Friday, June 02, 2023

The Velvet Underground - Archetypes (1968)

The Velvet Underground released their second album in January 1968 through Verve Records. Titled White Light/White Heat, it was their first release not to feature singer Nico, and their first after leaving the management of Andy Warhol, who produced their debut LP. Recorded in two weeks in September 1967, it took inspiration from the band's lengthy live improvisations and heavy distorted sound, with "Sister Ray" clocking in at 17 minutes long. As with its predecessor, commercial success still eluded the group, with the album barely scraping the Billboard Hot 100. The changes in personnel that preceded its making were also accompanied by changes in management, with Andy Warhol giving way to the controversial and slimy Steve Sesnick. Right out of the gate, this choice angered bass guitarist and viola player John Cale, who not only didn't trust Sesnick, he believed he wanted to push Lou Reed as their sole frontman to the detriment of band cohesion. Despite the growing tension within the band, the Velvet Underground carried on touring, spending much of late 1967 and early 1968 on the road, playing the White Light/White Heat material and road-testing other new songs live, mostly to clubs and smaller venues. A brand-new endorsement deal with Vox allowed the band to acquire Vox amps, guitars, and other equipment for free, making it so that they were able to bring an organ out on tour for the first time, something which the band would embrace, adding the organ to many of their new songs.

The band also lost no time at all in returning to the studio after the album's release, recording two songs meant for a single at New York's A&R Studios: "Stephanie Says" and "Temptation Inside Your Heart". Why that single was left unreleased is unknown, but that didn't seem to deter the band, recording yet another two songs that May, "Beginning to See the Light" and two versions of "Hey Mr. Rain". With neither of them seeming suited for a single release, and the fact that "Stephanie Says" wasn't released tells me that they weren't recording yet another single and were actually starting to record a new album. Amid all of this touring and recording, however, it seems like intra-band tensions were coming to their highest. To blame were the creative tensions between the experimentalist and avant-garde Cale and the more conventionalist Reed, with a notable anecdote being that Cale wanted to record the following VU album with the band's amps underwater, but it's not known how much of that is factual rather than myth. Adding fuel to the fire, the band was also frustrated that chart success still was nowhere to be seen, and with Sesnick purposefully pitting one against the other, thinking the band with only Reed would be much easier to control, it was only a matter of time before tensions came to a head. In a meeting with guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, Lou gave them the option of firing Cale or folding the group, with the two begrudgingly choosing the first option.

With that, you might be wondering: what if Cale hadn't been fired from the Velvet Underground? What would their next album look like? It certainly is possible to put together an album, but we will need a lot of lateral logic to complete a full record. No setlists exist from Cale's final few months with the band, which could give us great insight into what material the band was working on immediately before the split. Since that doesn't exist, we will be focusing on songs known to have been written before the events of September 1968, even if they weren't part of the band's repertoire, and songs that John Cale is known to have been involved in, songwriting-wise. Also, due to the dearth of material available, we will be working under the assumption that the four songs they recorded in February and May 1968 were meant for a new studio album, and not simply one-offs. As for the rest of the six songs, they would have been recorded sometime in June/July 1968 in New York City with Cale, as opposed to November 1968 in Los Angeles with Doug Yule, as ended up happening. The album would most likely still be ten songs long, as the side-long jams and experimental tracks of the second album are nowhere to be found, and we will try to limit the inclusion of songs later found in the 1969 self-titled album as much as possible, as the overlap would make two albums that are way too similar, which would be a disservice to this reconstruction. With all that out of the way, here's what our third Velvet Underground album looks like:

Beginning to See the Light (White Light/White Heat)
Stephanie Says (White Light/White Heat)
Temptation Inside Your Heart (White Light/White Heat)
Hey Mr. Rain (White Light/White Heat)
Ocean (Loaded)
Walk and Talk (Loaded)
Pale Blue Eyes (The Velvet Underground)
I'm Gonna Move Right In (The Velvet Underground)
Countess from Hong Kong (Peel Slowly and See)
Ride into the Sun (Searchin' for My Mainline)

Cale, Morrison, Reed, and Tucker playing live in late 1967.

