Updated: Oct 7, 2020
If there's ever been a less compelling start to a Beatles-song blog than the double instrumental punch of 12 Bar Original and A Beginning, then I haven't seen one.
Without delay, the quirks of this blog’s alphabetical USP are quickly revealing themselves, but relax: there’s gold in them there hills.
Originally penned and planned to be an orchestral introduction to Ringo country clunkathon, 'Don't Pass Me By', this glorious Yellow Submarine-esque soundscape was a George Martin piece that was rightly cut from the 1968 released 'The Beatles' album, eventually popping up on 1996's Anthology 3 and 2018's White Album remix Super Deluxe box set. If like me, you enjoy fantasy Beatle jigsaws, then you'll play the two video's below in sequence to try to imagine how it would have worked. Go!
I feel bad. You could have just played this officially released mashup and saved yourself some time. That's some pretty poor UX right there. Never mind - this video has got a lovely Peter Sellers-y introduction on it by who I think was Chris Thomas (corrections welcome!), so is well worth the listen.
At this point, I like to think about the 4 years it took Ringo to get 'Don't Pass Me By' to a finished standard deemed acceptable to attempt a recording of it and the 4.5 minutes it would have taken George Martin to whip up a luxuriant score, arrangement and recording of the introduction that was just as quickly thrown on the 'deluxe box set in 50 years' pile rapidly covering Geoff Emerick's feet.
One of only two Beatles recorded Ringo compositions, 'Don't Pass Me By' was an early indicator of his post-band direction of rather maudlin, and often lovely, country songs. Quite what 'A Beginning' had to do with it in terms of style and theme is anyone's guess. That it even got to full production says more about where the band were at this point:
“Aren’t drugs just lovely?” — John, Paul, George & Ringles
The idea likely stems from the constant head-scratching for new ways to begin songs that started with John's simple turnaround from 1963's 'Do You Want To Know A Secret?' and extended through the lush romanticism of 1964’s If I Fell' (which Ian Macdonald called 'artless' - which was rather artless of him), I'm A Loser', and the significantly reworked chordal multi-voiced intro for 'Eight Days a Week' that morphed to the fade-up of the final version through to Paul’s perfected modal introduction of the hint of the beauty to come in Revolver's 'Here, There and Everywhere'. I’ll stop now, I’m just listing better songs.
What all of these have in common is introduction to theme, tempo and mood to the main body of the song, often using compressed chord timings - see also; 'Help!' (stop it). All of which makes 'A Beginning' even more confusing, as all it introduces here is the juxtaposition from the beauty and wonder of Martin's piece leading into the clunky, fat sounding 'Don't Pass Me By'. I always thought it could have worked better as an intro to something harder and punchier like 'Glass Onion', but what do I know?
As ever, The Beatles got this right. It was cut, but let us praise The Beatle Gods that it was preserved as an ode to the wonder of the artistry of Sir George.
What did you make of 'A Beginning'? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Stay tuned for an absolute belter in the next instalment where I actually talk about a proper bonafide Beatle Beauty.