Monday, June 18, 2012

The Beatles- Instant Karma

Paul McCartney turns 70 today. This makes him the same age as Larry Flynt, Muammar al Qaadafi and Joe Biden. My first thought was to compile some sort of musical tribute, but I couldn't find any Joe Biden in mono. I did seriously want to compile a selection of songs from Paul's later, oft-maligned solo work, especially after reading something another friend said regarding the birthday boy. "He should take it easy, enjoy his bus pass, and stop making shite albums." Thankfully, I recieved an e-mail from my friend Jeff K. before another fruitless debate over the merits of the "cute" Beatle's underappreciated post MopTop career plagued these pages.

Listening lately to "Abbey Road," "McCartney," "Ram," and ""Let It Be."  I like "Ram" a lot but it's not the Beatles in terms of quality, and I've been thinking about what might have happened. Someone's talent doesn't just slip away overnight. Maybe it's the fact that on his own, Paul didn't have the editor or the push he had with The Beatles; maybe it's just selection, The Beatles' albums were the best of all their output at the time. That then got me to thinking, what if we assembled a 1971 Beatles album, give it a title and fill it with the best of their output that year? Would it be as great as the previous albums? What about a '72 album? The challenge also would be to sequence like vinyl. What would get the first cut on side two, how would it open and end? Mostly though, could an argument be made that they were growing as musicians and as writers after they split?

Thus began the volley. My first fantasy track list went off course to include Ringo's 1973 hit "Photograph." With George's involvement, it seemed like a shoe-in.  Plus, I love the tune.

Side One
1. Instant Karma
2. Every Night
3. Remember
4. Wah-Wah
5. Maybe I'm Amazed
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Photograph

Side Two
1. Dear Boy
2. What Is Life
3. Teddy Boy
4. It Don't Come Easy
5. All Things Must Pass
6. Jealous Guy
7. The Back Seat Of My Car

Jeff didn't like it. He came back with this.

Side One

Uncle Albert
Beware of Darkness
Too Many People
Back Seat of My Car
Jealous Guy
All Things Must Pass

Side Two

My Sweet Lord
Maybe I'm Amazed
Gimme Some Truth
Isn't It a Pity
Give Peace a Chance


I wanted to put "Instant Karma" on mine, but the production is just too terrible. That's my biggest problem with it. I think the first two cuts on both sides of mine are must haves and given the times, "Give Peace A Chance" is, as well (despite the production). "Too Many People" is the weak link on mine, but it was also a potential hit and population control was a political issue then. 

Sadly, the McCartney cuts are the weakest, although "Junk" might be the best melody he ever wrote. You need at least one Ringo song. I think "It Don't Come Easy" is a better choice. I thought it came a year late though. If not, a definite substitute.  
I thought about "Remember" but actually prefer "Love."

My return:

 I think "Instant Karma" is a monster. I don't hear demo at all. I think it's powerful and it rocks. Plus, it was one of the firsts.

I think I'd replace "Dear Boy" with "Junk." I'm on such a "Ram" high right now, I'm not thinking straight. You are right about "Junk" and its melody.
Even though "Imagine" is iconic, I'm not sure it feels like The Beatles, whereas, "Too Many People" does and I like it better. I could lose "Gimme Some Truth" over "Remember."


"Gimme Some Truth" is another of those songs that was so representative of 1971. That would have been a big one for John, and as a Beatles song, "Imagine" would have been the biggest monster seller since "She Loves You." 

Can't have "Photograph." Sorry. It breaks the rule. Has to be "It Don't Come Easy." Oh, this is hard. On mine, to get "Instant Karma" in, I have to make the tough decision. Ok, I pull Jealous Guy. That's it.

Based on these few exchanges, my new lineup:

Side One
Instant Karma
Beware Of Darkness
Gimme Some Truth

It Don't Come Easy
My Sweet Lord

Side Two
Too Many People
Maybe I'm Amazed
What Is Life
Teddy Boy

Back Seat Of My Car
All Things Must Pass

Jeff again:

So where do we differ: Remember, What is Life and Teddy Boy on yours
and Uncle AlbertMaybe I'm Amazed, Gimme Some Truth
(I think you're burying Imagine, which back then, wow, would that have sold).

