Graham Reid | | 1 min read
When, in early 1994, the remaining Beatles (aka the Threetles) got together to work on the demo of the late John Lennon's Free As A Bird they at least had the bare bones of a vaguely interesting, if somewhat stodgy, song.
Lennon's widow Yoko Ono had previously given McCartney three Lennon home demos at the induction of Lennon into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, and with the Beatles Anthology brewing it must have made sense to get the band back together and digitally recreate three new Beatles singles, one for each volume in the CD series.
Free As a Bird was, as with the other demos, not just unfinished but poorly recorded on a home tape recorder on a mono cassette.
Harrison didn't much rate the song but, apparently, he was getting increasingly hard up after the failure of Handmade Films and a looming court case, so joined in. He became more enthusiastic after watching some of the Anthology footage being prepared.
And so in February and March on '94 the Threetles, with Lennon beamed in from beyond the grave, set about constructing a new Beatles' song. Lennon's part is perhaps the least of it and the raw material was elevated by Harrison's pointed slide guitar and the added lyrcis (presumaby from McCartney, they have his sentimental and nostalgic quality) which asked pointedly "Whatever happened to, the life that we once knew . . ."
But the song -- given a solid nudge by the excellent video -- briefly took flight, although it remained firmly among the more dull songs from Lennon. Maybe he never intended this fragment to see the light of day.
The follow-up however, Real Love from '79, was something Lennon did at least six takes of around the same time . . . so maybe he had some plans for it. With a little work it might not have sounded out of place on Double Fantasy of the following year.
But again, it was incomplete and so much work was needed by producer Jeff Lynne (who had to varispeed the original tape to give it some life) and the Threetles that all plans to do the third Lennon left-over were abandoned.
This, as you can hear, is Lennon's first take of Real Love (the Threetles used take six) and although the audio quality is bad and the vocal lost behind the piano in the first verses there is something unusual about it.
Imagine he had recorded this with guitar rather than piano and you might have something -- especially in the bridge and chorus -- which isn't too far removed from early Neil Young's wistful and plaintive sound of the lat Sixties/early Seventies.
This version appeared on the Yoko-sanctioned radio series about Lennon and was on the Lost Lennon Tapes series which appeared on vinyl.
For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.