Friday, December 29, 2023

The Beatles - Calico Skies

The Beatles - Calico Skies

(soniclovenoize reimagining)

  1. Free As a Bird

  2. The World Tonight

  3. Any Road

  4. Calico Skies

  5. Now and Then

  6. Rising Sun

  7. Real Love

  8. Little Willow

  9. Rocking Chair in Hawaii

  10.  Beautiful Night

  11.  Grow Old With Me

  12.  Brainwashed

Happy New Year's Eve!  To welcome in 2024, here is a reimagining that has been in the back of my mind for sometime, and the release of “Now and Then” spurred me to complete it.  This is a reimagining of a late-1990s Beatles album that presumes that The Threetles not only completed all four of the proposed Lennon demos given to them by Yoko Ono, but continued to make an entire album of Threetles material.  One could consider this the final entry (chronologically speaking) into my “What If The Beatles Didn’t Break Up?” series of album reimaginations.  This reimaging is notable because it features my own mix of “Now and Then”, which attempts to present the song in a mid-90s-sounding fashion, sounding closer to “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”.  I have also remastered the Brainwashed tracks to sound closer to the rest of the album, specifically lowering the volume of George’s lead vocal with Ozone 10.  

As with my previous Beatles “What If?” albums, we will follow four key rules:

  1. All material presented must be more or less concurrently-recorded and represent a specific timeframe.  This rule is easily sufficed, as both Paul and George were in the midst of recording Flaming Pie and Brainwashed, respectively, as they were working on completing the Lennon songs given to them by Yoko. The only exception given is the drum track and lead guitar of “Now and Then”, which was recorded in 2022.  

  2. Balance of all Beatles songwriting contributions.  Here, we will use the four Lennon songs, with four Flaming Pie songs and four Brainwashed songs.  Note that Ringo's theoretical contribution is included in Paul’s “Beautiful Night”.

  3. All songs must be Beatle-esque in nature, and less reliant on the idiosyncratic stylings of the individual Beatles’ solo career.  

  4. The songs must flow together as a cohesive whole.  Note that, this being a theoretical late-90s release, this album would have been primarily a compact-disc release, we are not beholden to two 20-minute sides.  With that said, the album is still organized into two halves–this is just how I hear albums!

How this album relates to the actual Beatles Anthology, is up to the listener.  It might make the most sense to consider this album and the Anthology projects as separate (but related) entities; perhaps The Threetles used the momentum of the Anthology project to make one final Beatles album, released in 1998?  Also of note is the unifying influence here: Jeff Lynn.  Clearly he was the driving force of the Lennon demos and George’s album, but he was also producing much of Flaming Pie.  It’s also super convenient that the drums on both Flaming Pie and Brainwashed sound explicitly Ringo-esque!  And as with all of these Beatles reimaginings, suspension of disbelief is required for maximum enjoyment.  

Calico Skies opens with the centrifugal force of the project itself– “Free As a Bird”, taken from Anthology 1.  This sets the stage for the tone of the album and is followed by one of Paul’s strongest offerings in this period, “The World Tonight” from the otherwise overhyped Flaming Pie.  George then ups the ante with “Any Road”, using Ozone 10 to make the vocals less upfront, or at least mixed to a similar level as John and Paul songs; George’s opening banter is moved elsewhere in the album.  Paul’s fantastic “Calico Skies” follows but is more of a linking track to John’s “Now and Then”.  

Here I have used the extracted stems courtesy of Rock Band Stems, to make a new mix of “Now and Then” that sounds closer to the mid-90s mixes of “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love.”  This includes capturing the drum room sound from the aforementioned using Camaleon2, and mixing George’s guitars and Paul’s bass to be more upfront.  Also, we have mostly stripped away Giles Martin’s orchestration (although it does return briefly near the end of the song) and have completely removed Paul’s modern backing vocals and (misguided) attempt at “completing” the song with new lyrics.  Left with no chorus, I have removed the last few bars of the chorus entirely, and restructured John’s vocal to sing “Now and then I want you to turn to me…” (cryptically Lennon-esque, imo!).  Thus this section of the song simply becomes a middle-eight, for an otherwise chorus-less Lennon song (which is totally fine for an album-cut like this).  Additionally, I have mixed Paul’s slide guitar solo upward and added a spinning Leslie effect to it, in order to make it more Beatle-esque.  Finally, it is mastered to be as equally loud as “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”, and ideally sounds of the era.  

George’s “Rising Sun”--one of the highlights from Brainwashed, imo, follows to close the first half of Calico Skies.  “Real Love” from Anthology 2 hits the reset button, followed by Paul’s exemplary “Little Willow” from Flaming Pie.  It is gently crossfaded into George’s “Rocking Chair in Hawaii”; although technically better George songs were on Brainwashed, this one really serves the vibe of Side B the most precisely.   Paul’s “Beautiful Night” follows, which we are here considering a collaboration with Ringo, sufficing as his contribution to the album (anything from Vertical Man would have ruined Calico Skies, sorry/not-sorry!).  This is followed by “Grow Old With Me” from The John Lennon Anthology, featuring George Martin’s orchestral arrangements and overdubs–the closest to a “Beatles” version we have (ignoring the terrible Ringo Starr cover).  Closing the album is one of George’s best songs, “Brainwashed”; although this really starts to bend my Rule #3, I will give an exception, being what it is–the grandest of finales.  Perhaps George got the last laugh over Paul in the end?  

Sources used:

The Beatles - Anthology 1 (1995)

The Beatles - Anthology 2 (1996)

The Beatles - Now and Then (2023 stem extraction by Rock Band Stems)

George Harrison - Brainwashed (2002)

John Lennon - John Lennon Anthology (1998)

Paul McCartney - Flaming Pie (1996)




  1. This looks great. Two questions:

    1- How do I get the .flac version?

    2- Will there be a continuation for "Between The Lines"?

  2. Dear Omega, click on the end of the line of listen for free. If you want to download you have to pay at the site.

  3. Good effort, but I think you lost the plot after Little Willow.

  4. I think your version of Now and Then is much better than the original. Listening to the original always makes me think it has been over produced/engineered and does not sound quite right.

  5. There's a version on youtube that unites paul's bass and ringo's drums that they recorded for ringo's cover and mix with john's voice and piano + george nartin's orchestra. Very nice result.

  6. Sorry to do this here, soniclovenoize, but it looks like there's no way to contact you directly. I wanted to make a request: your version of what George Michael's "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2". I listen to your "Dream Factory" and "Glass & The Ghost Children" reworks all the time. Thanks for your time!

    1. Interesting, I'll take a look and see what I can do!

  7. I really love this idea! The fact that Jeff Lynne worked with both Paul and George in this era (and produced them both with his signature sound) makes this concept actually kinda believable - it definitely works a bit better as a cohesive album then anything you can put together with their 70s output.

    I like your tracklist a ton. It flows great! I think you could also throw "Marwa Blues" in front of "Now and Then" and, honestly, you could sub the song "Flaming Pie" in for "Little Willow" IMO. I love "Flaming Pie" - feels very beatleseqsue too IMO in a "Lady Madonna" way.

  8. Well this was fun while it lasted, but not worth paying for. Thanks for the work though.