The Beatles, just as their creativity went supernova, quit the road in 1966 — frustrated over the inability of that period’s sound systems to amplify the increasingly complex work spinning around on your turntables and in their heads. Even after their breakup, the Beatles’ individual members spent the bulk of the following decades building their own solo careers, not looking back. Next came the untimely twin deaths of John Lennon in 1980, after more than five years out of the spotlight, and then the similarly reclusive George Harrison in late 2001.
That all combines to make a Beatles concert setlist difficult to compile, and necessarily subjective. It doesn’t include as much from Lennon as we’d hoped. He rarely performed live, even more rarely performed Beatles tunes and, of course, met an untimely end before the oldies money-fests of today. (All due respect, Ringo.)
But it’s not impossible. In the spirit of those terrific previous efforts by Popdose’s Mark Feldman at remixing the Fab Four, here is the lineup for Something Else Reviews’ definitive Beatles concert recording, pieced together (with crossfades) for an 80-minute recordable CD. Look for Fifth Beatle alerts along the way, notably Eric Clapton — who appears on six of this compilation’s 20 tracks …
SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND/WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: We had to combine two solo records, one by McCartney in 1990 (from Tripping the Live Fantastic) and another by Starr in 1993 (Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band Volume 2: Live From Montreux), to get this opening track. But how else would such a reunion concern begin?
WE CAN WORK IT OUT: We kept things light by including this, a 1991 version from his MTV Unplugged appearance, in which McCartney flubs the opening stanza of an old Lennon-McCartney favorite — stops the band, and starts over. The more polished version on 1993’s Paul Is Live ends up coming off as stilted.
MONEY: Recorded with Clapton during a 1969 concert in Toronto, this was Lennon’s first time on stage since the Beatles’ farewell show — and he adds a gritty, from-the-gut take on one of his old band’s more popular covers. Future Yes drummer Alan White sits in.
GET BACK: More from McCartney’s double-album 1990 release Tripping the Live Fantastic. His then-current band included two former members of the Pretenders, including Robbie McIntosh. Fifth Beatle alert: The original Beatles recording featured Billy Preston on keys. Paul “Wix” Wickens fills in here.
HERE COMES THE SUN: A solo take by Harrison from his gala Concert for Bangladesh, in 1971. Like Lennon’s show three years earlier, this was one of George’s first times on stage since the break up. He sounds hesitant, maybe a little scared, as the tune begins — but that only seems to add to the song’s natural fragility.
YER BLUES: Muscular and brilliant, Lennon is joined by Clapton, the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards (on bass!) and Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix band — they called themselves the Dirty Mac — in a raunchy 1968 rendition of a White Album track that demands it.
MOTHER NATURE’S SON: The second of three consecutive tracks culled from the Beatles’ ’68 self-titled recording, this one was included on McCartney’s Back in the World (Live) from 2003, and features his current touring group. The lone holdover from the 1990s lineup is keyboardist Wickens, a whiz at mimicking the Beatles’ complex orchestral charts.
WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS: Clapton, as he had in an uncredited appearance on White Album, plays a centerpiece role during this 1992 rendition from a joint tour with Harrison in Japan. I’d put his solo on this version as the better of the two.
BLACKBIRD: Among the first Beatles tunes ever performed before stadium crowds, this tune was the centerpiece of McCartney’s acoustic set during his popular Wings Over America tour in 1976. The resulting double-CD souvenir release went to No. 1, and spawned the hit version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE: From a rare Japanese import, our favorite version was recorded during the 1979 benefit Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. (Other featured bands included the Pretenders, Elvis Costello, the Clash and the Who.) The song appeared later on 1990’s Tripping the Live Fantastic.
LOVE ME DO: A barn-storming version from Ringo was included on his 1998 All-Starr tour with Peter Frampton and Jack Bruce.
LONG AND WINDING ROAD: Also from Wings Over America, notable because it didn’t include the garish backing vocals and tacked-on orchestration of the original on 1970’s “Let It Be” — both courtesy of Phil Spector, who had been called in to salvage the project as the Beatles disintegrated.
DIZZY MISS LIZZY: Loose, and completely rock ‘n’ roll, this 1969 version by Lennon (again from Toronto) makes clear how impromptu the concert was. That only adds to its randy charm. Fifth Beatle alert: Klaus Voorman (who did the cover art for Revolver) is on bass.
HEY JUDE: We picked the 2002 rendition from the Super Bowl, but Paul has released a number of versions — including the Live Aid concert and 1990’s Tripping the Live Fantastic, among many others.
I WANT TO TELL YOU: The opener to Harrison’s 1992 tour, this Revolver song is perhaps his best Beatles-era rockers.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER: A touching 1990 tribute from McCartney, during an emotional return visit to the hometown he shared with the late John Lennon. One of Lennon’s most important accomplishments as a member of the Beatles, this surreal meditation — full of kaleidoscope wonder and dark, lingering nostalgia — was the initial track recorded during the celebrated Sgt. Pepper sessions. Toward the end of this new version, McCartney segues into his former writing partner’s “Give Peace A Chance.”
COME TOGETHER: Lennon performed two shows in 1972, and both included versions of this gem. We prefer the one from the evening set where John improvises on the familiar verse, inserting his own protest to the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. “Come together,” he sings … “Stop the war!” His last full-length concert; the afternoon concert was released posthumously in the mid-1980s.
SOMETHING: Not so much an interpretation of Harrison’s best song with the Beatles, but a reimagining (from our 1992 Japanese import, on George’s final tour) through the guitar work of Eric Clapton. The second of three selections from the 1969 Beatles’ release Abbey Road.
GOLDEN SLUMBERS/CARRY THAT WEIGHT/THE END: The closing track to McCartney’s 1989/1990 shows, this medley provides an appropriate end for our imaginary reunion set list. McCartney originally composed this tune on his step-sister’s piano, where he saw the title “Golden Slumbers” in a songbook. Unable to read music, he simply made up his own — reportedly using original lines from a 17th century poem by Thomas Dekker. Oddly enough, McCartney includes on 2003’s Back in the World a closing medley of “Sgt. Pepper,” our initial track, and then, yes, “The End.”
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