Monday, February 11, 2008


The Beatles, I'll Follow the Sun.
The Beatles, I'll Always Be In Love With You.
The Beatles, Hello Little Girl.
The Beatles, Movin' and Groovin'/Ramrod.
The Beatles, One After 909.

John gets after me whenever I drift off and pulls me back, and then there I am again, sitting about and playing with him and Paul and Paul's little brother and that sour wet George. Sitting in the living room, sometimes packed into Paul's bathroom, sitting on the lino, making the tapes.

I can do all right what John first taught me--put the thumb on the fat string nearest me, then hit the furthest fret up, then the third fret up. Again and back again, count to four. After a while, I just try to make a rumble, make a shadow sound. Paul's after me to learn more and always makes a pinched little face when I botch whatever he wants. You can tell he just wants to rip the Hofner out of my hands and just do it himself, but instead it's meant to be instructive.

Here Stu, he says. Here watch me do it. When I go "doooon't leave me alone," you go up, like this. Dooon't leave me alone. Like Elvis, he tries. Take my advice, treat me niiice. The face he makes, the prat. And then you just go back to where you started, he says. It's easy.

He's so proud of that one. He wrote the words out on a sheet, in a very neat hand--I'm sure he got marks for that in school. I've written a song, he tells anyone who wants to hear, and those who don't as well. I've written a song. It's called I'll Follow the Sun and here it goes: One day--you'll know--I was the one...

It's fucked my hands up good, all the playing. Skin's come off most of the fingers, and I've got a big red welt on one thumb. Sometimes I don't even notice how much blood there is after we've been at it for an hour. How do you know Stu's been here, cos there's bloody fingerprints on the wall. Looks like Lady Macbeth's been to the loo, John says.

Sometimes it's just work, I find, just a grind. Painting is you, the canvas and what waits on the other side; music is everyone waiting on you to do your bit.

It comes easy for John and Paul. Once they went in the other room, I thought just to get a cup, and they came back and they had a new song, like they just rapped their heads together and out it came, fresh as an egg. "Hello Little Girl"--the Everlys/Holly one--that's how they wrote that one. And George is like a little monk, eyes always on the strings, having practiced, it seems, from the second that we last broke off to the second just before he came in the door. Hunches in the corner, always has the sniffles. But he's got the solos down and you never can call him out on anything.

Come round on Saturday for a rehearsal session, Paul says, I've borrowed the machines. Sometimes I can't be half arsed to go, and I don't think they miss me, but then John turns up and says he needs me around. Come on Stu, have a go, we've got a good one--we've got a train song we've just written. Like Johnny Burnette.

The other night John was crashing here, lying on the floor and just talking, the way he does, as though John could, if he kept at it, talk the world into the shape he wants it to be.

Stu, I was thinking, he said. In heaven you're supposed to reunite with everyone, right? Mum, dad, gran, great-aunt, Queen Victoria, beyond, right.

I suppose, I said.

What if you don't want that? My mum, fine, but I couldn't give a toss about the rest. Seems a bit petty that if we die, all we get is to be like kids again, and have a lot of dreadful old people fussing about you.

So I guess heaven's right off then, I said. He laughed and rolled over to sleep.

The days pass now and I feel like I'm stepping through windows, a series of them. I told John and he didn't laugh, but just nodded, as though he'd done it already. But at some point I know, I know, I need to do some proper work again.

Stuart Sutcliffe
joined what was then known as The Beatals (and a bit later as the Silver Beetles) in late 1959, and left them when he chose to stay in Hamburg and attend the state art school in 1961. He died suddenly in April 1962, at age 21, possibly due to a head injury that he got in a bar fight. Some of Sutcliffe's paintings can be seen here.

The demos featured here were recorded in April and/or May 1960, in Paul McCartney's home at 20 Forthlin Rd, Liverpool. The theory is that the band had access to two portable Grundig tape recorders--they would record on one, and then transfer the best takes to make a "master" tape on the other.

Three tracks from these sessions have been officially released on Beatles Anthology 1, while the rest (some two dozen tracks) remain available only on bootlegs. Of the covers, "Movin' and Groovin'" was Duane Eddy's 1958 debut single, co-written with Lee Hazelwood, and Eddy released "Ramrod," written by Al Casey, a few months later. Sam Stept and Bud Green's "I'll Always Be in Love With You" is from 1929--it's unclear which version the Beatles were familiar with, maybe Charles Brown's from 1956.

For the originals, "Hello Little Girl," recorded as part of the Beatles' failed Decca audition in January '62, eventually was fobbed off on The Fourmost and Gerry and the Pacemakers; "I'll Follow the Sun" wound up on Beatles For Sale; "One After 909," after a failed studio attempt in March 1963 left in the vaults, was resurrected in 1969 for the Beatles' last live performance, on the Apple rooftop. When they sang it, for the last time in their lives, the Beatles were young men.

All photos (and much information) are from the excellent Beatlesource.

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