One After 909-1969 Glyn Johns Mix

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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.

Re-Those Fender Amps

Regarding those Fender amps, the bass and guitar amps they’re using are tube amps (or valve, as they would have called them), but, as Fender amps go, they are abominable. Those silver face Twin Reverbs sound like breaking glass, which gives even more credit to those guys for making them sound good. It’s in the fingers, in the mind, and in the heart, as anyone with experience will tell you. 

The Fender PA system is, however, solid state, which makes sense for a PA. Interesting, though, that the Fenders eventually disappear and the trusty old Vox cabinets take their place. 

One great gear geek moment is when they wheel in a brand new Leslie cabinet in the box. We always think of Leslies as antiquities, but they were still making those beasts in 1970 on a regular basis. 

Eric Bazilian

P.S. Fender did make solid stare guitar amps for a little while, they were horrific but Jan Akkerman managed to eke out a decent sound from them during his Focus days. 

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Fyi, those CBS Fender Twins were tube amps. 
There are also a couple of Fairchild compressors in the background, coveted to this day and worth a fortune if you can find one. In fact, there are many software companies that make emulations of those units. 

Wade Mosher

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You’re going to get a lot of mail about the fender gear. The guitar amps were twin reverbs and the bass amp a bassman (50 watt). These 68/69 models had silver control panels (silver face) and a thin “drip edge” frame around the grill cloth. They were transitional models, these first silver faces had pretty much identical circuitry to the previous 3 years’ blackface models and are all tube. 

They’re still much in demand

The pa was solid state. 

Best

Jack Morer

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Those are drip edge Fender 1968 amplifiers they are definitely not transistor they are extremely desirable. I own four of them.

Matt Peyton

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Bob sez: “They were all transistor based, the cognoscenti pooh-poohed them, tubes rule, but now there is some affection for this CBS era gear. Imagine, a record company owning a musical instrument company!”

I didn’t have to imagine, I was The Electric Flag’s roadie and I went to the Fender warehouse in Fullerton, backed the truck up and filled it. 2 Twin Reverbs, 2 Supers, 3 Dual Showmen, couple of Champs, Rhodes piano, and, because CBS owned Rodgers Drums, a full beautiful blonde wood set for Buddy. This was 1967 and it was all tube except for the piano. I would have gotten a couple of Leslies-yes, CBS owned it too- for the Hammond B-3 but we already had 2. Those amps were tough and they had to be because we played them hard and put them up wet. 

Phil Brown

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Those “silver face” Fender guitar amps were absolutely tube circuits

The PA units were indeed transistor 

-Bob Carey

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Bob, the Fender amps were not transistor or solid state, they were all point to point tube amps. What was solid state was the PA they were using for vocals. Those late 60’s amps are classics and still produced, though not point to point like these were.

Joel Goldman

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If I may, I’d like to point out that the Fender Twin Reverbs and Fender Bassman amps used in the film are very much TUBE amps, and quite heavy. I wouldn’t have wanted to carry them up to the roof. George also plays through a Leslie rotary speaker, which is also a tube power amplifier. The Fender PA was solid state however. 

Bob Rice
Culver CIty, CA

keys/guitar tech for Neil Young

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I am sure you have heard by now
those Fender instrument amps (twin and bassman) all are prue tube baby!
and Georges fender tele is one of a kind!
I dig a a pony too! 🙂
Peter Stema

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Just a brief clarification. The Fender bass and guitar amps, Twin Reverbs for John and George and a Bassman for Paul, were tube amps.  At that time Fender did offer solid-state versions of those models, but they were universally disliked. (And looked completely different.)

The Fender P.A. used by The Beatles was only available in the solid-state version. Fender was very late in the P.A. field and they didn’t make a tube P.A. head until years later.  You can see the solid-state head in some of the rooftop shots.  And they had the accompanying Fender P.A. cabinets leaning on a railing, aimed down at the street.

Long-time reader,
Carl Grefenstette
Pittsburgh Guitars

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Those are tube amps

Bill Whitbeck

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The Fender amps used in the Get Back sessions were absolutely NOT “transistor based” – they were standard Twin Reverb amps which happened to be the best combo amps money could buy and arguably still are. The puny Fender “P.A.” they were using was an awful solid state (transistor) model that were low powered and sounded mediocre at best. 

Carry on..

Rob Wolfson

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Really great read. Although, I can’t help but point out that the silver panel Fender guitar amps (introduced in 68) were in fact tube amps and nearly identical (at that time) to the earlier black panel amps.  Solid state amps really didn’t take hold until the late 70s with Roland, etc. Interesting bit about the PA though. 

Anyway thanks for writing!
Nick Hamilton

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Fender had been trying for years to get the Beatles and this is where the fruits of their labors are seen – the BAss VI, George’s custom rosewood telecaster (too heavy). 

