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"Alternate" versions — which are the best?


Notes on ... Series Extra (BESTALTS)
  by Alan W. Pollack
  Next note Steven Michael Maser writes:
  So, I'm asking those that know: Which "alternate" versions of Beatle songs are worth hearing? Any ideas here?
  Next note To crib from Rogers and Hammerstein, here are a few of my favorite things; unreleased tracks to be taken to that metaphorical desert island. This list is by no means comprehensive and is intentionally focused almost entirely on studio outtakes. Anyone who seriously gets into this sort of stuff will likely want to branch out to include the Quarrymen material, Beeb radio shows, live concerts, etcetera, but for that, I'd recommend you ask 'saki' for Doug Sulpy's "Note" on this topic; that's where I learned almost everything I know about it; for starters, at any rate :-)
  Next note Strictly for the purposes of scholarship, here goes:
  • "I Saw Her Standing There" — Try take 2, a brisk performance in which John gets some of the words wrong, incomplete Take 6 which breaks down after the same word mistake, and 7 which quickly halts because the tempo is too fast.
  • "One After 909" — Takes 1 and 2 from 1963, a very different arrangement from the one on "Let It Be." Take 1 breaks down into a brief argument.
  • "From Me To You" — Takes 1 and 2 without harmonica intro or middle bridge section. The first take breaks down because of "whistling."
  • "Can't Buy Me Love" — A very different vocal arrangement in which Paul flubs the third verse.
  • "A Hard Day's Night" — Takes 6 and 7 give you a chance to hear non-double-tracked vocals, also without the well known piano/guitar solo bridge. First take breaks down after a "funny chord."
  • "Hold Me Tight" — Takes 22 and 23, both amusing breakdowns; Paul's comment after the latter one being rather out of character with the lyrics of the song.
  • "Leave My Kitten Alone" — An unreleased (non Lennon/McCartney) song originally intended for the "Beatles For Sale" (aka "Beatles '65") album but witheld probably because it was too "intense".
  • "I'm Looking Through You" — Take 1, in a different tempo and missing the bridge section of the official version.
  • "Norwegian Wood" — Take 1 is in a lower key and very different arrangement than the official version. Also try Take 4 of the familiar version from "Rubber Soul" in which John has trouble with the opening riff.
  • "Day Tripper" — Takes 1 - 3 show false starts followed by the final take in rough mix with no fade-out. There's a funny little noise after the line "tried to please her" which was rather clumsily edited out of the official version if you check it.
  • "Paperback Writer" — Features a count-in, no post-processed echo and no fade-out at end.
  • "I Am The Walrus" — Just rhythm backing track and John's vocal. NO special effects.
  • "Misery" — Takes 2 - 5: false starts including funny mistakes and studio chat.
  • "Help" — Takes 1 - 5 of just the instrumental backing track, 4 of which quickly break down.
  • "We Can Work It Out" — Take 1 is an incomplete run through of the backing instrumental. Take #2 is the final version in a mix which features the organ and harmonium mixed very far forward on the left.
  • "Yes It Is" — Two rough rehearsal takes with comic solo John vocal. The second one comes to an abrupt halt when a guitar string breaks.
  • "Hey Jude" — Take 9, a more "rocking" version than the official one. No backing vocals, no orchestra, and no George :-).
  • "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" — A fully polished early version totally scrapped in favor of the different arrangement on the White album.
  • "Fool On The Hill" — Early demo of Paul accompanying himself on piano.
  • "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" — Take 1, an early demo of just George and acoustic guitar.
  • "A Day In The Life" — Unfinished version with no orchestra crescendo. Paul makes a mistake in the middle section and blurts out an expletive. Sound is scratchy here because it's from a rush-demo acetate which miraculously was preserved; the original tape of this version was destroyed.
  • "You Never Give Me Your Money" — Missing much of the vocal and instrumental overdubs of the final version on "Abbey Road". There's an extended jam session at the end.
  • "Strawberry Fields Forever" — Take 1: very different arrangement than the official version. Many other takes of the two other versions which went into the making of the official song are also available.
  • "Two Of Us" — There are many outtakes of this song at various stages of polish. My favorite is the one in which the lyrics are sent up in exaggerated different British accents: posh, Scots, and Jamaican.
  • "Get Back" — Try the send-up in pretend German and French.
  • "Don't Let Me Down" — Try either the incomplete "Dicky-dicky-doo" version, or the rehearsal where they segue into "Devil In Her Heart".
  • "Two Of Us" / "There Once Was A Beautiful Girl" / "I'm Talking 'Bout You" — This is a choice sample of what typifies the rehearsal chatter of the "Get Back" sessions and gives you an idea of why the group broke up. Here, a rehearsal threatens to get out of control, Paul tries to bossily pull it back together and gets teased by George and flamed by John.
  Alan (080691)
Copyright © 1991 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.