Welcome to the Beatles Rarity of the Week. A look at the early output of The Beatles makes it quite apparent that they held a high regard for the American soul/Rhythm & Blues (R&B) genre of the late fifties and early sixties. With covers on their first two albums such as Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go To Him)” or “You Really Got A Hold On Me” originally by The Miracles, it was easy to see that the influence of this sound was ingrained into their roots from early on. The inspiration of these classics within The Beatles was not limited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney either. George Harrison’s cover of The Cookies’ 1962 single “Chains” on the Please Please Me LP or “Devil In Her Heart” (originally “Devil In His Heart”), a cover of the Donays 1962 hit single, appearing on With The Beatles, showed that he was just as enamored with this style as the others.
This appreciation of soul music continued into later years with George as well. In January 1969 he invited Billy Preston into the sessions for The Beatles Let It Be album. Billy was formerly in Little Richard’s backup band when The Beatles met him in Hamburg in 1962. Billy went on to perform on The Beatles’ legendary rooftop concert of January 30th, 1969 and his unique brand of keyboard playing appears on both sides of The Beatles “Get Back” b/w “Don’t Let Me Down” single as well as about half of the tracks on Let It Be. Billy signed with The Beatles’ Apple Records in 1969 and worked on several albums with other Beatles (John, George and Ringo Starr) throughout their solo careers.
Another R&B artist signed by Apple in 1969 was Doris Troy. Her eponymous album released in 1970 was co-produced by herself and George, who also contributes guitar and a composition called “Ain’t That Cute.” Billy Preston also plays on the album. In 1970, George wrote a song for Ronnie Spector (formerly Veronica Bennet, lead singer of R&B group The Ronettes). Ronnie was married to Phil Spector, who at the time was working as co-producer with George on his upcoming All Things Must Pass 3-LP set. Phil had recently agreed to act as head of A&R (artists and repertoire) for Apple on the condition that Ronnie be able to record for the label and this is the reason George wrote the song, simply titled “You,” specifically for her vocal style and range. Ronnie recorded the song in 1971. It was to be her comeback single since the Ronettes had been inactive since 1967. Mysteriously Phil later elected to hold back her recordings including “You” and her related solo album project was quickly abandoned. George wrote another song for her called “Try Some, Buy Some” that he later recorded himself (for his 1973 Living In The Material World LP) and this became her debut Apple single. Unfortunately, since it flopped in America (only reaching #77 on the Billboard singles charts) and did not chart at all in the U.K., the follow up single which was to be “You” was never issued. Ronnie later admitted she hated “Try Some, Buy Some,” nevertheless “You” was not to be released by her.
In 1975, George came back to his original 1971 backing track for “You” and decided to spruce it up and add his own vocals to it. The musicians on Ronnie’s backing included himself on guitar, Leon Russell on piano and Jim Gordon on drums. George added some additional drums by his friend Jim Keltner as well as some tenor saxophone solos by Jim Horn. As a final touch he commissioned David Foster to add some ambient keyboard sounds. George’s version of “You” opened his 1975 album Extra Texture (Read All About It) and it was also released as the lead single for the album. Although Ronnie Spector’s vocals were mostly mixed out of the recording, there are a few places if you listen close that you can still hear her, though she is not credited.
For this week’s BROW, I want to bring you back to a take of “You” that precedes the 1971 Ronnie Spector recording and was recorded by George during his All Things Must Pass sessions between late May and late August 1970 when the song was first written. At this early stage it sounds a bit naked without Jim Horn’s saxophone work that we are used to hearing on the finalized version. George has not completed the words at this point either, so they differ in spots to include the unwritten bridge which, except for a single line, he vocalizes through. Interestingly in the chat before the take gets underway, George refers to Billy Eckstine, who was a singer during the swing era of the late 1930′s – early 1940′s.
George Harrison - You
1) The Apple single “You” peaked at number 20 on the U.S. Billboard singles chart in November 1975 and the Extra Texture (Read All About It) Apple LP peaked at number 8 on the U.S. Billboard album chart. In the U.K. “You” peaked at number 38 (Record Retailer) and Extra Texture (Read All About It) peaked at number 16 (Record Retailer). Extra Texture (Read All About It) was George’s final album on the Apple label.
2) Ronnie split up with Phil Spector in 1972.
Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music and media related to this post:
1) Extra Texture – 1992 CD remaster of original LP by George Harrison, featuring finalized single version of “You.”
2) Come And Get It – The Best Of Apple Records – 2010 remastered compilation of hits from Apple Records. Includes “Try Some Buy Some,” a George Harrison cover by Ronnie Spector and “Ain’t That Cute” also written by George by Doris Troy.
3) Be My Baby: The Very Best of The Ronettes – hits compilation by The Ronettes (featuring Ronnie Spector- formerly Veronica Bennett) including “Be My Baby.”
4) All Things Must Pass [BOXED EDITION] – 2001 boxed 2-CD remaster of original 1970 3-LP set with a few bonus tracks.
5) Living in the Material World – 2006 remastered CD of original 1973 LP by George Harrison containing his version of “Try Some Buy Some” written for Ronnie Spector and recorded earlier by her.