Before "Toot and a Snore"

John and Paul, 1974

The act you’ve known for all these years, in Santa Monica, 1974.

Here are some photos from Retronaut.com — the last photo of John and Paul — taken at Peter Lawford’s old beach house here in Santa Monica. Whenever I want to bask in some ghosts (Marilyn and Jack! Marilyn and Bobby! Nilsson and Baron Von Moon!) I bike down six blocks; the house is right on the PCH. It’s surprisingly small; glamour required less square-footage back in those days.

Anyway, according to Retronaut, these were taken in March 1974, at the time of the infamous “A Toot And a Snore” bootleg. I love Stevie, and obviously John and Paul, but have been warned off by all the bad reviews. Anybody heard it?

John, Paul, and Keith Moon, Santa Monica, CA, 1974.

John, Paul, and Keith Moon, Santa Monica, CA, 1974.

Lennon, McCartney, and Nilsson

John, Paul, Harry and Linda’s head



11 Comments

  1. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    I’ve heard it, and the photos posted here are much, much better than the recordings, sadly. “Toot and a Snore” is only too apt as a title. Haphazard playing and random chatter fueled by drug use = terminally boring, even though the players include Lennon & McCartney.

    But it could have been a beginning. The ice is being broken, the old resentments are losing their grip, and next time around could have — should have — been better, not merely musically, but personally and emotionally. Damn, I hate that the past can’t be changed.

    Great track-by-track description, and interesting comment thread, here: http://www.bootlegzone.com/album.php?name=mm9225&section=2

  2. Avatar matt m wrote:

    If you’ve ever been very close friends with someone, fallen out with them, and later reunited as acquaintances in a stilted facsimile of your prior relationship, then you already know what this sounds like. I’ve got it if you want it.

    I always thought it was funny that John offers Stevie blow. He must have skipped “Too High” when listening to Innervisions.

  3. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    I think in this case, it’s best to just look at the pictures. Then, rather than thinking about what might have been musically, you can instead focus on wondering why Linda ever let Paul out of the house with that pedo-moustache. 🙂

    — Drew

  4. Avatar Alex wrote:

    Yes, it’s a complete mess… but hearing Paul McCartney echoing John’s lines and trying to harmonize on the third take of “Stand By Me” is just amazing. It’s a small hint into the magic of what still good have been…

    Nancy’s right, though. I also hate that the past can’t be changed.

  5. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    “If you’ve ever been very close friends with someone, fallen out with them, and later reunited as acquaintances in a stilted facsimile of your prior relationship, then you already know what this sounds like. I’ve got it if you want it.”

    This. Sadly.

    Nancy’s right that it might have laid the groundwork, but what this sounds like, to me, is the awkward, drug-fueled reunion of two men who have both outgrown their friendship as it once was and who are living lives too different to pick things back up again in a single evening.

    At some level, I don’t doubt that Lennon and McCartney were always psychically connected—how could they be otherwise—but considering that, from about 1967 onward, they lived increasingly drastically different lives, with Lennon’s mind quite dramatically altered by his drug use and his psychological problems, it’s not like they would have been able to recapture the old camaraderie that easily. Part of the key to the partnership’s success was that they weren’t just complementary artists, they were also great (if competitive) friends.

  6. To me the tragedy of John and Paul never hooking up again isn’t that they didn’t recapture the friendship they’d had pre-1968. It’s that both never had a better, closer non-sexual friend in their lives and, despite our hypersexualized culture’s blindspot in this regard, that’s a really important thing for people.

    Both guys loved music, loved writing music, and generally loved each other’s music. They could’ve had a less-intense, more respectful, less “living-out-of-each-other’s-pockets” adult friendship. The only thing stopping that were courtiers who never had either man’s best interests at heart. Having Paul around would’ve kept John from believing he was this unique being untouchable by normal people therapy and rehab. And having John around would’ve kept Paul from coasting and pleasing at the expense of his talent.

    John and Paul were, in the end, the only two people who really understood what the other was going through. That was hugely important. John and Paul could call bullshit on each other, and did. Whether they were working together or not, the lack of a friendship was a real tragedy for both of them.

  7. Avatar girl wrote:

    but what this sounds like, to me, is the awkward, drug-fueled reunion of two men who have both outgrown their friendship as it once was and who are living lives too different to pick things back up again in a single evening.

