In an all-black neighborhood of Washington, D.C., I grew up on Beatles music.
My big brother was a self-taught guitarist, and he studied the albums of the Beatles talmudically. So, from “Love Me Do” to “Get Back,” I know and love that catalogue.
I am not fanatical about Beatles history or trivia. But I acquired a cool book last year: “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn – a definitive accounting of every hour spent in EMI’s Abbey Road studios (pictured above) during the creation of every Beatles song.
Every outtake, every vocal overdub, every mixing session... this book walks you through all of it chronologically.
The effect of such an accumulation of detail is to create a sense of John, Paul, George and Ringo as four guys who showed up for work, just like you and I show up for work... except these fuckers showed up to work and recorded “Ticket to Ride.” It’s amazing to ponder.
On October 21, 1965, the Beatles recorded the master take of “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” a surpassingly beautiful pop song. (And somewhat historic; it was the first time a sitar was used on a rock-’n’-roll record.)
This was a good week for the Beatles. The day before, they recorded “We Can Work It Out.” The following day, they would cut “Nowhere Man,” and producer George Martin would add the finishing touch to “In My Life” by playing a baroque piano solo.
Getting back to “Norwegian Wood”... the Beatles had actually recorded a first take nine days earlier, when the song’s working title was simply “This Bird Has Flown.”
According to Mark Lewisohn, the group spent four and a half hours on the October 12 version, including rehearsals and overdubs, but “[t]he Beatles felt that it wasn’t right” so decided to re-make it later.
Lewisohn writes that the discarded first take is “quite different but equally as dazzling as the version which ended up on the LP.”
I don’t agree with that, but you can judge for yourself. “Norwegian Wood,” Take 1, was issued on the “Anthology 2” double-CD in 1996.
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