Thursday, February 24, 2011

One After 909

Richard Furnstein: Sorry, pal. You can't be the fifth Beatle. Why? Well, first of all you were born years after the band broke up. Second, you can barely sing or play amazing guitars. Third, they already have a fifth man, and it's Billy Preston. While the "Get Back" co-write for Preston was a little much, he completely defines "One After 909." His electric piano on this ultimate Beatles album filler transforms an ancient Lennon/McCartney rocker into one of the highlights of Let It Be. Preston is all muscle on this track; meat and tendons that were sorely needed during this bleak phase for the Beatles.

Robert Bunter: A bleak phase is right. None of them knew what they wanted to do. Break up? Get back to roots? Keep moving forward? Be sidemen for Delaney and Bonnie (George)? Fix up a barn in the Scottish countryside while growing a beard (Paul)? Act in movies like Candy and The Magic Christian that I haven't had the chance to watch yet (Ringo)? Attach urine-filled condoms to a nude photo of yourself hanging on the wall of a squalid flat in Montague Square while sniffing opiates and nodding off with your weird wife (John, allegedly, if you believe Albert Goldman, which you probably shouldn't)?

"One After 909" offers another possible solution: incorporate a good-natured, funky keyboard player into the band and boogie down on local rooftops. It's not an ideal outcome, but I'll tell you one thing: I like it better than what they ultimately decided to do, which was to break up. Think of the great five-man lineup Beatles albums of which we've been deprived! 1971's Soulful Mood Blend (Apple 2034), the 1972 double-lp extravaganza Songs In The Key Of Soul! (Apple 2088), the "My Sweet Lord / My Sweet Lord (version)" 12-inch extended mix single and 1976's Heard You Missed Us? Well, We're Back! (Apple, 3010).

Richard Furnstein: Take a listen to the Anthology take of "909." The Beatles play this version tight. The strummed acoustic in the introduction tries to manage expectations. Lennon and McCartney were likely already embarrassed by the "don't be cold as ice" lyric. It's a fun curiosity, but ultimately a trainwreck. Give it up to Preston for elevating a strung out batch of millionaires to rock heights that they couldn't even reach in their methamphetamine bopper days. Yay, Bill!

1 comment: