Beatles – Come Together

The opening track to The Beatle’s last album Abbey Road.

This song was part of one of their best double A-sided singles…Come Together was sided with Something and the single peaked at #1 in 1969.

In 1969, Timothy Leary decided to run for Governor of California and asked John Lennon to write a song for him. “Come Together, Join The Party” was Leary’s campaign slogan a reference to the drug culture he supported and was the original title of the song. Leary never had much of a campaign, but the slogan gave Lennon the idea for this song.

Leary wasn’t happy with it when he heard it and said: “I was a bit miffed that Lennon had passed me over this way…When I sent a mild protest to John, he replied with typical Lennon charm and wit that he was a tailor and I was a customer who had ordered a suit and never returned. So he sold it to someone else.”

In the song, Lennonwrot the opening line o “Here come old flat-top / he come grooving up slowly,” which is very similar lyrically and in meter to a line in Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Here come a flat-top / he was moving up with me.

This similarity caught the notice of the song’s publisher Morris Levy who, shortly after the Beatles song was released, filed a lawsuit against John for plagiarism. Timothy Leary may have walked away quietly, but Morris Levy was to do nothing of the sort.

A settlement was reached in 1973 which stipulated that Lennon would record three songs owned by Big Seven Music Corp., which was owned by Levy. Lennon picked Ya Ya, You Can’t Catch Me, and Angel Baby. He recorded the first two but the last one, Angel Baby he never did. Levy sued Lennon again and was eventually awarded a total of $6,795 in damages.

Aerosmith covered this song and did a good job…

John Lennon: “Though it’s nothing like the Chuck Berry song,”  “they took me to court because I admitted this once years ago. I left in one line, which is not just Berry’s: ‘Here come old flat top.’ I could have changed it to ‘Here comes old iron face.’

Paul McCartney: “here come old flat-top, “That was a lyric John could NOT let go of. And he couldn’t better it, so he just used it. And I said, ‘Well, it’s a bit of a nick, isn’t it?’ He said, ‘No, it’s a quote.’ I said, ‘OK, fair enough.”

 

From Songfacts

Timothy Leary was a psychologist who became famous for experimenting with LSD as a way to promote social interaction and raise consciousness. Leary did many experiments on volunteers and himself and felt the drug had many positive qualities if taken correctly. When the government cracked down on LSD, Leary’s experiments were stopped and he was arrested on drug charges.

After Timothy Leary decided against using this song for his political campaign Lennon added some nonsense lyrics and brought it to the Abbey Road sessions. Paul McCartney recalled in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs: “I said, ‘Let’s slow it down with a swampy bass-and-drums vibe.’ I came up with a bass line, and it all flowed from there.”

John Lennon was sued for stealing the guitar riff and the line “Here comes old flat-top” from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.” The lawsuit did not come from Berry, but from Morris Levy, one of the music industry’s most infamous characters (see our interview with Tommy James for more on Levy). He owned the song along with thousands of other early rock songs that he obtained from many poor, black, and unrepresented artists. Levy sued the Beatles, or more accurately, John Lennon, over the song around the time the Beatles broke up.

For years, Lennon delayed the trial while he and the Beatles tried to sort out all the legal and business problems that plagued Apple Records. Finally, in an attempt to avoid the court room as much as he could (Lennon felt like he was appearing in court more often than not), he settled with Levy. Lennon agreed to record his Rock N Roll album, which was just a series of cover songs, including three songs Levy owned (including “You Can’t Catch Me”) on the tracklist.

The deal made sense: Lennon always wanted to make a covers album, and Levy wanted the value of his songs to increase (when a Beatle re-records a song, that is just what happens). To make a long long long story short, Lennon recorded the album over the Lost Weekend, a year-or-two period when he was separated from Yoko Ono and lived in Los Angeles. During that time he was often drunk or high, and was rather sloppy and useless. Levy was getting frustrated with the lack of progress. Phil Spector was the producer, but in a fit of madness (which was not too unusual for Spector) he ran away and stole the recording session tapes. Levy invited Lennon to his upstate New York recording studio, and that is where he finally recorded the album, which ended up with only two Levy songs: “You Can’t Catch Me” and “Ya Ya.” >>

The whispered lyric that sounds like “shoot” is actually Lennon saying “shoot me” followed by a handclap. The bass line drowns out the “me.”

The Beatles recorded this on July 21, 1969 and it was the first session John Lennon actively participated in following his and Yoko’s car accident 3 weeks earlier. John was so insistent on Yoko being in the studio with him that he had a hospital bed set up in the studio for her right after the accident, since she was more seriously injured than he was. >>

The line “Ono sideboard” refers to Yoko.

The British Broadcasting Company (The BBC) banned this because of the reference to Coca Cola, which they considered advertising.

