The three studio albums that come to life in my novel about the Beatles, The Death and Life of Mal Evans, are my ultimate Beatles fantasy albums. A lot of care and thought went into getting the right songs on these albums, ones that would sound the most like the Beatles and not a disjointed “Various Artists” compilation.
Most of the songs had one of five reasons to be included (in this order):
- It was written while the Beatles were still together, giving it some status as a “Beatle” song.
- It featured two or more Beatles playing on the song.
- Another Beatle praised the song (meaning it may have passed a Beatle audition).
- It fit with the way the album was coming together thematically.
- It just sounded like the Beatles.
Fantasy Album No. 1: A Doll’s House
A Doll’s House was originally slated to be the title for the Beatles’ White Album album in 1968. They even commissioned an illustration from the famed artist Patrick, but once they settled on The Beatles for the name, they opted for the plain white cover instead.
- “Too Many People” (by Paul McCartney, from the album Ram, 1971). Some may object to a song criticizing John on a Beatles’ album, but the first time I heard the opening chords to this song, I immediately thought it sounded like the Beatles. And the sharp lyrics made a nice turning point in the plot of the book (as did Linda’s vocals).
- “It Don’t Come Easy” (Starr, Ringo, 1973)—Ringo’s hit single featured George on acoustic guitar and Mal on tambourine.
- “Every Night” (McCartney, McCartney, 1970)—Paul debuted it during the Get Back sessions in 1969, with John even playing a slide guitar during one take.
- “Oh My Love” (Lennon, Imagine, 1971)—This ballad appears on demos from 1968’s White Album sessions. George plays guitar.
- “Apple Scruffs” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—The song mainly lends to the acoustic feel of A Doll’s House. Mal Evans played a wooden block on it, and with the full harmonies, it does sound like a lost Beatles track from Abbey Road.
- “Isolation” (Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)—Beatlesque chromatic chord progressions abound here; Ringo plays drums.
- “Isn’t it a Pity” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—Dates all the way back to 1966. (A lot of George’s offerings were rejected.) Ringo plays drums.
- “Wah-Wah” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—George wrote this in 1969 after he temporarily quit the Beatles during the Get Back sessions. Ringo plays drums.
- “Look at Me” (Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)—Written during the White Album sessions around 1968.
- “Maybe I’m Amazed” (McCartney, McCartney, 1970)—Paul began to write this song in 1969, when the Beatles were starting to splinter.
- “Jealous Guy” (Lennon, Imagine, 1971)—Originally titled“Child of Nature,” this song was written by John while the Beatles were in India in 1968.
- “The Back Seat of My Car” (McCartney, McCartney, 1970)—You can hear bits and pieces of this song during the Beatles’ Get Back sessions in 1969.
- “All Things Must Pass” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—Another reject from the Beatles Get Back sessions – why this didn’t make the album is a mystery. Ringo plays drums.
Fantasy Album No. 2: Abracadabra
Abracadabra, my title for the 1974 Beatles album, was an early working title for the Beatles 1966 album Revolver until the group discovered that another group had recently used it. Finding songs that fit the criteria for this mid-decade album was a little more difficult, since several years had passed since the band had really broken up, and the members were starting to venture into new sonic territory.
- “Imagine” (Lennon, Imagine, 1971)—Why wouldn’t “Imagine” be a Beatles song? It’s an instant classic that would have fit on any Beatles album.
- “Band on the Run” (McCartney, Band on the Run, 1973)—This song ties in with the timeline nicely – 1973. John also liked the entire album, so I don’t see him vetoing this song.
- “I’m the Greatest” (Starr, Ringo, 1973)—John wrote it for Ringo for his self-titled album. John also plays piano and sings background vocals, and George plays electric and slide guitar.
- “Jet” (McCartney, Band on the Run, 1973)—See “Band on the Run” above.
- “Mind Games” (Lennon, Mind Games, 1973)—Was originally demoed when the Beatles were still together in 1969 (called “Make Love, Not War”).
- “Art of Dying” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—Dates back to 1966 and never made it onto a Beatles album, perhaps because of its religious theme. But because of the mystical qualities of the album, it may have sneaked on.
- “Let Me Roll It” (McCartney, Band on the Run, 1973)—It’s been said that Paul tried to mimic John’s echo-style production in the song.
