Isn’t it ironic that the low point in the Beatles’ career ended up being the best documented, especially in the realm of bootleg releases? We have enough material from January 1969 to keep us going for days or until we cannot take anymore, which is the case for most people who try to listen to this material en masse as they fail the “January Listening Challenge”.
Back to the ‘waves’. The first one followed the broadcast of Glyn John’s acetate on North American radio stations in September 1969, leading to the very first Beatles bootleg – KUM BACK – in January 1970 and all subsequent copies and re-packaged versions like SILVER ALBUM , DIG IT!, HOMOGENIZED BEATLES & RENAISSANCE MINSTRELS VOLUME II , GET BACK TO TORONTO , GET BACK SESSION , etc.
Details regarding those exciting times when the world wondered what the Beatles were up to after the White Album & Yellow Submarine can be seen in series I published in this blog called “How the first Beatles bootleg material was leaked – The Great Elusive “Get Back” Radio Search, Part One”
The “second wave” consisted of material recorded off of the LET IT BE soundtrack, perhaps with a method as primitive as recording it in a movie theater with a portable recorder. The results were the GET BACK SESSIONS 2 / MORE GET BACK SESSIONS releases on TMoQ & Michael & Allison Records.
The third wave came in December of 1974 via Contraband’s two SWEET APPLE TRAX volumes, which presented 90 minutes of previously unreleased Nagra reels, mostly from January 8 to 10 at Twickenham. These releases have their own entry on the blog as well.
Then, for two and a half years there was nothing, until this much hyped EP came along in February of 1977:
Below is an image of the ‘cover plus sleeve’ version mentioned in the flyer above. This particular copy sold for the high start price of $118 in April of 2017:
January 8th was the Beatles fifth day of filming at Twickenham studios. The idea of a culmination in a live show was still alive at this point (in the afternoon, the idea of continuing rehearsals on a passenger ship taking them to North Africa to perform at an amphitheater there, will be discussed).
Following George’s premiere of his newly written song “I Me Mine” and everyone’s arrival,
Nagra tape roll 71A – (16:02 in length) records them trying to play these songs:
Stand By Me
Hare Krishna Mantra
“Well, If You’re Ready”
Hare Krishna Mantra
Out of these, 8.08 and 8.10 – 13 (based on DDSI numbers) make up the 6 minutes 49 seconds found on side 1 of this EP.
A little later, Nagra tape roll 74A – (16:05) captured the following songs:
Mean Mr. Mustard
Don’t let me Down
All Things Must Pass
Fools Like Me
You Win Again
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Highlighted DDSI numbers 8.40 to 8.42 make up all of the 6 minutes 28 seconds on side 2.
In the summer of 1977, the Dragonfly LP INDIAN ROPETRICK repeated “All Things Must Pass” but also offered something new: A playback of a Nagra reel from 14 January 1968 on Radio Luxembourg, offering the tracks “Watching Rainbows” and “Mean Mr. Mustard” with the DJ frequently talking over them to assert the station’s exclusive rights to them.
The “Watching Rainbows” broadcast pre-dated the “Abbey Road” LP
“Excerpts from the “Watching Rainbows” reel [recorded at Twickenham Studios , Jan. 14, 1969, DDSI 14.27-14.29] were taken out of EMI’s tight-lidded vaults and broadcast by Radio-Television Luxembourg as early as March 1969. During the “one-time-only” broadcast an RTL commentator claimed the occasion was “a gift that the Beatles made us, at RTL, send to you.” Station identification was announced throughout the broadcast to prevent pirates from taping and re-transmitting or pressing the music onto vinyl.
Bootleg vinyl of “Watching Rainbows” without the incessant RTL voice over had surfaced by May of 1977. Of course, the RTL broadcast also had been pirated. A poor quality copy appears on Indian Rope Trick the mid-70s collection of mostly bogus Beatleg material. “Rope Trick” wins the prize for most horrendous reproduction of the “Rainbows” reel – recorded off a radio receiver, passed down at least one generation and then pressed onto cheap vinyl. At least the disruptive French voice overs provide copyright documentation, coming, as they do, at intervals of 45 to five seconds. RTL’s broadcast began with the RTL dee-jay talking over “Watching Rainbows.”
“And here’s the gift that the Beatles made us, at RTL, send to you… two new titles which are worldwide exclusives…”
“Standing in the garden waiting for the sun to shine. Hand in my umbrella… ” and the DJ comments over.
“And here is the first one… exclusive from RTL …. …If you hear this song somewhere else other than RTL, it means it has been stolen from us.”
[Free jam . Lennon on mustard fuzz organ; George with angry Clapton inspirations.]
“The first time, it’s always like this. You don’t like it very much. But in two months, when this record comes out, you will see. You’ll like it!”
“Listen carefully, because you won’t hear this record for two months!!!”
[Tape cuts to Mr Mustard (Dirty Bastard) /Madman .]