This has one of the most commonly misheard lyrics in the history of popular music: “Hold you in his -armchair- you can feel his disease.” It’s actually “Hold you in his arms, yeah, you can feel his disease.” All published sheet music had the “armchair” lyric, including the inner sleeve of the 1967-1970 compilation, which contained lots of other errors too, notably on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” After John heard that his lyric was incorrect in the sheet music and other folios, he decided he liked “armchair” better and kept it. >>

The Beatles released this as a “double A side” single with “Something.”

In 1969, this won a Grammy for best engineered recording.

When rumors were spreading that Paul McCartney was dead, some fans thought the line “One and one and one is three” meant that only George, John and Ringo were left. The line “Got to be good lookin’ cuz he’s so hard to see” was supposed to be Paul’s spirit. >>

A rotary phone was used to make the sound heard before each verse and after the chorus. The sound was accompanied by the bass Paul played. Kids, ask your parents or grandparents what a rotary phone was. >>

Aerosmith recorded this song with Beatles producer George Martin for the 1978 movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which turned out to be one of the worst films ever made. Aerosmith appeared in the film performing this song (as the Future Villain Band), agreeing to the role only because they couldn’t resist the chance to record a Beatles song with George Martin. They weren’t the only big names in the film – Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees were also in it.

The Aerosmith version of “Come Together” made #23 in the US when it was released as a single. When we asked their guitarist Brad Whitford why some folks prefer the Aerosmith version, he replied, “I’ve actually never heard anybody say that.” Whitford added, “But you know, it’s funny, I hear our version more on the radio than I do The Beatles’ version.”

In 2001, Beck, Moby, Marc Anthony, and Nelly Furtado were scheduled to put on a tribute concert in Radio City Music Hall called “Come Together: A Night For John Lennon.” Due to the terrorist attacks on America, it was postponed and dedicated to the people of New York City, with proceeds benefiting victims of the attacks.

Nortel used this in commercials, as did Macy’s.

On an early demo version of “My Monkey” by Marilyn Manson (whose vocals were sped up to sound like “a demonic toddler”), Manson sang the second verse as an opener. It appeared on Demos in Lunchbox by Manson’s former band, The Spooky Kids.

This has been covered by Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Meat Loaf, Guns N’ Roses, Soundgarden, Marilyn Manson, Nazareth, and Oasis. 

Though Ringo is best known for playing on Oyster Black Pearl Ludwig drum kit, he used for this his Ludwig “Hollywood” maple-finish equipment, with a 22″ kick. Starr produced his distinctive late ’60s drum muffling sound on tracks like this by wrapping tea towels (dishtowels) around his snares and toms.

On October 7, 2016, The Rolling Stones covered this song during their headline set at the Desert Trip festival in Indio, California. Before launching into the tune, Mick Jagger told the crowd: “We’re gonna do a cover song of a sort of unknown beat group. I think you might remember [them], we’re gonna try a cover of one of their tunes.”

Come Together

Here come old flat top
He come groovin’ up slowly
He got joo joo eyeballs
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker
He just do what he please

He wear no shoeshine
He got toe jam football
He got monkey finger
He shoot Coca-Cola
He say I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is
You got to be free
Come together, right now
Over me

He bad production
He got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard
He one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair
You can feel his disease
Come together, right now
Over me

He roller coaster
He got early warning
He got muddy water
He one Mojo filter
He say one and one and one is three
Got to be good looking
‘Cause he’s so hard to see
Come together right now
Over me

Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah

 

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “Beatles – Come Together”

    1. They gave you your money’s worth. They could have easily split a lot of songs up and sold more. Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields etc…

      Like

  1. John Lennon was too big for Morris Levy to mess with, is what this episode amounts to. By this time, if my memory proves me correct, Allen Klein had his hooks into John Lennon. He told Lennon to placate his pal, Morris Levy, by doing the singles and then paying the trifling 7,000.00 when he reneged on part of the deal. All of this was done under the “electric eye” of Allen Klein. If Klein didn’t have his hooks into Lennon, no telling what would have happened; Lennon would have probably been more accommodating, but who knows?Anyway, one of the greatest songs in pop/rock history, no doubt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Looking back…I don’t see how he was sued for something that small. That was a small lift compared to other songs.
      I do think it was worth the trouble for the finished product.
      Lennon admitted on a tv show later about Klein…”Paul was right”…he hated saying it but he knew it was true.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Aerosmith cover is awesome especially Aero’s version on Live Bootleg as Tyler is off his rocker but keeps it together. Crazy thing they almost make it their own which is saying something.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your right. That’s a great cover. Aero had the kncak of making covers sound there own and I’m Down is another one.
        I need to get a copy of this on vinyl.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Permanent Vacation I really liked. It was a great comeback by them. My favorite period by them is the Toys in the Attic period.

        Thanks for sending cincinnatibabyhead to my site…cool person.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. CB is a great guy. Loves music and Film.

        PV is a great Aero record. I love the 70’s Toys/Rocks/ Live Bootleg stuff.
        Also love Done With Mirrors one last kick at Cociane Moutnian for those guys.lol
        Amazing as not too many bands fuck up and can make a comeback a second time around.
        Aero did it.

        Liked by 1 person

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