Side one opens with the Cale version of "Beginning to See the Light", recorded in June 1968. It sounds like a midway point between the heavily distorted and compressed sound of WL/WH and the softer sound of the self-titled album, making the transition from one style to another considerably less jarring. Following it is a song that was originally meant to be released as a single, but was inexplicably left unreleased until the 80s, "Stephanie Says", recorded in February 1968. The aforementioned single's b-side, "Temptation Inside Your Heart", comes next, another poppy song with commercial potential. The song on which Cale plays the most central role to by far, "Hey Mr. Rain" comes next. Recorded during the same session as "Beginning to See the Light", this droning song driven by Cale's viola is the closest the group will get to the experimentalism of their first two records here, featured in the superior version I of the track. For a slightly more controversial inclusion, we have the 1970 Loaded version of "Ocean". We know for a fact that "Ocean" dates back to the Cale lineup of VU, as there exists a tape of Lou and John working on the song in July 1968. But the legend goes that manager Steve Sesnick invited Cale to play on the song in 1970, something which some band members confirmed and some band members (especially Doug Yule) denied. Did he or did he not? We cannot be sure, but if give it the benefit of the doubt, we've just managed to cobble together an entire side of songs featuring Cale! Not bad at all.

Having used up all of the early 1968 sessions, we will have to move on to some sketchier choices for side two, where we'll be having to use our imaginations much more. Starting with "Walk and Talk", a song written in 1967 and often performed live while Cale was still in the band. The demo version from the Loaded sessions can be used, as to me it sounds a lot like it could have sounded in 1968, with a Cale version probably just being slightly faster and more distorted, ala "Beginning to See the Light". Another song written early on and performed with Cale is "Pale Blue Eyes", written in 1965. Arrangement-wise it'd stick pretty closely to the studio version, with a viola part added to the song, as can be heard on the Live MCMXCIII album. Following is a trio of songs that Cale either co-wrote or was credited along with the other band members: "I'm Gonna Move Right In", "Countess from Hong Kong" and "Ride Into the Sun". The first of those would probably stick close to the arrangement VU played live in 1968, a long guitar-driven song with much room for improvisation, only with vocals. "Countess from Hong Kong" exists only on a demo, complete with annoying harmonica, and one can only hope a version with the original four would be much better than that. Finally, we have the great "Ride into the Sun", again from a 1969 studio version. I can't see the arrangement changing that much, with Cale maybe adding some organ to it, but nothing that would cause much impact to it, easily one of the best VU songs ever.

Archetypes is by nature a transitional album, sounding like the midway point between the aggressive White Light/White Heat and the pastoral self-titled album in terms of sound. Personally, I find that what we ended up getting with Doug Yule is still a superior record, but this would have made for a fine VU album nevertheless. Speaking of which, there's thankfully not much overlap between this reconstruction and the Velvet Underground album, making for two nearly distinct albums, with the band's mythical lost fourth LP only giving us two songs as well. The album is titled Archetypes after one of the working titles for the White Light/White Heat album, as also seen on an MGM re-press of WL/WH in the mid-70s. Its album cover is pretty anachronistic with 1968, though, so we'll make our own album cover using a late 1967 photo of the band, as pictures of them in this era are pretty hard to come by. A forty-minute album with a slightly longer side two, the lead single off this album would be the one chosen by the band themselves, which is "Stephanie Says"/"Temptation Inside Your Heart". It certainly wouldn't set the charts on fire, but would do better than their previous singles did, with maybe "Pale Blue Eyes" or "Ride into the Sun" released as a follow-up. It's hard to find fault in Cale and Reed going separate ways when both of them produced such great music for the following decades, but we can't help wondering what if those two had seen the light that their music partnership brought and insisted on it.

