The Twickenham Sessions (1)

Part One :

Part Two :
Part Three : 
Part Four :    



The Twickenham Sessions <<<
The Apple Sessions

The Rooftop Concert

The Apple Studio Performance


Comments were taken and adapted from The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn.

Thursday 2 - Wednesday 15 (January 1969)
Recording sessions for The Beatles "White" album had proven to the group that they had entered a tense and difficult period. As their natural motivating force, Paul could think of only one solution: to have them "get back" to what had united them best before inconceivable fame and fortune had clouded the issue - live performances.

The plan which garnered the most approval, even if it was sanctioned only grudgingly in some quarters, was for the Beatles either to broadcast live or video-tape an eight-song one-hour television show in front of an audience - perhaps along the lines of the September 1968 Hey Jude promotional video shoot which everyone had enjoyed so much.

Ideas were tossed around, but the vital unanimity which would have propelled the plan into reality could not be achieved, for despite the pitching in of big ideas, none of the other Beatles was wholly enthusiastic about Paul's scheme.


Although they remained unable to agree on a venue, the man appointed as producer of the TV show, Denis 0' Dell, suggested that they at least begin rehearsing, and do so at Twickenham Film Studios up to 3 February. 0' Dell suggested too that the rehearsals themselves be filmed on 16mm, for perhaps a half-hour "Beatles At Work" TV documentary, which would either accompany the concert performance or be shown a few days before or after. This would be the start of the Get Back enterprise, probably the most confusing and certainly the most frustrating period in the Beatles' career. 
Uncertain still of what would be the exact end purpose of their activities, the group came to Twickenham on Thursday 2 January to begin rehearsing new songs for the television show. And they arranged for the rehearsals to be filmed too, for transmission at some unforeseen time, with Michael Lindsay-Hogg recruited as director for both the concert and documentary filming, the Beatles themselves as executive producers (putting up the money), Tony Richmond as director of photography and Glyn Johns invited by Paul to oversee all of the sound aspects.

Though he wasn't given a title, as such, Johns was, in effect, the sound producer. Here at Twickenham it was his task to solve any technical problems, ensure that the right sound balance was achieved and get the music and conversation down on tape - not multi-track tape as used in a recording studio but quarter-inch two-track. (It is important to recognise that none of these Twickenham film sessions was taped in the customary recording studio manner. These were strictly rehearsals, not sessions, and only one tiny speech ad-lib from these two weeks at Twickenham was issued on record.)

Shooting began first thing on the first day, Mal Evans and his assistant being filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg carrying the Beatles' musical equipment onto the cold and otherwise empty stage one. The Beatles were due to arrive at 11.00 am, and all did so except for Paul who, presently favouring public transport as a means of travelling around London, finally showed up at 12.30.


Working a Monday to Friday to schedule, typically starting between 11.00 am and 1.00 pm each day, the Beatles made a fairly torrid time of their days at Twickenham. It certainly wasn't all doom and gloom, but much of it was unsatisfactory. Working without any clear musical direction, with a cauldron of resentment and anger simmering just below the surface, and often surfacing, and working in the cold and otherwise empty soundstage, the Beatles now were just a tired, jaded rock group going through the motions.

The most digestible of the Twickenham material was included in the Let It Be film; much of the remainder was just too awful to be screened, showing the Beatles jamming more than one hundred songs, sometimes just a line sometimes an entire number, dire performances which were mostly out of tune and time and rarely played with any conviction.

It ranged from children's nursery rhymes (Baa Baa Black Sheep) to rock standards (All Shook Up), to Beatles oldies (Help!) to future solo titles (All Things Must Pass, Back Seat Of My Car, Child Of Nature [Jealous Guy], Every Night, Give Me Some Truth, Maybe I'm Amazed, That Would Be Something), to made-up-on-the-spot tunes which, because of the film, had to be copyrighted (Suzy Parker, ascribed to Lennon - Starkey - Harrison - McCartney, Paul Piano Intro, Lennon - McCartney, and Jazz Piano Song, McCartney-Starkey), to nonsense (Chopsticks) and to childhood radio memories (When Irish Eyes Are Smiling). As a two-week exercise in sheer sloppiness it was a good job.

Straight away, however, at Twickenham, the old hostilities returned : Yoko encroaching upon the Beatles' line-up, Paul "bossing" the group around and allegedly "preaching" to George about his playing.

Clearly, it was sensible that the Beatles should have got together soon to paper over, and perhaps even seal, the cracks which had to be doing so only 11 weeks after concluding the seemingly interminable 'White Album' sessions was asking for trouble. Those wounds hadn't yet healed, now salt was being applied. What's more, putting 30 songs onto The Beatles had fairly exhausted John, Paul and George's cache of unrecorded compositions. They had a few but the onset of a new project so soon forced some into the open before they could be honed and polished as would usually have been the case.

The TV show idea came to a grinding halt in the Twickenham canteen at lunchtime on Friday 10 January. Having bickered, on film, with Paul, and - according to press reports which followed - had a bitter argument with John, and having finally relinquished any vestige of interest in the Beatles performing an audience TV show, George walked quietly up to the others, said "See you round the clubs" and left. No one tried to stop him as he got into his car and drove to his home in Esher and then, according to published reports, journeyed north to see his parents for a few days.

After lunch, John, Paul and Ringo (it was still only five months since he himself had quit) returned to the sound-stage and carried on. As the cameras filmed, but without speaking among themselves, Yoko sat on George's blue cushion, a symbolic moment, and proceeded to scream a long, typically-Yoko jam, a powerful, angry blast in which the Beatles turned avant-garde, forcing feedback from their instruments. After it was over, still without speaking, the group left and went home.

A weekend break followed and, although no one expected George to return, the other three Beatles assembled at Twickenham the following Monday morning and spent most of the next three days sitting around on the set, talking meanly and playing only a little music. (No footage from this period made the finished film.)

George eventually returned to London on Wednesday 15 January for a long - reportedly five-hour - meeting with the others in which he announced that he was prepared to leave the group. Provided, however, that they met certain conditions he would acquiesce: the Beatles must abandon all talk of live performances and, instead, make an album, using the songs intended for the TV special with a few more thrown in.

 Part 2


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