The number of Beatles bootlegs—in every possible medium and state of quality—must approach infinity. A person could spend a lifetime acquiring, cataloguing, scrutinizing, and discussing the relative merits of various outtakes, live recordings, demos, and studio goof-offs from the band and its individual members. It should go without saying that a great many of these artifacts have more historical than musical interest, given their fragmentary and unserious nature—and the simple barriers posed by bad recording. But while I imagine some angry antiquarian or zealous devotee interjecting here to tell me that absolutely everything the fab four touched turned directly to gold, I remain unsold on this article of faith.
So where are we average fans to place A Toot and a Snore in ’74, the bootleg album (above) recorded at Burbank Studios and featuring musical contributions from Stevie Wonder, Harry Nilsson, Jesse Ed Davis, and Bobby Keys? Well, its historical value is beyond question, since it represents the only known record of John Lennon and Paul McCartney playing together after the Beatles’ breakup. Though their mutual dislike at this time was well-established and they hadn’t seen each other in three years, the tapes document a very laid-back session with the two legends—John on lead vocal and guitar, Paul singing harmonies and playing Ringo’s drumkit—letting go of the past and having some fun again. Lennon first mentioned the recording while discussing the possibility of reunion in the 1975 interview below (he’s surprisingly warm to the idea). At 1:45, he says, “I jammed with Paul. We did a lot of stuff in LA. There was 50 other people playing, but they were all just watching me and Paul.”
How does McCartney remember the session? “Hazy,” he said in a 1997 interview, “for a number of reasons.” The drugs were surely one of them. The title refers to Lennon offering Stevie Wonder coke in the opening track: “do you want a snort Steve? A toot? It’s going round….” The impromptu gathering convened on March 28 during the recording of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats, which Lennon was producing. This was during Lennon’s so-called “lost weekend,” the year and a half during which he separated from Yoko, lived with their assistant May Pang, and did some serious drinking and drugs (as well as recording three albums).
Pang, who was present and plays tambourine, recalls it as a night of “joyous music” in her 1983 book Loving John, but you probably had to be there to fully appreciate it. As Richard Metzger at Dangerous Minds notes, “it’s basically just a drunk, coked-up jam session.” But, he adds, “a drunk, coked-up jam session of great historical significance.” And for that reason alone, it’s worth a listen. Or, if you like, you can read a transcript of the ramble and banter over at Bootleg Zone. Consisting of lots of studio crosstalk, noodling improv, and a few attempted covers, the session was released by Germany’s Mistral Music in 1992, credited simply to “John and Paul.”
via Dangerous Minds
The Beatles: Unplugged Collects Acoustic Demos of White Album Songs (1968)
The 10-Minute, Never-Released, Experimental Demo of The Beatles’ “Revolution” (1968)
Hear the 1962 Beatles Demo that Decca Rejected: “Guitar Groups are on Their Way Out, Mr. Epstein”
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
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