The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat [45th Anniversary Edition]
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground [45th Anniversary Edition]
The Velvet Underground - Loaded [Fully Loaded Edition]
The Velvet Underground - Peel Slowly and See [Box set]
The Velvet Underground - Searchin' for My Mainline [Bootleg]

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Pete Townshend - Sacred Animal (1980)

Pete Townshend released his second studio album, Empty Glass, in April 1980 through Atco Records. His first studio album of original material, as opposed to a collection of demos, it was recorded in late 1979 in between The Who's touring commitments. At the time, the band was undergoing their first tour after drummer Keith Moon's death and the remaining member's controversial decision to carry on as a band. That of course means that right after recording his solo album, Pete would be encumbered with the task of writing the next Who LP, with him being the band's chief songwriter. Undaunted, he spent the first two months of 1980 writing and recording demos of new material intended for his band, all while having just recorded an album and completed an American tour mere months before. Overworked and increasingly unreliable due to his ever-worsening substance abuse issues, Townshend presented the other three Who members with a nine-song demo of new material intended for their upcoming album. Once they heard it, they were less than excited with the material, especially lead singer Roger Daltrey. Although singling out some of the songs for praise, the band, in general, seemed to think the material didn't suit their style or strengths very well, even claiming material from Empty Glass such as "Rough Boys" to be more befitting of the Who than what had been given to them.

With that, a frustrated Townshend was left to keep working on new songs for the band until July, when recording would begin in earnest for the next Who album since Who Are You two years prior. When the album did eventually come out in 1981, it still had many of the faults seen on that February 1980 demo: the songs simply weren't suited for the band. For sure, the record's production and the fact that it was the band's first release after Keith Moon's death didn't help, but Pete's suspicion he couldn't write for the band anymore couldn't help but grow after Face Dances' failure. With that in mind, the central question to today's reconstruction is: What if The Who had broken up in 1978? By taking the inverse route to my previous Empty Glass reconstruction, we will be imagining a world where Pete Townshend released a follow-up to his solo Empty Glass instead of working on Face Dances with The Who. As far as rules go, considering Pete was working at an absurdly fast pace, this album is limited to early 1980, meaning songs from late 1980 such as "Popular" or "Somebody Saved Me" aren't going to be included. Having roughly the same ten tracks as Empty Glass would also be ideal, to maintain consistency, and we will only be considering songs with Pete on lead vocals, for obvious reasons. With that out of the way, here's what Pete's second solo album of the eighties could have looked like:

Teresa (Scoop 3)
It's in You (Scoop 3)
How Can You Do it Alone? (Scoop 3)
Daily Records (It's Faces Demos)
You're So Clever (Scoop)
You Better You Bet (Another Scoop)
Dirty Water (Scoop)
Don't Let Go the Coat (Another Scoop)
Dance it Away (Chinese Eyes)
What is Love (It's Faces Demos)

Download link:

Pete Townshend in a London pub, sometime in 1980.

When putting this album together, the nine-song demo assembled for The Who on February 18th, 1980 consisting of "Teresa," "It's In You," "How Can You Do It Alone," "Daily Records," "You Better You Bet," "Dirty Water," "Don't Let Go The Coat," "Dance It Away" and "What Is Love" will be used as a base tracklist, with us avoiding having to sequence this from scratch. These were mostly recorded in London, at AIR Studios and Eel Pie, as well as Pete's home studio in Soho, with further recording and assembly done in Los Angeles, with the song "Teresa" being entirely written and recorded in one night. Not to say that we didn't change anything from the original demo, we will add Pete's demo of "You're So Clever" in between "Daily Records" and "You Better You Bet". Since the Empty Glass album had Who Are You rejects such as "Keep on Working" and its title track itself, it's only fair we should include an Empty Glass reject to pad out this album and make it ten tracks long. And that's how the strange "You're So Clever" ends up as the fifth track on side one, with "You Better You Bet" now opening side two. Finally, since this is not just a collection of demos but an imaginary studio album, any of the songs with a studio version can be upgraded. That's the case with "It's in You", "Dirty Water" and "Dance it Away", with the first two being studio rehearsals and the last being a fully-fledged studio recording.