    Anonymous, I agree for the most part, but I don’t think that from 1967 onwards they were living drastically different lives. From what I’ve read they were still really close in 1967 first of all. And their lives then were still very similar. They were still buddies, both of them into the avant gaard scene and the drug scene together. True John may have been dropping more acid (partly because of his crumbling marriage perhaps?)but I think that Paul’s drug use and inevitable psychological problems have been downplayed while John’s have been emphasised. True though I think their lives did take different turns in the 70’s but I was surprised to read that after Sean was born they had a lot more in common than people seem to think.

  8. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    There’s this bootleg of a song Paul recorded around Tug of War sessions called “Seems Like Old Times”. Do you think he could have been writing about his moment when he saw John again?

    Some of the lyrics that made me think about this:

    The other day I met someone I had known in another lifetime.
    Old puzzle pieces lost without a trace
    Fell into place in my mind.
    But we both knew what we were getting into.
    And we didn’t want to stop.
    We wouldn’t want to miss it.

    Cause it seems like old times
    So like long ago that I hardly even know who’s who anymore
    What’s new anymore
    So like long ago that it seems like old times.

    Familiar music man singing me a song from another lifetime.
    When urgent letter waiting for the post where uppermost in my mind.
    But he got through and then before we knew it…

    When you reappeared and the moment I had always feared is upon me
    I felt slightly weird
    That’s for sure.
    Now life is good to me
    Though I don’t see who I used to see
    No it’s not quite what it used to be anymore.

    • I was thinking about this song when I saw your post! Yes, yes, yes. It could be really about this reunion. Who else could be this man ( he said “he” so is a man) that he met after a long time, an old friend? It’s curious also Paul never released it in any of his record. And the song is simply amazing.

  9. Avatar Wad Cheber wrote:

    I’ve heard it. It is certainly interesting for its historical significance, but that and curiosity are the only reasons anyone would listen to it. Musically, the performance is sloppy and cluttered. The audio quality is abysmal, everyone has mic problems, and much of what was happening is almost inaudible. And the listener is left in no doubt as to why the session was so lacking when John says “Hey Stevie, you want some coke? A toot? It’s going around.”

    After you realize that most of the musicians were drinking and doing cocaine at the end of a long day in the studio, their awful performance makes sense. John is so wired on coke that he is almost raving at times. He forgets the words to Stand By Me and several other songs he’s been playing for 20 years. His guitar is out of tune. Paul – probably closer to sober than anyone else – is on the drums, but there is a mountain of echo distorting them and everything else, and at times, the drums fade out of hearing completely. His backing vocals are rarely audible, but seem to be on key.

    The only person who really stands out as playing his instrument well is Stevie Wonder, which isn’t particularly surprising – he is a god whenever he is sitting in front of a keyboard.

    You’ll come away from hearing A Toot and a Snore in 74 thinking the following:

    1. No wonder no one was in a rush to release this recording commercially, and no wonder so few people know about it.

    2. The singing and playing was almost universally terrible, and I have a pounding headache now.

    3. John wasn’t lying when, years later, he described how out of control he was during the “Lost Weekend”, and he was a bit lucky to have even survived it.

    4. The only part of the tapes that is interesting, aside from the novelty of hearing the only Lennon/McCartney collaboration after the split, is hearing snippets of banter and imagining being there. And “It might have been a bit better if Keith Moon was on the drums during the session, instead of wandering around the rest of the studio with Ringo.”

    5. Whoever was at the mixing board should have been shot for doing the worst job anyone has ever done anywhere.

    • ” No wonder no one was in a rush to release this recording commercially, and no wonder so few people know about it.” As far as I know it was not supposed to be serious at all. They never meant it to be released as a record. It was only a group of friends having fun ( and cocaine) together..And for John and Paul a special occasion, as they were together again after a long time. Very interesting they sung “Stand by Me”. Perfect for that moment. There is a man, I don’t know who he is, who also stars singing with them and ruins everything, musically speaking. But doesn’t ruin the thrill of the moment. “ohn wasn’t lying when, years later, he described how out of control he was during the “Lost Weekend”, and he was a bit lucky to have even survived it.” Well, I think he was lying, because that time he worked well a lot. His best solo album Walls and Brigdes, is from that period. He also produced for Nilsson, he released this rock and roll album and another one I forgot the title. So, he was not on cocaine all the time.

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