RINGO RECORDS 'I'M THE GREATEST' AND 'GOODNIGHT VIENNA'
The first section of Show 8 describes the story of how Ringo came to record and release two of John's unreleased songs in the 1970s. First up for discussion is I'm The Greatest, the track that features on the 1973 'Ringo' album, and, significantly, marked the moment when three of the former Beatles recorded together for the first time since Abbey Road in 1969. John was on piano, George on guitar, and Ringo on drums and vocals.
To demonstrate the song's evolution, a rough demo is first played. Recorded by John at his home in Ascot in late 1970, we hear him accompany himself on piano. A moment later, the listener is transported to 1971 and a more polished studio demo version, featuring John's vocals, piano and drums. Musically, it is not too far away from the finished product but lyrically still obviously a work in transit as many of the lyrics featured failed to make the Ringo version.
An interview with May Pang then tells the story of how John came to give a second song - Goodnight Vienna - to his former bandmate. During 1974, while recording Walls and Bridges, John met up with Ringo in LA while the drummer was recording his 4th solo album, a visit that culminated in Ringo recording the Lennon penned track. This part of the show ends with John singing Goodnight Vienna.
ABBEY ROAD DISCUSSED
Part two of Show 8 features the opinions of several key Beatle insiders to side two of the monumental Abbey Road. Surprisingly, they are diverse. Kicking off with an excerpt of a demo of Sun King, Ringo reveals in a 1974 interview that side two of Abbey Road is his favourite Beatle record. We then hear John in his Jann Wenner interview from the early 70s describe the same songs as junk, merely bits of songs put together. He much preferred side one. Fast forwarding to the 1980 David Sheff interview, we find that John's opinion had not wavered in the intervening years, describing it as a 'montage of bits and pieces.'
A demo of Mean Mr Mustard is followed by an excerpt of the Sheff interview in which John reveals the origins behind Polythene Pam. While with a friend in Jersey, 'Roy Something', who John labels as being England's answer to Beatnik poet Allen Ginsbourg, John describes how he was introduced to a female called Polythene Pam.
Promising the listener that Abbey Road will be returned to before the end of the show, the next section of the show focuses upon the song Mind Games. We first hear a late 1970 vocal and piano demo titled 'Make Love Not War'. A second demo from the same time, 'I Promise', follows. A work in progress, it and 'Make Love Not War' would later evolve into Mind Games, the finished track that in 1973 provided the title of his new album and became the lead single. To round off the story of Mind Games, the released version plays.
IN MY LIFE
John tells David Sheff in 1980 how In My Life came to represent the first song he wrote that was directly about himself, as opposed to a made-up love situation song ala Everley Brothers and Buddy Holly where the words were almost irrelevant. The inspiration for this, John reveals, was a TV journalist called Kenneth Allsop who asked him why he didn't put some of his childhood in to his songs. John goes on to discuss how the original words to In My Life started off as a bus journey from his home in Menlove Avenue into Liverpool City Centre, mentioning the places he passed on the way - Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and tram sheds.
John also mentions Paul McCartney's contribution to this landmark song. With the lyrics already written, Paul helped with the melody in the middle 8.
This look at In My Life ends, naturally, with an airing of the studio version of the Rubber Soul track.
MORE ABBEY ROAD
The last part of Show 8 returns to Abbey Road, and the song Come Together. We learn how Timothy Leary partly inspired its inception. In 1969, Leary was preparing to run for governor of California when John offered to compose a campaign song for him. As Leary states in an interview excerpt, the slogan of his campaign was 'Come Together - Join The Party.'
A Lennon interview excerpt highlights a second inspiration behind the composition of Come Together besides Leary - Chuck Berry's You Can't Catch Me. In this clip, John reveals a little of his songwriting technique, describing how he began strumming the rhythm of You Can't Catch Me before adding the slogan 'Come Together' over the top.
The show ends with a segment of Chuck Berry's track, followed by the Lennon cover from the Rock and Roll album.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT TODAY'S SHOW
It was interesting to learn that Lennon's opinion about the last half of Abbey Road, what many consider the pinnacle of The Beatles' career, remained unchanged until his death. Also, I was left wondering if In My Life would have been written if he had not been offered the advice of a certain Kenneth Allsop, a name that does not feature highly in The Beatles story.