There’s a new Beatles song out, it says here.
Evidently, some 40 years ago George Harrison scribbled 10 lines, among them the flash of brilliance that is, “It’s only a dream and you make it obscene,” and handed them to the band’s official biographer Hunter Davies. The world has had to struggle on without George’s lost epic ever since. Until now.
Naturally, it has been assumed that Beatle George had every intention of presenting the lyrics to John and Paul (or at least to Ringo), but somehow never got around to it. Also, unlike a number of rejected proposals to his Beatle overlords (Not Guilty and All Things Must Pass come to mind), George also somehow forgot to complete the song and revisit it during his solo years. Certainly, it cannot be because he failed to consider the song worthy.
That logic is good enough for Davies, whose ‘authorized’ biography is about to be reprinted. It’s also good enough for Spencer Leigh, a Liverpudlian radio announcer who took it upon himself to ask ‘acclaimed’ local songwriter Dean Johnson to complete George’s unfinished masterpiece and make all right with the universe.
And, needless to say, it was more than good enough for Dean Johnson, about whom little was known before today — and about whom little is likely to be known once the dust settles on his collaboration with a late Beatle.
How exactly the song, called Silence (is its own reply) — presumably Johnson’s title, not Harrison’s — qualifies as a lost Beatles song and not a lost George Harrison song has not been made clear in the many frothing media reports now working hard to make Fab Four fans’ lives once again worthwhile. (After all, it’s been weeks since the world was changed forever by the arrival of the latest remastered discs and a Beatles Guitar Hero game.) No doubt, George would be mildly amused and quietly disgusted to find that just when he thought he was finally out of The Beatles for good, he has been unwillingly pulled back in.
I suspect I am not alone in having at first feared, upon news of a completed ‘lost’ Beatles track, that Paul McCartney had opted to finish his old friend and enemy’s song for him. Good press, that. Never mind that George had stated publicly that he had no desire ever to write with Paul. Or that, and would that he had held firm to this declaration, he would not participate in a Beatles reunion “as long as John Lennon remains dead.”
So it could be worse. Dean Johnson has hit the jackpot, publicity-wise. But at least Paul didn’t think of it first.
So, Beatle people, let us add a new song to the Fabs’ discography. True, there is no known Beatles recording of the song. Not even so much as a George Harrison demo. And the bulk of the lyrics were not written by a Beatle. But still, it’s a great day to be a Beatles fan.
For there is money to be made. And books to be sold. (The lyrics will conveniently be included in the latest edition of Davies’ biography.) Moreover, few things fire the public’s imagination like talk of a lost Beatles recording. The fact that there is no such recording, or even a song as such, is seemingly beside the point.
And with that in mind, I make my shameless play for attention by presenting to the world, for the first time anywhere, a lost Lennon-McCartney composition.
That’s right. The following lyrics were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Alas, the pair never had a chance to complete them, nor to set them to music. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself — as a writer who knew The Beatles every bit as well as did Dean Johnson — to piece together the scraps John and Paul left behind.
Those scraps were, for the record, compiled from comments made at Beatles press conferences. It is possible that neither John nor Paul considered them to be worthy of consideration for a Beatles recording. But with John no longer among us and over 40 years having passed, we can never know for certain. What I can tell you is that, unlike Dean Johnson, I have completed this lost Beatles gem without adding even one word of my own. Every line is a bona fide Lennon-McCartney original.
(Well, two of the lines were in fact contributed by Harrison, but I asked myself what John and Paul would have done, and concluded they would have gone ahead with Lennon-McCartney for the songwriting credit. Sorry, George, but, well, you must be getting used to this by now.)
Lyrically, the song contains revealing observations on the challenge of coping with an unprecedented level of fame; observations that demonstrate how far the gifted lyricists had progressed since the days of Love Me Do. The final verse, contributed by John, seems especially poignant in light of subsequent events. The cheeky final line, meanwhile, is believed (by me, since I put it there) to have been intended to be played backwards during the record’s fade.
So let the accolades flow, as we bask in the greatness that is Bells, the latest song from the greatest pop group of all time.
And rest assured, phony Beatlemania will never bite the dust.
by John Lennon and Paul McCartney(Written 1964-66)I’ve got no plansBut everybody keeps saying I haveMaybe they know betterI’m not letting it interfere with my laughsI don’t suppose I think much about the futureI don’t really give a damnEverybody’s always drumming on about the futureI’m just trying to move it in a forward directionIt’s come to be like working in a bell factoryYou don’t hear the bells after a whileNothing annoys me really
Some things make me laughAn image is only how you see meYou can only answer thatIt’s come to be like working in a bell factoryYou don’t hear the bells after a while
The commotion doesn’t bother me anymoreThe thing I’m afraid of is growing oldYou get old and you’ve missed it somehowBut we’re still us, you knowIt’s come to be like working in a bell factoryYou don’t hear the bells after a whileWe’re more popular than Jesus now
Gentlemen, you’ve just written your last No. 1. For now.