The new special edition box set will shed fresh light on the Beatles’ masterpiece.
- “All Things Must Pass”
“The emotion of it is very, you know, Band-y,” George Harrison explains, referring to his recent time in Woodstock hanging with the Band and Bob Dylan. He’s humble with his mates, saying, “If there’s people joining in, I’d appreciate it.” This version is astoundingly beautiful, with everyone singing together over Ringo’s dramatic drum fills, as John adds lines about macrobiotic pills. But John’s derision got so insulting, George quit. The song got saved for his 1971 solo epic. As Giles Martin says, “‘All Things Must Pass’ — it’s just bizarre that it’s not on either Abbey Road or Let It Be.”
- “Two of Us” (Take 4)
A country-style version, with John and Paul adding bluesy bent notes for the “we’re going hoooome” hook. John milks the Dylan-style inflections of lines like “in the sun.” You can hear why they realized the song was even more powerful with a drier, more stoic vocal touch, yet it’s a beauty. Although “Two of Us” was a love song to Linda, Paul wrote on his lyric sheet, “A Quarrymen Original.”
- “Oh Darling”
This jam on “Oh Darling” is a knockout — the box’s emotional highlight. John and Paul sing it together, doing call and response. (Paul: “Believe me when I tell you!” John: “Oh, I do!”) John starts freestyling: “Just heard that Yoko’s divorce has just gone through! Free at last!” A brief snippet was on Anthology 3, but that version barely hinted at this one. It’s a running theme with John and Paul — they kept going back to these old-school rock & roll ballads to have the conversations they couldn’t have any other way.
- “Gimme Some Truth”
John made it a solo classic on Imagine, but at this stage, it’s a song he and Paul are working on together. (“Should we do ‘Hypocrites’ and write that bit?’) But they quit too soon, spooked by the cameras. “That’s why they didn’t have the songwriting discipline they used to have,” Giles Martin says. “They start it, but there’s a film crew there and it’s an uncomfortable situation for them to be writing a song. Now, had that been 1965, they’d have been locked in a hotel room, and they’d have finished the song. That’s the difference.”
- “Octopus’ Garden”
Ringo asks the others, “Have you heard the octopus one?” He plays a two-finger piano part (George quips, “Oh, he’s learned A minor”), sings the first few lines, then says, “That’s all I’ve got.” Everyone laughs merrily. If the moment ended here, it would still be a lovely tribute to the Beatles’ bond. But George grabs his guitar and helps him turn it into a classic, just out of generosity and friendship. So who will play drums? John says, “I think Paul will want to do drums, won’t he? With his strong left arm. I’m not getting on that kit without a ciggie in me hand!”
- “Something” (Rehearsal)
George comes to the others with an idea he’s been working on for six months, beginning, “Something in the way she moves.” But he’s stuck on the second line. John suggests, “Just say whatever comes into your mind. ‘Attracts me like a cauliflower.’” He gives George a pep talk on songcraft. “You just go on and on and on and then you go back over it. Or don’t.”
- “Don’t Let Me Down/Dig A Pony/I’ve Got a Feeling” (Glyn Johns Mix)
The highlight of the long-lost Glyn Johns Get Back: the 11-minute suite of “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Dig a Pony,” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” stitched together as one long song.
- “Maggie Mae/Fancy Me Chances With You”
One of the unlikeliest highlights: a high-spirited romp through the Celtic-style Liverpool folk tune about a Lime Street cut-purse, “Maggie May.” (The Let It Be cover spelled it as “Maggie Mae.”) Paul yells, “Take it, Maggie!” He and John segue into an early skiffle ditty they wrote in their teens, “Fancy Me Chances With You.” It’s only a minute, but you can hear why it hit them like a breath of fresh air.
- “Let It Be”/“Please Please Me”
Paul gives the stately piano-hymn treatment to “Please Please Me,” one of the Fabs’ earliest hits. But it isn’t an ironic joke — he shows how the two songs come from the same sense of emotional urgency, even six years apart. John cracks, “Come on, I only get two notes in this song.”
- “For You Blue” (Take 4)
George showed up for the sessions with complex, introspective songs like “Isn’t It A Pity” and “Hear Me Lord” — but they didn’t fit the back-to-basics roughness. “For You Blue” became a highlight thanks to George’s spontaneous blues swing on acoustic guitar, while John follows on lap-steel slide guitar, Paul on piano, Ringo on drums. The whole band is in sync. “That sounded lovely!” George raves at the end. “Does this guitar sound in tune, Glyn?”