1989 UK reissue picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|from the album Abbey Road|
|A-side||"Something" (double A-side)|
|Released||6 October 1969|
|Recorded||21–30 July 1969|
|Studio||EMI Studios, London|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
"Come Together" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written primarily by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song is the opening track on their 1969 album Abbey Road and was also released as a single coupled with "Something". The song reached the top of the charts in the United States and peaked at No. 4 in the United Kingdom.
Origin and meaning
"Come Together" was inspired by a request from Timothy Leary to write a song for his campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana:
The thing was created in the studio. It's gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn't come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would've been no good to him—you couldn't have a campaign song like that, right?
Beatles historian Jonathan Gould has suggested that the song has only a single "pariah-like protagonist" and Lennon was "painting another sardonic self-portrait".
Lennon played rhythm guitar and electric piano and sang the lead vocals, Paul McCartney played bass, George Harrison played lead guitar and Ringo Starr played drums. It was produced by George Martin and recorded in late July 1969 at Abbey Road Studios in London. In the intro and after each chorus, Lennon says "shoot me", which is accompanied by echoing handclaps and a distinctive drum part by Starr as well as McCartney's prominent bass riff. The famous Beatles' "walrus" from "I Am the Walrus" and "Glass Onion" returns in the line "he got walrus gumboot", followed by "he got Ono sideboard". Bluesman Muddy Waters is also mentioned in the song.
Music critic Ian MacDonald reports that McCartney sang a backing vocal, but recording engineer Geoff Emerick said that Lennon did all the vocals himself, and when a frustrated McCartney asked Lennon, "What do you want me to do on this track, John?", Lennon replied, "Don't worry, I'll do the overdubs on this."
Even on Abbey Road we don't do harmonies like we used to. I think it's sad. On "Come Together" I would have liked to sing harmony with John, and I think he would have liked me to, but I was too embarrassed to ask him, and I don't work to the best of my abilities in that situation.
Release and legacy
"Come Together" was released as a double A-side with "Something" and as the opening track of Abbey Road. The single was released on 6 October 1969 in the US, was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks, and reached No. 1. The single was similarly successful when it was released on 31 October 1969 in the UK, reaching No. 4.
In late 1969, "Come Together" was the subject of a copyright infringement claim brought against Lennon by Big Seven Music, who was the publisher of Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me". Morris Levy, the owner of Big Seven Music, contended that it sounded similar musically to Berry's original and shared some lyrics (Lennon sang "Here come ol' flattop, he come groovin' up slowly" and Berry's had sung "Here come a flattop, he was movin' up with me"). Before recording, Lennon and McCartney deliberately slowed the song down and added a heavy bass riff in order to make the song more original. The case was settled out of court in 1973, with Levy's lawyers agreeing that Lennon would compensate by recording three Big Seven songs for his next album. A brief version of "Ya Ya" with Lennon and his son Julian was released on the album Walls and Bridges in 1974. "You Can't Catch Me" and another version of "Ya Ya" were released on Lennon's 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll, but the third, "Angel Baby", remained unreleased until after Lennon's death. Levy again sued Lennon for breach of contract, and was eventually awarded $6,795. Lennon countersued after Levy released an album of Lennon material using tapes that were in his possession and was eventually awarded $84,912.96. The album was called Roots.
- John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, electric piano, handclaps
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, bass guitar
- George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitar
- Ringo Starr – drums, maracas
The availability of separate tracks from the original Beatles multi-tracks (due to release of Rock Band) have made fresh investigation of the Beatles personnel data possible. One of the discoveries is that on the verses of "Come Together", the backing vocals are sung by McCartney. However, in an interview with Music Radar, Geoff Emerick stated that McCartney did not sing on the choruses: "Initially, Paul played the electric piano part, but John kind of looked over his shoulder and studied what he was playing. When it came time to record it, John played the electric piano instead of Paul. Paul might have been miffed, but I think he was more upset about not singing on the choruses—John did his own backing vocals."
|Single by Ike & Tina Turner|
|from the album Come Together|
|B-side||"Honky Tonk Women"|
|Genre||R&B, Soul, blues rock|
|Ike & Tina Turner singles chronology|
|Single by Aerosmith|
|from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band|
|B-side||"Kings and Queens"|
|Released||July 31, 1978|
|Genre||Hard rock, blues rock|
|Aerosmith singles chronology|
B-side label of UK single
|Single by Michael Jackson|
|A-side||"Remember the Time"|
|Released||January 14, 1992|
|Genre||Hard rock, blues rock|
|Michael Jackson singles chronology|
Ike & Tina Turner version
A month after the original version by the Beatles was released, Ike & Tina Turner began performing their rendition of "Come Together," most notably at Madison Square Garden in November 1969. The Turners' rendition is the title track of their 1970 album which peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Soul LP's chart. The single reached number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 21 on the Billboard Soul Singles chart. The B-side features another soul infused rock cover, "Honky Tonk Woman" by The Rolling Stones.
