Get Back/Let It Be sessions: day nine

The ninth day of the Get Back/Let It Be sessions was the second full one without George Harrison, who had walked out of Twickenham Film Studios on 10 January 1969.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr – Twickenham Film Studios, 14 January 1969

It was clear by this stage that The Beatles were unable to function in any meaningful way as a trio, and motivation and inspiration hit a low mark on this day. As with other Twickenham rehearsals, it began with Paul McCartney working alone at a piano, although there is little of the energetic enthusiasm which he brought to the earlier days.

The 2021 documentary Get Back shows McCartney demonstrating piano chords and music theory to clapperboard and loading operator Paul Bond.

Paul McCartney, Paul Bond – Twickenham Film Studios, 14 January 1969

A lot of old tunes had just set chord patterns. ’Cause that’s the great thing: once you start trying to find out chord patterns, you really suss what people are doing, what musicians are doing. Like, old tunes, you know, they had just a certain way of going. And they hardly ever varied from it. I don’t really know it, you know? My dad knows that better.

The great thing about a piano is that, there it all is. There’s all the music ever. That’s it, you know? All this that’s ever been written is all there… Unless you stop yourself, there’s no stopping yourself.

Paul McCartney

Upon Ringo Starr’s arrival, he and McCartney played an improvised piano boogie duet. It was included in the Let It Be film, and was copyrighted ‘Jazz Piano Song’ by Apple, but when shown in 2021’s Get Back it was retitled ‘I Bought A Piano The Other Day’. Although John Lennon was not present, the piece was credited to Lennon-McCartney-Starkey.

One of the songs played by McCartney at the piano was ‘Woman’, the McCartney song given in 1966 to Peter & Gordon. Another was ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’, later to be one of the highlights of McCartney’s 1971 album Ram.

Upon Lennon’s arrival, the three Beatles performed a mix of improvised songs, golden oldies and original compositions, as had become customary in these sessions.

Of the other tracks, ‘Madman’ and ‘Watching Rainbows’ were Lennon compositions which was taken no further, although ‘Madman’ was performed again at Apple Studios on 21 January. Lennon also played a brief version of ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’, the still-unreleased song which The Beatles began recording in May 1967.

This was followed by a discussion about the future. Let It Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg asked if they should relocate the filming to EMI Studios and abandon the idea of a live show, but Lennon explained that any decisions should be made with Harrison, who was in Liverpool.

The day ended with McCartney alone at the piano, performing ‘Oh! Darling’ and a brief version of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, for Glyn Johns to test the audio equipment.

On this day Lennon and Ono were also interviewed by a reporter from Canada’s CBC-TV. It took place around midday and lasted for 30 minutes, and has since become known as the Two Junkies interview.

John Lennon, 14 January 1969

Lennon was clearly high on heroin during the interview, growing paler and more restless as it progressed. Eventually he said “Excuse me, I feel a bit sick” and the camera was turned off. The second half of the conversation was noticeably livelier, and Lennon discussed live performances, inspiration, and the couple’s future plans.

An extract from the Two Junkies interview was used in the 1988 documentary Imagine: John Lennon, in which Lennon discussed being counted both out and in on ‘Revolution 1’.

The Beatles held a meeting on the following day, 15 January 1969, and agreed to Harrison’s demands to move the sessions from Twickenham to Apple’s headquarters in Savile Row, London. These began a week later, on 21 January, in higher spirits and willing to continue with the Let It Be project.

Performances and snippets of ‘Piano Piece (Bonding)’, ‘Martha My Dear’, ‘I Bought A Piano The Other Day’, Woman’, ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’, ‘Those Were The Days’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Song Of Love’, ‘Help!’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘Mean Mr Mustard’, and ‘Madman’ from this day appeared in part two of the 2021 documentary Get Back.

