One More Beatles Song, or Should They Just Let It Be?

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison with producer George Martin, from left, at London's Abbey Road studios in 1995.
Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison with producer George Martin, from left, at London's Abbey Road studios in 1995. (Associated Press)
By Rip Rense
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, August 21, 2005

There is yet another bend in the long and winding road.

There is one more Beatles song. Not another overlooked '60s tune from a dusty corner of a vault. Not an outtake, rough rehearsal, or crude early tape made in Paul McCartney's living room and found in somebody's shoe box.

But neither is it a finished work. A Beatles song in the sense that all four group members are heard on it, it is one of three "virtual reunion songs" worked on in 1995 by McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and producer Jeff Lynne. Two songs, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," were completed and released. The third started with John Lennon's home tape of his haunting, unreleased ballad "I Don't Want to Lose You."

It was left incomplete, but McCartney has said that might change. "When we did 'Free as a Bird' and "Real Love,' " McCartney said in a 2002 MSN Internet chat, "there was another track under consideration for us to work on but we didn't get around to it, so I wonder if there will be a chance in the future. I wouldn't mind doing it."

In fact, though, he, Harrison and Starr did "get around" to the song. It was worked on, according to one report, in 1994 and 1995 at McCartney's Mill Studio in Sussex.

Producer Lynne recalls it differently: "It was one day -- one afternoon, really -- messing with it," he said in the only comments he has made about the song, to this writer in 1995. "The song had a chorus but is almost totally lacking in verses. We did the backing track . . . a rough go that we didn't really finish.

"It was sort of a bluesy sort of ballad, I suppose, in A minor. It was a very sweet song; I liked it a lot, and I wish we could have finished it."

Added longtime Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, who also worked on the sessions, in a 1997 interview with this writer: "It would be nice to get it finished. Paul's up for it. . . . The chorus is great . . . it would make a great record."

Yoko Ono, who in 1994 chose the song, as well as "Bird" and "Real Love," for the remaining group members to turn into full-fledged Beatles tunes, says she does not oppose having it finished today.

"I sent those songs to them when the situation was quite different," she said from her home in New York. "Now that George is gone, I don't know if the same would apply. I will consider the possibility, that is, when I get the call."

In the meantime, a rendition of the song is available six nights each week to New York theater-goers.

The flurry of new Beatles work in the mid-'90s was part of the multimedia "Beatles Anthology" project, which all the Beatles had committed to doing. (Lennon, in 1979 court documents relating to a lawsuit against the producers of the stage show "Beatlemania," said the group would produce a documentary that would include new music.) Completed by the so-called Threetles, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" were greeted with mixed reviews and controversy. BBC Radio 1 refused to add "Real Love" to its playlist, saying the song did not meet its young target demographic. Another song, "Grow Old With Me," was rejected by the group (rumored to be too poignant to handle), although was later scored with small orchestra by veteran Beatles producer George Martin, at Ono's request, and included on the "John Lennon Anthology."

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