Monday 6 & Tuesday 7 February
The Mill Studio, Sussex England: Time unknown. Recording: 'Now And Then/I Don't Want To Lose You' (takes unknown); 'Real Love' (takes unknown).
P: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne. E:
Geoff Emerick, Jon Jacobs.
In February 1995 the Beatles reunited again to record more tracks. Having had troubles working on Now And Then during the 22nd June 1994 session, the group started instead with Real Love, considering it more lyrically complete.
Paul: Free As A Bird was February last
year. It took us another year to get the steam up to go and do it again.
George, Paul and Ringo
worked on Real Love in much the same way as they approached
Free As A Bird - by using John's original demo
as a backing track and recording around it. For Jeff Lynne,
there were unwelcome technical problems:
Paul: There was a buzz all the way through the
cassette. We just shoved that all onto Jeff. Once he'd
got the buzz off, it showed up all the clicks that were on it, so he had
to get them off as well.
Lynne: The problem I had with Real Love
was that not only was there a 60 cycles mains hum going on, there was
also a terrible amount of hiss, because it had been recorded at a low
level. I don't know how many generations down this copy was, but it
sounded like at least a couple. Then there were clicks all the way
through it. There must have been about a hundred of them. We'd spend a
day on it, then listen back and still find loads more things wrong. We
would magnify them, grab them and wipe them out. It didn't have any
affect on John's voice because we were just dealing
with the air surrounding him in between phrases. That took about a week
to clean up before it was even usable and transferable to a master.
Putting fresh music to it was the easy part!
The Real Love demo needed to be almost totally re-arranged to make a coherent song. The piano introduction was not solidly played, but when the introductory figure was repeated after the first chorus, it was done much better, so the intro that finally appeared on the final product was actually the second appearance of the figure, copied and pasted onto the beginning of the song. Also, John never sang a proper ending for Real Love, so Marc Mann took every other phrase of John singing "real love" from the interior choruses and created a fadeout coda.
Timing was as problem. Lennon recorded without a click track, requiring a bit of time compression and expansion to lock down the tempos. Lynne thought it was important to have a "good, steady pulse to record to," so time edits were done, but, recalls Mann, "subtly enough to not lose the original feel of John's phrasing. We're talking about within, maybe, plus or minus three or four percent."
For certain sections, Lynne and Mann decided to use the phrases on which John sang, but not the instrumental passages between each vocal phrase. Phrases were edited in Studio Vision, transferred to Logic Audio for time
compression and expansion and then the audio was pulled back to Studio Vision for sequencing. Other processing jobs included the removal of unwanted instruments.
Paul: I don't quite like it as much as Free As
A Bird because I think Free As A Bird is more powerful.
But it's catchier. There was one real nice moment when were doing Real
Love and I was trying to learn the piano bit, and Ringo
sat down on the drums, jamming along. It was like none of us had ever
Real Love is a gentle acoustic ballad, slightly melancholy,
for which John cut at least seven demos towards
the end of 1979 on more professional equipment than he'd been using in
1977. An acoustic guitar take had already been issued on the 1988 Imagine
soundtrack and a piano demo was subsequently issued on the John Lennon Anthology in 1998 (neither of these two archive releases contain the exact demo that Yoko delivered to the Beatles). On all the available demos, John's voice is strong and clear, without a hint of the clipped, distant sound that was an obvious
problem on Free As A Bird.
Ringo : Real Love is more of a poppy song.
It was more difficult, actually, to turn it into a real Beatles
The Beatles sped up John's demo
recording, so that their new version is a semi-tone higher than the
original, and decided to use as little state of the art equipment as
possible to give a timeless Beatles feel to the track.
The introduction to the song is played by Paul on a
celeste (the very same instrument which John played on
the Abbey Road track Because and
which is now in Paul's collection). Paul
also plays harmonium and again uses the very instrument which John
played on We Can Work It Out (also from in Paul's
Lynne: Paul used his double bass
(originally owned by Elvis Presley bassist Bill
Black) and we tracked it with a Fender Jazz. Paul
went direct to the desk but also used his Mega Boogie amp and we took a
mixture of the two signals. George used a couple of
Strats, a modern Clapton style one and his psychedelic
Strat that's jacked up for the bottleneck stuff on Free As A Bird.
