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Paul's recording perfectionism versus John
8 January 2023
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Sea Belt
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I’m comparing Paul and John in terms of how they dictate to the other how to play their instruments in any given song written by the one. For example, this short video clip of one of the sessions for The Long And Winding Road , showing John on bass, we can see Paul’s bossiness, the way he’s dictating exactly what he wants and basically treating John like a studio musician. So by comparison, I wonder how did John treat Paul when Paul was playing bass on John’s song Mean Mr Mustard ? Me and Mr Mustard particularly has a very pronounced and cool bass line, so was it a case of just John saying “Paul is so good, I don’t need to correct him at all”…? Or was it a case of Paul came up with the bass line for that song and John said “yeah that’s good, whatever.”

I know that John wrote a song right after the Beatles broke up in probably 1970 called I’m The Greatest on Ringo’s first album, and that has a very cool bass line that in some places resembles MMM (of course, maybe it was Klaus Voorman who came up with that bass line and John said yeah let’s go with that). That doesn’t mean he wrote the bass line for MMM. Or did he?  Even if the two somehow collaborated intricately on it, I suspect John would have approached it in a less bossy way.

Anyway it would be nice if any of the Beatles were still living to answer questions like these, or if any of the thousands of journalists who have interviewed them over the years would have thought to ask them actual questions of music instead of the usual celebrity blather or “tell me Paul, did Yoko really break up the Beatles?” etc.  Questions like these were interesting the first 500 times they were asked…

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9 January 2023
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That seems like a perfectly reasonable way for one musician to speak to another. There’s nothing I would label bossy in that interaction.

Also, half of the Beatles are still alive, what are you talking about?

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9 January 2023
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Sea Belt
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meaigs said
That seems like a perfectly reasonable way for one musician to speak to another. There’s nothing I would label bossy in that interaction.

Also, half of the Beatles are still alive, what are you talking about?

  

Well, I guess it’s relative and subjective.  To me saying “Don’t do it the way you’re doing it, do it the way I want” seems bossy. I can understand there are times when a musician would insist on a certain thing. I just wonder if Paul ever had give and take in these rehearsals. There’s a notorious clip from the same Abbey Road sessions where Paul is going on and on and on and freaking ON telling George he’s not doing the right guitar lick.

As for the still living Beatles, that was my sarcastic point.

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16 January 2023
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Shamrock Womlbs
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I do not remember any recorded evidence of John telling exactly what to play to any other musician so i can’t compare them. The only bossy bit i saw of him was in the Imagine film when he is really pissed off by a tape operator/recording engineer who can not find the right spot on the tape to do some overdubs.

I think in terms of notes to be played John was more relaxed than Paul, just giving a few small notions on how to play like “don’t play too busy” or “play it like Ringo”… probably not getting very much into details

But since i was not there i have no clue…

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Sea Belt

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16 January 2023
6.39pm
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I’m actually more like Paul in terms of perfectionism, both in personal musical experience, and also intellectually I can understand and appreciate that tendency. I realize this sounds preposterous, but I consider myself the good songwriter, so even if I’m deluding myself and I’m just a nobody in comparison with great famous musicians like Paul, that’s not relevant to the logic I’m exploring here.
 
In my songwriting, I experience parts of the song where I just know intuitively that I have it exactly right, and if I were in a studio with musicians fleshing it out with their instruments, I know exactly what I want them to do, there’s no leeway. But sometimes, in some of my songs, I’m uncertain about what exactly the drums should be doing here, what exactly the melody should be doing there at this particular juncture, etc. In that circumstance, I would welcome input from the other musicians, in order to patch up blank spots in my own song. But many of my songs have zero blank spots. I can map out every last note and beat from beginning to end, and I am certain that’s what I want, and I want no input on that. I assume with Paul, he also has some songs where he might have blank spots and would welcome input from others. And I imagine that during those years he collaborated more closely with John, they probably did that with each other back and forth. The nature of their musical intimacy probably made that process quicker and more instinctive than it might be with other musicians one doesn’t know that well.
 
