“Listen to the music. Would George have ever flourished like that if we’d carried on with the group? No chance! There was no room! If people need The Beatles so much, all they have to do is buy each album and…put it on tape, track by track, one of me, one of Paul, one of George, one of Ringo if they really need it that much…the music is just the same only on separate albums. Instead of having ‘The White Album’ or ‘Abbey Road’, where I sing a song, George sings a song, Paul sings a song, Ringo sings a song, boom, boom, boom like that, we make an album each. That’s the only difference. And it’s far better music because we’re not suppressed…” John Lennon.
If the second Derek & the Dominos is one of the many what-ifs from music history (see Bruno McDonald’s wonderful The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear book for a whole tome dedicated to the topic), what is the greatest music what-if? What if Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix had not died young? What if Peter Green and Syd Barrett not been waylaid by drugs? What if Brian Wilson had finished the ‘Smile’ album in 1967 or any of the other years is was rumoured to be coming out throughout the early 70s? It is doubtful that any of these would be a great as The Beatles continuing to make records together after 1970. Now, I am not the first person to give this a go by a long shot, but there really isn’t any harm in creating an alternative timeline for The Beatles going into the early 70s? I do feel though that there needs to be some ground rules before starting on this venture.
- All of the songs must be from a solo Beatles release. Therefore, no outtakes or demos from the later Beatles albums (especially as I have used these elsewhere) but a solo release whilst The Beatles were still a recording band is fair game in being made an official band release. However….
- I will not be using anything from the more experimental works. I know that the ‘White Album’ had Revolution #9 on it but I don’t feel that Harrisons’ ‘Wonderwall Music’ or ‘Electronic Sound’ along with Lennon & Ono’s ‘Unfinished Music’ and ‘Wedding Album’ fit into what could be considered a Beatle record (Revolution #9 not withstanding). These therefore stay as solo releases in this alternative timeline.
- The sides of the records must not exceed the limited playing time of the LP. This first volume does have some long playing times with the longest side clocking in just under 26 minutes. Long for an LP but not unheard of.
- This might be called the Lost Beatles albums, but singles will also be included. Like the early days of the band, songs used on singles will not to be used on LPs. There was so much material to choose from, this proved to be rather easy to accomplish.
- Everything is available to use. This can therefore include songs from the early 70s where the band members openly criticise or at least mention one other. Would these songs have been written at all if the band had stayed together? Ringo’s song ‘Early 1970′ has been described as a sort of peace treaty to the other three members of the band after their official break up in April 1970, but this has been used. The same goes for tracks that have been included on the album in McCartney’s’ ‘Too Many People’ from his ‘Ram’ album, Harrison’s ‘Wah Wah’ and Lennon’s’ How Do You Sleep? I have had to take the view that these songs were already written or may have been written anyway (with different lyrics) so there is no reason not to include them.
- Taking all of the above into account, the following is an alternative history of The Beatles from mid-1969 until 1971. All the release dates are fictitious and for the UK only.
- There was another problem when putting this compilation together and that is Paul McCartney’s output in 1970. Even though he released his first solo album that year, that was it for the year and to be fair, it is not a great record. This is in marked contrast to Lennon and Harrison who were very busy that year. Lennon released one classic album and a couple of singles (depending on the territory). Harrison released a triple album and a massive selling single in ‘My Sweet Lord’. Ringo released two albums (the first all covers, the second consisting primarily of songs written with his voice in mind) and a single. In the archives there is at least one more record that Ringo has yet to release (as of 2020). To give McCartney more representation on the record, which may have occurred naturally as he was suffering from a depression caused by the breakup of the band, I opened up the scope of the record to what the band recorded as solo artists in 1971 as well. This is why there are a number of songs from the ‘Imagine’ and ‘Ram’ albums. The fact that some of the songs from those albums were presented during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions means that some of these songs may well have been ready to be recorded in 1970. As this is an alternative history, I feel that this is acceptable. It also makes for a stronger set of releases. I hope you agree.