John Lennon solo version
"Come Together" was the only Beatles' song Lennon sang during his 1972 Madison Square Garden concerts. It was Lennon's only full-length concert performance after leaving the Beatles. He was backed by the band Elephant's Memory. This version of the song appears on the concert album Live in New York City, recorded on 30 August 1972 and released in 1986.
American hard rock band Aerosmith performed one of the most successful cover versions of "Come Together". It was recorded in 1978 and appeared in the movie and on the soundtrack to the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which the band also appeared. The single was an immediate success, reaching number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, following on the heels of a string of Top 40 hits for the band in the mid-1970s. However, it would be the last Top 40 hit for the band for nearly a decade.
Another recording of the song was released several months later on Aerosmith's live album Live! Bootleg. The song also featured on Aerosmith's Greatest Hits, the band's first singles compilation released in 1980. The song has also surfaced on a number of Aerosmith compilations and live albums since then, as well as on the soundtrack for the film Armageddon.
Michael Jackson version
Michael Jackson recorded a version in 1988 for his movie Moonwalker and released this version on his 1995 album HIStory and as the B-Side for his 1992 single "Remember the Time". The song was also featured during his 1996 performances of the HIStory World Tour along with his song "D.S.".
- Paul McCartney was also part of a different version of the song with Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller on an updated version for the 1995 HELP charity record, under the name the Smokin' Mojo Filters. Weller performed the lead vocal duties, with McCartney and Gallagher providing backing vocals, harmonies and bass and guitar. This version made it to No. 19 on the British chart in December 1995. In 2005 Weller recorded a new version of the song as part of a double A-sided single.
- George Martin recorded a version of the song with vocals by Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin for his 1998 album In My Life.
- Joe Cocker recorded a version of the song for the soundtrack of the film Across the Universe in 2007.
- Arctic Monkeys performed a cover of the song during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. A live recording (albeit from a rehearsal), from the London Olympic Stadium on 23 July 2012, was featured on the soundtrack album of the ceremony, Isles of Wonder. It charted at No. 21 in the UK.
- Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL recorded a version of the song for the 2017 film Justice League.
- Godsmack also released a cover of the song on disc 2 of their 2012 live album, Live & Inspired.
- Freeman, Phil (2007). Marooned: The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81485-3.
It's a surface-heavy blues-rock tune, flanging and wailing away…
- Into the Sky with Diamonds by Ronald P. Grelsamer. Page 351.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 355.
- Wallgren 1982, p. 57.
- everyHit.com 2009.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 314.
- Sheff 2000.
- Gould, Jonathan (2008). Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America. London: Piatkus. p. 575. ISBN 978-0-7499-2988-6.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 181.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 358.
- Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 285.
- Doggett 2011, p. 132.
- Miles 1997, p. 553.
- Winn, John C. (2009). That Magic Feeling: The Beatles' Recorded Legacy, Volume Two, 1966-1970. New York: Three Rivers Press. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-307-45239-9.
- Rolling Stone 2007.
- "9. Come Together". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Rolling Stone 2010.
- Doggett 2011, pp. 106, 210.
- Doggett 2011, p. 210.
- Self 1992.
- Bosso, Joe (6 February 2014). "Geoff Emerick on The Beatles in the studio". musicradar.com. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
- "Turner Revue Stages Soul Show That Grabs Audience" (PDF). Billboard: 22. 6 December 1969.
- "Best Selling Soul LP's" (PDF). Billboard: 52. 4 July 1970.
- "Best Selling Soul Singles" (PDF). Billboard: 36. 14 March 1970.
- Edmonson, Jacqueline. John Lennon: A Biography. 2010, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-0-313-37938-3, p. 149
- Doggett, Peter (2011). You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup. New York, NY: It Books. ISBN 978-0-06-177418-8.
- Emerick, Geoff; Massey, Howard (2006). Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 1-59240-179-1.
- "Something / Come Together". everyHit.com. Archived from the original on 2 July 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
- The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard. 1999. ISBN 978-0-634-02229-6.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Many Years From Now. London: Seeker & Warburg. ISBN 0-436-28022-1.
- Norman, Philip (2008). John Lennon - The Life. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-727825-X.
- "The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2007. Retrieved 5 October 2007.
- "The Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Beatles Songs". Rolling Stone. 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Self, Joseph C. (1992). "Lennon vs. Levy - The 'Roots' Lawsuit". abbeyrd.net. Archived from the original on 3 July 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
- Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
- Stevens, John (2002). The Songs of John Lennon: the Beatles Years. Boston: Berklee Press. ISBN 0-634-01795-0.
- Wallgren, Mark (1982). The Beatles on Record. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45682-2.
- Wenner, Jann S (2000). Lennon Remembers (Full interview from Lennon's 1970 interview in Rolling Stone magazine). London: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-600-9.
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