The guitar and bass amps are all tubes – no transistors – and are called silverface amps vs the black panel pre CBS amps. By this time they weren’t that different sonically especially for twin reverbs which is what we see. It was the 70s where quality control started dropping and they changed parts values…

The PA however is solid state and that line was a disaster. 
Regards,
Ned Ward

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Bob – The silver faced twin reverbs and the bassman were all tube amps. The fender PA was the only transistor item (sounded terrible). CBS made both black face (at first) and then silver face amps. What changed when CBS took over was merely the size of the speaker cabinet in the Showman and Bassman. I think nothing but the face changed on the Twins. 

Bob Pfeifer

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The Fender amps at that time were tube amps, not transistor. The CBS era at Fender was considered bad because of some modifications CBS made at that time that were poor, but  generally their products were still usable.

Keith Fretz

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Someone else will probably say this too, but the Fender ProReverb amps they were using were tube amps…I had one (1968) and it was awesome!
Proudly sold it to https://thechrisforsyth.com/ as it was ultimately too loud for my needs

Jesse Lundy

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re; cbs era amps:

at this time fender had two lines of amplification; tube AND solid state. the ss were soon discontinued due to excessive failure rates.

the pa is from the ss line, thus the complaints with the sound.

the guitar amps, ‘twin reverb” and “bassman”, are from the tube amp line; no transistors involved.

as far as collect ability, only the pre cbs by leo fender himself (pre 1965) hold any cache. cbs made cost cutting measures (printed circut boards vs hand wiring) which lowered desirability.

Frank Distefano

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You’ll probably get 1,000 emails from dorks like me, but the amplifiers that John, George and Paul are playing through are classic models of Fender’s most notable and long-lasting tube amp designs, not transistor amps. 

John and George play through Twin Reverbs and Paul is playing through a Bassman.  All are from 1968, a year notable for the aluminum “drip edge” trim that surrounds the edge of the grill cloth, for that year only.  These amps were good then and are still sought-after today.  

You’re right about the PA — solid state and not popular. 

What IS really notable is that unlike today, when even the most hack indie band guitar and bass player is obsessed with her or his vintage or boutique or otherwise-special-in-some-way instrument, amp and effects pedals, these guys are just using the “newest and best” equipment and obviously could care less about the gear or obsessing over getting a particular “tasty” tone.  

BECAUSE THE MUSIC IS WHAT MATTERS, NOT THE GEAR. 

FWIW John Fogerty played through a transistor Kustom amp on many of CCR’s hits.

Dave Dederer

Get Back-Part Three

I used to ski with Scott Brooksbank, the World Freestyle Champion. Every day he was just one of us, but when he hit competition he took it up a notch, he was SPECTACULAR!

As were the Beatles on the roof of the Apple building.

You can’t appreciate how great they were unless you’ve watched the previous seven hours. The noodling, the disagreements, the endless repetition, the tweaking… Like they say, the more they played certain numbers they got tired and the productions got worse. The definitive statements were elusive. As a matter of fact, in some cases the definitive recordings, the ones that ultimately appeared on the “Let It Be” album, were cut live, outside, and that’s positively jaw-dropping, especially in this day of Pro Tools and hard drives and…

It’s funny how Paul, the driving force of the project, is reluctant to hit the roof. Whereas John and Ringo are into it, it’s a lark, why not? It’ll be a new and different experience, it may not work out. But Paul is gun-shy. It’s not exactly clear why, whether it’s the raw fear or the feeling it’s not the proper conclusion to the film.

And it is film, with big heavy cameras. You see that at the end of this documentary, when we see the slate and the other intrusions the filmmakers make. How inhibiting! Then again, most creative people require complete silence or complete noise, they need to be in their heads, with their thoughts resonating.

Which also makes it hard to understand the presence of Heather McCartney. Talk about intrusive. But Paul’s got time for her, and in truth how long was she there really? There was so much footage, and so much unshot, ultimately you could make any film you wanted, positive or negative. The 1970 version was negative, this is positively positive. Sure, George leaves the band, but in retrospect, was he really leaving? He is certainly integrated after the fact.

And place matters. Twickenham did not have the right vibe. A smaller room with all the clutter did. And it’s fascinating how they’re using brand new Fender amps and PAs, no one seemed to use Fender PAs thereafter. As for these latest Fender amps? They were all transistor based, the cognoscenti pooh-poohed them, tubes rule, but now there is some affection for this CBS era gear. Imagine, a record company owning a musical instrument company! Then again, the conglomerate ultimately owned the Yankees. It’s kinda like a Don Henley song, they build ’em up and then they tear them back down. Gulf + Western, aka Engulf + Devour, bought Paramount Pictures in the sixties. Coca-Cola even owned a movie studio. Now they’re selling GE for parts. Turns out the so-called greatest manager of the century, Jack Welch, cooked the books to show a steady profit and left Jeffrey Immelt with an unmanageable company, not that Immelt rose to the challenge.