With the ‘Abbey Road’ recording session nearing their end, three of the four Beatles meet to record a message to Ringo (who is ill at the time) that outline the future of the band, with Lennon reasserting himself after his drug addictions and side projects with Yoko Ono distracted him from the task at hand. Namely, being in The Beatles. He proclaims that the band need a break, to take stock of where they are, allow the ‘Let it Be’ project to come out, warts and all, and that the next album will be more of a band effort. That means it will have more contributions from George Harrison as his song writing abilities have improved massively since the early years of the band and Ringo will have some space for anything he comes up with. McCartney has had reservations about Harrisons songs but decides to keep his own council on this as he does not want the group to split up. The band has essentially taken up his entire adult life and he doesn’t want to let that go just yet. Lennon also says how much his dislikes some of McCartney’s more anodyne efforts such as ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and continues by saying that they should be given to other artists on the Apple label, in the same way he had done with previous efforts for the likes of Mary Hopkin and Badfinger.
McCartney tries to defend the song but Harrison points out that no one else in the band liked it. McCartney leaves it at that and Lennon
‘Something/Come Together’ comes out in late August 1969 and reaches Number 4 in the UK Charts, their lowest placing since their debut, ‘Love Me Do’. Fans are used to the band not putting their singles on their albums so are surprised in September when the parent album comes out that these are the first two songs on the album. The press speculate that this, and the Side 2 medley show that The Beatles are running out of ideas, or at worse, are a spent force. The fact members of the band are seen doing everything they can to not to be The Beatles only adds weight to this suggestion. Lennon has been in Toronto to take part in the city’s Rock and Roll Revival Festival, accompanied Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White. There, Lennon introduces two new songs that he says will be released by The Beatles in the near future. These are ‘Give Peace a Chance’ (which Lennon had recorded in the June, but had kept back whilst trying to work out if he saw a future in The Beatles) and ‘Cold Turkey’. He takes the tapes from this show and releases an EP of songs, which includes ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Money’, ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzie’ and ‘Don’t Worry Koyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand in the Snow)’. The EP is released as the Live Peace in Toronto EP with profits going to refugees from the Nigerian-Biafran War.
Lennon then finishes work on his third collaborative effort with Ono, which is called the ‘Wedding Album’. This comes out in November and is met with less than favourable reviews by the music press. Feeling that he needs to highlight the pain and suffering to millions around the world to the many wars that were occurring at the time, he digs ‘Give Peace a Chance’ out of the archive and releases it in time for Christmas. It is released under The Beatles name, even though none of the other Beatles play on it and has the song writing credit Lennon-Ono on the label. When asked why he did this by London based journalist David Wigg, Lennon felt that the message would reach a wider audience than if he had released it under his own name. He is also asked by Wigg about the song writing credit for which Lennon replies “Well, she helped me write it and Paul didn’t”. Energised by all that he has done over the previous four months and feeling focused once again after giving up drugs, Lennon retreats to his home in Ascot to write some new material.
Starr recovers from his illness and spends his time recording tracks for what will become his first solo album. Unlike previous Beatles solo recordings up to this point, Starr’s record would not be a soundtrack, live or experimental. Instead, it would be an album of standards that would be music his mother would like. Employing George Martin to produce, Starr asked a number of famous musicians such as Quincy Jones and band mate Paul McCartney to lend a hand arranging the records. As well as recording, Starr went to the premier of his film The Magic Christian, hanging out with his co-star in the film Peter Sellers and plonking around on various musical instruments trying to come up with some material for use when The Beatles re-convene in the New Year.
Harrison spends his time in late 1969 writing songs, looking for a new home more suited to his need for privacy and going out on the road in December with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Harrison was still a bit annoyed that he had not been able to secure Delaney and Bonnie to Apple Records but loved the freedom of playing in their band. He joined them for the UK and Scandinavian legs of the tour before returning home to buy Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames. There he installs a recording studio so he can record when he wants and with whom he wants just in case Lennon’s insistence that Harrison have more of a presence on Beatles records does not amount to anything. He already has a massive backlog of songs due to his limited space on Beatles LPs but sets to work on a new batch for a possible solo LP which he had first thought about doing in early 1969 when he walked out of the ‘Let it Be’ recording sessions.
