Etcetera

Written by: McCartney
Recorded: 20 August 1968
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

Unreleased

Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar

One of the rarest of all Beatles-era recordings, Etcetera was an early version of Thingumybob, written by Paul McCartney and later recorded by the Black Dyke Mills Band for Apple Records.

McCartney recorded a demo of the song during a session for Mother Nature’s Son on 20 August 1968, in which he also recorded Wild Honey Pie.

While waiting for the session musicians to arrive, McCartney recorded a single take of Etcetera. He then listened to a playback, before the tape was taken away by George Martin’s assistant Chris Thomas.

This was a very beautiful song. I recall it was a ballad and had the word ‘etcetera’ several times in the lyric. I only heard it twice: when he recorded it and when we played it back to him. The tape was taken away and I’ve never heard of it since.
Alan Brown, engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Paul McCartney recalled the song in his authorised biography Many Years From Now, though in less favourable terms. In the book he recalled that it was composed with Marianne Faithfull in mind, but neither she nor The Beatles ever recorded it properly.

I knew Marianne so it was natural that I would be asked to write a song at some point. I did write a song but it was not a very good one. It was called Etcetera and it’s a bad song. I think it’s a good job that it’s died a death in some tape bin. Even then I seem to remember thinking it wasn’t very good. There was always the temptation to keep your better songs for yourself and then give your next-best songs to other established people, so when it was someone like Marianne, who at the time was a newcomer, those people would tend to end up with fairly dreadful offerings of mine.

I suppose, thinking back on it, after As Tears Go By maybe they were looking for more sort of a Yesterday, something more poignant, more baroque. I probably thought, well, this is really all I’ve got at the moment. I’ll send it round and hope it’s all OK, and maybe they’ll put a baroque thing on it and that’ll make it OK. She probably did Yesterday because they figured, Well at least it’s better than Etcetera.

Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

McCartney’s uncharacteristically and emphatically harsh judgement of his own song seems curious, particularly as it is so contradictory Alan Brown’s recollection. Furthermore, his wish that it ended up in a tape bin is odd given his normal willingness to embrace 1960s nostalgia.

When Many Years From Now was published in 1997, the recording of Etcetera was yet to come to light. However, in the early years of the 21st century an acetate copy surfaced in McCartney’s personal archive, which confirmed that it was, in fact, a version of Thingumybob.

McCartney’s recording from 20 August 1968 featured lyrics, an extra bridge, and a softer introduction which was similar to that of Here, There And Everywhere.

Thingumybob had been recorded in Saltaire near Bradford, Yorkshire on 30 June 1968. McCartney produced the session, and the song was released by Apple, meaning that the EMI studio staff may not have recognised its similarity to Etcetera.

As for McCartney’s recollection in Many Years From Now, it is likely that he was mistaken and thinking about a different composition.

2 responses on “Etcetera

  1. The Walrus

    Chris Thomas is still alive, so it is possible he may have it.

    My opinion is that Paul was given a copy of the song, but he either lost it, or disliked it.

  2. Tangerine

    It very much sounds like this song was composed already in the early years of Help! should Paul have his recollections right about choosing either Yesterday or Etcetera for Marianne Faithfull. If so, it took a long time for him to record it. However, I originally remember reading that both Etcetera and Suicide were written with Twiggy in mind. Somehow I believe it was a confusing episode of The Beatles era with so many alternatives to the story about Etcetera. Things just don’t seem to fit in anywhere

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