Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day four

The fourth day of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions was a somewhat typical blend of original song rehearsals, unstructured jamming and randomly-chosen cover versions.

The Beatles, Yoko Ono – Twickenham Film Studios, 7 January 1969

John Lennon arrived late, so the beginning of the day featured just Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

The day saw the first appearance of ‘Get Back’, which would soon become the focus of much of The Beatles’ attentions. The moment of its creation, where McCartney improvised the melody and some early lyrics while playing bass guitar, can be seen in part one of the 2021 documentary Get Back.

The Beatles discussed ideas for a live show with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who was pushing to stage a concert at the Sabratha outdoor theatre in Libya. The Beatles were unenthusiastic about going abroad. McCartney suggested performing somewhere they were not meant to, such as the Houses of Parliament in London. Lindsay-Hogg’s other ideas included a return to Manila in the Philippines, a hospital – “but I don’t mean for really sick kids, I mean for kids with broken legs. I mean, really, kind of 1944 Hollywood musical Bing Crosby kids” – or an orphanage.

Although it was later held over for the Abbey Road album, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ also made an appearance on this day, with The Beatles’ road manager Mal Evans sourcing a hammer and anvil during the band’s lunch break. It had first been put forward on 3 January, and again on 10 January, but The Beatles’ lack of enthusiasm towards it was clear.

They also performed early versions of ‘Golden Slumbers’ and ‘She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, and Lennon led the group through three versions of ‘Gimme Some Truth’, a song which he’d later record for 1971’s Imagine album.

In the previous day’s session, John Lennon had once again attempted to interest the group in ‘Across The Universe’, which they had recorded in February 1968. Nearly a year on, and Lennon struggled to remember the words, and the performance lacked the elegantly light touch of the earlier recording.

Lyrics of Across The Universe – Twickenham Film Studios, 7 January 1969

Much of 7 January was spent on ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, which had been earmarked early on during the Twickenham sessions as contenders for the mooted live performance. At this stage the songs weren’t developing significantly, but were instead being rehearsed multiple times until The Beatles were happy they were familiar with the structure.

Other notable performances included a spirited rendition of Chuck Berry’s ‘Rock And Roll Music’, first recorded by The Beatles in 1964, and an almost-complete version of Carl Perkins’ ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’. Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’ and Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’ were also tackled with conviction, but were both abandoned before being seen through to completion.

More successful was a revisit of the Lennon-McCartney composition ‘One After 909’. This latter song had been recorded at EMI way back on 5 March 1963, and had been performed again on the 3 and 6 January 1969 sessions, with The Beatles evidently thinking it a possible live contender. Here it was close to its final Let It Be incarnation, although without Billy Preston’s electric piano.

Performances of ‘Get Back’, ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, ‘Across The Universe’, and ‘Rock And Roll Music’ from this day appeared in part one of the 2021 documentary Get Back.

The full list of songs recorded on this day, including fragments and off-the-cuff, unpublished songs with presumed titles (plus primary composer/best-known performer):

* presumed title.
View the complete list of songs played during the January 1969 Get Back/Let It Be sessions.

Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day three
Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day five
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