- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe (UK - 1969) 7" Single.
- EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road
More from year 1969
Some songs from this session appear on:
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March 1969 was a wedding month for The Beatles. Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman on March 12, and eight days later, John Lennon married Yoko Ono in Gibraltar.
We chose Gibraltar because it is quiet, British and friendly. We tried everywhere else first. I set out to get married on the car ferry and we would have arrived in France married, but they wouldn’t do it. We were no more successful with cruise ships. We tried embassies, but three weeks’ residence in Germany or two weeks’ in France were required.John Lennon
John wrote “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in March / April 1969, to relate the recent events he lived with Yoko, including their marriage. Paul helped him finish it, on April 14, the day it was recorded.
The follow up to ‘Get Back’ is ‘Ballad Of John And Yoko’. It’s something I wrote, and it’s like an old-time ballad. It’s just the story of us getting married, going to Paris, going to Amersterdam, all that. It’s ‘Johnny B. Paperback Writer’John Lennon, from New Musical Express, 1969
John was in an impatient mood so I was happy to help. It’s quite a good song; it has always surprised me how with just the two of us on it, it ended up sounding like The Beatles. […]
John brought (the song) around to Cavendish Avenue for me to help finish the last verse he was having a bit of trouble with. He knew he could always leave a couple of sentences out, come and see me and we knew we would always finish them. It was a guaranteed solution.Paul McCartney – from “Many Years From Now”, by Barry Miles, 1997
John and Yoko came round to see me, and John said, ‘I’ve got this song about me and Yoko, and I’m hot to record it. I’d like to ring up the studio, get some time and we could do it right now. You could play bass and you could play drums,’ because he knew I could just about do them.Paul McCartney – From “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe edition book (2019)
By the time we came to record Abbey Road and Let It Be, things were really disintegrating, especially between me and John. It was a very nervy time. We’d become more like individuals than a solid band. The atmosphere was uncomfortably heavy when we got together. I just remember when John came round to my house, and he wanted me to help him finish up “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” He mainly had it all down. I didn’t do much on it, but he wanted me to help with the recording. He wanted to run in that day and record it, because he knew that, between the two of us, I could play bass and drums and he could play guitar, so he knew we could get it done. It was just a question of immediacy. I could feel, though, that things were breaking up even though we were still managing to create stuff together.Paul McCartney – From interview with MOJO, 2004
John was ‘on heat’. He needed to record it, so we just ran and did it.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, Volume 1” by Kenneth Womack (2014)
So, just three days after the release of the “Get Back / Don’t Let Me Down” single, John and Paul entered the EMI Studios to record the song. Ringo Starr was busy filming “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and George Harrison was out of the country. Producer George Martin was available, as well as engineer Geoff Emerick.
Geoff Emerick had walked out in the middle of the recording of the White Album sessions on July 16, 1968, and it was his first day back working with The Beatles (even if it was only half of the band).
I received a phone call from [Apple employee] Peter Brown, telling me in breathless tones that John had just written a new song and would be coming into Abbey Road…Would I be willing to do the session? I asked Peter rather tentatively if John was ‘OK’ these days. He understood exactly what I was getting at; as the Beatles’ designated minder, he had seen plenty of Lennon at his worst. ‘Yes, he’s fine,’ Peter assured me. ‘He’s in really good spirits at the moment, and he’s really up about the new song. And he specifically asked me if I could get you to engineer it.’ How could I possibly say no to that?
The session was booked to start in mid-afternoon, and to my amazement, a chipper John actually rolled up spot on time, with Paul following just a few minutes later. It was officially supposed to be a Beatles session, but they were the only two band members to turn up that day, Paul taking the drummer’s chair, playing Ringo’s kit with confidence and ease. The two Beatles seemed remarkably relaxed, despite the horror stories I had heard about the rows and bad feelings engendered by the ‘Let It Be’ sessions. On this one day, they reverted to being two old school chums, all the nastiness of recent months swept under the rug and replaced by the sheer joy of making music together.
It was a great session, one of those magic times when everything went right and nothing went wrong…A new eight-track machine had been installed in the control room just recently, and we put it to good use that day. The eight-track recorder allowed for lots of overdubs, so John played all the guitars – lead and rhythm – while Paul handled bass, piano, percussion, and drums; they made for a great two-man band. That was one of the first times I put microphones both on top of and under the snare drum, which imparted a larger-than-life crack to the sound, the perfect complement to John’s aggressive vocal.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
It was also the first Beatles session for the second engineer, John Kurlander, who would work on most of the “Abbey Road” sessions later in 1969:
It was quite unusual, but almost didn’t feel like a Beatles session because it was just the two of them.John Kurlander – From Variety, September 27, 1969
It was a strange session in the sense it was only John and Paul. At that point we didn’t know if it was an album track or what. But there was a lot of urgency about the whole thing. They were in Studio Three instead of Studio Two, which was where The Beatles generally recorded. But what I do remember about it was just the sheer sense of fun we all had. John was in a great mood and that always helped. Plus, it really was just the two of them, no wives and no distractions. It was great.John Kurlander – From “And In The End” by Ken McNab
From 2:30 to 9:00 pm, the basic track and the overdubs were recorded and completed. For the basic track, John was on acoustic guitar and vocals, and Paul was on drums. Eleven takes were recorded, with only takes 1, 7, 10, and 11 being complete.
Lennon (on guitar): “Go a bit faster, Ringo.”
McCartney (on drums): “OK, George!”
Take 10 was considered the best, and overdubs were added. Paul added bass, piano, piano, and backing vocals, and John some electric guitar double-tracked.
The whole record was completed in just a few hours, from start to finish, including the mix – just like the good old daysGeoff Emerick
The Ballad Of John And Yoko was a very fast session. It was a really good record too, helped by Paul’s great drumming and the speed in which they did it all.Geoff Emerick – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
I enjoyed working with John and Yoko on ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko. It was just the two of them with Paul. When you think about it, in a funny kind of way it was the beginning or their own label, and their own way or recordingGeorge Martin
The work on the stereo mix was done just after the overdubs were completed. From 9 to 11 pm, five mixes were created, and the fifth one was deemed best. For the first time, no mono mix for a Beatles song was made, and a stereo mix would be released as a single in the UK.
Last updated on August 30, 2023
Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 5 from take 10
Album Officially released on The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe (UK - 1969)
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.