Hmm, on mine Paul gets five, George four and John four plus it don't come easy. I'm pulling Maybe I'm Amazed for Wah Wah. The record just needs more life.


You can't pull "Maybe I'm Amazed," arguably Paul's best solo song.

You're right about me and "Imagine," but not for the reason you think. I was "sequencing," not thinking 1971, where the hit led the record. So, yeah. Put it up top.

"Too Many People" is a better song than "Uncle Albert."

And "What Is Life" was not only a hit, but it is pop bliss. Plus, we forgot "Another Day."
After a few more exchanges, this became our final lineup for


Side One 

Uncle Albert
Beware of Darkness
Maybe I'm Amazed
Another Day
Instant Karma
All Things Must Pass

Side Two: 

My Sweet Lord
Gimme Some Truth
It Don't Come Easy
What is Life?
Isn't It a Pity
Give Peace a Chance

Are there any strong arguments out there for a change in the track listing? Is it possible that this selection of songs could have been the follow-up to "Let It Be?"

Happy Birthday Paul. 

In the words of Jeff K. on this subect, "70? Fuck me."

Yeah, no kidding.


Chris Collins said...

this is SUCh a brilliant idea. I'm going to be playing with this idea all day.

Anonymous said...

Hello please, remain seated.

Oodles of fun thinking about this. So, if we're going to fantasize about this 1971 album let's go whole hog. What would this album have sounded like if George Martin had produced it, and it was engineered by the usual Beatles folks? Which songs on the album would have had a totally different (better) sound?

I'll open the bidding with Imagine. Would the production have sounded clearer, with a little more "air" in the mix? Would they have opened up some space for George to lay down a solo? How would Paul have harmonized the chorus? Why does writing this make me feel sad?


misospecial said...

lurve this idea; it's the essence of burning wood (for me, anyway).

did i miss the memo where george gets more than two songs per disc? i'm all for it. it points to how the band might have organically developed in a parallel universe where the relationships hadn't calcified years before. having transferred my allegiance from john (who was my beatle since 1964, when i was 6) to george a few years ago, i would love to see his work escape from chronic underexposure.

are there any other bands whose history lends itself to this kind of creative revisionism? maybe a couple, anyway... i want more.

Shriner said...

The only comments I would make is that:

1) I don't know if George ever would have gotten *four* tracks on any Beatles album. Five if you count "It Don't Come Easy". "I'm The Greatest" *might* have made it as the Ringo cut.

2) John/Paul probably would have figured out that My Sweet Lord sounded like He's So Fine and it wouldn't have made the cut.

3) Gimme Some Truth is way too associated with "solo Lennon" in my ears based on the lyrics. It's too angry for "The Beatles".

As a compilation, it's great. As a *Beatles album*, I don't know if it would have been anything like this at all when all was said and done...

Sal Nunziato said...


Like "Photograph," I considered "I'm The Greatest," the former because of George's involvement, the latter for John's. But as Jeff said, no need to consider it, even in fantasy. It's two years after the fact.

I think that all 14 songs, not just "Gimme Some Truth" are associated with solo Beatles because they are. "All Things Must Pass," I'm pretty sure, was the only one that had any pre-breakup Beatles involvement.

Care to offer your tracklisting?

Sal Nunziato said...


"are there any other bands whose history lends itself to this kind of creative revisionism?"

Great question. But who?

cmealha said...

This can go on for quite a while. I think George is over represented. Take out 'What Is Life?" and put back in "Back Seat of My Car". That's got to be in there.

FD13NYC said...

All the track listings are impressive. Fact of the matter is, solo Beatles remains just that, solo. Their early solo music fresh from the break-up was powerful and enjoyable. It had to be. It was all pent up. Then again, nothing equaled what they recorded together in 5 short years.

Photograph, Gimme Some Truth, Apple Scruffs and of course Maybe I'm Amazed, are 4 of my solo faves, among others.

jeff said...

My argument for more George tracks was that after Abbey Road, George was clearly in ascension, and John was slowly dropping away into heroin and Yoko fuzz. At the same time, there can be no doubt that the cork was off the bottle in terms of George's writing, and there would have been no way to leave his best songs off the album. It wasn't 1964 anymore.

soundsource said...

they'd never give George that many songs but otherwise I'd plunk down my $5.98 at Korvette's

Sal Nunziato said...

Okay...with the "never give George that many songs" comments...Jeff makes a good argument.

Eric said...

Beware of darkness is/was a keeper, even tho i like leon's version even better....

now that u have ur album, how about a zip of all those songs performed live?

I ask a lot...

johnlewitt said...

One of the great things bout Itunes is the ability to create these playlists and then edit them. I did this a couple years ago allowing tracks from their first 2 solo albums each. I did it on my own and came up with a completely different list. I'm going to create the INSTANT KARMA one tonight. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

All the solo albums from 1970 are very clearly "screw the Beatles I'm gonna do my own thing" records. I can imagine a 1971 Beatles album but I would only work with Imagine, Ram, both sides of George's "Bangla Desh" single and Ringo's "It Don't Come Easy". I'll leave it to you cats to come up with a track listing if anyones interested.

Stan K.

steves said...

A good friend of mine did a full-scale album project based on this concept, complete with a backstory of an alternate reality, cover art and some heavily processed and remastered audio to make it all go together.

Although there were several notable differences in the tracklist, the bulk of these are included--though there are a few differences including "Admiral Halsey" was ditched in favor of "Every Night" and using George's vocal on "It Don't Come Easy."

buzzbabyjesus said...

"All the solo albums from 1970 are very clearly "screw the Beatles I'm gonna do my own thing" records."

Not true. A bunch of songs from their first albums were demoed by them while still Beatles. "Teddy Boy", and "All Things Must Pass" come to mind immediately.
Ringo plays on John's, and Paul did some production and arranged some strings on Ringo's.

My version:

"If Not For Yoko"

Love(edit)/Instant Karma
Fool To Care
Hot As Sun(Glasses)
I'd Have You Anytime
That Would Be Something
Beware Of Darkness
Lovely Linda
It's Going To Be A Great Day
Apple Scruffs
Teddy Boy
Sentimental Journey
It's Johnny's Birthday
Cold Turkey
Maybe I'm Amazed
Isn't It A Pity
My Mummy's Dead

I posted this in a comment here a few months ago, but I forget why.

jeff k said...

good songs, although Sal and I tried to keep ours to a single album, seven songs a side, which was probably stretching technologically.

steve simels said...

IMHO: The best post 1969 Beatles track remains the Jeff Lyne-produced "Real Love."

Which is, for my money, a real Beatles track and as moving and imaginative and lovely as anything they ever did while they were together.

jeff k said...

damn, I'm hoping the album hasn't been mastered already. it occurs to me that maybe we should switch the order and lead off with instand karma, and maybe stick imagine last song side one. paul is going to kill me for changing my mind at the last moment.

Steven Feldman said...

Sal...This would have been a great album and a worthy follow up to Let It Be...(possibly one too many contributions from George) it stands, it's a great concept....nice post.

peter said...

usuSuppose the Beatles would have played Woodstock... what would have been the setlist there?

William Repsher said...

One thing you need to take into account. Those solo albums were each of The Beatles pushing hard to establish his OWN identity apart from The Beatles. John went bare-bones/emotional honesty, this is me, take it or leave it, I don't care. Paul clearly wanted to do something similar without that emotional catharsis -- he wanted to strip his music down to core essence. Which he did. And put his money where his mouth was by touring colleges and small halls in the UK by the seat of his pants.

George exploded ... clearly a backlog of material and ideas (that ran a good bit thinner two albums down the road) that he had been biding his time with. Ringo was about the only one who remained roughly the same, taking help where he could get it and mixing well with other musicians.

