Old Brown Shoe - The Beatles

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"Old Brown Shoe" - The Beatles (1969)

“Old Brown Shoe” was George Harrison’s take on “the duality of everything.”

Musically, it is characterized by a jangling piano, melodic guitars and a tandem, heavy bass line. Together, the uncanny texture of the instrumentation elaborated the core raunchy nature of the track.

Harrison said of the track:

“I started the chord sequences on the piano, which I don’t really play, and then began writing ideas for the words from various opposites... Again, it’s the duality of things – yes no, up down, left right, right wrong, etc.”

It was also one of the only times Harrison included a guitar solo in a song he had composed.
Alan Pollack writes that the song bears enough Lennon and McCartney “stylized blues” influence to fit in compatibly with the group’s overall output of the period.

“But at the same time, George appears happy and comfortable to go his own way with respect to chord progressions, arrangement, and an artfully complex, ambiguous attitude in the lyrics hard to pin down between sarcasm and ardor.”

The unusual bass sound was achieved by tracking the bass with the lead guitar. There is some controversy over whether Harrison played bass and it wasn’t until an interview he gave in January 1988 did he confirm that it was him- not McCartney that played bass on the recording.

However Dennis Alstrand, author of Evolution of Rock Bass Playing; McCartney Style, doubts this is the case:

“McCartney’s bass itself now blossoms as never before with a very edgy sound. He plays it brilliantly in counterpoint to George’s Telecaster sound.”

Professor Ken Womack writes in his book, Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles, that “Old Brown Shoe” offered a hint of greater things to come from the Beatles’ most underrated songwriter:

“A rhythm and blues fusion with McCartney playing a deft series of triplets on his galloping bass, ‘Old Brown Shoe’ features an ecstatic guitar solo from George, whose sizzling Rosewood Telecaster benefits from a heavy dose of ADT. It is last burst of the band’s spirited effort to get back to their free-wheeling rock and roll roots.”

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