50 years ago today on February 25th, 1969 – his 26th birthday – George entered one of the EMI Studios at Abbey Road to record demos for three of his recently written compositions, ostensibly so he could play them for the other three Beatles, but perhaps as a kind of a birthday present to himself?
It is believed that George brought with him producer Glyn Johns, who had been working with The Beatles during the “Get Back” sessions, and certainly engineer Ken Scott was there too. “George’s material wasn’t really paid all that much attention to,” Glyn Johns relates in Rolling Stones’ The Beatles: 100 Greatest Songs, “to such an extent that he asked me to stay behind…He was terribly nice, as if he was imposing on me. And then he plays this song that just completely blows me away”.
These weren’t to be your average “demos” though, using the studio’s eight-track recording equipment, George laid down multiple guitar parts, vocals and piano parts all by himself.
The first demo recorded on this day was “Old Brown Shoe,” which would be officially recorded by The Beatles in April and ended up as the B-side to “The Ballad Of John And Yoko”. As George related in I Me Mine “I started the chord sequences on the piano, which I don’t really play, and then began writing ideas for the words from various opposites… Again, it’s the duality of things – yes no, up down, left right, right wrong, etcetera.” Having laid down a piano and vocal track, George then overdubbed two electric guitar tracks with the lower part serving as a bassline which would become the inspiration for that in the final recorded Beatles’ version. Two takes were recorded but the demo didn’t see the light of day until the release of the Beatles Anthology 3 album in 1996.
The second demo of the day was “All Things Must Pass,” which although worked on with The Beatles, would not be recorded until the following year by George as the title song for his first official solo album. Again two takes were recorded with George first laying down his vocal with guitar and then overdubbing a second guitar passage. This demo too was released on Anthology 3.
The third demo recorded during this birthday session, was “Something” and although the song had written during sessions for The Beatles [aka The White Album] in 1968 and rehearsed during studio time for the Get Back/Let It Be sessions earlier in 1969, this was to be the first time it would be properly committed to tape in the studio. It is the least elaborate of the three demos recorded that day, with just one take: a simple electric guitar and lead vocal allowing the beauty of the melody to shine through.
At this point the lyrics weren’t quite finished, with George improvising in the solo verse, “You know I love that woman of mine / and I need her all of the time / you know I’m telling you / that woman, that woman don’t make me blue.”
During the bridge, he sings “doo, doo, dum-dum” to indicate the descending guitar part which would later appear there. The dramatic finale of the song was yet to appear but would be figured out in the studio in later months. The demo ends with an instrumental verse with George adding in a final “you know I believe and how” just before he concludes the song with his final riff with a subtle raised chord.
Happy Birthday George!!