Paul McCartney: vocals, acoustic guitar
One of the rarest of all Beatles-era recordings, ‘Etcetera’ was an early version of ‘Thingumybob’, written by Paul McCartney and later recorded by the Black Dyke Mills Band for Apple Records.
While waiting for the session musicians to arrive, McCartney recorded a single take of ‘Etcetera’. He then listened to a playback, before the tape was taken away by George Martin’s assistant Chris Thomas.
This was a very beautiful song. I recall it was a ballad and had the word ‘etcetera’ several times in the lyric. I only heard it twice: when he recorded it and when we played it back to him. The tape was taken away and I’ve never heard of it since.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Paul McCartney recalled the song in his authorised biography Many Years From Now, though in less favourable terms. In the book he recalled that it was composed with Marianne Faithfull in mind, but neither she nor The Beatles ever recorded it properly.
I knew Marianne so it was natural that I would be asked to write a song at some point. I did write a song but it was not a very good one. It was called ‘Etcetera’ and it’s a bad song. I think it’s a good job that it’s died a death in some tape bin. Even then I seem to remember thinking it wasn’t very good. There was always the temptation to keep your better songs for yourself and then give your next-best songs to other established people, so when it was someone like Marianne, who at the time was a newcomer, those people would tend to end up with fairly dreadful offerings of mine.
I suppose, thinking back on it, after ‘As Tears Go By’ maybe they were looking for more sort of a ‘Yesterday’, something more poignant, more baroque. I probably thought, well, this is really all I’ve got at the moment. I’ll send it round and hope it’s all OK, and maybe they’ll put a baroque thing on it and that’ll make it OK. She probably did ‘Yesterday’ because they figured, Well at least it’s better than ‘Etcetera’.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
McCartney’s uncharacteristically and emphatically harsh judgement of his own song seems curious, particularly as it is so contradictory Alan Brown’s recollection. Furthermore, his wish that it ended up in a tape bin is odd given his normal willingness to embrace 1960s nostalgia.
When Many Years From Now was published in 1997, the recording of ‘Etcetera’ was yet to come to light. However, in the early years of the 21st century an acetate copy surfaced in McCartney’s personal archive, which confirmed that it was, in fact, a version of ‘Thingumybob’.
McCartney’s recording from 20 August 1968 featured lyrics, an extra bridge, and a softer introduction which was similar to that of ‘Here, There And Everywhere’.
‘Thingumybob’ had been recorded in Saltaire near Bradford, Yorkshire on 30 June 1968. McCartney produced the session, and the song was released by Apple, meaning that the EMI studio staff may not have recognised its similarity to ‘Etcetera’.
As for McCartney’s recollection in Many Years From Now, it is possible that he was mistaken and thinking about a different composition.