The "Singapore Caning Sessions"
DISCLAIMER!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 help?"
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 it."
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 full orchestration."
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 piece orchestra?"
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."
After 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 buying 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 everyone tune-up.
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 Journey" album.
Any suggestions for songs the Beatles and company should record with a caning theme? Click on the link below: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.