So, here we are with my fourth and final part of my Beatles alternative history.
After much argument, John Lennon decides that he will not record the three covers demanded of Morris Levy in the ‘Come Together’ settlement on a Beatles album, but that he will release them on a solo record instead.
With his private life in turmoil and the ever-present threat of deportation hanging over him, he decides to stay in America and record the new album in Los Angeles with Phil Spector producing. The sessions drag on for months, descending into an alcohol fuelled mess, and only end when Spector is hospitalised after being involved in a car crash. Unknown to Lennon, Spector had been taking the master tapes home at the end of every day, leaving noting for the session musicians to work on in his absence and, with Spector out of action for the foreseeable future, Lennon abandons the sessions.
Taking some of the same players with him, John decides to accept an offer from his drinking buddy Harry Nilsson to produce his album Pussy Cats. Again the sessions end in drunken debauchery, but at least this time RCA, Nilsson’s label, are prepared to release it, reasoning that having Lennon’s name and picture splashed all over the cover might help boost sales. Taking the album back to New York for mixing, Lennon also starts work on some new material.
Ringo Starr has spent the early part of the year getting drunk with Lennon and Nilsson whilst Harrison stayed at home writing material and furthering is devotion to Hare Krishna. After the success of the ‘Live & Let Die’ single, McCartney has been recording his own material with the view of releasing a solo album called Wings. However, before he goes through with this, he reads reports of Lennon’s riotous behaviour and feels that getting back in the studio with the other Beatles will curb his excessive behaviour.
Harrison and Starr agree to come on board. Though their relationship is still a little strained, they feel that they owe a duty to Lennon, as without him, there would not be a band in the first place; the trio also accept that Ringo’s recent reckless behaviour will be curtailed once he has a new project to concentrate on.
The sessions take place at Abbey Road and under the guidance of George Martin, brought in from his own AIR studios in the Bahamas. McCartney brings the songs he had earmarked for his solo album to the sessions, and both Harrison and Lennon bring in enough material for another double album. Starr also offers up a couple of tunes for consideration, and the sessions pass by smoothly.
There is a feeling within the band that this record will be it for a while. They have been making records together for twelve years and there is a generally feeling that they need a break. The sessions are a happy time for everyone involved, but Harrison is especially happy that, even though are calls from the fans to do so, The Beatles will not be going on the road to promote this.
After sessions from the album wrap, Lennon goes back to the states. He had already made up his mind to accept an invitation to join his friend Elton John on stage at his concert in Madison Square Garden, and is looking forward to jamming a few old tunes without the pressure of having to be a Beatle. Backstage he reconnects with Yoko Ono and the pair decide to work on repairing their marriage. Shortly afterwards comes the news that his five-year struggle with the immigration department is at an end, and he can finally settle in the country as a US citizen. Still aware of the fact that he needs to record an album of rock n roll songs to meet the demands of the court case over ‘Come Together’, he tells the rest of the band that he intends to work with session musicians in America on this and release it as a solo album.
Shortly afterwards, Ono finds out she is pregnant. It’s a difficult pregnancy, but on Lennon’s 35th birthday she gives birth to a son, Sean Taro Ono Lennon. After much discussion at home about who will look after the business and who will raise the child, Lennon contacts the other Beatles to say he will be taking the next five years off to help raise their newborn son. He does not want to be an absentee father like his was for his first son, Julian. McCartney, one again adrift without his fellow Beatles, goes home to his farm in Scotland with his family and soon recommences work on his aborted solo album. George Harrison splits from his wife Pattie; shortly afterwards he meets Olivia Arias who, at the end of 1977, will fall pregnant with Harrison’s first child, Dhani. Ringo also splits with his wife, Maureen, and flies back to LA where he once again attempts to drink the town dry with friends including Nilsson and Keith Moon. All three wait patiently for Lennon to pick up the phone and tell them that he’s ready to be a Beatle again.
- Venus & Mars – Venus & Mars
- Rock Show – Venus & Mars
- Love In Song – Venus & Mars
- Dark Horse (Early Take) – Dark Horse (2014 Edition)
- Oo-Wee – Goodnight Vienna
- Let’s Love – Venus & Mars (2014 Edition)
- Simply Shady – Dark Horse
- You – Extra Texture
- Move Over Mrs. L – Single B-Side
- Soily (From One Hand Clapping) – Venus & Mars (2014 Edition)
- Back Off Boogaloo – Single A-Side
- Steel & Glass – Walls & Bridges
- This Guitar (Can’t Keep From Crying) – Extra Texture
- #9 Dream – Walls & Bridges
- Bless You – Walls & Bridges
- Scared – Walls & Bridges
- The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord) – Living In The Material World
- Call Me Back Again – Venus & Mars
- Mind Games – Mind Games
- Letting Go – Venus & Mars
- The Light That Has Lighted The World – Living In The Material World
- Treat Her Gently (Lonely Old People) – Venus & Mars
- Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down & Out) – Walls & Bridges
- That Is All – Living In The Material World
- A Bit More Of You – Extra Texture
- Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – Walls & Bridges
- Old Dirt Road – Walls & Bridges
- Junior’s Farm – Single A-Side
- Grey Cloudy Lies – Extra Texture
- Listen To What The Man Said – Venus & Mars
- The Answer’s At The End – Extra Texture
In completing this, the last of these alternative history albums, it just goes to show how much good material the individual members had and were able to produce up until these come to an end in 1974. I do acknowledge that I was pushing it bit to say that they would have been able to produce four double LPs in five years because they did it once in 1968 and all that did was to highlight the cracks beginning to appear within the band. To produce that amount of material would have taken far too much time in the studio for them to work together. A safer bet would have been to produce a set of single albums that would sacrificing so many good songs and these albums work well to my ears. To have enough material to make a number of singles and one EP was an added bonus. There were also top notch songs that were not used, such as Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ and ‘Live and Let Die’. Anyway, this was a bit of indulgence on my part and it was great fun putting it together, especially with the research.
I know there will be those who go that would have not happened, or that song would not have been written then but this was an alternative history project. Therefore, why not go with what sounds good and put in some speculation about what might have been? I also acknowledge that this last entry is a lot shorter in terms of story, but by this point, the speculation had diverged too far from the reality for it to continue much further. Even though others have completed this project have included an album from 1980, I have decided against that. The Beatles were meant to be getting back together in the real world around that time anyway until Lennon’s untimely death. This, therefore, seems like the perfect place to stop.
Even though this would work as a CD (like the other play lists on the site already), 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 image for this cover comes from http://beatles7081.blogspot.com/.
I would like to thank friend of the Squire and all-round Beatles fanatic Darryl Bullock for his help in putting this together. Enjoy.