Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Sampled, Studio master tapes

Hey DullBlog

The healthy song-writing one-upmanship in The Beatles meant that after Paul McCartney had presented the others with the music hall-by-way-of-Fats Domino Lady Madonna and had it committed forever to tape, John Lennon sat himself at the piano to compose a worthy response.

The result was Hey Bulldog, a driving barrelhouse blues rocker, with ascending, augmented chords in the chorus and some epoch-defining stinging lead guitar throughout.

The BeatlesHey Bulldog

It’s truly fab four in execution; Lennon pounding away at the ivories, his sandpaper-roughed and double-tracked vocals just on the right side of raw, McCartney playing melodic lead bass, a whole tune within the tune, and harmonising the key lines from start to finish, Ringo going tribal for the song’s intro then jangling heavy rhythmic tambourine to keep the beat from thereon in and George, quiet George, brilliantly colouring the whole thing with some rasping fretboard fireworks, minimum fuss but maximum fury.

For years I’d believed the solo to be played by McCartney – in tone and technique it’s very him – but research points to George and his Gibson SG, so the cap is duly doffed. There’s a tiny wee lick he throws away towards the end of that stinging solo upon which Badfinger, Jellyfish and countless others have based entire careers. If you know, you know.

With the Lady Madonna session wrapping up quicker than expected, and Abbey Road’s Studio 3 still booked for use, the plan was to use the time to film The Beatles working in the studio so that the footage could be used in a promotional film to promote Lady Madonna around the world. Such is the speed of things in Beatleworld though, that by the time the cameras were rolling, The Beatles were already beating and barking Lennon’s brand new tune into shape. The footage that duly accompanied the Lady Madonna promo is actually film of them recording a handful of the ten takes it took to nail down Hey Bulldog.

The BeatlesHey Bulldog – isolated McCartney bassline

Amazingly, incredibly, written on the spot and played no more than ten times – how many times did YOU go away and learn your part before daring to step into a recording studio? – Paul’s muted palmed and woody thunk is the constituent part that drives the whole track. 98% flatwound Rickenbacker snap and 2% forgivable slop, McCartney’s bass playing in this phase of The Beatles is never anything less than peerless, inspired and beautiful. You knew that already though.

In the pantheon of indispensable Beatles lists, it’s only in recent years that Hey Bulldog has crawled its way on there, finally recognised as one of the band’s great tracks.

A sampler’s nightmare – pinch a portion of Beatles and you’d better have a good lawyer at the ready, it’s for that very reason you rarely encounter a Beatles sample. Yes, you can point to The Sounds Of Science on Paul’s Boutique, cut ‘n pasted together in the last century, way back when waters were murkier, but since then, there’s not been much. Cypress Hill took McCartney’s cooing opening bars to Your Mother Should Know and looped them into hip hop heaven on a track (a remix perhaps) that I can no longer locate. Jay Z’s official/unofficial Grey Album dismantled the White Album with varying degrees of brilliance, and that’s about it.

The Roots – switched on that they are – appropriated the Hey Bulldog riff into their own Thoughts At Work, a track that appeared only on original vinyl copies of Phrenology then, following a hard rap (ba-dum tish) at the door from suited and booted legal heavies, never again.

The RootsThoughts At Work (orig. vinyl-only release)

Welded to a beat created from the oft-sampled Incredible Bongo Band’s version of Apache, it’s a sweary blast that’ll make you want to drive the Fiat Punto slowly down the High Street, Detroit leaning with the windows down, like the hep cat you secretly always wished you could be. A pretender, a nearly-was, much like the track that rides on the coat tails of the sample it stole.

 

 

Hard-to-find

New Year, Old Me

Sometime around the beginning of January, Plain Or Pan celebrates its birthday. This year I celebrate completing 11 years of writing. No mean feat, as anyone who blogs will tell you. Were it not for this small corner of the internet I doubt I’d have been able to muster up the necessary clout to meet and interview some of my heroes and favourite artists.

A blog that began as an outlet for me to share all manner of what I thought was great music/alternate takes/demos and general trainspottery flim flam now has a powerful reach. On any given day there will be visitors from around the world; Buenos Airies, Brisbane, Bolton…. I used to be obsessed by stats and internet traffic figures. If I wrote a new article, how many people would read it? Would anybody read it? Nowadays it’s less of an issue. As I go boldly into year 12 I’ve realised that my best articles endure. There are things I wrote in 2007 that turn up via a Google search and still prove popular today. There are articles that I thought were fantastic when published that proved to be slow burners but have now been read, reTweeted and shared on social media thousands of times. It’s very humbling. And satisfying.

Up until a couple of years ago I always shared an annual compilation for download, a ragbag collection of the most popular tracks from the previous year. Problem was, Plain Or Pan started to become a bit too popular and the internet police metaphorically popped round a couple of times and asked me (politely at first) if I wouldn’t mind removing the download link. In order to keep the wolf from the door, I no longer do this. Instead, this year I’m going to share a few links. For anyone who’s a recent visitor to the blog you might find something of interest. To any long-time readers, there might be something here that you missed first-time round. As always, feel free to link/share anything that piques your interest. Thanks for popping round, leaving comments and generally giving me the green light to keep writing. And that thing I mentioned about stats and internet traffic? Bollocks! I want as many hits on here as possible.

