficult to deal with, you might say.

1985’s This Is The Sea is the real deal though, and any and all of his quirks and imperfections can just about be excused because of it. Full of literal references to the Great God Pan, the healing powers of spiritualism, a kinship with socialism and liberally sprinkled with poetic references alongside the odd Beatles line, it comes bolted onto a steel girders-massive production that Scott himself tagged ‘The Big Sound’. The album is truly epic on a widescreen scale; a heady mix of acoustic and electric guitars, keys, strings and a liberal dollop of Celtic Clarens Clemons-ish saxophone.

waterboys 85

The big hit from the album was of course The Whole Of The Moon, but, essential as The Hit is, there’s far more to the album than that.

Be My Enemy fairly rattles along in double-quick cow punk time, a skifflish, raggle-taffle distant cousin of Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm and most of The Clash’s early back catalogue.

The WaterboysBe My Enemy

Scott is on scorching form, smoothing his ‘rs‘ as he spits as angrily as a posh boy from South Ayrshire can about mainframes shaking, cellars full of snakes and nazis on his telephone. The whole thing kicks like a particularly angry mule and is essential listening. Terrific stuff.

Medicine Bow is a howling storm-warning for some near-future apocalyptic event or other, electric guitars clashing with discordant violins and an out of control piano player.

On the album, it faded to a whisper, but a few years ago a warts ‘n all version of This Is The Sea was released, with the rage in excelsis, full-length version of Medicine Bow included.
The WaterboysMedicine Bow (Full-Length Version)

 

waterboys studio 85

…and here’s The Pan Within. Over 6 minutes of cosmic folk/rock spiritualism. Come with me on a journey beneath the skin, indeed.

The WaterboysThe Pan Within

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, Live!

Alf Ramsey’s Revenge

‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’ is the sound of The Smiths at their chiming, ha-ha-ho-ho-hollering, twin guitar attack peak. Written, as the band usually did, quickly and as part of a triptych that also included ‘London’ and ‘Half A Person’, it was considered as the follow-up single to ‘Ask’ before being passed over at the last minute in favour of ‘Shoplifters Of the World Unite’, a move regarded as travesty by many Smiths devotees at the time.

The ‘Shoplifters…’ single included both ‘London’ and ‘Half A Person’, the tracks on the b-side connected through the subject matter of moving to London, with the former a noisy glam racket that sticks two fingers up to those who are too spineless to leave and make something of themselves, and the latter a brilliantly put-together melancholic rumination of how just a move can go so wrong – “I went to London and I booked myself in at the YWCA…” The noisy and the melodic, the tragi-comedy of The Smiths on the same record.

  smiths morrissey marr rough trade store room Marr & Morrissey, Rough Trade stockroom, 1983

But the best of the three tracks written in that early October session, ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’ was left alone on the shelf marked ‘Great Smiths Tracks That Would’ve Made Great Smiths Singles’. The band had high quality control values – theirs is a perfectly-formed 4 studio album and 17 single discography, untarnished by stop-gap filler material or substandard releases; the perfect group. Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Shoplifters…’ – I’m particularly partial to Johnny’s open-wah rockist guitar solo – but better single material than ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’? Nah. They got that one wrong, I think. Even if, as it turns out, Johnny thinks ‘Shoplifters…’ is the better song.

The SmithsYou Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby (The World Won’t Listen mix)

Keen eagle-eared Smiths enthusiasts at sadly-departed Smiths treasure trove Smiths Recycled spotted that the mix on The World Won’t Listen ran a touch too fast, so with the aid of modern technology and whatnot re-pitched the track at the speed it would’ve been playing at when The Smiths recorded it. clever fellas, those guys. Spot the difference…

The SmithsYou Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby (The World Won’t Listen mix – Repitched Version)

The track eventually saw the light of day on ‘The World Won’t Listen’ compilation, the catch-all, semi follow-up to ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ that gathered together all the odds ‘n sods ‘n ‘As ‘n Bs from the 2nd half of The Smiths career. It also appeared in slightly different form (if you turn up the EQ on your Morrissey-endorsed NHS hearing aid, subtle nuances in the mixing can be heard, if you’re that way inclined) on the American compilation ‘Louder Than Bombs’.

The SmithsYou Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby (Louder Than Bombs mix)

Those same Smiths enthusiasts at Smiths Recycled also corrected the pitch on this too…

The SmithsYou Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby (Louder Than Bombs mix – Repitched Version)

smiths gannon 86

The song itself was borne out of in-band fighting and the politics that would eventually lead to Johnny leaving the band. Booked for 5 days in London’s Mayfair Studios, Morrissey was keen for the band to work with upcoming wunderkid producer Stephen Street. Johnny preferred the tried and tested John Porter and in the end a compromise of sorts was agreed – Street would work the first day and Porter would do the other four. To add complication to the mix, 5th Smith Craig Gannon, who’d accompanied the band on their recent US tour but had never really been fully accepted into the group , was only just hanging on to his status in The Smiths by the finest hair on his bequiffed head. History shows that the Porter sessions would be the last time Gannon would work with the band.

Johnny’s tune is a classic Marr composition, tumbling in on a breath of fresh air, packed full of double and triple-tracked guitars as clear and ringing as Edinburgh Crystal, chiming, capo’d and open-stringed arpeggios and stinging counter-melodies, wrapped up and driven by a trampolining bass line and a stomping, Glitter band thud of drums in the chorus. That Johnny still plays it live in concert to this day, something The Smiths themselves never did, is testament to the longevity and beauty of the song.

