Come Together - The Beatles
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"Come Together" - The Beatles (1969)
Lennon said of “Come Together”:
“The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook.”
The publisher of a Chuck Berry song, “You Can’t Catch Me,” took Lennon to court and claimed the line “Here comes ol’ flat-top…He come grooving up slowly” was stolen from a Chuck Berry song: “Here comes up flat top.” An out of court settlement had Lennon agreeing to record three of Chuck Berry’s songs. Lennon responded to the accusation:
“I wrote obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line in ‘Here comes old flat-top.’ I could have changed it to but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on earth.”
When Lennon brought it in to the studio it was an up tempo 12-bar piece. McCartney suggested slowing it down, making it more “swampy.” McCartney said he laid down the bass line that people now use very often in rap songs. The whole track is drenched in echo.
Indeed, it was a strange song- a portrait of a kind of hobo-outcast-messiah, written in juvenile gibberish more scary than comic. From the very first note of the song, the four musicians combine four distinct sounds to create an instantly gripping musical mood which was unlike any other track in the Beatles’ musical canon.
McCartney composed one of his best known bass lines on this track. In fact, in many respects, the bass line was the song.
The drums and bass - during the intro parts – are performed in a very interesting counterpoint to each other. Ringo’s plays highly unconventional, swelling hi-hat triplets and rolling tom patterns that provide the creeping, slithery feel that animates the sinister character of Lennon’s lyrics.
Engineer Geoff Emerick remembers how Paul played the electric piano part, but John kind of looked over his shoulder and studied what he was playing. Emerick wrote that when it came time to record the track, it was John who played the electric piano- not Paul, adding:
“Paul might have been miffed, but I think he was more upset about not singing on the chorus as John did his own backing vocals.”
One perspective of “Come Together” is that it was John’s attempt to provide listeners with a composite rendering of the individual Beatles’ personae for Lennon’s portrayal of the band members, one per verse: George as the “long-haired holy roller”, Paul as the “good-looking player of Muddy Waters licks”, and Lennon himself through images of “the Walrus.”
In the last verse John may be referring to Ringo when he sings “Got to be good-looking ‘cause he’s so hard to see”- as Ringo was always standing behind the three others on stage and/or because people would focus on the other three.
“Come Together” is probably the last great psychedelic anthem – yet between the ‘groovy’ lyrics and the call to ‘come together’ the seeds of sarcasm and irony are sown.
When The Beatles sing “One thing I can tell you is you got to be free,” they are, in effect, agreeing with the Libertarians that freewill is a necessary component of the human experience.
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