So as the episode moves on there’s a discussion of what they’re actually doing. Is it an album, a movie, a TV show, or..? And what is made clear is it’s the Beatles decision. This was the sixties, the acts took charge, and since the Tommy Mottola era their power has been slowly whittled away. But the artists know best, not that they really know, they’re just on an endless quest until it feels right.

So for an album they need fourteen songs. But they’ve only got seven. But in reality maybe they have fourteen. And then it occurs to you that rummaging through these tapes to create an LP would be very difficult, which is why they abandoned the project and ultimately left it to Phil Spector. Would I hate “The Long and Winding Road” as much without Phil’s strings? It resonates much more in its naked version in the documentary.

And the whole concept of writing in the studio. As for everybody marveling how Paul McCartney created “Get Back” on camera out of thin air, I don’t buy it. He probably had the elements in hand before the cameras turned on. Having said that, watching the band spontaneously add and change words, and watching George work with Ringo on “Octopus’s Garden,” is revelatory. George says it’s got to RESOLVE! There is a method to the madness, they know all the chords, they’ve paid all those dues on stage previously, as demonstrated when they spontaneously play the fifties classics. Records are finite, but until they’re finished, they’re fluid.

And you see George Martin finally weigh in. And John Lennon is more amenable.

And then comes the roof.

First, will the structure support the weight?

Then there’s the set-up. With Glyn Johns and George Martin downstairs in the control room. But there’s a tape op on set with a Nagra. Nagra, the state of the art, what all the Grateful Dead shows were recorded on. Rare and expensive Swiss machines with utmost quality, normally used for films.

And Mal has the drums nailed down wrong. When did they start nailing down drums, and did they do it at every gig?

And it’s cold. And there’s fur, a no-no today. And despite being hesitant, Paul’s got on his look, and then…

THEY START TO PLAY AND IT’S AMAZING, ASTOUNDING!

You almost can’t believe it. Sure, there were moments of perfection in the studio, mostly with the vocals, sometimes with the instruments, but it never ever sounded THIS GOOD!

It’s a band. Not the kind of band you see in an arena today, but the kind of band that permeated the landscape in the sixties, they were everywhere, oftentimes with the same construction: drums, bass and two guitars. Occasionally you got a keyboard player, like Mike Smith in the Dave Clark Five, and a lead singer sans instrument, like Eric Burdon in the Animals, but one thing is for sure, everywhere you went people were forming bands, live music was everywhere.

But how can it sound so good without modern effects? Without backup musicians? Without hard drives?

Not only Paul’s voice, but John’s guitar playing, he’s picking the notes and they sound just right. And Ringo proves his worth after being an afterthought so much of the time downstairs. And you watch George Harrison and you realize this guy invented so much of this, he was there first. He’s talking about Eric, but he’s no slouch.

But it’s the way they come together that astounds. It’s a mellifluous sound.

And they play long enough for you to analyze. What sounds good at the gig oftentimes doesn’t sound good at home, you were caught up in the moment, filling in the gaps. But the Beatles on the roof sound…well, a bit rougher and noisier, but mostly it’s the energy of a live performance, different from a studio concoction, it breathes, it’s alive!

But not only is reluctant Paul delivering, he’s INTO IT! The way he twists his body, he’s got the music in him.

As for John… He’s bouncing like he did on Ed Sullivan. Almost like a frog. They’re musicians, not stars. They’re doing their jobs and we can just watch, with our jaws dropped.

They’re so comfortable, they haven’t played live for years, but there’s no rust to shake off, they’re right back into it. And you can see the band before the studio productions, when the albums were cut nearly instantly and the band made its bones on the road.

As for the assembled multitude…

It’s unclear how good the sound is on the street, and you certainly can’t see the band. But one thing is very clear, everybody’s so OLD! People don’t get old anymore. They dress young and hip, even if they don’t get plastic surgery. And almost no one is this formal anymore. And mostly the band gets kudos, as for the naysayers…you wouldn’t get that today, then again if it was hip-hop…

As for the Bobbies… Doesn’t that strap on your chin annoy you? And then one cop starts chewing on his!

And then there’s the subterfuge. The sincere lying, the dissuasion, of Mal Evans and others. This happens all the time. There are layers of interference protecting the band, allowing them to do what they want. And even when the Bobbies get to the roof Mal keeps them at bay, ultimately turns off the amplifiers but the musicians turn them back on, and keep playing.

As for the Bobbies… I can’t believe they’ve got their names. Where are those guys today? Never mind the Apple receptionist, Debbie Wellum. (See a cast list here: https://bit.ly/3DioU4w) It was a long, long, time ago. Hell, “American Pie” is fifty years old!