I’ve also heard Paul Simon is that way, and what he has effectively done throughout his solo career is just recruit actual studio musicians who have been trained musically and psychologically to follow orders down to the last detail, and they don’t have this strange reaction of “how dare you tell me what to do, I’m a musician and I have ideas why aren’t you listening to them?” lol

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16 January 2023
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There’s a YouTube I saw a couple years ago and I can’t find it again. Basically, it shows James Taylor in the studio kicking back with his musicians talking about a song they’re currently recording (during the time of his album, Never Die Young, in the late 80s) while they’re on a break from actually recording it. Apparently as you listen to their conversation, some of it having nothing to do with the song, just friendly banter, it seems James Taylor ran into an impasse in his song, and he doesn’t know how to transition from one part to another, and they’re all just bouncing ideas around. At one point his bass player, the great Lee Sklar, Out Of The Blue just says, “hey why don’t you just do this for a few measures and go up in key a few times” and he demonstrates by scat singing and drumming his hands on an amp. And that’s exactly what the finished product does. My link here of the song picks up right before that point, where James Taylor sings “soulful as a baby’s cry, my sweet potato pie…”

After that you’ll hear how there’s an instrumental interlude that stair steps up half step by half step, from F to F sharp to G then landing on A for the key change that eventually ends the song. JT never credited Sklar, and Sklar probably doesn’t care.

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16 January 2023
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Sea Belt said

I’m actually more like Paul in terms of perfectionism, both in personal musical experience, and also intellectually I can understand and appreciate that tendency. I realize this sounds preposterous, but I consider myself the good songwriter, so even if I’m deluding myself and I’m just a nobody in comparison with great famous musicians like Paul, that’s not relevant to the logic I’m exploring here.
 
In my songwriting, I experience parts of the song where I just know intuitively that I have it exactly right, and if I were in a studio with musicians fleshing it out with their instruments, I know exactly what I want them to do, there’s no leeway. But sometimes, in some of my songs, I’m uncertain about what exactly the drums should be doing here, what exactly the melody should be doing there at this particular juncture, etc. In that circumstance, I would welcome input from the other musicians, in order to patch up blank spots in my own song. But many of my songs have zero blank spots. I can map out every last note and beat from beginning to end, and I am certain that’s what I want, and I want no input on that. I assume with Paul, he also has some songs where he might have blank spots and would welcome input from others. And I imagine that during those years he collaborated more closely with John, they probably did that with each other back and forth. The nature of their musical intimacy probably made that process quicker and more instinctive than it might be with other musicians one doesn’t know that well.
 
I’ve also heard Paul Simon is that way, and what he has effectively done throughout his solo career is just recruit actual studio musicians who have been trained musically and psychologically to follow orders down to the last detail, and they don’t have this strange reaction of “how dare you tell me what to do, I’m a musician and I have ideas why aren’t you listening to them?” lol

  

I don’t know what that has to do with the topic…

You remind me a lot of another forum user: Darkoverlord.

"I Need You by George Harrison"

16 January 2023
9.06pm
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Sea Belt
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Clue: the 5th and 9th words in my 1st paragraph you quoted (counting “I’m” as one word).

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17 January 2023
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Sea Belt said
There’s a YouTube I saw a couple years ago and I can’t find it again. Basically, it shows James Taylor in the studio kicking back with his musicians talking about a song they’re currently recording (during the time of his album, Never Die Young, in the late 80s) while they’re on a break from actually recording it. Apparently as you listen to their conversation, some of it having nothing to do with the song, just friendly banter, it seems James Taylor ran into an impasse in his song, and he doesn’t know how to transition from one part to another, and they’re all just bouncing ideas around. At one point his bass player, the great Lee Sklar, Out Of The Blue just says, “hey why don’t you just do this for a few measures and go up in key a few times” and he demonstrates by scat singing and drumming his hands on an amp. And that’s exactly what the finished product does. My link here of the song picks up right before that point, where James Taylor sings “soulful as a baby’s cry, my sweet potato pie…”

After that you’ll hear how there’s an instrumental interlude that stair steps up half step by half step, from F to F sharp to G then landing on A for the key change that eventually ends the song. JT never credited Sklar, and Sklar probably doesn’t care.