- “Let It Down” (Harrison, All Things Must Pass, 1970)—Written in 1968, it failed the Get Back auditions, but its larger-than-life musical sound fits nicely with the motif of the album.
- “Live and Let Die” (McCartney, “Live and Let Die” single, 1973)—The reggae-flavored bridge would have never made it, but the verses sound Beatlesque.
- “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)” (Lennon, Walls and Bridges, 1974)—Written in 1973, it serves as a perfect reminder of Lennon’s anguish during his time apart from Yoko.
- “Venus and Mars” (McCartney, Venus and Mars, 1975)—This is actually a reprise to the song “Venus and Mars” from the album of the same name. The song is not about John, but he and Yoko were interested in astrology, and during this time, John was supposed to visit Paul in New Orleans, where he was recording the album. Another near miss for a reunion.
- “Gimme Some Truth” (Lennon, Imagine, 1971)—Originally demoed during the Get Back George plays guitar.
Fantasy Album No. 3: Free As A Bird
My third Beatles fantasy album, Free As A Bird, takes place about six years after Abracadabraand about a decade after A Doll’s House – the reason being that much of the solo Beatles work during that time was pretty bad.
Ringo was nearing his low point, George’s creativity had started to wane after two good solo albums, and Paul continued releasing sub-par Wings albums almost every year. And John? After Sean was born in 1975, he took a break from songwriting and recording, which means there’s nothing. That’s the real reason for my delay.
By 1980-81, things were looking up music-wise: John recorded and released Double Fantasy shortly before his death, George released the popular “All Those Years Ago,” Paul was working on Tug of War, his best album since Band on the Run, and even Ringo had a minor hit with “Wrack My Brain.”
So it seems only fitting that we get one final album out of these guys.
The only problem is that by this time, the four had drifted away from each other so much that it was hard to piece together an album from the same era. So I tried to find the most “Beatley” songs from the years preceding and following 1980. It also features tributes the three wrote for John, plus the two demos that actually brought the three remaining members together in real life.
The album cover comes straight from the single “Free As A Bird,” released in 1995.
- “In Spite of All the Danger” (Harrison/McCartney, Anthology 1, 1995)—The first known recording ever of John, Paul and George, playing as the Quarrymen in 1958.
- “(Just Like) Starting Over” (Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)—I can hear a voice that sounds like Paul in the backing vocals.
- “Take It Away” (McCartney, Tug of War, 1982)—Paul’s hit single from the Tug of War album, released a few years after John’s death. Ringo plays drums.
- “Nobody Told Me” (Lennon, Milk and Honey, 1984)—A leftover from the Double Fantasy sessions, it was not released for another four years, but it was recorded in 1980.
- “Call Me Back Again” (McCartney, Venus and Mars, 1975)—This is definitely out of sequence. I pretended that Paul was holding this one back for a special occasion; you can almost hear John in the backing vocals.
- “Wrack My Brain” (Starr, Stop and Smell the Roses, 1981)—George wrote the song and played guitar on it. It’s a simple, eccentric song that would have fit on any Beatles album.
- “Free as a Bird” (Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starr, Anthology 1, 1995)—This scenario, of course, actually happened; Yoko gave Paul an old demo of John’s, and the three surviving Beatles added to the demo to create the song. I simply pretended that she gave him the tapes sixteen years earlier.
- “Woman” (Lennon, Double Fantasy, 1980)—The harmonies sound very Lennon/McCartney here.
- “Tug of War” (McCartney, Tug of War, 1982)—Paul’s description of his complex relationship with John has to go on this album.
- “All Those Years Ago” (Harrison, Somewhere in England, 1981)—George’s tribute has to be here as well, and it is arguably the best song he’s ever written. Ringo played drums, and Paul provided backing vocals. Another near-miss reunion.
- “Here Today” (McCartney, Tug of War, 1982)—Paul’s personal message to John is more than fitting.
- “Real Love” (Lennon/ McCartney/ Harrison/ Starr, Anthology 2, 1996)—Another project culled from a Lennon cassette tape and embellished by the three surviving Beatles.
Want to find out the story behind this third fantasy album? Read my book, The Death and Life of Mal Evans, which presents an alternate history where the Beatles stay together to make these albums.