And when you hear the casual asides, never mind the music, that end up on the final album your adrenaline spikes. The circle of life is complete.

And then it’s over. But not really. The rooftop was not finality, there’s more recording to be done, they’re back in the studio the next day. But before that… They wanted to keep recording that afternoon/evening, but the instruments were still on the roof and ultimately they’re all sitting in the control room, listening to the playback, grooving. No airs, it’s just them.

And now you know why you wanted to be them. For a zillion reasons, not only the money and the perks, but the ability to play, channel their thoughts and emotions AND LIVE BY THEIR OWN RULES! Freedom, and not the kind that allows you to avoid getting a vaccine. The Beatles were leaders, they kept looking forward, unlike Jo Jo, they didn’t want to get back to where they once belonged, rather the four of them wanted to get on the 909 and experience life and its tribulations, to ultimately distill it into music.

So it’s cognitive dissonance. You’re watching the documentary and you think you’re in the present, but you’re firmly in the past, which has already been written. The recording equipment, the automobiles, the clothing…they’re all passé, yet the music is curiously modern. It was created on barely more than a whim, and it’s FOREVER!

So ultimately the pace of the beginning pays off in the end, with the rooftop performance. You feel what the band feels, you see the challenge, and you’re overwhelmed by the delivery.

But it wouldn’t go down that way today. Because everything is fixed in post. To the point where almost nothing is alive and kicking. And it’s humanity we’re looking for. We want our machines to be perfect, but not our art.

But that’s it, done, definitive.

John and George are dead. John by the bullet of a deranged assassin, George by lung cancer… You’re astounded everybody in the film is not dead from lung cancer, they’re smoking up a storm, everybody’s a chimney. Remember when you could smoke in public buildings?

Oh that’s right, most people weren’t born or conscious when this was the case. So many commenting on the Beatles were not there the first time around. Sure, you can listen to the records but you don’t know the experience. Just like you can listen to Robert Johnson but really have no idea what it was like being an itinerant blues musician a hundred years ago.

But if you were there, you not only remember the Beatles, but the clothing, what you were doing. Life was going on while the Beatles were playing and recording. You were going to school, or working. And music was not everywhere, there were no smartphones, never mind portable tape players. And you couldn’t afford everything. So the albums you did purchase you played ad infinitum, you know them by heart, not only the tunes, but the clicks and skips.

That was then and this is now.

Turns out history is not written in stone. During the recording of what ultimately became the “Let It Be” album it turns out the boys were not at each other’s throats, the band was not about to implode, that was a narrative that took hold when the “Let It Be” movie and album were released after the subsequently cut “Abbey Road,” after “McCartney” had already come out.

But the band had to break up, for so many reasons. We didn’t want it to, but life is a journey, and you can’t cripple someone’s trip. Which is why parents should guide their children but not dictate to them.

And John was still an impressionable child, mesmerized by Allen Klein, even though Glyn Johns lays out a detailed case why the manager should not be trusted. In retrospect, Paul was right. But charlatans will always permeate the music business, you need someone to speak to your dreams, to speak to the suits, to make you feel you’ve got an advocate on your side. But it’s a rare manager who can subjugate their priorities to those of the band. I’ll make it simple, if the band doesn’t work the manager doesn’t get paid, and managers want to get paid, which is why so many bands tour year after year.

So now what?

Turns out no one could ever replicate the Beatles’ success. Not only did we never get a new Beatles, no one even makes this music anymore, especially today, it’s too hard. You’ve got to have experience, you’ve got to have talent, you’ve got to have not only chops, but great voices. You’ve got to be willing to fly without a net, and continue to do this even when the financial struggle is in the rearview mirror.

And you’ve got to cut records with melody and changes that people can sing along to, that they can’t get out of their head.

That’s the Beatles. Demonstrated exquisitely, at length, in “Get Back.” You can watch it as nostalgia, you can watch it as a learning experience, or you can watch it to be inspired. Yes, that’s the ultimate lesson, you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other, you’ve got to risk, you’ve got to do it.

Dig it?

Brinsley Schwarz-This Week’s Podcast

Brinsley Schwarz was a king of the pub rock scene with his own band and then became a member of the Rumour, which backed up Graham Parker and ultimately released records under its own moniker. Brinsley went on to work as a guitar tech in a music shop and then reunited with Graham Parker after getting over his fear of flying. Listen to the story of a journeyman who was never a star, but made a life out of music, who has a new album to boot!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/brinsley-schwarz/id1316200737?i=1000543732505

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/9ff4fb19-54d4-41ae-ae7a-8a6f8d3dafa8/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast?

https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-bob-lefsetz-podcast