One After 909
Composer(s) : Lennon and McCartney
Year : 1962
Chords/Tabs: One After 909
Notes on "One After 909" (OA909)
KEY B Major
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Verse (Guitar Solo) -> Bridge ->
Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- With the exception of the two Anthology singles the "One After 909"
(OA909) must easily be the oldest "new" Beatlesong ever. Its official
release date, as part of the _LIB_ album, was May 1970, yet there are home
recordings of the pre-Beatles playing the song virtually ten full years
- It's a paradox: they supposedly held it back for so long because they
never did feel it was quite ready for prime time. Indeed, in comparison to
just about any other original song released on their first couple albums
and singles, OA909 is an unusually simple and straightforward song in
every compositional category.
- In contrast to some of the subtle formalistic variants you'll find
even in their early works, this one is fully cranked out with
its two bridges and a guitar solo modelled on the pattern of the verse
section. You might even say the form is a bit boxy from the way all
the sections are built out of even numbers of four-measure phrases.
- On the other hand, the stylized blues tint of the music allow it to
fit in just about anywhere in the Beatles canon. And the lyrics
have a deadpan bite and ambiguity in spite of the simple story they
tell that can somehow pass for later, or at least "mature" Beatles
- Some truth in advertising: much of this particular note is drawn from
a longer article published in _The 910_ (Vol.I, No.7) tracing the
evolution of the song through a succession of bootleg recordings.
For the moment let's just focus on the official recording.
Melody and Harmony
- Harmonically, only four chords are used throughout and they're very simple
ones at that, in spite of the hairy spelling of them caused by the 5-sharps
key signature of the home key of B Major. In order of appearance, we have
B, E, F#, and C# Major (i.e., the I, IV, V, and V-of-V, respectively).
- Furthermore, though not in a strict blues form, a couple of harmonic
factors help conjure a very blues-like feeling overall: the long sustaining
of the I chord (B) for a full 10 measures at the beginning of each verse,
and the manner in which the melody pits bluesy minor notes against the
Major harmonies; actually, all quite reminiscent of "I
Saw Her Standing There," in a way.
- The arrangement is very much in the come-as-you-are, good time,
jam-session style of the _Get Back_ sessions of which it is so obviously
a part. While there is some attention paid to the overall ensemble,
on the surface the entire group seems to be playing in a continuously
improvisatory style, a sort of rock equivalent of Dixieland jazz.
- This roughness is somewhat exacerbated by the live, outdoor nature of the
recording. Nevertheless, peeping through the thick sound one can't help
notice Billy Preston's piano licks (the glissandos, as well as a little
rising four-note motif: d-d#-b-b), George's twangy guitar fills in the
intro and between sections, and Ringo's clean articulation of the "b'boom"
figure in the third line of each verse section including the guitar solo.
- Vocally, we have John singing lead with Paul in parallel thirds above him
in the verses. For the bridges, John gets to sing solo with just the
slightest bit of apparently spontaneous heckling help from Paul in spots
(e.g. "run right home").
- Recording-wise, the official version of OA909 comes directly from
the rooftop concert of January 30, 1969 and is available in two very
different mixes. The one on _Let It Be_ has all the musical elements
homogeneously blended, including the vocals mixed close to center. The
_Get Back_ mix of the identical take sounds much closer the un-retouched
inline board tape of the rooftop concert which must have been, on some
level, the common source of both mixes.
- The vocals on the _Get Back_ mix are separated to such an extreme that they
can be almost completely isolated from each other by panning your stereo in
one direction or the other. Compared with the _Let It Be_ mix, this
one has the drums further forward and the piano further back. In general,
the less-processed _Get Back_ mix has a realistically harsh sound which
makes the _Let It Be_ mix sound like the audio equivalent of a cream
finished wine in comparison.
- The editing of the song is also slightly different in these two mixes.
The LIB version starts off clean, while the GB version opens with a clip
of backstage, camera-crew chat and tuning. I assume that this clip was
spliced in entirely out of context because there is a barely audible cut
right before the music begins. Both versions end with John's launching
into the opening of "Danny Boy" which we know from the video is the way
it happened in real time. However, the _Get Back_ unworthily tries to fool
us by continuing with Paul's "Thanks Mo" and John's "I hope we passed the
audition" comment, both of which are actually from the very end of the
- The intro is 4 plain measures of vamping on the I chord, introduced
by a pickup one beat and a half before the downbeat:
|B |- |- |- |
- Given the simplicity of the rest of the song, this kind of outro
effectively sets the tone without giving much else away so early in
- The verse is a four-square 16 measures in length with phrases of
equal length that create a pattern of AABA':
|B |- |- |- ||- |- |- |- |
|B |- |E |- ||B |F# |B |- |
I IV I V I
- The harmonic shape here is closed at both ends. Note the contrast
between the two lines of music with respect to harmonic rhythm.
