The Beatles: The Alternate Harrisongs

BTHrevZCEAAvYe5I love the Beatles, and I love Beatle bootlegs. They are usually slightly different than the familiar final album tracks, which makes listening to them the closest thing I have to hearing them for the first time.

According to the record sleeve, Harrison wrote all these compositions. The jacket includes English and Hebrew manufacturing information and expected misspellings due to faulty translation. There is a sense of mystery about Beatles bootlegs in that I do not know if it is vintage or reproduction, nor is it dated. I enjoy that aspect of uncertain history as another layer of the listening experience.

I picked up this record during Record Store Day this past April at Size Records in the Plaza District. While I have been familiar with the Beatles since I can remember I’ve only begun in recent years to appreciate George Harrison’s contributions to the Beatles. He was usually given one or two tracks per album to showcase his songwriting abilities. The compositions themselves are slow burners, but oh-so-good with often deeply introspective lyrics. I feel their simple yet sometimes complex structures get better with time. Same can be said of the songs on this album.

The album kicks off with an alternate version of “Don’t Bother Me” with vocals front and center and instruments toned way down. Slight variations in timing make the old favorite sound fresh. The trend of low instrumental mix with vocals amplified continues on many of the songs. It is a welcome change of pace to hear the vocals up close and personal with all their natural rawness. That said, these tracks are in no way production perfect. Tiny mistakes in timing, studio banter, and missed notes are present, but they remind us that the Fab Four, as great as they were, were only human.

A pleasant surprise included in this album is a full version of “It’s All Too Much” clocking in at just over 8 minutes. It is eight minutes of swirling psychedelic melodies paired with droning guitars. (Precursor to shoe gazing, anyone?) Another gem is the piano outro to the alternate take of “Something” that Ringo announces as “Take thirty-seven.” I have never liked the song that much, but the piano ending just might win me over. A more sobering artifact is the alternate version of “I Me Mine (Ringo Intro Jan 3rd 1970).” This particular take was recorded during the Beatles’ final session as a band. The song ends abruptly at 1 minute 45 seconds, reminding one of the tumultuous final days before the Beatles broke up in just three months later in April of 1970.

Overall, most of the tracks on this album are well-known, but there are a couple of more obscure songs like “Old Brown Shoe” and “Not Guilty.” However, the absence of  “Here Comes the Sun” and “I Want to Tell You” are felt, as both are fantastic songs written by Harrison. I would recommend this album for a seasoned Beatles fan, specifically a Harrison fan.

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Track-listing

Side One

1. Don’t Bother Me (Take 10)

2. Think For Yourself

3. Taxman (Take 11)

4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

5. Piggies (Acoustic)

6. Not Guilting (Full Version)

7. Only Northern Song [sic]

Side Two

1. It’s All Too Much (Full Version)

2. Old Brown Shoe (Take 2)

3. Something (Full Version Jam Session Ending)

4. For You Blue (Get Back Sessions)

5. I Me Mine (Ringo Intro Jan 3rd 1970)

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