They also played six string acoustics and Ringo played
his Ludwig kit.
Almost all the piano heard on the completed Real Love is John's original. Paul also doubled John's
solo vocals, almost subliminaly, in parts where the original was "thin".
Paul: So we had these two tracks that had been a
really great pleasure to work on, really cool working with the other
guys, no crazy thing about the three of us have got to make a great new
sound or something, because it was the four of us. It really was just
The Beatles. The great thing was we were locked with
the demo. You couldn't really change it much so the style was set by
John. It was a laugh, we had a great laugh.
Ringo: Recording the new songs didn't feel contrived
at all, it felt very natural and it was a lot of fun, but emotional too
at times. But it's the end of the line, really. There's nothing more we
can do as the Beatles.
Co-director for the Real Love video, Kevin Godley,
notes that Anthology Film director Geoff
Wonfor was invited to film the Real Love recording
sessions for inclusion in the forthcoming Real Love promo video.
Kevin Godley: It was to be a discreet fly on the
wall thing and they didn't want to be lit or aware of the cameras. They
just told Geoff to take along a tape machine and a
Betacam and gather some footage. I suppose everybody realised what a
momentous occasion it was and that it should be covered on video.
Because of the tight secrecy around the project, Godley was not given a complete version of the finished track during editing. So,
as a former member of the group 10cc, he privately
overdubbed his own voice in place of some absent vocal lines for reference
purposes (this slow, rough mix of Real Love, complete with
Godley's vocals, may be the mix that later appeared on various bootlegs).
Godley: When we finally did get the finished track,
it was slightly faster than what we'd been working to. They had
obviously varispeeded it up and that gave us a few last minute problems.
The Real Love promo video did indeed feature alot of footage
from this session (judging by the clothing changes, more than one session was filmed); apart from showing Paul, Ringo
and George arriving together at the studio, it also
showed McCartney not only filming Harrison
as he layed down some of his harmony vocals, but also giving him an
awkward hug towards the end. The special features disc in the Anthology DVD box set includes a few more snippets of footage.
The brief shot of Paul and George miming along to the Decca audition track Besame Mucho in the Anthology videos, also seems to have been filmed during these sessions (their clothing in this segment matches the Real Love video), suggesting that the group used the occasion to sift through some of the material being considered for the forthcoming Anthology CDs.
Jeff Lynne: Real Love is a great song again. A much simpler song than Free As A Bird, sort of a love song. And it's a bouncier song, a beautiful tune as well, and they all do harmonies with John. And they all join in and have a great time.
Pau: It was good fun doing it. Unlike Free As A Bird, it had all the words and music and we were more like 'sidemen' to John, which was joyful, and I think we did a good job. I think George actually liked Real Love a little better. It's just a matter of opinion, they are both good songs. I think it is slightly deceptive, Real Love, because it's one of those the more you hear it, the more you go, 'Ohh, ohh!'
Ringo: I think John will love it when he hears it.
George: I hope somebody does this to all my crap demos when I'm dead, make them into hit songs.
During this session, work on the second day continued briefly on the troublesome piano based Lennon demo of Now And Then/I Don't Want To Lose You. Despite having attempted some earlier work during the abandoned 22nd June 1994 session, work on this day fared no better.
When the Beatles left the studio late on Tuesday, both Real Love and Now And Then/I Don't Want To Lose You were still unfinished. Real Love would be completed in May, while the group would have one final bash at Now And Then again during the March 20th and 21st Sessions.
Jeff Lynne: It was one day, one afternoon really,
messing with it. We did the backing track, a rough go that we didn't
really finish. It was bluesy sort of ballad, I suppose, in A minor. It
was a very sweet song. I like it alot and I wish we could have finished
Sources include: Keyboard Magazine Apr 1996; Mojo Magazine Nov 95, Dec 95; Apple Corps 'Real Love' Press Releases; The Beatles After The Breakup (Keith Badman - Omnibus Press); Beatles Monthly No. 220 Aug 94, No. 227 Mar 95, No. 231 Jul 95, No. 236 Dec 95, No. 239 Mar 96, No. 249 Jan 97 (Beat Publications Ltd); The Art And Music Of John Lennon (John Robertson - Omnibus Press); Today Night (Seven Network Australia); Ice Magazine Dec 95
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