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"Old Brown Shoe"

Categories: Beatles songs

Ant artwork for the Beatles' "Old Brown Shoe"
"Old Brown Shoe" was released in May '69 as the flipside to the "Ballad Of John And Yoko" single, the first installment of the triple Harri-whammy which concluded with "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun" on the subsequent Abbey Road LP.

Like many a Harrisong before it, the shoe had been kicking around for a while before the rest of the band took it particularly seriously. While they'd tried it on a couple of times during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions at the start of the year, it was George's one-man show demo (recorded on his twenty-sixth birthday in February and later released on Anthology 3) which seemed to finally grab their attention. Maybe it was a way of showing those who tried to drag him down (with every thoughtless frown) that he was a big boy now, capable of looking after himself, but Baby Beatle was finally starting to put his foot down:

I'm so glad you came here,
It won't be the same now,
When I'm with you!

As The Zoo hovered on the verge of extinction, the Dark Horse was really beginning to demonstrate that he'd grown up to be a songwriter — although, ironically in line with the list of contradictions in the lyric, he had actually been the first pre-Fab to be touted as a composer, on the cover of Mersey Beat, all those years ago...

An early start,
Making sure that I'm not late!

He'd certainly matured as a singer, too — though I've never quite worked out why he chose to bury his fine up-front vocal so far down in the final mix.

Who knows, baby?!!

Originally written on piano (unusually for George) he nevertheless ceded the keys to Paul for the recording, and a damn fine job Paul made of it too. That said, there's considerable debate over which of the two actually played the big, bouncy bassline, so brutally booted up by Harrison's shadowing electric guitar (more 'duality'!) Somebody's right,

But right is only half of what's wrong...

His two-in-one solo, in contrast to the voice, does come shining through loud and proud, changing faster than the weather from the smooth 'n' sexy first phrase into the stinging second half, equally comfortable on either foot.

John's rhythm guitar was apparently wiped to make room for the organ (GH once more), leaving the lusty vocal backing duel with Paul as his only contribution to the track (though he did claim it was his idea to make it the B-side). It does, however, seem fairly certain that Rings on every finger was in his customary position behind the drumkit, turning in — as always — an exemplary performance.

The Two Georges worked heel-to-toe in stitching it all together, layering the instrumental textures which come and go, anticipating their close collaboration on AR and — far from being imperfect — found them both stepping out to provide a real pre-taste of seventies' rock sound,

I'm tellin' you!
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