Sacred Animal was apparently one of the working titles for the Empty Glass album, while it was being recorded. I liked it a lot, so I decided to use it for this album, as Face Dances would be too obvious and it's always good to reuse a good title, isn't it? Accompanying it is a cover, which edits Face Dances' cover to only feature the paintings of Townshend's. As an album, the best songs on it are great, but the lesser songs are considerably weaker than the ones on its predecessor, making this into what is overall a less concise album than Empty Glass. The songs do benefit considerably from being outside the Who context, however, so even if the songs aren't fantastic, they sound more at home on a Pete Townshend solo record than they did on Face Dances. As far as side length goes, things are pretty unbalanced, with side one being a lot longer than side two and coming close to the 25-minute mark. However, since the exact same thing happened with Empty Glass, we'll allow it. Maybe Pete doesn't care much about side length! And as for the lead single, "You Better You Bet" coming hot on the heels of "Let My Love Open the Door" would be interesting to see, with the possibility of having two top 10 hits in a row. This just goes to show that Pete's songs would be much better suited by his solo career, especially since with his previous album, he'd already proved that he could do it alone.

- Pete Townshend - Scoop
- Pete Townshend - Another Scoop
- Pete Townshend - Scoop 3
- Pete Townshend - All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
- The Who - It's Faces Demos [Bootleg]

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

The Beatles - Off the Beatle Track (1964)

The Beatles had what's quite probably the most hectic schedule in show business in the early 1960s. Having to record two fourteen-track albums and eight singles a year, touring around the world with a show almost every single night, as well as making TV appearances, starring in movies, and writing their own songs. The fact that one of them didn't simply collapse from exhaustion during those first and wild years of Beatlemania is impressive, and a testament to their professionalism. So it's quite surprising that in between all of that, chief songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney found the time to give away original songs for other artists to record, in an attempt to establish themselves as a songwriting duo. In all, about twenty songs written by either Lennon or McCartney were recorded by other artists first, with many hits coming from that. The bulk of those songs were released between 1963 and 1964, as by 1965 they were recording fully self-written albums, they couldn't spare the luxury of giving many songs away anymore. The vast majority of those tracks were also given out to other acts managed by Brian Epstein or to friends of the band, such as Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, and even Peter & Gordon.

Even though some of the songs were considered sub-par for The Beatles' standards, John and Paul gave away some fantastic tracks, which clearly shows when we take a look at how some of the songs charted when released by other artists. And while John and Paul's little Goffin-King adventure didn't last long, it gave us many great quasi-Beatles songs we wouldn't have heard otherwise, which is always a good thing, if you ask me. And while some of those songs were recorded in the same Merseybeat style which made The Beatles popular, some were recorded in very different styles to those the band was used to, such as the two songs they gave to Cilla Black. That problem was solved in the mid-1990s when cover band The Beatnix recorded most of those songs in the style of the Beatles, complete with revamped arrangements and some very interesting choices being made. They released their recordings in a compilation called It's Four You: 19 Lennon & McCartney Songs the Beatles Gave Away, in which they also recorded versions for solo McCartney tracks such as "Goodbye" and "Come and Get It". All in all, it really sounds a lot like a lost batch of Beatle tracks waiting for a home, and a very good one at that.

So, the goal of this reconstruction is just that: finding a home for those lost Beatle songs, and making an album out of the songs John and Paul gave away. For that, we will focus exclusively on the 1963/64 period, as that's when the bulk of the given-away songs come from. Focusing on that period also helps keep this album concise and of a piece, and it also helps that we have exactly 14 songs from this era to choose from, between given-away songs and outtakes. That also means that, unlike some of the Beatles' early albums, there won't be any covers here, with this album being a fully self-written effort just like A Hard Day's Night. Of course, no versions of these 14 songs performed by the group exist, but this is more of an imaginative exercise than anything else, trying to envision a world where they did record these songs. So, we will be using cover versions that try to emulate what possible Beatles versions of these songs would sound like, almost as templates to what could have been. Some songs work more than others, that's true, but if you try hard enough, you can almost hear what the band themselves would sound like with those arrangements. With that out of the way, here's what our reconstruction looks like:

A World Without Love (The Beatnix)
Nobody I Know (The Beatnix)
I'm in Love (The Beatnix)
Like Dreamers Do (The Beatnix)
From a Window (The Beatnix)
You Know What to Do (Nick Martellaro)
Bad to Me (The Beatnix)
I'll Keep You Satisfied  (The Beatnix)
It's for You (The Beatnix)
Hello Little Girl (The Beatnix)
Tip of My Tongue (The Beatnix)
I Don't Want to See You Again (The Beatnix)
One and One is Two (The Beatnix)
Love of the Loved (The Beatnix)

Paul, John, and George in Paris, sometime in March 1964.