The title and lyrical refrain is attributed to Rough Trade supremo Geoff Travis who uttered the words at Morrissey after the singer asked him why he wouldn’t treat The Smiths with the importance that their status deserved.  Morrissey had a point – The Smiths almost single-handedly allowed Rough Trade to flourish as a label. All money made from the band went back into other artists, many of whom would never have had a record deal and subsequent success without Rough Trade’s money – the money that came directly from the healthy sales of Smiths’ product. Morrissey was clearly still feeling aggrieved a few months later when he recycled the title as a lyric in ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’, The Smiths’ scathing deconstruction of the music business. It’s possible that, after hearing ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’, and stung by its lyrical content, Travis overruled the band’s decision to release it as a single.

Obviously Geoff was staunchly against it,” said Morrissey, in highly dramatic fashion when quoted in Simon Goddard’s essential ‘Songs That Saved Your Life’. “Because he thought it was a personal letter addressed to him.

A couple of years later, Marr would play on Kirtsy MacColl’s faithful remake of ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’, the original’s multi-tracked guitars replaced by a choir of Kirsties; airy, whispering, cooing and making it something of her own.

Kirsty MacCollYou Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby

It’s all slightly plodding, truth be told, a stodgy, sticky pudding compared to the floating on air joie de vivre that carries the original. That’s by far the best version, of course.

Alternative Version, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

It Was Plenty Years Ago Today (50, to be exact)

Half a century ago this week, The Beatles were in the studio recording the tracks that would make up their Revolver LP. Amazingly, the first track worked on was Tomorow Never Knows, the cut ‘n paste, experimental, looped track that still sounds futurtistic, frightening and like nothing else in the entire Beatles’ canon. It was only three short and manic years since She Loves You, but it may as well have been three million light years, such is the leap in their vision and outlook. You could be forgiven for assuming that for the session the band reconvened in Abbey Road’s Studio 3 with a handful of solo acoustic tracks just waiting to be Beatlefied. Nothing could be further from the truth.

beatles revolver back

For Tomorrow Never Knows, the band set up in the studio to jam the main backing track, with Ringo’s compressed and relentless thunk driving the track in tandem with McCartney’s droning bass. Listen with eyes closed and you’ll hear a little organ, a wonky tonk piano in the fade out, a perisitent rattling tambourine and a couple of guitar tracks; the fuzzed out one manipulated to play backwards and the other fed through a Leslie speaker to give it that widescreen swirl that would in time become synonymous with the era.

On top of it all there are sound effects that could well be the calling sound of the Great God Pan himself; Fanfaring trumpet noises. Scraping, sweeping, jarring strings and what sounds like the divebombing seagulls that bother the fish and chip eaters at Largs shorefront. It’s fairly astonishing for 2016. Imagine hearing it for the first time in 1966. Wow!

The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows (released mono version)

Making the track involved more than just the four Beatles – George Martin orchestrated the whole affair, ably assisted by Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick who’s job involved deadening Ringo’s drum sound by stuffing an old jumper inside the bass drum and shuffling it about until the right sound was achieved. The backing track took just three takes over 2 days to perfect, before Lennon’s vocals were given the requisite attention.

Famously, Lennon’s lyrics came from Timothy Leary’s LSD manifesto, ‘The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead‘ and flowed in a stream of epoch-defining consciousness…

“Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,
It is not dying, it is not dying.

Lay down all thought, surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.

That you may see the meaning of within,
It is being, it is being.

That love is all and love is everyone,
It is knowing, it is knowing.

That ignorance and hate may mourn the dead,
It is believing, it is believing.

But listen to the colour of your dream,
It is not living, it is not living.

       Or play the game ‘Existence’ to the end,
Of the beginning, of the beginning.”

At the mixing desk, after hearing how the guitar track sounded through the Leslie speaker, Lennon insisted his vocals were given the same treatment. “I want to sound as though I’m the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountain top. And yet I still want to hear the words I’m singing.”

It’s also been said that John wanted the sound of 4000 monks chanting ad infinitum in the background. I’m not certain he achieved either goal, but what was eventually committed to vinyl was brave, bold and big of beat.

Here’s the druggy, fuggy first take:

The BeatlesTomorrow Never Knows (Take 1)

Keen-eared Beatles spotters will be aware that the first copies of Revolver were sold with the wrong mix of Tomorrow Never Knows included. These records were quickly withdrawn and recalled, although not before a good many had disappeared into the hands of unsuspecting record buyers. Discovering this a few years ago, with shaky hand I checked the matrix number on the run-out groove of my ‘first’ pressing Revolver, bought for £4 in Irvine Indoor Market in the mid 80s when the Beatles were anything but cool. Pah. One digit out. Meaning it wasn’t technically a first issue, and nor was it worth the £20,000 it might have been. I wouldn’t have sold it anyway*.

Back in Abbey Road’s Studio 3, just after half seven that evening when Tomorrow Never Knows had been expertly finished, the band veered back towards the middle of the road to tackle Got To Get You Into My Life, another drug-inspired song and another story for another day.

beatles revolver sessions 66Just out of shot, a young Paul Weller, keen to rip off George’s Taxman and apparently, his entire wardrobe.

*Aye, right.