Recording: What Goes On, 12-Bar Original

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

The Beatles were under pressure to complete the Rubber Soul album in time for the Christmas market. This necessitated two notable tactics: late-night recording sessions and the revival of old compositions.

The group had recorded ‘Michelle’, one of Paul McCartney’s early songs, on 3 November 1965. The following day one of John Lennon’s was revived. ‘What Goes On’ had been written in the Quarrymen days, and The Beatles had wanted to record it during the ‘From Me To You’ session on 5 March 1963.

The song was completed in a session beginning at 11pm and finishing at 3.30am the following morning. McCartney’s bass guitar and Ringo Starr’s drums were recorded in a single take onto track one of the four-track tape. Starr’s lead vocals were added onto a second track.

Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 rhythm guitar, George Harrison’s Gretsch Tennessean guitar, and backing vocals by Lennon and McCartney were then overdubbed, and the song was complete.

The session didn’t end there, however. The Beatles decided to record ‘12-Bar Original’, an instrumental blues tune seemingly inspired by Booker T and the MGs’ ‘Green Onions’.

Take one broke down, but take two was complete and lasted 6’42”. George Martin joined the group on harmonium, and the song was recorded without overdubs. McCartney played bass, Starr was on drums, Harrison played a Fender Stratocaster with a tone pedal, and Lennon played an Epiphone Casino.

Despite the trouble they had completing Rubber Soul, The Beatles wisely chose not to include ’12-Bar Original’. An edit of take two, lasting 2’55” and taken from four separate parts of the recording, was eventually released in 1996 on Anthology 2.

Last updated: 21 October 2022
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