The first thing you'll notice about this album is the sheer amount of McCartney-sung tracks here. He is the majority writer of 10 of the 13 Lennon/McCartney songs, which reverses exactly the ratio seen on the A Hard Day's Night album, with 10 Lennon-led tracks and 3 McCartney-led tracks in it. And just like one of John's AHDN songs was given to George, we will also have to give one of them away, this time to Ringo. And since "One and One is Two" was rejected by both Billy J. Kramer and the Fourmost, only being recorded by a foreign band that really wasn't too successful, it's perfect for a Ringo song. Even though McCartney clearly dominates here, the fact that many songs would probably be arranged as John and Paul singing together, in the fashion of the Everly Brothers, helps hide this imbalance pretty well. One problem that arises is a lack of a George Harrison lead vocal in the album, seen as he didn't give away any songs back then. We will solve that by adding his AHDN outtake "You Know What to Do", as performed by Nick Martellaro. Nick's version of it is fantastic and it fits in pretty well with the album's sound and the Beatnix's performances, bringing our album to the standard 14 tracks.

Despite being released in a very short span of time in 1963/1964, the songs here were written during a period of seven years, with the first being the first song John Lennon ever wrote, 1957's "Hello Little Girl". From early 1959 we have Paul's "Like Dreamers Do" and "Love of the Loved", which curiously means all of the originals they played in their Decca audition were written really early on in the Lennon & McCartney partnership. From 1960, comes Paul's "A World Without Love", which did see some revision in the lyrical department before release in 1964, but was still mostly written back then. From 1961 comes John's "I'm in Love" and Paul's "Nobody I Know", and finally from mid-1962 comes Paul's "Tip of My Tongue", rejected in favor of "Please Please Me". That means the only songs contemporary to their release were 1963's "Bad to Me" and "I'll Keep You Satisfied", and 1964's "One and One is Two", "From a Window", "It's for You", and "I Don't Want to See You Again". And as to how these songs were sequenced, I tried to follow George Martin's rule of no three lead vocals by the same singer in a row, and other than that, just tried to put the songs where I felt they fit best within the album.

Our reconstruction is titled Off the Beatle Track, after one of the unused working titles for the band's debut album, before they settled on the Please Please Me name. Considering the nature of this album, it's only fair we should use an unused title on an album of unused songs. The LP's cover is courtesy of AndrewskyDE from the Steve Hoffman forums, who really nailed that specific early 1960s Parlophone look. Clocking in at a reasonable 34 minutes with two roughly 17-minute sides, Off the Beatle Track makes for a much more concise listening experience than I'd anticipated before. Allied with that, is the fact that there's lots of quality material here. It's simply inexplicable how great songs like "Bad to Me" and "It's for You" were considered inferior to something like "Litte Child" by the group. And while these soundalike covers are very competent and sometimes a lot of fun, these songs would have been elevated even further had they been performed by The Beatles themselves, with the typical studio magic and pixie dust their albums are notable for coming into play. One thing is for sure: songs like "A World Without Love" deserved a chance to become Beatles songs, before being locked away from fans.

The Beatnix - It's Four You
Nick Martellaro's Youtube Channel

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Television - Kingdom Come (1979)

Television released their second album in April 1978, through Elektra Records. Titled Adventure, it came on the heels of the classic Marquee Moon, a critically successful album that established them as one of the premier bands of the burgeoning Punk/New Wave movement. The band toured to promote it for most of 1977, recording their follow-up Adventure very hurriedly later that year. It consisted of a mix of newly written material and older songs which were part of the band's repertoire and were written even before Marquee Moon was released. It even showed some evolution in the band's sound, showing a softer, slower side of the band and giving more focus to ballads such as "Carried Away". Critical reception of the album was more muted than to Marquee Moon, but still positive. "Foxhole" was even a minor hit in the UK, but commercial success still eluded them. Later in 1978, they toured the album, debuted new song "The Grip of Love" during some concerts, and played theatres all over the US. By the end of the Adventure tour in 1978 however, creative differences between Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine had come to a breaking point, with infighting between the band members no longer sustainable. And that, allied to Lloyd's worsening drug use, led the band to fold after only two records, going on to have solo careers and become one of the biggest cult bands in rock history.

That leaves us with the question: What if Television had released one more album? Had they done so, I believe they would have followed the Adventure formula pretty closely, a mix of some newly written material and a couple of the band's live staples. At that point, the group had a considerable amount of songs written in 1975/76 that they were yet to release, and there's a good chance some of them would have ended up in this third album. To determine which ones would have, we will only include older songs that were still part of their live roster in 1978, which seems to me to be an indication of whether the band still considered those songs good enough for them by their final year together. That means other unreleased Television songs such as "Double Exposure", "Come on In", "Let Me Out", "Hard on Me" and "Judy" will be left out, as they were dropped a lot earlier than that. One song that very well could be included on this album as it meets all criteria but won't is "Adventure", retroactively added as the final song on the Adventure album for obvious reasons. We're also dealing with very long live takes of songs, which means we'll have to limit ourselves to as little as seven songs on the album, to keep the album under a reasonable length. With all of that out of the way, here's what our album looks like:

The Grip of Love (Live in New York 1978)
Poor Circulation (Live in Portland 1978)
Kingdom Come (Live in New York 1978)
Fire Engine (Live in New York 1978)
O Mi Amore (Live in Portland 1978)
Last Night (Tom Verlaine)
Breakin' in My Heart (Live in Cleveland 1975)

Bonus tracks:
Piano Song (I Need a New Adventure)

Ficca, Lloyd, Verlaine, and Smith backstage, sometime in 1978.

When considering which songs to include, we have our first clue when we consider that Tom said in an interview during the Adventure tour that "Breakin' in My Heart" would be on his next album, be it solo or with Television. So, despite the song not having been played live for a couple of years by that point, it gets included here. Another song that wasn't performed live in '78 was "Last Night", demoed during the sessions for Adventure as the instrumental "Piano Song". We use the Tom Verlaine album version since it's the only one with vocals, and sounds like what a finished version of the song by Television would probably be like. All other songs were in the band's live rotation in 1978, with only "The Grip of Love" being newly written, and performed in an arrangement nearly identical to the one found on Tom's debut album. "Poor Circulation", "Fire Engine", "O Mi Amore" and "Kingdom Come" are all older songs that were still regularly found in the band's setlists during the Adventure tour, with the latter being a completely different song to the one of the same name found on the Tom Verlaine album. All songs, with the exception of the aforementioned "Last Night" and "Breakin' in My Heart" are culled from live versions from 1978, the best possible representation of what this album would sound like, and show a band at the peak of their powers, performance-wise, even if the sound quality isn't great.

The final part of a trilogy, Kingdom Come is a very welcome sequel to Marquee Moon and Adventure. It might not reach the same heights as Marquee Moon but it's a great album, of roughly the same quality as the Adventure album before it, and would most certainly further establish Television as easily one of the greatest bands to come out of the late 70s. Clocking in at 46 minutes, with two roughly equal sides, it would have probably been recorded in the studio sometime in late 1978 and released in early 1979. As for singles, either the poppy "O Mi Amore" or the newly written "The Grip of Love" would be the album's ideal single, both even having the capacity of becoming modest hits and maybe even bringing them the commercial success that so eluded them. I titled this reconstruction Kingdom Come after what I consider to be one of the highlights of the album, a 10+ minute jam that rivals "Marquee Moon" in both length and improvisational guitar awesomeness. For the cover, I made one that could look of a piece with the first two Television records, with the same framing and a third color to drive the point home that this is a trilogy and all three albums are connected. It's really heartbreaking that Television couldn't stick around for at least one more album, to help cement their reputation as one of the most talented and unique bands of all time, and let their own personal problems get in the way.

