Richard Furnstein: It's odd that they chose this half-written crapfest to test their technological limitations. They managed the supreme piece of recording art that is "Strawberry Fields Forever" with a four track, but thought that they needed twice as much recording capabilities for George's moaning waif of a song. I'm surprised they didn't insist on a 48 track mixing board when they started work on "Don't Pass Me By." The Beatles are the greatest thing that humans have ever accomplished, but they certainly didn't understand the concept of "you can't polish a turd." The Fab Four (along with Chief Turd Polisher George Martin and Admiral Turd Buffer Geoff Emerick) would routinely try to make something from nothing. Sometimes it was pure bliss (cue "You Know My Name Look Up The Number") and other times you had to sit through endless vomit like "All Together Now" or "Only A Northern Song." The psychedelic years saw the biggest offenders of this trend, as a few toots of a horn or a backwards calliope were all that were needed to legitimize the lamest of acid-fueled half-ideas.
Robert Bunter: Everybody finally gave up and let this song onto the Yellow Submarine 1969 soundtrack album in a hideous "fake stereo" mix (highs on one channel, lows on the other), but it's surprising they didn't just release it in the horrible out-of-synch version they must have heard in the studio when they didn't hit the buttons at the same time. That would have been in keeping with the violent assault which this song represents.
Richard Furnstein: "Only A Northern Song" was originally slated to appear between "Fixing A Hole" and "Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite" on Sgt. Pepper's. Can you imagine if this actually happened? I don't need to imagine, I pressed a small run of Sgt. Pepper's original tracklists for my personal use in 1983. And take it from me, it's an absolute mess. You are barely coming down from the supremely incredible "Fixing A Hole" (remember: gentle fade) and the death chords of "Only A Northern Song" come blaring. Then you have to deal with John's fey psychedelia in "Mr. Kite," all the while wondering why you didn't just lift the needle during the perfect "Hole" fade. You are sitting there, completely not under the influence of acid, listening to some overblown handlebar mustache psyche-ooze. Oh, wise guy, think you'll just make an MP3 playlist in your iTunes? Great idea, but you don't even have the relief of an album side change to give you a break from the dreaded black hole of "Northern Song"->"Mr. Kite"->"Within You." It's a John babble sandwich with two thick overlong pieces of moldy George Harrison fumbling songwriter bread. Choke it down, fool. That's what you get for messing with perfection.