  

I don’t know what that has to do with the topic…

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17 January 2023
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Sea Belt
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it discusses how James Taylor was open to one of his musicians in their suggestion on modifying his song — specifically because at that moment in his song JT came up to a blank spot. In my previous posting that was one of the reasons I theorized when Paul might be open to suggestions, when his own song in his mind is not completely mapped out, and he still has some unknown areas that he doesn’t know what to do with as distinct from songs (or passages in songs) where he’s absolutely certain what he wants — every note, every beat, every word.

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22 January 2023
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The way I saw it, was Paul was a perfectionist, and the others were more content to finish up a song with less takes…

 

Nothing wrong with that, as they all came out great! 

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22 January 2023
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Sea Belt
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It seems when we hear about Beatles songs that took an insane amount of takes before they settled on the final, it’s usually (or always in my memory) a Paul song — Obladi, Oblada, Blackbird , Maxwell’s Silver Hammer , etc. I wonder how many takes George needed for his Savoy Truffle or John for his Sexy Sadie or Ringo for his Don’t Pass Me By ?
 
It seems fairly clear after the dust has settled — though we don’t have definitive proof but we do have a lot of indications — that Paul was significantly more perfectionist than the other three, and that this tendency of his periodically annoyed them and may have contributed to their itchiness to disband.
 
But at the end of the day, in terms of the musical product, I think Paul was right, because he had the right vision and knew how to get there, and this did not brook nor need any input from others. I dare say that the transcendent excellence of Side 2 of Abbey Road (from track 2 to the end) could not and would not have been achieved without Paul effectively taking command of every musical nuance 90% of the time, probably annoying the others, even if grudgingly they would concede that Paul was right to do so.

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22 January 2023
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Sea Belt said

It seems when we hear about Beatles songs that took an insane amount of takes before they settled on the final, it’s usually (or always in my memory) a Paul song — Obladi, Oblada, Blackbird , Maxwell’s Silver Hammer , etc. I wonder how many takes George needed for his Savoy Truffle or John for his Sexy Sadie or Ringo for his Don’t Pass Me By ?

  

Regarding songs written by George, I know that All Things Must Pass and Not Guilty ran to over 70 takes and over 100 takes respectively.

I find this commentary by Matt Williamson very interesting:

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23 January 2023
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Sea Belt
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@Richard 
 
I listened to both parts, good videos, I think I’ll subscribe. 
 
It sounds to me like even though George is “taking command” as the videographer puts it, nevertheless George isn’t really clear in his mind what his song should be in the finished product — he’s kind of still working it out with the rest of the Beatles, and they’re helping him. Of course he has a better idea what it is he’s in the process of molding because it’s his song, but he doesn’t have it all nailed down beforehand brought to them finished in his mind, and wants to use them to realize what he already has in his mind — which is what I think Paul does in the times I’ve seen him or read about recording experiences.
 
So the reason George took some many takes is because he didn’t really know what the song should be in its finished state and he’s working it out through those takes. But the reason Paul takes so many, I think, is because it’s so difficult to realize the perfect song he already has his mind in all its details, probably for himself as well. He may try to play what he has in his mind but becomes perfectionistically frustrated that he didn’t do it quite right — and so he has to keep doing it over and over. I don’t think he kept doing Blackbird over and over and over and over again because he didn’t know what he wanted to play and he was working it out by playing it over and over again — rather, he already knew what he wanted, but he wasn’t able to get it just right so he had to keep repeating. This doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t have talent in guitar playing, it just could mean that he’s so perfectionist about realizing what he has in his mind that everything has to be right on the verge of being unrealistically exact.
 