- Tom Verlaine - Tom Verlaine
- Television - I Need a New Adventure [Bootleg]

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

The Beatles - Get Back (1969)

The Beatles' infamous Get Back sessions ended on January 31st. After a whole month of rehearsals and recording, more than 150 hours of audio and video, more than 400 different songs being played, and the band's first live performance in almost three years, the sessions came to an end with a final day of recording at the basement of Apple Studios. With that, the band was left with the question: what to do with this material? They had already released the "Get Back" b/w "Don't Let Me Down" single, but their own lack of interest in the sessions made it hard for them to decide what to do. By April 1969, it was decided that engineer Glyn Johns, who had overseen the whole thirty days of sessions, would be the one to assemble the album. He came up with a "fly on the wall" approach to the album, using it almost as a portrayal of the band's recording and songwriting process, essentially deconstructing the album into an audio documentary. He had first tried this concept while the sessions were still ongoing, and the band decided to let him try it once again with the full sessions at his disposal. He was left all alone at Olympic Studios with the monumental task of reviewing 150 hours of tape and creating an album out of it. By the following month, he was done with it, and submitted his initial Get Back mix to the band for approval. A cover for the album was shot, liner notes were written, and it seemed that by July 1969 the album would be hitting record stores all over the world.

However, those plans were soon ground to a halt. The LP was delayed because the band wasn't satisfied at all with his mix, considering the album a very unflattering portrayal of the band at times. There was some doubtful song selection, with many superior takes being left in the can for some that weren't release-worthy or even complete, the inclusion of a horrible version of "Teddy Boy" which was played for laughs by Lennon, who later nicknamed Johns' version of the album "the Beatles with their pants down". With all of that, the album was rejected and they were back at square one. And because the documentary had been delayed until early next year, the project was put on hold for the foreseeable future, with the Beatles busying themselves by recording Abbey Road for the time being and seemingly forgetting about the whole Get Back project for now. By January 1970, a rough cut of the movie was finally available and Johns tried again, removing "Teddy Boy" and subbing in two new songs that had been featured in the movie: "Across the Universe" and "I Me Mine". However the main flaws with his original version remained, and it was once again rejected because of its sub-par choices of performance, which remained the same since May. By April 1970, producer Phil Spector, who had already worked with Lennon, was infamously brought in, proceeding to overproduce the album (but mostly choose the right takes), infuriate McCartney, and put the final nail in the Beatles' coffin.

With all of that out of the way, the main question of today's reconstruction is: What if we could improve on the 1969 Get Back concept, using Glyn's mix as a guideline? The rules are as follows: the general structure and tracklist of Johns' album is maintained, with all of the between-song chatter and informal jams kept, as they give his mix the loose, spontaneous, and fun vibe we're looking for. We will try to only use material dating from the December 1968/January 1969 period, writing-wise (with "One After 909" the obvious exception), meaning we'll be avoiding earlier songs such as "Across the Universe" or "Teddy Boy". I took that measure to ensure this album remains consistent and older songs that the band tried to rehash during the sessions don't get thrown in with the actual Get Back material. That might lead to some controversial song choices further down the road too, which will be explained in time. We will also adhere strictly to the "no overdubs!" rule if the songs come from the January 1969 sessions, with only editing and comping of takes being accepted. All we have to do is replace the songs that don't fit in with our restraints with ones that do, and switch out some of the sub-par takes Johns selected with the superior versions, creating a hybrid Johns version of some sort, the album that he should have compiled instead of the one that he did compile, which hopefully would have been approved by the band. With that out of the way, here's what the album looks like:

One After 909 (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
I'm Ready/Save the Last Dance for Me (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
Don't Let Me Down (Original Single Version)
Dig a Pony (The Rooftop Performance)
I've Got a Feeling (The Rooftop Performance)
I Me Mine (1970 Glyn Johns Mix)
Get Back (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
For You Blue (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
Two of Us (Let it Be... Naked)
Maggie Mae (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
Dig It (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
Let it Be (Take 28)
Oh My Love (Raw Studio Mix)
The Long and Winding Road (Let it Be... Naked)
Get Back [Reprise] (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)

Bonus tracks:
Teddy Boy (1969 Glyn Johns Mix)
Across the Universe (1970 Glyn Johns Mix)

Starkey, McCartney, Harrison, Lennon, and Ono in January 1969.

