Written by: Lennon-McCartney-Harrison-Starkey
Recorded: 4 November 1965
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith
Released: 18 March 1996 (UK), 19 March 1996 (US)
An attempt at an R&B/soul recording, 12-Bar Original was The Beatles’ first instrumental since the group signed to EMI in 1962.
Although recorded in 1965, it wasn’t released until 1996, when an edited version was included on Anthology 2. The full uncut version is over six minutes long.
A rather dull and uneventful 12-bar blues workout featuring George Martin on harmonium, the tune was The Beatles’ attempt at a blues recording loosely based on Booker T and the MGs’ 1962 hit Green Onions.
However, the group seemed unable to instill much panache in the recording; the tune fails to ignite and remains plodding for much of its duration. It was likely never seriously considered for release during The Beatles’ career.
The Beatles were aware of the influence of the blues and soul on mid-60s groups such as The Yardbirds and The Animals. ‘Plastic soul’ was a phrase spoken several times by Paul McCartney during the June 1965 session for I’m Down. He explained to the rest of the group that it was a term used by black musicians to describe Mick Jagger.
If ‘Rubber soul’ was The Beatles’ take on it, 12-Bar Original could be seen as a manifestation of that type of music. After The Beatles’ split, it was rumoured that Rubber Soul was originally intended to have an instrumental title track – it could well be that 12-Bar Original was that piece.
John Lennon and Ringo Starr were the only Beatles to comment publicly on the tune. In a US radio interview, Lennon was asked if there were any unissued Beatles recordings, and replied that he recalled just “some lousy 12 bar”. Starr told a journalist that “We all wrote the track and I have an acetate of one of the versions”.
In the studio
They first rehearsed the tune, then wiped the recording of it with two takes. The first broke down, but the second lasted 6’42”. An edit of this, lasting 2’55”, was eventually released in 1996 on Anthology 2.
A mono mix of 12-Bar Original was made on 30 November 1965, just three days before the UK release of Rubber Soul, and far too late for inclusion. Acetate discs of the mix were then cut for The Beatles’ private collections.