The "Singapore Caning Sessions"
Although it is obvious to me, let me
state that the "Singapore Caning Sessions" is a fictional, humorous account
of a Beatles reunion inspired by the canings of Singapore.
The "Singapore Caning Sessions"
were born out of a need for cash. The 3 surviving Beatles had recently
reunited to put tracks on 2 unfinished John Lennon songs to help sell the
"Anthology" discs. Things were not going as smoothly as the public was
led to believe. For one thing, all 3 had new material they wanted to record
and slap on the anthology. Paul McCartney and George Harrison in particular,
were at odds with each other. Paul evidently felt that only his songs should
be recorded saying to Harrison, "You have already brought Jeff Lynne in
here to produce, added your slide guitar to John's tracks when my back
was turned and it may as well be the 'Travellin' Wheelbarrows' even though
this is supposed to be the Beatles."
Harrison agreed, but added "Well the 'Wheelbarrows'
are the only thing I've done that's worth a damn in a long time, and in
case you haven't noticed, you haven't been burning up the charts either.
I'll make you a deal, remember in the 'Get Back' sessions where I told
you I would play, or not, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it? Well
I'm not that weak anymore. You do your songs but I'm not playing on them.
Unless you include some masochistic references to the caning of little
boys I don't even think you are going to please Michael Jackson."
Ringo, was quoted as saying he was "glad
things were back to the way they used to be."
Amazingly, something happened that inspired
both George and Paul to forget their differences and not only record, but
write together again (the last instance being "Cry for a Shadow") which
Tony Sheridan disliked so much he refused to sing on, (but that's another
story.) This is the story we want here:
While Paul was wiping Lennon's vocal track
from "Real Love" with his own vocal (later claiming he was singing with
John in unison like the old days) Ravi Shankar walked into the mixing room
where Jeff Lynne, George, and Ringo were trying to salvage what was left
of John's original vocal exclaiming, "George you would not believe what
is happening in Singapore!" "Innocent kids are being caned." "Will you
George said, "Man, all the money from the "Bangladesh"
concert went for hand grenades! Get Bob Geldof or somebody." Jeff chimed
in, "Wait a second George, this is just the kind of thing that could make
you and Paul "Come Together" again." Ringo added, "Over John."
George was still undecided when Paul walked
in to the control room stating, "George, I hear you eat chicken now. What's
wrong with you? Linda and I have been veggies for years!" McCartney then
listened to Ravi's plea for help and immediately committed himself saying,
"Well, off the top of my head I always wanted to sing "She Caned Me Through
the Bathroom Window." "Now I have a reason!"
Harrison felt challenged. Ringo said, "What
would John think of it?" Paul without pause stated, "If John were here
I firmly believe in my heart that he would want to record "Happiness is
a Warm Cane Up Your Ass."
It was at this precise moment that Harrison
conceded to join in on what became known as the "Singapore Caning Sessions."
Harrison excused himself from the room and
made a quick phone call to Bob Dylan. When Dylan answered, George told
him the whole story adding, "Doesn't this remind you of the time you helped
me with the "Bangladesh" concert?" Dylan said, "The only reason I thought
you asked me to do that was because Lennon had backed-out. This seems more
like a Beatle project." George replied, "Yes, but John is still dead."
Dylan replied, "Oh yeah. I forgot, so this time you need me to run interference
with Paul?" Now they were communicating.
George walked into the control room stating
that Dylan had offered to record "It Takes a Lot to Laugh it Takes a Cane
to Cry" and was also offering-up "A Hard Cane's Gonna Fall." Paul, surprisingly,
didn't seem to mind the inclusion of Dylan, and said (right in front of
Jeff Lynne) "So, who's going to produce then?"
George said, "Um, let's figure that out later.
I am leaving to search the castle for inspiration on songs I would like
to record in the caning vein." After Harrison departed, Paul agreed it
was a good stopping point and left also. This left Jeff Lynne and Ringo
alone together for the first time on this day. Jeff asked Ringo if he had
any inspirations for the "Caning" album. Ringo said, "Um......no. What
about You?" Jeff said, "Not really, but I hope they will let me produce
When Paul got home that night he wasted no
time in calling George Martin on the phone. When George answered, Paul
described the events of the day and expressed his concerns that he didn't
think it would be handled properly unless Martin were there producing.
