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"Come Together"

Categories: Beatles songs

The Beatles had always opened their albums with an attention-grabber, but — shoot me! — "Come Together" has to be one of the most compelling of all their intros.

George Martin believes it to be 'one of their greatest tracks', citing the innovative and distinctive contributions of each of the band as evidence. It's difficult to argue, listening to the way everything comes together, even as they were falling apart. Headphones are a must to truly appreciate their interplay. The mutation of a straight-up rocker to the final swampy, funky-bluesy, rocker-beat-a-boogie, calf-skin groove (to quote all Four) was a rush-job towards the end of the Abbey Road sessions, on account of John's car-crash, and — judging from the Anthology files — it came together right from Take One.

Mr Martin himself played a key-part in the process. Having had the rest of the album to play with the knobs, sliders and mojo filters on the studio's newly installed eight-track system, he had fully come to terms with bag production, interweaving the instrumental and vocal textures without missing a s-h-o-o-O-O-T!!! He was to have a lot of fun doin' it again digitally for his LOVE-mix, too.

Whatever it was that was coming together back in '69, it evidently wasn't the Beatles as a unit at this stage. Nevertheless, their bickering — as always — took a back seat to professionalism as they jammed it to get it right.

Well, almost.

John did pick up the shimmery electric piano part by peeking over Paul's shoulder, then played it himself for the recording. He similarly declined any assistance in the vocal overdub department, taking the second take (and the handclaps) on his own. 'I'm singing it pretty well,' he assessed his performance. The way he was playing with his voices here, he seemed to be tuning up for the ways he'd be using them on a lot of his solo stuff...

Has to be said, he didn't do such a bad job with that pilfered piano, either. Must've had his joo-joo eyeball on Billy Preston, methinks — and a goo-goo ear'ole on The Doors' Ray Manzarek — to pull off the seductive menace of the fills, and providing a spookily accurate forecast of "Riders On The Storm" through the long, spacey fade.

Had his hair not been down to his knees, John'd've probably had 'em up on the keys, stomping it Shea-style for the solo. That staunchly out-of-step march-time sequence is about as close as it came to its original objective of becoming the rallying hymn for Timmy Leary's proposed White House Campaign, leading off a lengthy line-up of largely lost causes with which the Lenono alliance would later align itself.

Come Together:
Right Now,
Over Me!

Macca's restricted vocal contribution was considerably more than just passable (otherwise John would've probably had it wiped) though it's his bass-playing which is the real spinal cracker here. Again, maybe on account of it coming together at the close of the project, he — and everyone else — kinda sum up all the sounds and feelings of the rest of the record on this one track. Another astute motive for its final placement at the Beginning of The End.

The broody, rubbery-gumboot riff and rollercoaster fill-runs are as innovative and effective as the rest of Paul's exemplary stringwork on The Road. Ringo's reading of him is equally acute: shoot, man — they'd been bouncing off each other for long enough to know where it was all comin' from an' goin' to...

I know you
And you know me:
One thing I can tell you
Is you got to be free!

George, on acoustic, works with the vocal like only George could, leaving Johnny Joker to just do what he please on lead.

He play a cool one: he got jingle-jangle, he got angry clankin', he got slinky slidin'... The latter, at the fade, has always seemed to me to serve as a sort of early warning of "Something" coming up from his sidekick.

Having finally succeeded in getting some verbal gobbledegook onto an A-side (doubled with said "Something", shortly after the LP), in addition to including a long-awaited 'walrus' reference, Lennon ran into legal problems over gettin' ol' flat-top groovin' up slowly with that line being so similar to part of Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me". Part of his out-of-court settlement with the publisher was to release his own version of the original, which he eventually got round to on John Lennon / Rock 'n' Roll in 1975.

"Come Together" was included on the setlist for his '72 Madison Square Garden gig, backed by Elephant's Memory, released on LP and video as Live In New York City. Lennon became the victim of his own tongue-twisting twaddle on that particular occasion: stumbling over his Ono Sideboards and nearly cracking up with laughter during the rollicking rendition, which turned out to be his last gig.

Just what he'd been holy rolling is anybody's guess...

Come Together
— Yeah!
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