On another note, at one point the videographer says that George momentarily left the band and that it was not because of a fight between him and Paul but between him and John. Then he plays what he says is the only audio they have of this which occurs at the end of the supposed fight — but all it records is George saying he’s going to leave and John being the only person responding with terse remarks, but there’s nothing in what George says there nor in what John says that proves that it was because of a fight between George and John.

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23 January 2023
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Sea Belt said

I listened to both parts, good videos, I think I’ll subscribe.  It sounds to me like even though George is “taking command” as the videographer puts it, nevertheless George isn’t really clear in his mind what his song should be in the finished product — he’s kind of still working it out with the rest of the Beatles, and they’re helping him. Of course he has a better idea what it is he’s in the process of molding because it’s his song, but he doesn’t have it all nailed down beforehand brought to them finished in his mind, and wants to use them to realize what he already has in his mind — which is what I think Paul does in the times I’ve seen him or read about recording experiences.

Yes, I think the other Beatles – particularly Paul – were being quite supportive.

On another note,at one point the videographer says that George momentarily left the band and that it was not because of a fight between him and Paul but between him and John. Then he plays what he says is the only audio they have of this which occurs at the end of the supposed fight — but all it records is George saying he’s going to leave and John being the only person responding with terse remarks, but there’s nothing in what George says there nor in what John says that proves that it was because of a fight between George and John. 

I wonder if the videographer, Matt Williamson, has any other information about this. I might contact Matt and ask him.

I have read many times that there was some kind of fight between George and John, and I suspect this is so, but I don’t know if there is substantive confirmation.

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24 January 2023
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@Sea Belt, I contacted Matt Williamson, and he kindly gave me a detailed reply:

I do have some other sources that add to sequence of events.

In my videos, I referenced the Sulpy-Schweigart book who stated that the row was “not between George and Paul” but between “George and John” which was right before lunch on Jan. 10, 1969.

Glyn Johns adds this in Graeme Thompson’s 2015 George Harrison biography Behind the Locked Door:

“When it became apparent that there was going to be a bit of an argument, those of us who weren’t in the band left the room. It was clear that it would be intrusive for us to remain. So what actually was said and what went on I don’t know, but I do know that George left the band that day. The whole thing was very uncomfortable, and it was very embarrassing for me and others who were not in the band to be close by while this was going on — to have to watch this begin and be there in the immediate aftermath. It was very unpleasant and I felt really awkward.”

I’m not sure what ‘room’ Johns was referring that he ‘left’ but I think it is safe to assume that the argument did not take place in the space where they were filming. It’s also been reported that this happened just prior to their lunch break.

It appears that to leave Twickenham one had to walk through the area where filming was being done, which would account for capturing the John/George dialog on the nagra reels as George left.

Johns wrote this in his 2014 autobiography Sound Man:
“I have a very clear memory of sitting outside in the bleak surroundings of the soundstage at Twickenham on that cold gray afternoon with Denis [O’Dell], the line producer for the film, both of us praying that the elation of being employed for a project with the most successful artist in the world was not about to come to a grinding halt after two days.

It is not my place to discuss any detail of what happened, but it is common knowledge that George left the band and was persuaded to return a couple of days later.”

We also know that the remaining 3 Beatles did go out to lunch and came back a bit buzzed, then the proceeded to do their jam with Yoko.

Media was there and picked up on this saying the press that it came to blows but this has been refuted by John, George and Mal in separate interviews. George Martin said “It came to blows” though he was not present, having arrived as George was leaving. Incidentally, Martin had dented Harrison’s Mercedes as he arrived.

If I ever interview Glyn Johns, I will try to get more out of him!

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25 January 2023
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Shamrock Womlbs said
I do not remember any recorded evidence of John telling exactly what to play to any other musician so i can’t compare them. The only bossy bit i saw of him was in the Imagine film when he is really pissed off by a tape operator/recording engineer who can not find the right spot on the tape to do some overdubs.

I think in terms of notes to be played John was more relaxed than Paul, just giving a few small notions on how to play like “don’t play too busy” or “play it like Ringo”… probably not getting very much into details

But since i was not there i have no clue…

  

In a Julia demo he says “leave those spaces, Paul”. And during Let It Be , he’s fine with realising Paul’s vision so it doesn’t become something he didn’t intend. 

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25 January 2023
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@Richard 

Two quotes arouse further questions:

“When it became apparent that there was going to be a bit of an argument, those of us who weren’t in the band left the room. It was clear that it would be intrusive for us to remain. So what actually was said and what went on I don’t know, but I do know that George left the band that day. The whole thing was very uncomfortable, and it was very embarrassing for me and others who were not in the band to be close by while this was going on — to have to watch this begin and be there in the immediate aftermath. It was very unpleasant and I felt really awkward.”

If Johns was there long enough to know there was an argument brewing, it stands to reason that he has at least some idea what it was about. It would have been nice for him to add that to his memory. Was it just about music? Was it about Yoko? Was it about something else?
 

“We also know that the remaining 3 Beatles did go out to lunch and came back a bit buzzed, then the proceeded to do their jam with Yoko.”

From the YouTube, my memory is that the incident where George stalks out of the studio seamlessly transitioned into John saying he’s pissed, and then he and the others spontaneously starting up a jam. Unless Matt played two different recordings back to back and didn’t mention he was doing that, or he did and it slipped my notice…

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26 January 2023
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Sea Belt said

Two quotes arouse further questions:

“When it became apparent that there was going to be a bit of an argument, those of us who weren’t in the band left the room. It was clear that it would be intrusive for us to remain. So what actually was said and what went on I don’t know, but I do know that George left the band that day. The whole thing was very uncomfortable, and it was very embarrassing for me and others who were not in the band to be close by while this was going on — to have to watch this begin and be there in the immediate aftermath. It was very unpleasant and I felt really awkward.”

If Johns was there long enough to know there was an argument brewing, it stands to reason that he has at least some idea what it was about. It would have been nice for him to add that to his memory. Was it just about music? Was it about Yoko? Was it about something else?

Glyn Johns may have decided that it was polite to keep it confidential (as you suggest, one possibility is that it could have been about Yoko), and he might choose to reveal more information after the passage of time since this incident occurred? Matt wrote: “If I ever interview Glyn Johns, I will try to get more out of him!”

“We also know that the remaining 3 Beatles did go out to lunch and came back a bit buzzed, then the proceeded to do their jam with Yoko.”

From the YouTube, my memory is that the incident where George stalks out of the studio seamlessly transitioned into John saying he’s pissed, and then he and the others spontaneously starting up a jam. Unless Matt played two different recordings back to back and didn’t mention he was doing that, or he did and it slipped my notice…

I think there may be supplementary information – for example, diary notes – that the other three Beatles went out to lunch. It wouldn’t be surprising in the circumstances.

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26 January 2023
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This supposed fight between John and George still perplexes me, because did it even really happen? It mostly seems like it was exaggerated or blown out of proportion. Wasn’t it something drummed up by magazines around the time George left and they were just throwing around any kind of gossip? I feel like if it really happened we would hear a lot more about it and in more detail, because it would be a massive deal. All I’ve really heard was that it some argument about Yoko’s presence in the studio, but that’s too vague. Then again, George Martin did say something about the fight, and he definitely isn’t someone to make false claims or start petty drama….. a-hard-days-night-paul-7 Maybe he’s misremembering?

I must say though, if any of the Beatles were to get into a physical fight, it would absolutely undoubtedly be between John and George lol. 

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