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The Beatles Songs: Don't Pass Me By

The history of the Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Don't Pass Me By

The original US sheet music for "Don't Pass Me By"

rarebeatles.com

Don't Pass Me By

Working titles: Ringo's Tune, This is Some Friendly
Written by: Ringo Starr (100%)
(credited as Richard Starkey)

Recorded: June 5 (Studio 3, Abbey Road Studios, London, England), June 6 and July 12 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England), 1968
Mixed: June 6, July 12, and October 11, 1968
Length: 3:45
Takes: 7

Musicians:

Paul McCartney: piano (Challen upright, 1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills"), bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S)
Ringo Starr: lead vocal (double-tracked), drums (Ludwig), piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills"), sleigh bells
Jack Fallon: violin
Available on: (CDs in bold)

The Beatles (a/k/a "The White Album"; UK: Apple PMC 7067-8; US: Apple SWBO 101; Parlophone CDP 7 46443 2; CDP 7 46444 2)

History:

  • Ringo Starr never considered himself a composer, at least not during the '60s and early '70s, but he'd already managed to secure a couple of songwriting credits with the band by 1968, once by coming up with a few words for "What Goes On" and again for "Flying," which, because it started as a jam, was credited to all four members of the group. In fact, Ringo would often attempt to show John and Paul something he'd written in the early days, only to have them laugh and point out that he'd really just rewritten an existing song.
  • However, the simple 8-bar country blues of "Don't Pass Me By" was Ringo's composition and Ringo's alone, written way back in 1963 as Starr banged out a few chords at his mother's home in Liverpool. He then presented it to the group, but with their wealth of songwriting talent, it went ignored for five years, despite Ringo's repeated pleas. On the BBC radio show Top Gear, Paul mentions the song and even sings the chorus, while during a later tour of Australia, John and Paul both sing the chorus in another radio interview.
  • Finally, with the expansion of the "White Album" to a double, Ringo's song was given the nod as his requisite vocal (although John would later ask him to sing "Good Night," as he felt he was too cynical to do it justice). Paul and Ringo laid down the basic track in the tiny Studio 3 on June 5, to which Paul added another piano part, along with a bass track, and Ringo some sleigh bells. The next day, in the usual Studio 2, Paul made a second attempt at a suitable bass line, while Ringo recorded his lead vocal over the guide he'd laid down the day before. (Paul then helped John put the final bass and guitar touches on "Revolution.")
  • Finally, on July 12, Paul and George Martin called in an old friend of the band named Jack Fallon to lay down a countryish fiddle part. Fallon was a jazz cellist who'd played with Ted Heath and Humphrey Lyttleton, but he knew the group from his early days as an agent, when he'd personally booked the group! Though he was adept at fiddle, and wanted to put in a "two-step" rhythm track, Paul and Martin instructed him instead just to solo all over the track. When the song was finished, Fallon kept going, trying out different phrases; this was left in as an outro, though Jack himself felt it sounded terrible.
  • Needing an intro to link "Don't Pass Me By" to the other songs on the album, George Martin attempted a bizarre full orchestral interlude on July 22 in Studio 1, at the same session for which he arranged and recorded the sweeping orchestral score for "Good Night." The intro, which was deemed totally inappropriate, was scrapped in favor of some earlier snippets of McCartney tinkering around on the piano. Originally a 45-second piece, it was edited down to eight and added to the song's opening. The orchestral piece eventually saw daylight on Anthology 3, titled "A Beginning."

Trivia:
  • One of Ringo's piano tracks is very sloppy, so much so that the drummer, who didn't want to be bothered re-recording it, simply changed his vocal melody very slightly in the last verse to cover for the early (and late) chords. The decision to add an extra 2/4 beat to each 4/4 verse was probably McCartney's, as he would utilize this trick in several "White Album" songs.
  • Ringo often performs this song live, and recorded it for an episode of VH1's hit music show "Storytellers."
  • Much as with their earlier song "She's Leaving Home," the track for "Don't Pass Me By" is considerably sped up in mono, so much so that the key of the song goes up an entire half-step. Fallon's violin solo is also different in mono, and appears in different areas of the song. The reel-to-reel release of the "White Album" omits the last verse entirely!
  • The lines "You were in a car crash / and you lost your hair" have been picked over by Beatles fans for years: though probably a simple allusion to a lost wig, it's also been suggested that to "lose your hair" was British slang for getting upset. The "Paul is Dead" crowd have often pointed to this line as another "clue" to McCartney's supposed fatal auto wreck.

Covered by: The Georgia Satellites, The Gourds, Freiwillige Selbstkontr

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