Starting off with side one, the title track "Get Back" and the oldie "One After 909" are maintained as is, as Glyn used the correct versions of both songs, the single version from the 27th and the rooftop take, respectively. The spontaneous jam of 50s oldies "I'm Ready"/"Save the Last Dance for Me", recorded on January 22, is also kept, as it adds a sense of spontaneity to side one. But aside from those three, side one will need a whole lot of changes going forward. We'll start by editing in the single version of "Don't Let Me Down", recorded on the 28th, which we'll use instead of the sluggish take from the 22nd used on the Johns mix. Also included is the unedited rooftop take of "Dig a Pony" with the full "All I want is you" intro not found on any album versions, on the spot of another subpar take from the 22nd of January. Up next is the superior take one of "I've Got a Feeling" found on the complete Rooftop Concert release. It replaces a take that wasn't even complete and broke down during the song's final section, again from the 22nd. Our final addition actually comes from the 1970 Johns mix, his own mix of "I Me Mine", lodged in right before the "Get Back" single. I decided on that as five-and-a-half songs is too little for a side, and Glyn's original side two was much longer than side one, anyway. It's also, due to the way it was recorded after the fact, the only song on the album to feature overdubs, but since the song was written and rehearsed in January 1969, I couldn't help but include it.

As with side one, side two starts with a song we won't need to change: the master take of "For You Blue" from the 25th, minus the overdubbed lead vocal recorded in January 1970. There's also nothing wrong with Glyn's mix of the "Maggie Mae" cover snippet, the four-minute long "Dig It" jam, or the "Get Back" reprise, which might not be the greatest thing in the world but add to the ambiance of the album. However, some changes and a bit of lateral logic will be required going forward. The first few changes are rather easy, replacing the mediocre take of "Two of Us" from the 24th Johns chose with the correct take from the 31st, used by both Spector and the Let it Be... Naked project. Take 28 of "Let it Be" from the 31st, as seen in the original movie, replaces the overdub-ridden single and album versions. The same goes for "The Long and Winding Road", with the take from the 31st used in the movie being edited in. Finally, with both "Teddy Boy" and "Across the Universe" ruled out, and no real Lennon lead vocals on side two, I made the controversial choice of including his solo song "Oh My Love", in between the album's two big ballads. Mostly written at the same time as "Don't Let Me Down" and "Everybody Had a Hard Year" in December 1968, it was inexplicably not worked on during the Get Back sessions, despite the dearth of material John had back then. Considering we have a live-in-the-studio take of it available, and it features George on guitar, it fits in the album like a glove.

Clocking in at a fair 44 minutes with two 22-minute sides, our version of Get Back manages to walk a middle ground between the overproduced, slick, and sometimes even distasteful Let it Be and the undercooked, raw, and spontaneous Glyn Johns mix, providing us with a more accurate portrayal of the sessions than the both of them. This hypothetical album, had it been released a month after the "Get Back" b/w "Don't Let Me Down" single in May 1969, would have certainly been well received, seen as the roots rock fad had been in full swing ever since the release of The Band's Music from Big Pink the previous year. Does it reach the same heights as the White Album or Abbey Road? Most certainly not, but when reviewing the circumstances (write, rehearse, and record an album live in a single month), it's a wonder that they even managed to make something decent, not to mention a really good LP like this one. Considering a single off the album had already been released, I don't think they'd release another one, with the "The Ballad of John and Yoko" b/w "Old Brown Shoe" single still serving as the follow-up to "Get Back" in mid-1969. The cover is the usual photo taken in May 1969 by Angus McBean, as there really isn't any alternative to it. It would've been great to have a version of the album that both faithfully adheres to the main principles of the album and presents the material with quality, ensuring we have the best document possible of the Beatles getting back to their roots.

- The Beatles - Let it Be: Special Edition
- The Beatles - Let it Be... Naked
- The Beatles - The Rooftop Performance
- John Lennon - Imagine: Ultimate Collection