“This is a working tape that the Beatles lent us. This is why you will hear it only once, but we wanted to let you hear it first from RTL before anybody else… ”
“…It’s strictly forbidden to tape this, especially for those of you who work for another radio station.” The DJ continues dispersing bursts, at 5 second intervals, of self-promotional anti-piracy tags: “The Beatles with an exclusive on RTL.” “Don’t tape. ” “R – T – L.” “The Beatles are on RTL exclusively,” and “It’s the first time in the world that people hear this new Beatles song…. on RTL, of course.”
Why RTL was allowed to broadcast a Twickenham tape at such an early date might be explained by the group’s relationship with Radio Luxembourg and commercial “pirate” radio just before the hysteria of Beatlemania broke. In the early 1960s, radio in England was dominated by the state-owned and operated BBC. There wasn’t much time for pop music programmes, but Radio Luxembourg was privately-owned and offered more opportunities for aspiring, unknown pop and rock artists.
George told a journalist during the 1964 Australian tour that the first DJ ever to play a Beatles recording was at Radio Luxembourg.
“Originally we were played on Radio Luxembourg because that’s a commercial station, and the, ah, the record companies, you know, they pay for time, air time on these shows. So they promote the record. So that’s the show we were on first… but they’ve still got to transmit from Luxembourg, which makes the reception (in England) not as good as the BBC.”
Harrison also endorsed England’s independent “pirate” radio, whose broadcasts were legal in 1964 only because they originated from ships in international waters. “Well, it’s great,” Harrison told the journalist. “Yeah… We could do with a couple right in there, in London.”
(by Ron Synovitz; French translations from “Indian Rope Trick” by Ariane Julie-Synovitz)
I used to own this and should have kept it, the multi-color vinyl really adds something. The selected cover images do not really fit as they are from the White Album era, taken on the “Mad Day Out” photo shoot on 28 July 1968.
Back to Twickenham studios, 45 years ago. On 10 January ’69, George has finally had enough and walks out of the sessions (and again on a meeting they had on the 12th). Surprisingly, the reason was not in his artistic relationship with Paul but George was very unhappy with John (as discussed in the Sulpy/Schweighardt book Get Back). On the 14th, the last day at Twickenham before filming and recording resumed in the basement at Apple, John premieres a new composition “Madman”, a bit of another new one, “Mean Mr. Mustard” and an improvisation born out of Paul playing the guitar part for “I’ve Got A Feeling” and John improvising three verses based on lyrics from “I Am The Walrus”: The improvisation known as “Watching Rainbows”.
February 1978 saw the release of the expanded LP version:
The first two tracks are from 14 January ’69 as mentioned above. “Blackbird” (takes 1 + 2) was recorded by Paul on August of 1974. The rest of the tracks on side 1 and side 2 including “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” come from Twickenham, 8 January.“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” is take 13, recorded 2 July 1969 and would become the opening track on another famous Audifon Beatles LP: No 3 Abbey Road NW 8 . The unlisted last song “Her Majesty” (with the final chord intact) was recorded on the same day. John’s take on the Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” (with a little help by Paul and the sarcastic comment “OK, George, take it”) was the next available recording from Twickenham on 10 January ’69 after George had walked out.
John Winn writes in Beatlegmania – Volume Two: “Although the Twickenham tapes are slightly longer here than on the EP’s, they don’t sound any better. Brand new here are “Blackbird”, “Two Of Us”, “One After 909”, “A Quick One While He’s Away/improvisation” and “Her Majesty”. A second pressing of this LP in July 1978 used an upgraded but slightly shorter tape of “Watching Rainbows/Madman/Mean Mr. Mustard”. “
“I wanted to add too, that the recordings heard on “Rainbows” (1st pressing) and “Indian Rope Trick” are different sources (i.e. different original tapes). This is determined by a difference in radio interference and static. The “WR” LP is better overall quality but contains more interference and while “IRT” is cleaner, the quality is not as dynamic. There is also a different edit between “Rainbows” and the “Madman/Mustard” jam. But, of course, the edit doesn’t really determine anything. It could have come from anywhere.
“The original recording from Twickenham – without the French voice-over – is found in the best quality, taken from a tape source (the Nagra tapes, roll 145A) on Yellow Dog’s “Day By Day” vol. 17, disc 2.
Unfortunately the tape runs out so the end of the “Watching Rainbows”-jam is missing.
The complete recording, however, is found on the old LP “Watching Rainbows” where it’s taken from the B roll that has gone missing.
Finally, the missing ending on “Day By Day” is found on on one of the “Get Back Journals” and for the best result (soundwise) you can edit those two together.”
“I don’t know about the provenance of the original tape that made it to the RTL broadcast, but I would like to make this observation – although the version on the “Indian Rope Trick” is sonicallly inferior to the slightly-better-sounding one on “Watching Rainbows”, it doesn’t have some of the “scraping” noises heard at certain points on the WR LP – noises that sound to me like dirty panpots or faders/sliders. Which suggests to me that the appearances of Mustard, Madman & Rainbows on “Indian Rope Trick” and “Watching Rainbows” were from two different tape dubs or “passes” from a higher-generational source. If it makes any sense, or indeed matters.”
In the 1980’s, Watching Rainbows was ‘recycled’ in Japan as disc 2 of this double set: