On Rethinking “Hot As Sun”

Last night, WAMU, the public radio station in Washington, broadcast a documentary entitled The Beatles: One More Album, which examined what another Beatles album, after Abbey Road, might’ve been like.

It wasn’t definitive in any way, but it was interesting. The early solo music of the four Beatles was discussed, from songs they tried out for Let It Be and Abbey Road that didn’t make the cut to their first solo albums. Copious amounts of music was played, with a particular highlight being George Harrison’s demo of “Isn’t It A Pity?” that was an iTunes-exclusive bonus track for his recent solo greatest hits album. (This is also, by the way, the only official Beatles track available on iTunes, as this demo was recorded early in the Let It Be sessions.)

One point that was made during the hour was that it was likely that songs the Beatles never wrote for their early solo albums would have appeared on a 1970 Beatles album. The very act of working together, of being competitive with one another, would have produced entirely new and different music.

Which, naturally, prompted some thought.

Some time ago, I came up with my own post-Abbey Road Beatles “album.” I called it “Hot as Sun.”

I like this “album.” To me, it feels right. It feels cohesive.

But, listening to the documentary last night, I realized that it’s missing something.

It’s missing a McCartney “story” song.

Paul McCartney liked writing “story” songs. “Eleanor Rigby” is a good example. “Penny Lane.” The middle-eight of “A Day in the Life.” Several White Album songs, like “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” or “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Songs that aren’t about love, peace, and happiness. Songs that are about people, leading mundane lives.

McCartney didn’t have a “story” song on McCartney. Well, “Teddy Boy” or “Junk,” but they’re not quite what I’m looking for. His early single “Another Day” counts as a “story” song. I could slot that in “Hot as Sun.”

Except I have a better idea.

“1882.”

It’s a little-known McCartney song, because he never recorded it and released it officially. You can find the original demo here.

He wrote it in mid-1970. It’s a Dickensian tale of a young boy and his starving mother in Victorian England.

There’s no good recording of the song — the demo is unfinished — but I imagine it would fit on “Hot As Sun” on side two, in place of “Valentine Day.” I can really only imagine it there; I can’t put it in the playlist and have it “fit.”

I can dream, though. 🙂

7 thoughts on “On Rethinking “Hot As Sun”

  1. I remember your “Hot as Sun” post, because I went and created an actual album for it in iTunes. I then showed it to Andrew Gurudata — a Beatles fanatic — and tried to convince him that it was a long, lost Beatles album. 🙂

    You’re right: it’s so cohesive, I think of it all as a single album.

  2. I was thinking “1882” would be a good story song as I was reading your post and then saw that you said so toward the end of it. Paul has a lot of unreleased songs that are very strong and some of his flip-sides are very good, too. He did a piano/vocal demo of a song called “Seems Like Old Times” in 1980. I have read it was offered for a movie of the same name (which i think had Jill Clayburgh) and wasn’t used. It’s a song about middle-aged people meeting decades after a love affair and it has many verses. It is one of the most focused narrative songs he ever wrote. He recorded another version of it (also unreleased) which has several instruments but lacks the wistfulness of the piano version. Many of his unreleased songs surface on Youtube.

  3. Frederick, thanks for your comment. 🙂

    Recently (within the past month) I found a live recording of “1882” from a Wings gig in 1972. It’s very bluesy in its performance; there’s something about it that sounds downright Zeppelin-esque.

    Hearing that version of the song prompted some interesting thinking — in the mid-60s, the Beatles competed with other bands. Revolver was a response to some early Beach Boys, Sgt. Pepper was a response to Pet Sounds, “Helter Skelter” was a response to The Who’s “I Can See For Miles.” But then they stopped competing. (In a way, Abbey Road‘s second side answers The Who’s Tommy, but that’s by coincidence, not design.) What if the band had kept going — and in doing so they decided to compete with the musical trends? What would a Beatles album influenced by Zeppelin have sounded like? What if McCartney had steered Wings in a vastly different direction?

    Anyway…

    “1882” is a good song, and there’s an interesting mash-up version that can be found here. (It’s by iamaphoney, the creator of the Beatle-esque fan-mix of Lennon’s “Now and Then.”)

  4. I’ve always thought “Junior’s Farm” (as heard on the longer edit on WING’S GREATEST, not the shortened one on ALL THE BEST) was a good, unsentimental example of rock. I’ll have to find that live version of “1882.” I noticed, recently, that “Don’t let it Bring You Down”, from LONDON TOWN has some similarity with “1882.” But “1882” is a good, grim story. He should make it an official release. It deserves to be heard.

  5. I did a similar thing to Hot As Sun, sometime back on rec.music.beatles http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.beatles/msg/a0d5b7de63fb7111
    Lots of similarities, and I see we agree on some modifications to MaximumBob’s rules (3 George songs is a must). I had an idea that the Let It Be tracks might have come out as a combination of EP (rooftop) and singles (e.g. LIB/ATU, L&WR/FYB and the POB YKMN/MaryJane), leaving this track listing as viable.

    Anyway, here’s a better idea that doesn’t involve changing history too much. Since John & Paul are known to have hung out during John’s lost weekend (73-74), what if a one-off reunion concert had been played then, eg at MSG, ala Concert for Bangla Desh? What would the set list have been? What would they have wanted/been prepared to play, and what would it have sounded like?

    I made a provisional set list, and a playlist, restricting myself to stuff that they definitely recorded live and solo.

    Come Together (alternate ’72 live version from Lennon Anthology)
    Something (Concert for Bangla Desh version)
    Get Back (PM Live 8 version)
    Revolution (’68 David Frost Show version)
    Lady Madonna (Wings Over America version)
    While My Guitar (CBD)
    Day Tripper (live from ’65/’66)
    Got To Get You Into My Life (Wings live in Glasgow, ’79)
    Taxman (GH Live In Japan, ’91)

    It Don’t Come Easy (CBD)
    Maybe I’m Amazed (WOA)
    My Sweet Lord (CBD)
    Imagine (alternate ’72 live version from Lennon Anthology)
    Yesterday (WOA)
    Here Comes The Sun (CBD)
    Give Peace A Chance (’72 live in NYC; or ’69 Toronto)

    Encores:
    I Saw Her Standing There (JL with Elton, MSG ’74)
    Hey Jude (PM Back In The US, 2002)

    I think it’s close: Ringo might also do With A Little Help; John could do with ‘another Beatles song, maybe Don’t Let Me Down. Would they have done some rock-n-rollers (Blue Suede Shoes, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Hound Dog etc) given that both John and Paul had that stuff in their live repertoire between 69-72.

    Whaddaya think?

  6. I read Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money recently. If you’ve not heard of the book, it’s a history of the Beatles — when they stopped being Beatles. Most biographies of the band end in late 1969/early 1970; this one starts as the Beatles empire starts to collapse in early 1969.

    It’s fairly well-known that John and Paul got together during the Lost Weekend (and even during John’s “house husband” period”). I even have the bootleg album A Toot & a Snore in ’74 (John and Paul’s jam session in Los Angeles in ’74). And within the past ten years, it’s become known that John was invited to take part in Wing’s sessions for Venus & Mars in New Orleans. Doggett explains what happened there (and it doesn’t match up with Yoko Ono’s mythology about Yoko and John deciding to get back together after the Elton John concert, which provides a reason for why the story hasn’t received wide currency) and how close the world came to John and Paul recording together again.

    But that wasn’t the only near-miss.

    Doggett explains that one of the reasons that Paul McCartney’s lawsuit to dissolve the Beatles partnership in late 1970 came as a blindside to the other three was that they genuinely thought they were going to be recording together in early 1971. A great deal of George’s anger toward Paul stemmed from the lawsuit, and while they eventually buried it (and George made an offer to Paul to appear at the Bangladesh concert), their relations were strained for a number of years. But if Paul didn’t sue the other three… Imagine that — a combination of Imagine and Ram as the Beatles reunion album.

    In a deposition John made in 1980 about the play Beatlemania!, John said that the Beatles were planning a reunion concert for sometime in 1981. And there’s some thought that John expressed interest in recording with Paul during the Double Fantasy sessions.

    Going back to the possibility of John recording with Wings, I’ve thought that what we might have seen was a kind of Beatles supergroup — John, Paul, Denny Laine, Jesse Ed Davis, Ringo if he were interested (and sober). I leave George off because by the mid-70s, he’d taken a hard line on Paul.

    Your 1970 album is a nice one. I’ll put that playlist together and give it a listen.

  7. Glad you like the track list. My aim was a quieter feel – more like a contemporary CSNY groove – somewhere between Deja Vu and the softer bits of White Album.

    Doggett’s been doing this long enough, so I suppose he knows his stuff. (Interesting how lightweight his 80s discographies seem now, compared with what we expect since Lewisohn, McDonald, Gould and similar books).

    All the same I’d be interested to know on exactly what basis, amidst all the goings on of 1970, George, John and Ringo would really ‘genuinely’ ‘think’ they were going to be going back in the studio with Paul ‘sometime’ in 1971. I’m sure there were all sorts of 2,3, 4 and more-way chats about all sorts of possibilities and resolutions, and no doubt lots of scope for misunderstandings or broken promises, but all four were pretty busy throughout 1970 (see my little montage http://www.flickr.com/photos/bakewell/4589219/) so not many obvious windows for them to really get their teeth into the idea!

    And artistically Paul made the severance public in April 70. We know how bitter Lennon was that he’d been leant on to keep his desire to split quiet since late 69, (apparently for business reasons) but Lennon got his retaliation in by disbelieving in Beatles months before Paul’s lawsuit.

    Of course they /might/ have kissed and made up like in 68 and 69. But the Klein/Eastman and other business stuff was irreconcilable, for one thing: I doubt many people would do much different from Paul, if their business, artistic and family situation were in a similar mess. Don’t you think, we often overlook, in judging the actions Beatles (or other celebs) what we do ourselves in our own tangle of love, friendship and business relationships?

    I admire George hugely, but he was a bit of miserable git sometimes 🙂 Personally I don’t think Paul could ever have worked with Lennon again while Yoko was around. Significant that the near reunion was during the May Pang period, which is why I’d place the reunion concert then.

    Also the concert idea doesn’t condemn them to the difficulties of recording together again, just having a bit of fun – a few days’ rehearsals, largely on their own already-established arrangements of their own songs. George and Ringo might not have been able to get John and Paul to show up for Bangladesh, but John, Paul and Ringo together might have been enough of a draw to get George treading the boards for a night or two (especially for a good cause). Personally I’m not interested in any other combo – not Denny or Klaus or Eric or Elton!

    My running order was inspired by the way Teenage Fanclub in concert almost religiously stick to doing one song by each songwriter in turn. And the idea that the set would mainly focus on the late ‘rock’ numbers, with perhaps an interlude of one solo ‘hit’ each. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the acoustic medley of My Sweet Lord, Imagine, Yesterday and Here Comes The Sun came out.

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