The Paul McCartney Project

Old Brown Shoe

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Old Brown Shoe” is a song written by George Harrison that was first released by the Beatles as a B-side to “The Ballad of John and Yoko“. It is also available on the Beatles’ compilation albums Hey Jude, 1967–1970 and Past Masters, Volume Two.

Composition and musical structure

Harrison commented about this song: “I started the chord sequences on the piano, which I don’t really play, and then began writing ideas for the words from various opposites … Again, it’s the duality of things – yes no, up down, left right, right wrong, etc.” This idea was also prevalent in the Beatles’ earlier single “Hello, Goodbye“.

The song is in the key of C major. The chorus goes to the subdominant chord (F) (“I’m stepping out this old brown shoe“), and cadences on the submediant (Am) via its secondary dominant (E). Everett considers that this “C/Am” duality fits well “with the composer’s main concern in the poetic text” (“I want a love that’s right but right is only half of what’s wrong“). Pollack also emphasises the song’s interesting flat VI (Ab) chord in the verse, the V-IV (G-F chord) alternation in the bridge and the “bluesy” effect of the frequent flat 3rd and 7th notes alongside the I7 (C7) chords. Everett considers that the voice leading and harmony on “Old Brown Shoe” are “far more subtle and interesting” than such qualities in the song (“The Ballad of John and Yoko“) on the A-side of the single. Pedler terms the song “highly underrated” and featuring “some typically inspired Harrison-esque sleight-of-hand, courtesy again of the augmented chord“. MacDonald calls it “an archetypal B-side from an era when B-sides were worth flipping a single for.

Recording

The Beatles’ recording of this song features lead vocals from Harrison, and backing vocals from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The unusual bass sound was achieved by tracking the bass with the lead guitar. There is some controversy over whether Harrison played bass. Everett states that it was McCartney’s Jazz Bass doubled in the bridge with Harrison’s Telecaster playing chromatically moving arpeggiations in a similar manner to the bridge guitars in “And Your Bird Can Sing“. In a two-part Creem interview (published in December 1987 and January 1988), however, Harrison appears to confirm he played bass for the piece. Extract from the interview:

  • Creem: You also told me you played bass on “Old Brown Shoe.”
  • George: It’s like a lunatic playing.
  • Creem: It sounds like McCartney was going nuts again.
  • George: That was me going nuts. I’m doing exactly what I do on the guitar.

Everett states that Harrison’s “stinging highly Claptonesque solo” was played on a Telecaster coloured through a Leslie speaker given Automatic double tracking (ADT) treatment and “sent wild to both channels“. Although Lennon recorded a guitar part for the track, his instrumentation was removed and replaced by the organ sound.

The song was recorded during the sessions for the Abbey Road album. The group had previously performed the song a number of times over three days during the Let It Be sessions at Apple Studios in January 1969, which have been widely bootlegged. Harrison made a solo demo (featuring only piano and electric guitar) at EMI Studios on 25 February 1969 (along with “Something” and “All Things Must Pass“), which was released on Anthology 3 in 1996.

In 1980 Lennon claimed that he was responsible for the choice of “Old Brown Shoe” as the B-side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” single. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] stereo 18 Apr 1969.
    UK: Apple R5786 single 1969, Apple PCSP 718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Apple 2531 single 1969, Apple SW 385 Hey Jude 1970, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988, EMI single 1989, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.

The dynamic range was greater on the single than the albums– the solo is louder than the rest.

Last updated on December 1, 2016

Lyrics

I want a love that's right, right is only half of what's wrong
I want a short-haired girl who sometimes wears it twice as long
Now I'm stepping out this old brown shoe, baby, I'm in love with you
I'm so glad you came here it won't be the same now, I'm telling you

You know you pick me up from where some try to drag me down
When I see your smile replacing every thoughtless frown
Got me escaping from this zoo, baby, I'm in love with you
I'm so glad you came here it won't be the same now when I'm with you

If I grow up I'll be a singer
Wearing rings on every finger
Not worrying what they'll or you'll say
I'll live and love and maybe someday
Who knows, baby, you may comfort me, hey!

I may appear to be imperfect
My love is something you can't reject
I'm changing faster than the weather
If you and me should get together
Who knows, baby, you may comfort me

Officially appears on


The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe

7" Single • Released in 1969

3:18 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Bass, Guitars, Organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Jeff Jarratt:
Engineer

Session Recording & Overdubs:
Apr 16, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs & Mixing:
Apr 18, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Hey Jude

Official album • Released in 1970

3:22 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Bass, Guitars, Organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Jeff Jarratt:
Engineer

Session Recording & Overdubs:
Apr 16, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs & Mixing:
Apr 18, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

3:19 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Guitar, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Bass, Guitars, Organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Chris Thomas:
Producer
Jeff Jarratt:
Engineer

Session Recording & Overdubs:
Apr 16, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs & Mixing:
Apr 18, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

3:03 • OuttakeB • Stereo • Of the three demos created by George Harrison on 25 February 1969 this is the most elaborate: after a live vocal along with a piano track he then overdubbed electric guitar and, rolling the tape from the top for a third time, further guitar passages for the bridge and coda.

Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Feb 25, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Abbey Road (2019)

Official album • Released in 2019

3:16 • Alternate takeC • Take 2

Giles Martin:
Producer
Sam Okell:
Mix engineer

Session Recording:
Feb 25, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

3:07 • Outtake • Take 2 V1 Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

3:02 • Outtake • Take 2 V2 Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

3:19 • Outtake • Take 4 Australia Single Mix Mono


Complete Acetate Collection 1961-1970

Unofficial album

3:06 • Studio version


A/B Road Complete Get Back Sessions - Jan 27th, 1969 - 1 & 2

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

14:23 • Rehearsal • Jan.27 - D1-06 - Old Brown Shoe 27.03

Session Recording:
Jan 27, 1969
Studio:
Apple Studios, 3 Savile Row, London


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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