  • Ian Rankin picks six of his favourite songs. From 4 and a half years ago, this is the most-read article ever on Plain Or Pan.
  • Here‘s an article on the enduring appeal of The Beatles It’s All Too Much. This article was Plain Or Pan’s biggest hitter in 2014.
  • It occured to me that I haven’t featured The Fall nearly as much as I should’ve. Here‘s one I wrote earlier. 2011, to be precise.
  • I once rather proudly wrote an entire piece on Kraftwerk in German. It never got the kudos it deserved, sadly. Either that or my pidgin German was really bad. There’s a similar one on Sly Stone that’s written in French. Et pourquois-pas?
  • The flawed genuius of Chuck Berry. This article appeared again, pratically word-for-word when Chuck passed away.
  • It’s not all music round here, y’know. Here‘s my piece on Alex Higgins, written in my head as I drove home from holiday.
  • Here‘s one of my Andy Murray articles. This fairly fired around Twitter, getting picked up by the sports networks and syndicates, garnering all manner of nice comments and dozens of new followers.
  • And here‘s one on the London Olympics. Remember them?
  • Mainly though, it’s about the music. Johnny Marr has long been my hero, so it was something of a thrill to secure a 20 minute phone interview with him (it ended up being almost an hour and a half) where, amongst other things, he chatted about the records he was most-proud of having played on.
  • Likewise, just short of a year ago Mike Joyce was good enough to play the same game. As someone who generally doesn’t get involved in Smiths articles, what followed was a brilliant interview and, dare I say it, article.
  • While we’re on The Smiths, the article I wrote about Morrissey nicking huge chunks of lyrics from Victoria Wood went yer actual viral on that there Twitter. I came home from work to find my phone lit up like a Christmas tree with social media notifications. More of that, please.

Lastly, unlike your favourite bands, much of my earlier work is far from my best, although this line from the end of an article on the imminent release of Radiohead’s game-changing name your price In Rainbows made me laugh…..

 

If you’re a guitar geek, here’s how Thom set up his gear in 1997…….

radiohead_thom_1997.gif

Of course, these days he plays a bit of piano, some Apple Mac and a smattering of Fair Trade wooden spoon.

(And I wouldn’t want it any different)

demo, Hard-to-find, Most downloaded tracks, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

It Was Plenty Years Ago Today

A year or so ago I had the idea to run a series of pun-tastic posts called ‘It was plenty years ago today‘. Based on the success of those Beatles mastertapes that I had posted (when Plain Or Pan melted immediately and the internet police first cottoned on to this site) I would combine my expert textpert knowledge of The Beatles with some of their better bootlegs in my collection and post rare outtakes and the like on the anniversary of the track being recorded. For one reason or other, I never quite got round to doing it, until today.

beatles walrus group

Given that this weekend is Beatles Weekend on BBC2 and given that the remastered albums are out in the middle of the week (now there’s a novel way of promoting a computer game – cannae wait to play it by the way), this is as good a time as any to get things going. Plenty years ago today (42 41  (oops!) to be precise), a week or so after Brian Epstein’s death, The Beatles reconvened (at Paul McCartney’s insistence – the others, especially Lennon, had no motivation to continue) on the 5th September to start work on the Magical Mystery Tour project.

beatles walrus

First up saw them tackle I Am The Walrus. Between the 5th and 6th and 27th, 28th and 29th September, The Beatles twisted and turned John Lennon’s gobbledigook nonsense tune into the psychedelic masterpiece you are no doubt familiar with. The tune itself began life in Lennon’s Weybridge house. Absent mindedly tickling the ivories one morning, Lennon heard the sound of a police car outside, noting how the ‘notes’ of the siren changed as the car got further away. He began replicating this sound on the piano, and this became the chord progression for I Am The Walrus. It should be noted here that JWL was heavily into LSD by this point in his life. Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to, as Spacemen 3 once said. Ian Macdonald’s excellent Revolution In The Head book dissects Lennon’s acid-soaked Walrus lyrics to the nth degree way better than I ever could. It’s a fantastic book. The last time I was in Fopp I think it was on sale for about £4! But I digress. Back to the music…

Over the course of the 5 sessions, the tune would go from instrumental (here‘s take 7) to incomplete vocal versions (here‘s take 16, minus the drunk-sounding strings at the start. Listen out for Lennon fluffing the ‘yellow matter custard’ line.), to alternate mixes (here‘s one) to the finished item complete with a King Lear radio play and various bits ‘n bobs woven into the mix by George Martin. Achtung! Here‘s the German mono mix.

capa

The tracks above come from a 15 track bootleg called Walrus, Eggman and Pinguins. It varies in quality and, to be honest, many of the tracks sound identical, but it nonetheless charts the studio progress of one of The Beatles more interesting moments. You can download the whole shebang here. Goo Goo G’joob!

Also available for download, reissues (!) of those Beatles 4 track mastertapes that caused all the fuss way back when.

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

A Day In The Life

She’s Leaving Home

With A Little Help From My Friends

And also still available (in high quality flac form only – the internet police jump straight on board with their handcuffs and truncheons whenever the mp3 of this becomes available) is the previously unheard 10min + mix of Revolution. Possibly an outfake, possibly the real deal, I wrote about it a wee while ago here. It’s a good read, even if I do say so myself. On the other hand, if you’re only here circling overhead like a vulture awaiting your next musical feast, you can cut out all the crap and download it here.

*Bonus Beatle fact #1!!!

I Am The Walrus is in Gary Numan’s list of Top 20 songs ever.

*Bonus Beatle fact #2!!!

As well as recording I Am The Walrus on the 6th September, The Beatles also had a go at George Harrison’s under-rated masterpiece Blue Jay Way. Sadly I have no outtakes of this. If anyone does have, you know how to contact me…

*Bonus Beatle fact #3!!!

Did you know that at the end of I Feel Fine the studio microphones unwittingly picked up the sounds of some dogs barking outside Abbey Road?  Hear it here! Right after the last “ooh!” backing vocal. Now dig it out your own copy, listen to it, turn it up for the last 10 seconds and you’ll hear them. I wonder if the dogs’ll still be on the up and coming remasters?