The Beatles 1995 Anthology Recording Sessions
I know, you are saying, recording sessions? The Beatles Anthology CD and DVD are just about what any Beatle fan would want, even if you missed them, did not like them, the DVD set is a testament to their rise into music history culminating at the 1965 Shea Stadium performance. One never tires of seeing this and most are awestruck afterwards- 58,000 screaming girls, so loud, even the Beatles could not hear their vocals (which is why they are singing off key!). All rock bands could only hope to achieve their success.
The idea of the anthology actually began shortly after the band broke up in 1969. It was Paul's concept and through the years, snippets of film were collected and stored. The project was shelved and then in 80's, Steven Spielberg was shown a rough cut of it. He was not interested. Then, it was shelved again until 1990. The project then really lit up as the remaining members were filmed and everything about it turned serious.
The most unique thing about it were the two recording sessions, Paul, George and Ringo did with the ghost of John. Yoko had given Paul a 15 year old cassette recording of John cutting a rough tune called, Free as a Bird and Real Love. It was just John singing with the piano on the fly. Knowing John, he made the recordings just so that he would not forget the tunes, so common among songwriters. Free as a Bird was the theme song for John and Yoko's never produced musical they had planned called, The Ballad of John and Yoko (Yes, the Beatles last record and #1 song was under the same title. It was released in 1970).
The surviving Beatles approached the session as they done many times before. In the 60's, John or Paul might lay down a track by themselves and the others would fill in the song without them being present. So, this is what Paul suggested. They had pretended that John had left the songs for the others to finish before he went to Spain on vacation. The first run through was eerie for all of them - hearing John's voice after 15 years. Sort of like hearing a dead loved one the answering machine when the phone rings. Emotions were fought back. The Beatles were a family. Whatever sadness Paul, George or Ringo felt, came and went. All knew these two songs were John's last - FOREVER. Jeff Lynne, who was the engineer there, said once that was gone, the session was the best he has ever seen. The Beatles camaraderie was clearly evident as the "boys" tried to improve and add verses to John's uncompleted song. Lynne said, it was like in the old days when Paul and John were creating songs. There was the usual competition between George and Paul to create the best lyrics to complete the song, in the end, it was that that made the song better. Paul would joke about Lennon's piano playing, " He is always out of time, can't hold a tempo". Paul, like in the old days (A Day in the Life comes to mind) had to complete and create the whole middle part of the song and mix it down so it would not overpower John's mono recording. As Lynne witnessed, "this was the magic of the Beatles" the creative process one piece at a time. When the song was finished and played back in the studio, it was too much for Ringo. He broke down fighting back tears. Once he recovered, in a loud voice he declared, "It sounds like the bloody Beatles!" After all, The Beatles were more than a band, they were like brothers in a rock band from the same family. They lived for one another, had the same dream since 1957. Now the whole process repeated again with John's "Real Love".
Free as a Bird was No.1 on the charts for one week after its release. It was Beatlemania again, sort of. Thanks to John, the Beatles were back together for one last fleeting moment.