The Beatles Song They Had to Work Hard on to Hide the ‘Bad Bits’

In 1995, The Beatles released “Free as a Bird,” their first new song in years. John Lennon originally wrote it in 1977, and his surviving bandmates worked on it years later. While the song was a success on the charts, longtime Beatles producer George Martin wasn’t sure how he felt about it. He gave it his stamp of approval but felt it sounded a bit odd.

George Martin wasn’t sure about the finished product of a late Beatles song
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At the start of 1994, Paul McCartney called Yoko Ono to wish her a happy New Year. Through this conversation and further ones, they began discussing the possibility of working on some of Lennon’s home demos and releasing them as Beatles songs.

“I liked ‘Free As A Bird’ immediately,” McCartney said in the book A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song by Steve Turner. “I liked the melody. It had strong chords and it really appealed to me…”

Ringo Starr and George Harrison joined him to complete the song “Free as a Bird” along with ELO’s Jeff Lynne. They showed it to Martin, who had produced the rest of The Beatles’ singles. He said he approved, but cautiously. He believed that the work they did to conceal the song’s “bad bits” made it sound awkward.

“They stretched it and compressed it and put it around until it got to a regular waltz control click and then they were done,” Martin said. “The result was that, in order to conceal the bad bits, they had to plaster it fairly heavily so that what you ended up with was quite a thick homogeneous sound that hardly stops.”

Despite Martin’s misgivings, the song hit No. 2 on the U.K. Singles Chart and No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Paul McCartney was happy to feel like he was working with John Lennon again
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For the other Beatles, the excitement came from being able to work on Lennon’s songs again.
“The great thing was that John hadn’t finished it,” McCartney said. “On the middle eight he was just blocking out lyrics that he didn’t have yet. That meant that we had to come up with something, and that now I was actually working ‘with John.’”

Rather than viewing it as working on an old recording, McCartney and his former bandmates pretended Lennon had gone on vacation and asked them to finish up the song.

“We came up with this holiday scenario,” McCartney said. “I rang up Ringo and said let’s pretend that John’s gone on holiday and he’s sent us a cassette and said, ‘Finish it up for me’.”

The Beatles recently released another song based on a John Lennon demo
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Over 20 years after the band released “Free as a Bird,” they put out another one of Lennon’s finished demos. With the help of audio restoration technology used in The Beatles: Get Back, the band was able to release “Now and Then” in 2023.

“We were able to use that kind of thing when Peter Jackson did the film Get Back where it was us making the Let It Be album,” McCartney told Verve. “He was able to extricate John’s voice from a ropey little bit of cassette where it had John’s voice and a piano. He can separate them with AI.”

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