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06th May, 2020

'One After 909' by David Bedford - #LetItBe50

In the early days of Beatles songwriting, John Lennon penned 'One After 909', possibly with some help from Paul. It is a simple rock ‘n’ roll song but, like great Beatles' songs, it is infectious and has always been a favourite of mine.

Written around 1959, this was heavily influenced by those railroad songs of Lonnie Donegan, as Paul McCartney remembered:

“It has great memories for me of John and I trying to write a bluesy freight-train song. There were a lot of those songs at the time, like ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Freight Train’, ‘Rock Island Line’, so this was the ‘One After 909’; she didn’t get the 909, she got the one after it! It was a tribute to British Rail, actually. No, at the time we weren’t thinking British, it was much more the Super Chief from Omaha.” (Many Years From Now, Barry Miles).

The song was included in the early Beatles' sets and was considered for inclusion on their first album, 'Please Please Me'. When they were in the studio recording 'From Me To You' and the B-side 'Thank You Girl' on 5th March 1963, they only had time to record one other original song. Their choices were 'What Goes On' and 'One After 909' and they chose the latter. They managed four takes of 'One After 909', but none of them were satisfactory, so they left it there. There are takes of it on Anthology 1.

Paul was never sure of why it never made it in the early days:

“It was a number we didn’t used to do much but it was one that we always liked doing, and we rediscovered it. There were a couple of tunes that we wondered why we never put out; either George Martin didn’t like them enough to or he favoured others. It’s not a great song but it’s a great favourite of mine.” (Many Years From Now, Barry Miles).

Although the song started as a good rocker, The Beatles could never make it work, so they shelved it from their first LP and it finally appeared on the last album they released, 'Let It Be'. However, by the time it was finally recorded, the song sounded more like a country and western song than a rock ‘n’ roll song. However, by doing that, it lost some of the edge that the original rocker promised. I would have loved to have heard it, fully worked out in the studio and on the stage, just like 'I Saw Her Standing There'. I believe it could have been a great track, especially on 'Please Please Me'. It would have fitted with the transition from the greatest rock ‘n’ roll group that stamped their way across the stages of Liverpool and Hamburg to the mop-top, pop group, The Fab Four. 

When it came to selecting songs, 'One After 909' was resurrected January 1969, this time with the addition of Billy Preston on keyboards. Although the version on the album has more of a country feel, they also performed it on the famous rooftop concert on 30th January 1969 and put in a great performance, which is one of my favourites from that session, along with 'Get Back'. That gave us a little glimpse into the rocking roots of The Beatles. 

When Glyn Johns produced and mixed the songs for the 'Get Back' album, which was never released, the opening track was 'One After 909' from the rooftop concert. Once Phil Spector took the reins, he made few alterations to the song, which was finally released on 'Let It Be', as well as many years later on 'Let It Be…..Naked' from 2003. At least we finally had the song on record.

You can tell the fans of this song by doing a quick search for “910”, as you can find it as a PR firm as well as on t-shirts, for those in the know; 910 is the 1 after 909 isn’t it?

Maybe not a stand-out song for many Beatles fans, but it will always be one of my favourites. 

About David

David is a Beatles historian, author and researcher, and a guest at Beatles events in the US, UK and Europe. He makes regular appearances on Radio, TV and Beatles Podcasts.

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