Some call him “the fifth Beatle.”
On January 22, 1969, keyboard player Billy Preston joined John, Paul, George and Ringo in their Apple Studio on Savile Row, London, to cut some tracks.
This was the first day of the so-called “Get Back” sessions, a proposed film project to document the creation of a Beatles album. The “Get Back” sessions eventually resulted in the band’s final LP, “Let It Be.” But they also produced the smash hit single “Get Back,” credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” (The master take was recorded on January 28.)
Historian Mark Lewisohn superbly tells the tale of the Twilight of the Beatles in “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.”
According to Lewisohn, Billy Preston “happened to be in the Apple reception area on 22 January, and he was literally grabbed by George Harrison and cajoled into joining the Beatles sessions to alleviate the tense atmosphere” amongst the band... and also to add a fifth element to the organic, live-band sound of this particular project.
“The Beatles had known Preston since 1962,” writes Lewisohn, “when he was a teenage member of Little Richard’s backing group, sharing a two-week bill with the Beatles at the Star-Club, Hamburg.”
One of the songs recorded on Billy Preston’s first day with the Beatles was “Bathroom Window,” an early version of Paul McCartney’s “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window.” This song was set aside until the “Abbey Road” sessions later in ’69.
Click here to hear that early take of “Bathroom Window.” At the end, you’ll hear McCartney talking to Billy Preston about ways to change up the electric piano part.
This recording is available on the double-CD “The Beatles Anthology 3.”