McCartney on the other hand had taken the criticism from Lennon and Harrison badly and retreated to his High Park Farm on Kintyre in Scotland. He is suffering from depression and mostly drunk, which was not the best environment to raise his wife Linda’s seven-year-old daughter and his own child by her. After two months where McCartney believes he suffered a nervous breakdown and produced little to no music, the family returns to London. McCartney has a small recording set up in his London home and begins recording. These include tunes designed to test the equipment as well as songs that were put forward at the ‘Let it Be’ sessions, but not professionally recorded. On hearing that Lennon is preparing to release ‘Give Peace a Chance’ for a single release under The Beatles name, McCartney returns to Abbey Road to record some of these sketches by himself with ‘That Would Be Something’ finished first. Lennon, needing a B-Side for ‘Give Peace a Chance’ asks what is knocking about and instead of using a song from the archive, uses ‘That Would Be Something’. Lennon does feel a bit guilty that he has cut McCartney out of the song writing partnership that has been so profitable for the both of them throughout the 60s.
McCartney feels the song is not one of his best songs, but will do for a B-Side and agrees not to take any royalties, instead donating them to the same charity as the A-side. However, this does inspire
s him to start working more seriously on his songs once more. His confidence takes a knock when he hears what Phil Spector has been doing in the studio when mixing the ‘Let it Be’ tapes.
Starr finishes recording his first solo album and with ‘Let It Be’ still not ready, it is decided to put out Sentimental Journey in March of 1970 as stop gap. Whilst not as successful as a Beatles album would have been, his reputation as the band’s drummer is enough to ensure healthy sales, especially as he did not release a single to promote it. Feeling inspired by this success, Starr finishes off two songs (with a little help from Harrison who declines to take a writing credit) that he has been working on for the previous few months. It is when mixing his album that Lennon sends out the call for the band to get back together as he has two songs he wants to put out as a double A-Side as soon as possible. The result is ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Cold Turkey’, which does well in the charts but fails to make the converted Number 1 spot due to Lee Marvin’s recording of ‘Wandering Star’.
When Spector presents the final mix of ‘Let it Be’ to the band, McCartney is particularly unhappy with the way in which his songs have been drenched in strings and choirs, but the other three Beatles wanting to draw a line under this project and without any other new material recorded, decide to release the album as is. Even though not the strongest of Beatles records, the album is released in May of 1970 and reaches Number 1 around the world and gives the band some breathing space to get back to the studio to record the songs that have been stockpiled since the final sessions for ‘Abbey Road’. Booking out Abbey Road for five months, the band present their ideas and it is clear to all that McCartney does not have as many songs as Lennon and Harrison, and only ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is up to the standards he had set himself in the 60s. The first songs recorded are ‘Jealous Guy’, an old song that Lennon has finally completed with a lyric he is finally happy with and Starr’s ‘Early 1970’, written when he was unsure if the band would ever record together again.
Lennon has been writing feverishly and wants some of his songs to sound as though Phil Spector has thrown his Wall of Sound at it. Lennon feels that some of the other songs would benefit from as sparse a backing as possible; essentially, one guitar (or piano), bass and drums. This second set of recordings is inspired by Lennon’s Primal Scream therapy and deals with very personal subjects. The other Beatles feel these might have been better on a solo Lennon release, but on hearing the strength of the material, it is decided to use them. His other recordings are more spiritual in nature, dealing with his love for Ono and his continued message for peace. Spector is brought in to oversee these sessions, which annoys McCartney as he is still angry over what he sees as the over-production of the ‘Let It Be’ material. Harrison also likes the production techniques of Spector and supports Lennon choosing him as producer.
