Come Together

Playing Bass to “Come Together”

I decided to record a bass cover of this song in order to focus on bends and slides that are prominent throughout the song. Paul McCartney’s bass line for this song may sound simple, however it’s the “timing” for the notes, slides, and bends that make the bass line unique – and difficult to master.

Although I may have learned the bass notes to the song rather quickly, it was the actual “Timing of the Tones” that were the key to creating this bass cover. This is one of those songs that you cannot just “Play the notes” to sheet music….. You have to play this one as it “Feels” and actually time your playing to the flow of the song in order to create that McCartney bass “Groove” that he was so well known for.

Here’s the song’s history per Wiki….

Come Together” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The song is the opening track on their 1969 album Abby Road and was also released as a single coupled with “Something”. The song reached the top of the charts in the United States and peaked at No. 4 in the United Kingdom.

“Come Together” was inspired by a request from Timothy Leary to write a song for his campaign for Govenor of Califorinia against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana.  John Lennon recalled:

The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him—you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?

Beatles historian Jonathan Gould has suggested that the song has only a single “pariah-like protagonist” and Lennon was “painting another sardonic self-portrait”.

In a December 1987 interview by Selina Scott on the television show West 57th Street, George Harrison stated that he wrote two lines of the song.

Recording

Lennon played rhythm guitar and electric piano and sang the lead vocals, Paul McCartney played bass, George Harrison played lead guitar and Ringo Starr played drums. It was produced by George Martin and recorded in late July 1969 at EMI Studios in London. In the intro and after each chorus, Lennon says “shoot me”, which is accompanied by echoing handclaps and a distinctive drum part by Starr as well as McCartney’s prominent bass riff. The famous Beatles’ “walrus” from “I Am the Walrus” and “Glass Onion” returns in the line “he got walrus gumboot”, followed by “he got Ono sideboard”. Bluesman Muddy Waters is also mentioned in the song.

Music critic Ian MacDonald reports that McCartney sang a backing vocal, but recording engineer Geoff Emerick said that Lennon did all the vocals himself, and when a frustrated McCartney asked Lennon, “What do you want me to do on this track, John?”, Lennon replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll do the overdubs on this.”

In a 1970 interview with Ray Connolly of the Evening Standard, McCartney expressed his disappointment about not singing with Lennon. He told Connolly:

Even on Abbey Road we don’t do harmonies like we used to. I think it’s sad. On “Come Together” I would have liked to sing harmony with John, and I think he would have liked me to, but I was too embarrassed to ask him, and I don’t work to the best of my abilities in that situation.

Release and legacy

“Come Together” was released as a double A-side with “Something” and as the opening track of Abbey Road. The single was released on 6 October 1969 in the US, was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks, and reached No. 1. The single released on 31 October 1969 in the UK, reaching No. 4.

The first take of the song, recorded on 21 July 1969, with slightly different lyrics, was released in 1996 on the outtake compilation Anthology 3, and Take five of the song was released on the Abbey Road 50th Anniversary release.

Rolling Stone ranked “Come Together” at No. 202 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and No. 9 on their list of the Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.

Lawsuit

Further information: Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits

In late 1969, “Come Together” was the subject of a copyright infringement claim brought against Lennon by Big Seven Music, who was the publisher of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”. Morris Levy, the owner of Big Seven Music, contended that it sounded similar musically to Berry’s original and shared some lyrics (Lennon sang “Here come ol’ flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly” and Berry’s had sung “Here come a flattop, he was movin’ up with me”). Before recording, Lennon and McCartney deliberately slowed the song down and added a heavy bass riff in order to make the song more original. The case was settled out of court in 1973, with Levy’s lawyers agreeing that Lennon would compensate by recording three Big Seven songs for his next album. A brief version of “Ya Ya” with Lennon and his son Julian was released on the album Walls and Bridges in 1974. “You Can’t Catch Me” and another version of “Ya Ya” were released on Lennon’s 1975 album Rock ‘n’ Roll, but the third, “Angel Baby”, remained unreleased until after Lennon’s death. Levy again sued Lennon for breach of contract, and was eventually awarded $6,795. Lennon countersued after Levy released an album of Lennon material using tapes that were in his possession and was eventually awarded $84,912.96. The album was called Roots.

Personnel

Personnel per Ian MacDonald:

  • John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, electric piano, handclaps
  • Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass guitar
  • George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitar
  • Ringo Starr – drums, maracas

The availability of separate tracks from the original Beatles multi-tracks (due to release of Rock Band) have made fresh investigation of the Beatles personnel data possible. One of the discoveries is that on the verses of “Come Together”, the backing vocals are sung by McCartney. However, in an interview with Music Radar, Geoff Emerick stated that McCartney did not sing on the choruses: “Initially, Paul played the electric piano part, but John kind of looked over his shoulder and studied what he was playing. When it came time to record it, John played the electric piano instead of Paul. Paul might have been miffed, but I think he was more upset about not singing on the choruses—John did his own backing vocals.”

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