- The Bridge is also a four-square 16 measures long, this time in an
even more rotely repetitious ABAB phrasing pattern:
------------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
|E |- |B |- ||C# |- |F# |- |
IV I V-of-V V
- In this case, the harmonic shape is *open* on both ends.
- The outro features one of those classic three-times-you're-out gambits
that grows smoothly out of the final verse. Picking it up at m.13 of
that section we have:
|B |F# ||B |F# ||B |F# |B |- |
I V I V I V I
- The final two measures can be analyzed at one lower level of detail,
but their harmonic significance still adds up to a prolongation of
the I chord.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- The most intruiging thing about this song is the approach/avoidance
syndrome with which the Beatles repeatedly worked the song up toward a
polished performance, only to pack it up again in mothballs. The
chronological spacing over a nine year period and the provenance of
the many alternate versions of OA909 as well as their detailed contents
clearly reflect the history of the song.
- The song must have been written during the late 50s. Lewisohn's "Live"
book lists it as a staple of the fledgling Beatles stage act starting
somewhere between '57 - '59 and all the way through'62. The earliest
known recording of it is on the so-called "Quarrymen, Spring 1960" tape
(some tracks of which, but not this song, appeared on Anthology I).
They took it into the studio with them in early '63 thinking to
possibly turn it into an official release, only to quietly pack it away.
After this one recording session, there is in fact no evidence that they
performed the song in concert or for broadcast ever again until they
suddenly were to whip it almost six years later out for the _Get Back_
sessions of January '69.
Archeology of the Alternate Versions
The alternates of the song all originate from just four more or less
widely spaced times and places:
- Group #1 - The Quarrymen Demos
- -- We are especially fortunate
to have two recorded versions of the song performed by the
pre-Beatles reportedly in Spring, 1960. An amateur tape was
clearly the source of this and the sound quality is relatively
poor but the material is too important to quibble about that.
In spite of the superficial primitiveness of the performance and
the recording, these versions of OA909 are surprisingly close in
form and arrangement to the official version of January 1969, closer
by far than the ones which come out of the sessions in the next
two groups, '62 and '63 respectively.
This same Quarrymen tape also contains two other songs written by
Paul and/or John that which would resurface later in their career;
i.e., "I'll Follow the Sun" and "Hello Little Girl". But whereas
these latter two songs were to undergo significant reworking before
their next appearances (one on the "For Sale" album and the other
at the Decca audition), our song appears here pretty much "right on"
from day one.
- Group #2 - Rehearsing at the Cavern Club, circa Fall '62
- -- Two
takes of OA909 survive on a tape which purports to be the Beatles
with their newly hired drummer, Ringo, rehearsing the likes of
"I Saw Her Standing There" and "Catswalk" at their infamous
Though more professional in both performance and sound quality
than the Quarrymen demos, these are still rough in both categories
when compared to the Beatles' official studio work. The arrangement
played here is quite different than the Quarrymen's and once you
hear the outtakes from the next set, you realize that on this tape,
they were warming up and perfecting the version they would next take
into EMI to work on with George Martin.
- Group #3 - At EMI on March 5, '63
- -- Several outtakes of OA909
come from the same recording session as "From Me To You" and "Thank
You Girl", and in my opinion, they are the tightest and hardest rocking
of all the versions of the song ever. In comparison to both
Quarrymen and Cavern takes, they had by this point added a slightly
fussier intro, dropped the repeat of the bridge, and in general made
the arrangement more hard driving.
Approximately three and a half unique takes from this session are
available to collectors. Take 1 breaks up into a bit of an argument
between John and Ringo. Take 2 is complete, and with the exception
of a peculiarly monotonous guitar solo (about which John chides
George the minute the performance is over) if nicely done.
The ill-fated Sessions album was to feature a parts of different
takes from this session spliced together and heavily EQ'd.
- Group #4 - At Twickenham and Apple Studios, January '69
- -- We are
fortunate to have a group of rehearsals and runthroughs of the song
which are evenly spread out over the course of the month, culminating
of course with the OV which was part of the rooftop concert.
These _Get Back_ outtakes are more or less sloppy runthroughs
of the same arrangement heard in the OV. Some reveal good humor,
and some reveal studio chat which helps unravel the mystery of why
the song was earlier witheld. The stumbling awkwardness of the
takes from early in the project would tend to support the notion
that they had not played the song for a long while and were groping
their way collectively in real time to re-figure it all out again.
