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Reference Library: It Don't Come Easy

From: Malcolm Atkinson []
Subject: Ringo and "It Don't Come Easy" - A hopefully definitive answer
Date: 16 May 1996 05:53:57 GMT

'It Don't Come Easy' has quite a long history, being recorded and then remade twice!

Recording of Ringo's new composition was begun on the evening of February 18 1970 at Abbey Road's Studio 2, during the 'Sentimental Journey' album sessions. Earlier in the day, Ringo had re-recorded his vocals for 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You' and 'Let The Rest Of The World Go By', songs destined for 'Sentimental Journey'. At this stage, the song was known as 'You Gotta Pay Your Dues'.

On this first session, Geoge Martin was producing, with George Harrison was playing acoustic guita and directing the other musicians, which comprised of Ringo (drums), Klaus Voorman (bass) and Stephen Stills (piano). 20 basic track takes were made between 7.00 pm and 12.30 am, with Take 20 being labelled 'best'. Ringo then added a lead vocal and George added two electric guitar parts, finishing at 4.00am, with the song being mixed into stereo.

The following day, after overdubs onto 'Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing', recording resumed on 'You Gotta Pay Your Dues', with Ringo overdubbing another lead vocal onto Take 20 between 5.00 and 6.00 pm. Harrison was not involved in recording on this day, although Eric Cpalton may have been involved (Neville Stannard, Working Class Heros, p.154). After an hour's break, it was decided to re-make the song, with takes 21-30 being taped between 7.00 and 11.00pm. Take 30 was labelled 'best' and onto this take, two bass parts were added before the session ended at 1.30am.

This version however, was to remain unfinished, because on March 8, Ringo decided to again remake 'It Don't Come Easy', as it was now known. Recording probably took place at Trident Studios (documentation is unavailable - all that is know is that it wasn't recorded at Abbey Road), with George Harrison producing, as well as playing guitar. Klaus Voorman (bass), Stephen Stills (piano), Mal Evans (tambourine) and Ron Cattermole (saxaphone, trumpet) were also involved.

Recording of overdubs continued the next morning, again with Harrison producing. The song was then left until October 1970, when further overdubs were made (details unknown)

When news of the sessions reached the press in March 1970, Apple told the music press there was "absolutely no plans for the record to be released as a single at the present time", and the song wasn't issued until April 9 1971 in the UK (and April 16 in the US). Ringo's first solo single (with 'Early 1970' as a B-side featuring George Harrison on guitar and backing vocals) entered the NME charts on April 21 at No.12 and rose to No.5 for two weeks, staying on the chart for nine weeks.

A facinating outtake from these sessions has appeared on a recent bootleg ('To Be Expected', Strawberry Sampler 001, tr.8). It features George Harrison on lead vocal (probably singing a guide vocal for Ringo to sing along to). While the instrumentation is almost identical to the released version (the horns have not been added yet), during the guitar break, the female backing vocalists add the line 'Hare Krishna'.

[This *can* be heard on the final Ringo release, it is just very buried in the mix, whereas in the George vocal version it is very up front. -dh]

Following the guitar solo, rather than there being another verse, there is a repeat of the song's opening guitar phrase from George, again with the backing vocalists singing 'it don't come, oh no, you know it don't come easy' twice, with George adding a few shouted lines behind them before returning to the verse. Subsequently, there are some additional backing vocal lines.

Ringo performed this song at the August 1 1971 Madison Square gardens 'Concert For Bangla Desh', and, as he frequently did during his Beatle concert performances of 'I Wanna Be Your Man' and 'Act Naturally', he managed to forget most of the words to his own composition. His performance can be found on George Harrison's triple album 'The Concert For Bangla Desh'.

'It Don't Come Easy' appeared on Ringo's 1975 'Blast From The Past' 'greatest hits' album.

The song was also heard in the 1978 NBC-TV 'Ringo' special (although he recorded new versions of several songs for the special, the released recording of 'It Don't Come Easy' was used).

When Ringo recorded a new version of his 1972 hit 'Back Off Boogaloo' for the 'Stop And Smell The Roses' album, 'It Don't Come Easy' was referred to, along with several Beatle songs, in the backing vocals.

Ringo included the song on the set list for his July-September 1989 American tour, and a performance of this song opened the 1990 album 'Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band' (it was also included on a bonus 5" CD single released with the US limited edition deluxe CD version of 'Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band).

In 1991, 'It Don't Come Easy' was added as a bonus track to the CD version of 'Ringo', along with 'Down And Out' and 'Early 1970'

(Source: Mark Lewisohn, Complete Beatle Chronicle, 1992 p.345-347)

"You might very well think that, but of course, I couldn't possibly comment."
Malcolm Atkinson of New Zealand []

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