By Tony Sokol
(Photo : Getty Images/Keystone)
LONDON, Oct. 9, 2015 /Daily Offbeat/ — John Lennon would be turning 75 years old today if his life was not cut short on the street outside his New York City apartment. The Beatles may be one of the most successful recording artists of all time, but they went out of their way to keep their offbeat roots. They recorded in odd time signatures and made it sound like pure pop. The Beatles recorded sound collages and experimented with recording techniques that drove their engineers crazy.
The Beatles wrote great songs, but they also knew the performance of the songs was as important as the chords and melodies that carried them. One song that, according to Beatles mythology, took forever to capture the electric feel was Paul McCartney’s Caribbean-tinged ditty “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.” You all know it, as George Harrison sang on “Savoy Truffle.” The band attempted so many takes that the frustration of the band was felt by the rest of the world through some kind of cosmic osmosis, and this was before Hari Georgeson became fully awakened through the grace of Krishna and before Lennon called himself Captain Kundalini.
According to Geoff Emerick, in his book “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles,” on July 8th, 1968, The Beatles showed up at EMI Studio Two on Abbey Road to find McCartney back at work singing about Desmond and Molly.
“John went ballistic,” Emerick wrote. “Ranting and raving, he headed out the door, with Yoko trailing closely behind, and we thought that we’d seen the last of him that evening. But a few hours later he stormed back into the studio, clearly in a highly altered state of mind.”
“‘I AM FUCKING STONED!!’ John Lennon bellowed from the top of the stairs. He had chosen to make his entrance through the upstairs door, presumably so that he could quickly gain the attention of the three startled Beatles below. Swaying slightly, he continued, waving his arms for emphasis. ‘I am more stoned than you have ever been. In fact, I am more stoned than you will ever be!’…’And this,’ Lennon added with a snarl, ‘is how the f*cking song should go.’ Unsteadily, he lurched down the stairs and over to the piano and began smashing the keys with all his might, pounding out the famous opening chords that became the song’s introduction, played at a breakneck tempo. A very upset Paul got right in Lennon’s face. For a moment I thought fists might fly.”
“‘Okay, then, John,’ he said in short, clipped words, staring his deranged bandmate straight in the eye. ‘Let’s do it your way.’ As angry as he was, I think that deep down inside Paul was flattered that his longtime collaborator had given the song any thought at all…even though he had obviously done so while getting out of his skull.”
The story was corroborated by Richard Lush, engineer, in the book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn.
“John Lennon came to the session really stoned, totally out of it on something or other, and he said, ‘All right, we’re gonna do Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. He went straight to the piano and smashed the keys with an almighty amount of volume, twice the speed of how they’d done it before, and said, ‘This is it! Come on!’ He was really aggravated. That was the version they ended up using.”
Happy Birthday to the witty Beatle.
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