Paul said, "George, I have an idea which shouldn't piss Harrison off. Let
Harrison do his songs with whomever he chooses, but I want you to produce
'She Caned Me Through The Bathroom Window' just like on 'Abbey Road' with
Martin said, "Paul, I am flattered. I
would love to do it." Paul said, "My other concern is that we are not going
to have enough material to fill up a whole c.d." Martin without pause said,
"I have just the thing. Remember when you guys ran short on the 'Yellow
Submarine' album and I did side two with my orchestra? Well, what about
this: Peter Sellers' reading of 'The Caning Of The Shrew' backed by a 72
Paul hesitated before asking the all-important
question. Then he could bear it no longer. "George, do you have a tape
of Peter Sellers reading 'The Caning Of The Shrew?" George replied, "Well,
not yet. Why?" Paul said, "George, Peter Sellers is Dead." There was silence
on Martin's end of the phone.......Then Martin finally said, "Well so is
John Lennon!" and hung up.
Harrison was wandering around his castle mumbling,
"Isn't it a pity? Now isn't it a shame? How we break each other's laws,
and beat ourselves with canes?" When the phone rang. It was Bob Dylan.
Dylan asked George how the sessions were proceeding and Harrison said,
"Well, I still haven't figured out what songs I want to record." Dylan
asked George if he had a fax machine. George said, "Yeah I guess. I've
got a lot of stuff. Do you have one?" Dylan said, "I don't know, but I'm
sending you some of my lyrics I've been working on for the sessions."
reading Dylan's lyrics, Harrison was again wandering around the castle
mumbling, "Watch out now, take care beware of spray paint wielders, dancing
down the sidewalks, laughing at their graffiti, even a masochist, must
resist, beware of flogging!" When the phone rang again. This time it was
McCartney on the other end. Paul said to George, "Man, I can't believe
it! I feel so inspired! I have thought of more songs to do since we left
the studio. This is great! How are you coming then?" George didn't want
to tell Paul that he really hadn't thought of much so he said, "I feel
totally fantastic! I have just received Dylan's lyrics and I am working
on my own right now. I can't wait to get the sessions rolling!"
Paul responded, "Well, I have some titles I
would like to send over there for you to take a look at, and perhaps help
out a bit with the Lyrics. Do you have a fax machine.?" Harrison said,
"Well, that letter from Bob got here pretty quick, so maybe I do. I've
got quite a bit of stuff. Do you have one?" Paul said, "Yeah, I guess.
I have quite a bit of stuff myself." It was agreed that the sessions would
begin proper at 5:30 p.m. the following day.
After reading McCartney's
fax, Harrison was starting to feel desperate. He had only thought of a
couple of lines for songs, and once again it appeared it was going to be
a mostly McCartney record with only a few of Harrison's making it into
the mix. He had to do something. He called Ringo. When Ringo answered,
George asked him how he was coming along with ideas for the sessions. Ringo
said, "Hadn't given it much thought, let's see, 'No no no no please don't
flog me no more. I'm tired of my ass being this sore." George said, "Well,
that's something anyway, I don't have much. I have a few lines here and
there and I just thought of a re-make of "The Art of Flogging" but Paul
is really taking over just like the old days."
Ringo said, "That's good. Let him go for it."
Harrison said, "No, that's not good. I am considering getting some outside
help on this. I already have Dylan's commitment. I am going to hold a press
conference tomorrow before the sessions begin proper." Ringo said, "Alright
man, I just want to play."
Harrison then called Pete Townsand with the
assumption that Paul would not mind Pete's involvement since Pete had helped
Paul in the "Rockestra" project. After explaining what was going on, Harrison
asked Pete if he had any ideas. Pete said, "Well, here's one: 'People try
to cane my arse (talkin' 'bout humiliation) just because I spray paint
cars (talkin' 'bout humiliation)"
Harrison said, "That's great man. Can I count
on you to do the sessions with us?" Pete said, "Yes, do you have a fax
machine?" Harrison said, "Why?" Pete said, "I was thinking about
one." Harrison said, "I think I might. I have quite a bit of stuff." Pete
said, "Yeah, I might already have one, I don't know, but you can count
on me for the sessions man."
At the press conference the next day, Paul
was in command most of the time, deftly fielding questions about why a
long forgotten incident in Asia would inspire the Beatles to re-unite.
