A list, in rough order of their strangeness, of 10 of the weirdest recordings covered in the  book The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film:

1. Revolution 1, take 20 overdubs/playback and rehearsals, June 4, 1968:  Hands-down the strangest circulating unreleased Beatles recording, not so much for the music—though you can hear some "Revolution 1" outtakes playing in the background—as the nonstop chatter from Yoko Ono, who put a 67-minute monologue on a portable recorder as she sat in on this June 4, 1968 session. Includes rambling commentary on the state of her (very young) relationship with John Lennon, early impressions of Paul McCartney ("Paul has been very nice to me...I feel like he's my younger brother or something like that") and George Martin (who "looks much better now to me, now that I found out he's from a working-class [background])," analysis of Lennon's handwriting ("leaning backwards handwriting is typical of sort of insecure, terribly insecure high school girl or something like that"), and even more intimate details of their budding romance.

2. Think for Yourself (rehearsal), November 8, 1965: The Beatles do rehearse their vocal harmonies for "Think for Yourself" intermittently during this nearly 20-minute tape, and even make some progress. But most of it's John, Paul, and George horsing around in a sillier manner than ever got captured on their Christmas fan club records, highlighted (if that's the right word) by John's brief X-rated version of "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and Paul's imitations of fundamentalist preachers and posh upper-class British theatrical directors. A transcript of much of it can be read on-line at http://www.vex.net/~paulmac/beatles/bts/beatle_speech.html.

3. Down in Cuba, circa late 1966-early 1968: It's hard to pick the most bizarre of the numerous John Lennon home tapes that have circulated from approximately late 1966 through early 1968, when he (often with the help of his Mellotron) seemed determined to be as goofily uncommercially experimental as possible. "Down in Cuba" is a good example, though, simulating a rumba from a cabaret club from hell, with lyrics that will not win any wards for politically correct satire: "In down Cuba we get many bananas, we get the coffee too, we don't have many cigars, 'cause we've sold them all." These and some other snatches of Lennon home tapes, however, do bear a vague resemblance to some of the musical satire that would take much more effective shape on the Beatles' B-side "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)."

4. Pedro the Fisherman, circa late 1966-early 1968: From the same batch of Lennon home tapes, a brief folk-flamenco tune with more lyrics where Lennon's humor fails him: "I'm Pedro the Fisherman, I fish by night and day, unfortunately I live in Bristol, far far away. And there ain't no fish to be caught...I've got a hook and a line, a Mac, a big axe, and socks, and a pair of Wellingtons, and a bit of wire."

5. I Want You, circa spring 1969: No relation to the Abbey Road track "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," this acoustic home recording of John and Yoko features not only creepy warped slide guitar and a nearly tuneless blues melody, but also lyrics that are about as horny as any the couple ever put on tape, John moaning, "Put it on, lift it up, stick 'em out; I want to see you standing, I want you on your back, I want you on the floor and I want you on the rack!" Better still: "Yoko, you better lose some weight and get in them old pants!"

6. The Maharishi Song, circa spring 1969: Tuneless acoustic talking blues from John (with a little bit of help from Yoko), ranting against the guru who done him wrong when the Beatles studied with the Maharishi in India: "There were one or two attractive women there, but mainly looked like, you know, school teachers or something, and the whole damn camp was spying on the ones in the bathing suits. And they're supposed to be meditatin'!...me, I took it for real. I wrote 600 songs about how I feel. I felt like dying, and crying, and committing suicide, but I felt creative, and I thought, what the hell's this got to with what that silly little man's talking about. But he did charm me in a way, because he was funny, sort of cuddly, like a sort of, you know, little daddy with a beard...He looked holy..." To which Yoko (who wasn't with the Beatles when they studied with the Maharishi in India) rejoins, "But he was a sex maniac."

7. "Peter Sellers Tape" sound effects, circa late August 1968: At the end of side one of a tape Ringo gave his friend Peter Sellers of rough mixes from The White Album, he maniacally shouts/instructs, "If you wanna hear some more, you've got to turn the tape over!" Assuming Sellers did, he would have heard something yet more unusual: a collage of sounds, lasting about 100 seconds (and apparently the work of Ringo), seemingly taken from field recordings of Third World singers and musicians, overdubbbed with the kind of weird noises, electronics, and utterances heard on John Lennon's home experimental tapes ("It's a raid!" a voice shouts at one point).

8. Negro in Reserve, January 3, 1969: Plenty of the disorganized half-hearted jams the Beatles undertook during their 1969 Get Back/Let It Be sessions were strange and silly. Using a Bo Diddley-goes-cowboy vamp as the backdrop, this brief one is one of the more entertaining examples—"there’s a hole in the heart case" and "I’ve got a hole in my head, and his name is Ted" may not be deathless wit, but they’re funnier than most of the lines they put on their Christmas records.

9. Two of Us, January 25, 1969 (several versions): These "Two of Us" takes—some of them quite lengthy, with sections repeated many times over—were stuffed with entertaining variations and ad-libs. John in particular adopted all manner of funny accents, including a quite credible, quite hilarious, grainy Bob Dylan imitation in which you can feel the phlegm rising from his throat. John and Paul both come up with rib-tickling exaggerations/approximations of Scottish, Jamaican, French, and German accents, as well as inserting deliberate off-keyisms, siren-like noises, "beep beep"s, and the like. These are by no stretch of the imagination the best "Two of Us" outtakes, but there are few variations from the Get Back sessions—or from the Beatles' entire career, for that matter—that are as goofily entertaining.

10. Martha My Dear, January 10, 1969: George had quit the Beatles earlier that day, but the remaining three Beatles, in uncomprehending shock, carried on without him, though most unproductively. Yoko, seemingly oblivious to the gravity of the day's events, begins to vocally improvise while Paul’s pounding out (of all things) "Martha My Dear," and while John's in the middle of an uncharacteristically serious conversation with Let It Be film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. As Yoko moan-calls John’s name, Lennon—whether out of irony or genuine annoyance—plays the henpecked husband with an ear-splitting shout in response: "WHAAAAT!?!?" That very moment could be the absolute low point of the whole Get Back madness.

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                unless otherwise specified.