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"Come Together" is a song by the Beatles written by John Lennon[1] and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song is the opening track on the album Abbey Road, and was released as adouble A-sided single with "Something", their 21st single in the United Kingdom and 26th in the United States. The song reached the top of the charts in the US,[2] and peaked at number four in the UK.


Origin and meaning[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song's history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary's campaign for governor of California titled "Come together, join the party" against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana.[4] It has been speculated that each verse refers cryptically to each of the Beatles (e.g. "he's one holy roller" allegedly refers to the spiritually inclined George Harrison; "he got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola" to Ringo Starr, the funny Beatle; "he got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker" to Lennon himself; and "got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see" to Paul McCartney); however, it has also been suggested that the song has only a single "pariah-like protagonist" and Lennon was "painting another sardonic self-portrait".[5]

Recording[edit source | editbeta]Edit

John Lennon played rhythm guitar and sang the vocal; Paul McCartney played bass; Ringo Starr played drums; and George Harrison played lead guitar. It was produced by George Martin and recorded at the end of July 1969 at Abbey Road Studios.[6] In the intro, Lennon says "shoot me" which is accompanied by his handclaps and McCartney's heavy bass riff.[6] 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.

Although McCartney composed the electric piano part, Lennon looked over his shoulder to learn it so he could perform it himself on the recording.[7] Music critic Ian MacDonald reports that McCartney sang a backing vocal,[8] 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 [vocal] overdubs on this."[7]

Talking about the sessions in a 1970 interview, he said he was disappointed about not singing it live with Lennon, instead he overdubbed them later in the session:[4]

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.[4]

Release and acclaim[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"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 charts for 18 weeks, and reached number 1.[4] The single had less success when it was released on 31 October 1969 in the UK, only reaching number 4, possibly due to the BBC banning the song because they considered the verse "He shoot Coca-Cola" to be product placement.[4]

Rolling Stone ranked "Come Together" at #202 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[9] and #9 on their list of the Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs.[10][11]

On the compilation album Love, "Come Together" is the 19th track. Instrumentals and some backing vocals from "Dear Prudence" fade in followed by the "Can you take me back" section of "Cry Baby Cry" as a transition.

Song analysis[edit source | editbeta]Edit

This classic 1960s rock anthem with deep bluesy style was unlike any other song of its time in that it was constructed entirely of verse/refrains. There is no chorus and only one short guitar solo, acting as a bridge to interrupt the radical song structure. For the first eight bars, the tonic note D is repeated, eventually moving to the V chord and then to the IV chord. It then moves to the VI minor chord, which is a progression rarely used, the song "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" being a rare example. The refrain in actuality is three bars long, because the melody keeps going after the last A5 chord and comes to rest on the D5 chord after that. F# is introduced in the melody with a B minor triad. The tonic is held for four bars between each verse and is the same as the contents of the introduction.

Within the verse there are four one-bar structures; each one a non-sequitur. The lyrics end each time on the abrupt beat four of each measure, giving the verse an AAAA phrasing structure. The phrasing structure in the second half of the verse is two bars of BB. The C phrasing structure of the refrain has three measures becoming one long phrase and ending on the word "me" which ties everything together. There is an eleven-bar verse/refrain from a ten bar form. The one bar phrase into the two bar phrase and the three bar overlap creates plenty of deceleration and pushes the title line of the song to the spotlight. The melody of the verse stays within the range of a perfect fourth. Using mostly three notes (D, F, C) the tonic, flat three and flat seven, it moves away later only for contrast when it hits the II (E) and stays on that note for two bars. The refrain stands out as the highest notes in the piece (A). John Lennon decided to use modal interchange.

Lawsuit[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Further information: Roots: John Lennon Sings The Great Rock & Roll Hits

In 1973, "Come Together" was the subject of a lawsuit brought against Lennon by Big Seven Music Corp. (owned by Morris Levy) who was the publisher of Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me". Levy 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.[12] After settling out of court, Lennon promised to record three other songs owned by Levy.[13]. A primitive 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.[14]

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

+except on the chorus

personnel per Ian MacDonald[15]

There is debate over if it was Lennon or McCartney playing the keys. McCartney said it was him in an interview in Playboy in December 1984, although other sources disagree.

Recent availability of separate tracks from the original Beatles multitracks (due to release of Rock Band) have made fresh investigation of the Beatles personnel data possible. One of the discoveries is that the backing vocals of "Come Together" are indeed sung by McCartney. The misinformation originated from a quote from Geoff Emerick in Music Radar, where he correctly only stated that McCartney did not sing in the choruses: "Paul might have been miffed, but I think he was more upset about not singing on the choruses".[4]

Covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

John Lennon solo version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Come Together" was the only Beatles' tune Lennon sang during his 1972 Madison Square Garden concert. It was Lennon's last full-length concert performance, and his only one after leaving the Beatles. He was backed by the bandElephant's Memory.[16] This version of the song appears on the concert album Live in New York City.

Aerosmith version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Come Together"
[1]
Single by Aerosmith
from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (soundtrack) andAerosmith's Greatest Hits
B-side "Kings and Queens"
Released 1978
Format Record
Recorded 1978
Genre Hard rockblues rock
Length 3:46
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer Jack Douglas
Aerosmith singles chronology
"Get It Up"

(1978)

"Come Together"

(1978)

"Chip Away the Stone"

(1978)

American hard rock band Aerosmith performed one of the first and 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.

A rare live demo of the song was also released 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.

The Aerosmith version is still frequently heard on mainstream and album rock radio stations. Aerosmith still occasionally perform "Come Together" in concert.

Since 2006, New Zealand telecommunications company Telecom used a cover of this song for its "Come Together" campaign.

Arctic Monkeys version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Come Together"
Single by Arctic Monkeys
from the album Isles of Wonder
Released 2012
Recorded 23 July 2012

London Olympic Stadium

Genre Blues rock
Length 3:08
Label Decca Music Group(Appearing courtesy of Domino Recording Company)
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Arctic Monkeys singles chronology
"R U Mine?"

(2012)

"Come Together"

(2012)

"Do I Wanna Know?"

(2013)

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.

The Smokin' Mojo Filters[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Paul McCartney was also part of a different version of the song with Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller on an updated version of the classic for the 1995 HELP charity record, under the name the Smokin' Mojo Filters. Weller performed the lead vocal duties, with McCartney & Gallagher providing backing vocals, harmonies and bass and guitar. This version made it to #19 on the British charts in December 1995. In 2005 Weller recorded a new version of the song as part of a double A-sided single.

Other notable covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song has since become one of the most covered songs of all time; covers are listed as follows:


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