With such a backlog of songs to choose from, the band record enough of his material to fill a double album of Harrison songs. McCartney realises that he needs to raise his game or he will just be a sideman with little input into the album, so he goes away and listens to his sketches and Let it Be outtakes to see what he can resurrect. One of the songs is ‘Another Day’ which the band
s decides would make a good single and so is released as another double A-Side with Lennon’s ‘Power to the People’. With the album taking shape, Harrison presents ‘My Sweet Lord’ as a potential single in competition to ‘Another Day’, but the band decide that it would be better to release this as a Christmas single due to the spiritual message of the song. Harrison agrees to this and ‘Another Day’ reaches Number 2. The Beatles may not be hitting Number 1, but they are still selling a good number of records to show that they are still relevant to the music buying public.
McCartney finally rediscovers his muse and starts bringing in some quality new material, meaning that he is well represented even though that did not look like being the case at the beginning of the sessions. Starr even brings in his first classic self-written song, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’. Recording sessions finish in October and the band agree that they have too many songs for a single LP, so it is decided to put out a double. The album is released in December 1970 and even though it does not receive as many advance sales as the ‘White Album’, they are still high enough that the album goes into the LP charts at Number 1. ‘My Sweet Lord’ also goes straight in at Number 1 and the band enters 1971 as they left the 60s: the biggest band in the world.
- Mother (Album Version) – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
- Imagine – Imagine
- Some People Never Know – Wildlife
- I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier – Imagine
- All Things Must Pass – All Things Must Pass
- Wah Wah – All Things Must Pass
- Working Class Hero – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
- Heart Of The Country – Ram
- It Don’t Come Easy – Single A-Side
- Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey – Ram
- Love – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
- My Mummy’s Dead – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
- I’d Have You Anytime – All Things Must Pass
- Every Night – McCartney
- Oh Yoko – Imagine
- How Do You Sleep? – Imagine
- Maybe I’m Amazed – McCartney
- Beware Of Darkness – All Things Must Pass
- Singalong Junk – McCartney
- Too Many People – Ram
- Awaiting On You – All Things Must Pass
- Smile Away – Ram
- Look At Me – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
- Ballad Of Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) – All Things Must Pass
- Oh My Love – Imagine
- Isn’t It A Pity (Version 2) – All Things Must Pass
- Ram On (Reprise) – Ram
- Give Peace A Chance – Single A-Side
- That Would Be Something (Mono Mix) – Single B-Side
- Instant Karma – Single A-Side
- Cold Turkey – Single A-Side
- Jealous Guy – Imagine
- Early 1970 – Single B-Side
- Another Day – Single A-Side
- Power To The People – Single A-Side
- My Sweet Lord – Single A-Side
- Junk – Single B-Side
Putting together this ‘What-if’ compilation was a bit of a revelation because even though I had played their music to death as a child, their solo albums passed me by until I was given a copy of Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ album in my mid 20’s. It was a revelation to hear how many good songs he had waiting for an airing. I must admit to not being a bit fan of his work within The Beatles. I then slowly pulled together all of the other members’ solo album and wondered what it would be like to hear if the best bits were pulled together for a lost Beatles album project. No doubt some of the songs on here would not have been liked by all the members of the band. I feel that Lennon and Harrison would have had a massive disliking for McCartney’s ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ and has been noted before, some of these songs may well have not been written if the band had not split up with the amount of acrimony there was, especially in the early days of their separation.
It was enjoyable experience though and even though this was meant to be a one off as I felt they would have split up after this record anyway. A few years later though, I was inspired to look further into the solo releases of The Beatles by blogger http://albumsthatneverwere.blogspot.com/ who took the story all the way up to 1980. I then decided to have another go at making some more Lost Beatles albums. I have shown where the songs were originally released in case you wish to put your own version together on a playlist.
Even though this would work as a CD, this has been presented as though it was a double album with associated singles placed at the end. For the record, Sides A, B & C are CD 1 and Side D and singles are CD 2. The artwork is based on the picture taken of the band for the Get Back LP with the background changed to clouds which inspired the title of the album, Imagine. Found on the internet many moons ago, I have no idea who to acknowledge for this I’m afraid.