Monthly Archives: November 2009

On the Subject of the Twelfth Album

I am a huge fan of alternate histories, whether massive or minuscule in its scope. Most people turn to Harry Turtledove, and with good reason, but other people have done interesting takes with the concept. Take Stephen Baxter‘s short story  The Twelfth Album.

The story starts with two dock workers stumbling onto a mysterious black album with the word God written on the lower left hand corner. In it was a shocker: An album by the Beatles from an universe where they made one more album after Abbey Road. The songs in the album are (in our universe) ones from their solo albums, so some of the titles sound familiar, but the way they were arranged  are definitely something different. Take into account the last track on this incredibly peculiar album, in  Baxter’s words ( thanks to user  Necanthrope from  everything2):

This would be the the ultimate track–the twelfth track on the twelfth album.

The last new Beatles song we would ever hear.

Because, of course, by now we both believed.

It was recognizable from the first, faded-in, descending piano chords. But then the vocals opened–and it was Lennon.

“It’s ‘Maybe I’m Amazed,'”, I said, awed. “Mcartney’s greatest post-Beatles song–”

“Just listen to it,” said Lightoller. “He gave it to Lennon. Listen to it.”

It didn’t sound like the version from our world, which {McCartney], battered and bruised from the breakup, recorded in his kitchen.

Lennon’s raw, majestic voice wrenched at the melody, while McCartney’s melodic bass, Starr’s powerful drumming, and Harrison’s wailing guitar drove through the song’s complex, compulsive chromatic structure. And then a long coda opened up, underpinned by clean, thrusting bass, obviously scored by George Martin.

At last the coda wound down to a final, almost whispered lament by Lennon, a final descending chord sequence, a last trickle of piano notes, as if the song itself couldn’t bear to finish.

The stylus hissed briefly, reached for the run-off groove, and lifted.

That is pretty powerful, at least to me, growing up watching the Anthology documentary and knowing all the turmoil the band was going to at that point in history. As it stands, some people aren’t fans of the story, but opinions are like..well, you know. I want to get my hands on the story myself to get the whole deal. Oddly enough, people have taken this idea and run with it. This guy here might have taken it a  little too far, but I do want to see if he gets a cease and desist from EMI. Hey, it happened to Danger Mouse, right?

As a side note, I wonder if Kieron Gillen has ever wondered about tackling the Beatles for his Phonogram stuff, but that’s another thing altogether.