Harrison was silent except for the fact that the more Paul talked, the
louder George strummed the ukulele he had brought with him, until a question
was directed at him. A member of the press asked Harrison what these Hogey
Carmichael songs had to do with the sessions. George put the ukulele down
and said, "Nothing whatsoever. I have prepared a statement."
After reading the
statement, Harrison answered questions from the press regarding rumours
of the inclusion of Bob Dylan, Pete Townsand, and Elton John in the sessions.
George stated, "We have firm commitments from Bob and Pete. Elton is unsure
if he is willing to do a re-make of his duet with Kiki Dee as 'Don't Go
Floggin' My Ass' having already done a re-make with RuPaul."
The Press Conference was ended so that the
3 Beatles could make the studio appointment at 5:30.
Upon arrival at the studio Jeff Lynne was already
mixing the unmistakable sounds of "Why Don't We Cane Him in the Road."
Harrison inquired to Paul, "What's this?" Paul explained that on the night
he called George telling him of his enthusiasm, he felt compelled to start
the sessions saying, "I just couldn't wait man. I had to knock this one
off." Harrison looked at Ringo who was tapping his foot in the corner and
decided to say nothing. Ringo told Paul, "I always liked that beat."
Ringo took his place behind the drums and Jeff
lynne started work on the drum sound, although there wasn't much to be
done because the settings were already there from the Paul session. Harrison
unpacked his guitar and finally got the courage to ask Paul, "So are Ringo
and I going to be on this record, or should you do it all yourself and
call it "Caning Pie?" Paul said, "Look man, what's done is done. Let's
proceed with "She Caned Me Through the Bathroom Window."
This first day of the sessions were touch and
go at best, and Harrison wished they had started with the Dylan songs for
inspiration. After 97 run-throughs of "She Caned Me Through the Bathroom
Window", they decided to call it a night.
When Harrison arrived home, he once again was
moping around the castle mumbling about something when a servant appeared
with a fax from David Bowie.
After reading Bowie's fax, Harrison felt better
about the sessions. He felt that inviting Bowie and Fripp into the project
would cause everyone to be on their best behavior. He had done it before
during the sessions for the "White Album", bringing in Eric Clapton to
play guitar. Until that point, nobody showed much interest in recording
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He had also brought Billy Preston into
the "Get Back" sessions. Before Billy was brought in, nothing but bickering
was happening. After Billy arrived, John Lennon actually suggested that
Harrison wasted no time in calling Bowie and
telling him to please meet him at the studio the next day. He said to himself,
"Now I know this Fripp guy isn't going to sit by going through 97 more
takes of "She Caned Me Through the Bathroom Window!"
When Paul arrived in the studio the next day,
ready for some more run throughs of "She Caned Me Through the Bathroom
Window", he was shocked to see Fripp and Bowie playing with Ringo and George.
The sound they were making was vaguely familiar to him. He walked into
the control room and asked Jeff Lynne, "So, what is this then?"
Jeff said, "Well, when George and Ringo showed
up today, they announced that Bowie and Fripp were coming. I thought they
were joking, but as you can see, there they are." Paul inquired, "Yes,
but what is this song?" Jeff replied, "Oh, Mr. Fripp has figured out the
solo to 'Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!'" Paul said, "Man, that was
done with a bunch of tape loops!" Jeff said, "Well, evidently Mr. Fripp
is an expert at it, as you can hear."
Paul timidly walked into the studio and picked
up his bass. George said, "Hey Paul, check out Mr. Fripp's 'Mr. Kite' version!"
Ringo counted it off, Fripp and Harrison started playing, and Paul eventually
joined in. Then Bowie started singing, "For the benefit of Mr. Fripp, several
vandals will be whipped at half past four. Then Mr. Fripp will demonstrate
his willingness to follow the laws of Singapore!"
Although breaking down at this point, this
take was preserved for all on hand to listen to because it was the first
time the old "magic" had been there for the three surviving Beatles. It
is ironic that it took Bowie and Fripp to make the sessions into something
extraordinary, but that is the case.
The "Caning Album" went on to be the biggest
seller of all the combined artist's careers unless you count Ringo's "Sentimental
Any suggestions for songs the
Beatles and company should record with a caning theme? Click on the link
Copyright 1997 by John A. Buckner and
friends. This page would not be possible without contributions from J.C.
Scott, M. Wattz, H. Herndon, and most of all, the Iceman, who not only
contributed ideas, but made the physical trip to Singapore.