Not all of those great tracks on POB or Imagine or McCartney or Ram or definitely ATMP would have happened had they stayed together. Clearly, some would have, as they were being demoed by The Beatles during Let It Be and Abbey Road (... and how you shitcan Isn't It a Pity and All Things Must Pass in favor of Maxwells Silver Hammer and Octopus' Garden ...).

But a good number of those deeply personal John songs wouldn't have happened simply because he would have been geared into the concept of writing for the band more than himself. Paul's experiments and one-man-band demos would have stayed in the closet. George would have taken the perpetual backseat, although might have worked his way up to 3-4 songs on an album.

It always sounds too jarring to me to mix those songs together because I could clearly see the path each was taking after The Beatles, and I liked each. John wanted to strip away everything, Paul wanted to write and sing from a place he felt totally at home, and George wanted to prove himself as a songwriter and full-fledged artist. I just don't see any of that happening had these guys stayed together.

jeff k said...

Interesting points, but I'm not sure I agree with you, and I think what happened with the White album might be illustrative. No one geared Lennon into writing Revolution No. 9, and Julia is as personal and powerful as almost any song on his early solo albums. The others didn't want Revolution No. 9 on there but he insisted. There's no reason to think that wouldn't have happened again.

George was clearly writing quality material, which they would have had to have recognized and Paul certainly by Ram was writing Beatlesque sounding tunes if not quite Beatlesque quality tunes.

Aside from that, this was just a fun exercise in "What if..." If we were just to assume that it would never would have happened, what would be the fun?

buzzbabyjesus said...

I forgot to mention that Robert Hilburn, critic for the LA Times way back when, wrote an article sometime in the '70's where he argued for the continued existence of the Beatles by assembling albums year by year through 1975. That's where I initially got the idea to do mine.
After reading this post and comments, I'm going to revisit, and at least find room for "Just Another Day", but
I will never include "Imagine" in any mix.

buzzbabyjesus said...

William Repsher said...
One thing you need to take into account. Those solo albums were each of The Beatles pushing hard to establish his OWN identity apart from The Beatles.

I disagree that they were trying to create separate identities outside of the Beatles.
Their personas were distinct, and well known. Secondly, artists write the way they write. Only hacks put on different hats.

William Repsher said...

So, Working Class Hero, God and How Do You Sleep would have been shoe-ins for the next Beatles albums in line? Because that was John, trying to destroy The Beatles myth while he was in The Beatles and openly attacking Paul?

No. He didn't, although you could clearly sense him itching to do so while in The Beatles. Plastic Ono Band was him declaring war on his past, particularly The Beatles. It was a massive sea change in his personal and artistic development. I never said a word about creating separate identities. If anything, the solo albums boiled down their artistic intents to their core essence. They were looking to be more of themselves than was allowed by the group dynamic The Beatles presented, including George. Of all them, John was clearly the one most eager to break from that legacy they had created.

The Beatles were hacks, to an extent -- the best hacks ever. Paul, in particular. They put on different hats for each album, within each album, sometimes within a song (A Day in the Life or I Want You/She's So Heavy). They tried everything, incorporated everything they knew musically, usually made it work, too, within the context of the group. I usually don't go to The Beatles for the kind of depth I'd find in people like Dylan, or Hank Williams, or even someone like Van Morrison at his best. There's something very surface/pop about The Beatles ... again, done like never before or since, on a level that will probably never be reached again.

Only hacks put on different hats? She Loves You is the same hat as Julia ... or In My Life ... or Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ... or While My Guitar Gently Weeps ... or Paperback Writer? It's been my experience that great artists can wear any old hat they want and make it work. As for wearing the same hat artistically speaking and having that equal some sort of respect, do you mean like Journey, or Boston, or any other band that sounds relatively the same on each album?

Big Jim Slade said...

Another Beatles post... and a GREAT one!!! Right the F on! Sweet, like a Savoy Truffle :-)