One After 909-1969 Glyn Johns Mix



You’ve got to listen to this on headphones.

I got the “Let It Be (Super Deluxe)” boxed set a couple of weeks back. I immediately had to listen to the multiple renditions of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” my favorite song on the original LP. I cherry-picked some other titles that looked interesting, but the experience wasn’t satisfying, they were often just fragments and…

I didn’t listen again until last night.

I was hiking in the mountains and I decided to listen to the 1969 Glyn Johns mix. Which upon previous perusal I thought was a little dull, a little underproduced, but that was before I saw the documentary. I wanted to get as close to the music as possible.

So the original Glyn Johns mix starts on Disc 4, and the opening track is “One After 909.” Which I know by heart, but it was never one of my favorites. And I push play and…IT’S REVELATORY!

It starts with some nonsense noise, but now I know this is the exact track from the roof, and then…

It’s rough in a way the original is not, it’s rock and roll like the original is not, AND JOHN AND PAUL ARE IN SEPARATE CHANNELS! You listen and you can SEE the documentary.

That’s a feature of the documentary, the four lads in the studio and John and Paul doing call and response vocals. But this is the complete, original live track, AND THEY’RE SINGING AT THE SAME TIME, it’s so incredible you’ve got to pull it up to listen to it.

But please watch the documentary, see the rooftop performance first. You can’t help but see the images in your mind’s eye as the track unspools.

A studio recording is different from a live performance. The elements are all mixed, effects are added, it oftentimes sounds very different from how it did when the instruments were all played together initially, if they were all played at the same time to begin with. But live…

Sometime in the seventies they started mixing all the instruments in the PA, but before that, vocals only came through the PA, the rest came through the players’ respective amps. And if you were standing up close and personal, the music was separated. The lead guitar to the left or right, the bass on the other side, and oftentimes the lead vocal on one side of the stage and the backups on the other.

So there are always these intermittent sounds before a song starts live, it’s not silent between the songs like it is on a record.

And the guitars start wailing, and you can feel the energy, and they’re a bit rough, it’s not a homogenous sound, rather the instruments breathe. But really it’s the vocals. Paul in the left, John in the right. And they’re not perfectly aligned, they might be singing the same words, but with different vocal timbres and not simultaneously and in sync. It’s absolutely incredible, it’s the ESSENCE OF ROCK AND ROLL!

But I had to be sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks, so I went back to the original Phil Spector release. It’s a bit dull, the rough sounds have been excised, it’s everybody playing together, although the piano is in one ear and the lead in the other, but John and Paul are mixed together. It’s a record, not a performance. The energy is absent.

So then I pull up the 2021 Giles Martin mix from the deluxe package. It escapes the box, it’s less controlled than Phil Spector’s take, but once again John and Paul are mixed together, something is lost in the process.

But then I went back to Glyn Johns’s 1969 mix. I got the same damn feeling, the fix once again. It had a a raw quality, even Billy Preston’s piano, but with one Beatle singing in each channel, from different parts on the stage, you can hear exactly what they’re singing, the track is alive in a way the other two or not, this is a band, these are people, THIS IS ROCK AND ROLL!

It’s driving, it’s edgy, it’s got that prickly lead guitar so prevalent in the era, especially live, and the band is playing together, but there’s air in between each one of the players, it’s a BAND!

Suddenly what was once an album track, not one of my favorites, becomes the best cut on the album, it’s the Beatles from the first half of the sixties, when they still played live, it’s the exact same sound.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

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