Nancy Carr
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Posted at the excellent aggregator and original writing site Longreads is David Gambacorta’s exploration of the 1974 California jam session John Lennon and Paul McCartney engaged in — the last time they would play together. Most Beatles fans will be familiar with the history Gambacorta recounts, but it’s nice to see it laid out succinctly.

Gambacorta does turn up a few facts that were, at least, new to me: for example, it’s not clear what happened to the master tapes made that night. And the piece is well worth reading for the recent comments Gambacorta got from several people, including Elliot Mintz, May Pang, Paul Gambaccini, Chris Carter, and Jim Keltner.

Photo by May Pang, taken on March 29, 1974 –the day after the jam session — at the house Lennon was renting in Santa Monica.

A Toot and a Snore in ’74, the bootleg of the jam session that showed up in the 1990s, has got to be one of the most disappointing illicit recordings ever made. Sloppy, unilluminating, and drug-saturated, it’s a sad coda to the Lennon/McCartney working relationship. The fact that Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson were also present for this mess just makes it more depressing. Chris Carter has an intriguing theory about why it went so sideways: “The fact that Paul showed up put John on the defense. You can hear him try to act like it was nothing, but he knew it wasn’t nothing … and there was nothing there.”

Warning: almost no actual music is included in this recording.

I wonder if the session might have helped defuse some of the anger and defensiveness the former songwriting partners felt, just because it was so informal and chaotic. By making it the reverse of a “big deal” they let themselves off the hook a bit. If they could just be a couple of guys bashing around in a studio for awhile, maybe that made it easier to start making peace with who they were in the 1970s, as opposed to the megawatt presence they’d collectively been in the previous decade. McCartney has said that they were stoned out of their minds during the session, and that’s clear from the recording. How much of that was just habit at the time and how much it was an unintentional way to take the pressure off, who can say?