Musicology of the Alternate Versions
- The following observations might be made about this large group of
alternate versions taken as a whole and in comparison with each other.
- They always played the song in the unusual key of B Major.
- The vocal arrangement was always the same, with an Everly Brothers-like
duet in parallel thirds for the verses, and John singing solo (more or
less) in the bridge.
- The form always included a solo section for guitar.
- Versions from Groups #1 and #4 are in a bouncy vamping style, while Groups
#2 and #3 are syncopated and hard rocking.
- Versions from Groups #1, #2 and #4 are in a long form that includes two
bridges, while Group #3 omits the second bridge.
- Versions from Group #3 have a bluesy, three-chord intro, while all other
versions have intros which vamp on just a single chord.
- Though the guitar solo section was most often done in the 16-measure form
of the verse sections, the solos in Group #1 and *one* of the versions
from Group #3 are in 12-bar blues form.
- The little pauses which punctuate the rhetorical phrasing of the third
line of each verse on the words "move over once ... (pause) ... move
over twice ... (pause) ...", are filled in Groups #2 and #3 with a
hammeringly insistent rhythmic figure (boom-boom-boom-BOOM) which in a
funny way sounds coincidentally like of the "V-for-Victory" opening of
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony! Groups #1, 4, as well as the OV offer a
simpler and less emphatic figure (just "b'boom") in this same place.
- With respect to the exact transcription of the words to the OV, versions
from all four Groups vary all over the map in tiny ways.
- Versions from Groups #3 and #4 contain especially interesting bits of
candid studio dialogue.
- The outtakes from the _Get Back_ sessions in particular (Group #4)
contain a couple of unusually protracted conversations which illuminate
both the social dynamics general of the group at the time as well as
the background of this song in particular.
Following the first Twickenham performance (after a subtle cut in the
tape) John, Paul, and George launch into an amazing little bull session
about their past feelings for the song and how they ought to go about
the business reviving it.
They start off in a laughingly reminiscent mode, reciting bits of the
lyrics in comic voices. George jokes about it being one of their early
songs from 1948 (sic), Paul says "it's great", and John acknowledges that
they "always meant to change the words a bit." But then George, apparently
entirely unprovoked lets out the sarcastic proposal that maybe they should
practice it, but then again, perhaps such practicing "will fuck it up ?"
The chat which follows the second Twickenham performance is priceless.
For those who enjoy the fly-on-the-wall nature of Beatlegs, it doesn't
get much better than this.
Again, they air their past feelings about this song and this time the
discussion provides quite explicitly the smoking-gun reason why
they had never before allowed it to be officially released.
Paul opens by saying he never "sort of" knew what it was about before and
this leads into a congenial synopsis by he and John of the story line
of the lyrics. Then paydirt: Paul says "Our Kid's (his brother Mike)
been saying we should do it for years, but I told him you don't understand
about these things." Paul continues to say that didn't think they had
thought that the words were sophisticated enough, and John seconds with
"we always thought it wasn't finished; couldn't do it without finishing
During this entire exchange Ringo and George are entirely silent except
that Ringo at one point bangs around randomly on his drums (feeling bored
or left out and trying to get attention?), and George manages to sneak in
the sharply negative and essentially irrelevant comment about how "most
people don't give a shit about the words as long as it's hopping along."
"Couldn't Do It Without Finishing It"
- The fact that they picked this song up in '69 after what seems to be
an almost six-year blackout of it shouldn't overly surprise us.
To the extent that the group was clearly steeped in heavy oldies-oriented
mood during long stretches of the _Get Back_ sessions, it's only fitting
that they should dip into some oldies of their own. After all, OA909 is
far from the only obscure L&M song from the Quarrymen period to surface
during these sessions.
- But what is extremely ironic about OA909 is that when it came time for them
to revive this song, which had been taken quite close to official release
back in '63 with a polished, and detailed arrangement, they would choose
to present it in a laid-back, lazy version which harks back not so much
to the studio takes of '63, but all the way back to the Quarrymen home
demos of '60. In context of their remarks about how it couldn't be
released earlier because the words weren't sophisticated or finished
enough, it is equally ironic that the lyrics of the official version
are not substantially different in any way from what they ever had been.
- Was this intentional, a nostalgia for days lost ? Or in light of the
general decline at the time of the group's technique as an ensemble, could
it have been a conscious making of a virtue out of necessity ? We likely
will never really know the answer to such rhetorical questions, but for
now, we can at least savor the irony.
Copyright (c) 1995 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
"The Odes of Pan are calling." 081999#174
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