The documentary did not explicitly mention Lennon’s heroin use, but it was clearly a source of distress for McCartney. Lennon is shown in an extended monologue, rambling to the camera and speaking in song lyrics. “Wake up Lennon,” McCartney interjects, before telling on-set guest Peter Sellers: “We just sort of sit here and allow ourselves to be embarrassed.” As Sellers leaves, Lennon calls to him: “Just don’t leave the needles lying around. We’ve got a bad reputation now with John getting busted and that.”

There was illness on the set, with Starr and Lindsay-Hogg saying they felt unwell. “If we hang around a bit longer, we’ll get Ringo being sick,” McCartney said, to laughter. “See, you missed me this morning,” Lennon tells him. “I did it for CBS [sic]. Leapt off in the middle of the interview.”

Lennon: Actually I’m just recovering from the day, you know?

Yoko Ono: From the night.

Lennon: No reason at all, except that I’m mistreating my body. Yes. I just was up late, you know. I was sort of stoned and high and watching films, and I wouldn’t have made it anyway.

McCartney: Is there any need to do this in public, Mr Lennon?

Lindsay-Hogg: At the moment you’re a guest for lunch.

Lennon: Yeah, but it’s not good. If I’m gonna come at 10 I should come at 10.

McCartney: Up with the dawn, down with the sun. Ringo ever, Eric never.

Lindsay-Hogg: Shall we knock off early today or not?

McCartney: Probably, yeah.

Lindsay-Hogg: Shall we knock on early tomorrow?

Lennon: Yes, I’ll do that.

McCartney: Yeah.

Lennon: When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way. But now my life has changed in oh so many ways. A wop-bop-a-loo-ma. Ba-lim-bam-boo.

McCartney: We can’t carry on like this indefinitely. Doing this.

Starr: We seem to be.

McCartney: We seem to, but we can’t. See, what you need is a serious programme of work. Not an aimless rambling amongst the canyons of your mind. An aim in life.

Lennon: Trip upon that golden ship of shores. We all together, boy.

McCartney: To wander aimlessly is very un-swinging. Unhip.

Lennon: Well when I touch you, I feel happy inside. I can’t hide. I can’t hide. Ask me why, I’ll say I love you.

McCartney: What you need is a schedule. Achieve something every day.

Ono: It’s so hard, right?

Lennon: It’s rather hard to live up to, Paul.

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):

  • ‘Piano Piece (Bonding)’ (Lennon-McCartney)
  • ‘Martha My Dear’
  • ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ (Jesse Fuller)
  • ‘The Day I Went Back To School’ (McCartney)
  • ‘Lady Jane’ (The Rolling Stones; two versions)
  • ‘Talking Blues’ (McCartney)
  • ‘Jazz Piano Song’/‘I Bought A Piano The Other Day’ (Lennon-McCartney-Starkey)
  • ‘Woman’ (McCartney; three versions)
  • ‘Cocaine Blues’ (Johnny Cash)
  • ‘Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart’ (Johnny Cash)
  • ‘On A Clear Day You Can See Forever’ (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner)
  • ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ (McCartney; two versions)
  • ‘Hello, Dolly!’ (Louis Armstrong)
  • ‘Mean Mr Mustard’ (two versions)
  • ‘Madman’ (Lennon-McCartney; three versions)
  • ‘Watching Rainbows’ (Lennon; two versions)
  • ‘Take This Hammer’ (Lonnie Donegan)
  • ‘Johnny B Goode’ (Chuck Berry; two versions)
  • ‘Get Back’
  • ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’
  • ‘Oh! Darling’ (two versions)
  • ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’
  • ‘Oh Baby I Love You’* (McCartney)
  • ‘Song Of Love’ (Lennon-McCartney)
  • ‘As Clear As A Bell’* (McCartney)
  • ‘You Are Definitely Inclined Towards It’* (Lennon)
  • ‘Don’t Start Running’* (Lennon)

* 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 eight
George Harrison rejoins The Beatles
Also on this day...

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