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Old Brown Shoe by The Beatles

Album: Past Masters, Vol. 2Released: 1969
  • George Harrison wrote this song and also played guitar, organ and bass on the track; it was one of the few times he included a guitar solo for himself. Regarding the words, opposites were a common theme in Harrison's lyrics: right/wrong, short/tall. He explained: "I started the chord sequences on the piano, which I don't really play, and then began writing ideas for the words from various opposites... Again, it's the duality of things - yes no, up down, left right, right wrong, etcetera."
  • This was released as the B-side of "The Ballad of John and Yoko."
  • The album cover to the single echoes the album cover for Hey Jude in a clever way. On the single version for "The Ballad of John and Yoko," John and Yoko are seated on a pair of statues, while the rest of the group, looking rather forlorn, stand in the background. On the cover of Hey Jude, all four Beatles stand indoors in a classical setting flanked by statues - one of which off to the side wears Yoko's hat.
  • Even fans argue to this day whether that's George's or Paul's bass work. The various editing sessions in the studio muddy the waters quite a bit. To wit: During the Let It Be sessions, the group did two recordings, one with Harrison and piano accompaniment, and one with the whole group plus Billy Preston. They rehearsed the song eight more times for these sessions, and there's some bootlegs of these tapes out there. Then a complicated hail of edits on different tracks ensued when they actually went to record "Old Brown Shoe," with Harrison replacing two guitar tracks with his own and wiping Lennon's rhythm guitar in favor of a Hammond organ. Remember that this was towards the end of the Beatles' career, and there were growing creative fractures in the band. For the record, Harrison told a Creem interview that that's his bass.
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Comments: 41

I love Ringo's drums on this song; he was soooooo good!John - S.f.
maybe the greatest George Harrison song ever.Bernard - Paris, France
Absolutely dirk,Nashville! Best lyrics rewrite ever. I have some japanese bootlegs with similar gems like 'I Dog a Pony', 'I'm so Tire' and 'Martha my Deap'...
Songfact!: George was never good with titles..pressured by Paul, he changed 'For You Sweet Top Lips' to 'For You Blue'.
Davidckendall - Paris, France
About the much discussed bass line: Listening closely to it, it sounds very keyboard-oriented, so there is a certain chance that it was played on a Moog Synthesizer, which emerged just around that time. Fact is that George Harrison was the owner of the first Moog Synthesizer that the Beatles got to lay their hands on.Tom - Freiburg, Germany
George plays bass on this song...not Paul...Wayne - Westport, Ma
Absolutely one of his BEST !!!!Joe - Grants Pass, Or
I dear say Ricky meant to comment on the song "I Will".Nikolai - Los Angeles, Ca
This is a brillant song! I really wish that George would have written more song when he was apart of the Beatles. You can't really understand him too well in this song but if you look at the lyrics this is a geat song lyric wise.Breanna - Henderson, Nv
great song...george was incredibly talented...all those years ago is my fav of hisAnne - Kerrville, Italy
There is a bit of a shout-out to Ringo on this song: "If I grow up, I'll be a singer/Wear rings on every finger"Ken - Louisville, Ky
I simply cannot believe this bass was played by George, because its one of the best bass line I've ever heard. I have to trust in George when he said in an interview he played the bass (not just in the demo). Hard to believe. I don't care who did it, I simply love it.Ralph - Florida, Fl
Old Brown Shoe is a gem of a song, and performance. There can't be any doubt that, had George Harrison been in any other group, he would have been a pre-eminent force and not just the third man.
However, if he had been in another group, The Beatles would not have been what they were. It took all four of them. The post Beatle careers are a testament to that, surely.
In fact, George's had the most content from an esthetic and intellectual perspective. What he wrote about in his final years is poetry about the stages of life...his in particular. And, as maligned as some of his albums were, Dark Horse, for instance, just the lyrics make them worthwhile. He talks about real feelings, not just the razzle dazzle of a pop song formula.
No Beatles were hurt in the formation of this comment :)
Glenna - Gilbert, Az
I listened to this song today; it just sort of came through my mind, and I just love the riffs and the fast bass in the middle of it. Seems to me this song is a proof that the lads really could rock. I really tight band.Peter - Stockholm, Sweden
Gary Brooker from Procol Harum covered the song in "Concert for George".Paul - Cleveland, Oh
Yes. Long, Long, Long is a very good George song.Peter Griffin - Quahog, Ri
In support of "lost" George Harrison songs--I agree with the ones others have mentioned. My favorite lost Harrison tracks are "Long Long Long" (buried between Helter Skelter and Revolution) and an absolutely exquisite demo on the reissue of All Things Must Pass called "I Live For You." That song alone is worth the egregiously high price of the All Things Must Pass box.Kristina - Albuquerque, Nm
Having said all that... Do all of you lot agree with the printed Old Brown Shoe lyrics that appear attached to this page?Dirk - Nashville, Tn
I agree with you, Jose. The ending is surreal. But this is really an inspired fast-paced record--and it was very "Beatle-y" sounding at a time when some Beatle records didn't sound particularly "Beatle-y.".... Also an interesting point from Martin in London below. This was a meeting of the four in the studio just a couple of days after John and Paul snuck off by themselves to record Ballad of John and Yoko. And Old Brown Shoe is about 85 times better than Ballad, I submit.Dirk - Nashville, Tn
One of the most original rock and roll songs ever.

The ending is absolutely surreal.
Jose - Lodi, Nj
Since this song is based on a great rockin piano rhythm line, it makes me wonder, did George noodle it out on the piano first? Did George know how to play the piano? I've never really heard before...Guy - Woodinville, Wa
The single release of "The Ballad of John & Yoko" featured a picture-jacket with all 4 of the Beatles and Yoko.
The reverse of the jacket (the b side) had all 5 of them squatting behind a bush. If you looked closely, there was an old brown shoe stuck in the bush.
Dave - Scottsdale, Az
Within you Without you is definately in georges top songs, along with either inner light or taxman, and blue jay way is greatDaniel - Derry, United States
This a very underated song the unison bass and guitar sounds great and another guitar part has Harrison playing slide guitar through a leslie.The guitar solo sounds like an organ that was also was put through a leslie speaker a tone and style that Harrison popularized and devoloped.
Sal Bardonia, NY
Sal - Bardonia , Ny
Paul's bassine is awesome on this song!Zack - Dublin, Oh
This song makes me so sparkley!!! George Harrison is the best George ever.Ashley - Canada
George's lyrics are always great and this one is no exception. The guitar is as good as anything he ever did. Rock on, George! I love this tune.Mike - Newark, Nd
This song is perfectGeorge - Itaberaba, Brazil
O Btw, good vocal performance by George.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
The one i'm asking about is the version on the single. i don't have any Beatles singles.eatles single. I don't haveStefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Is the version on past masters the same as the one on anthology 3. I don't have past masters.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
One of my favorites songs by George. I think it's unfair that track be a B-side, although "The Ballad of John and Yoko" is a good song. An wonderful work, a gem.George - Itaberaba, Brazil
A Boogie-woogie Piano and a Jazz Guitar can be heard especially on Anthology 3.Melissa - Fairborn, Oh
I love George's hits too -- Brown Shoe and Here Comes the Sun -- but the "coincidence" you see tends to suggest they'd all have developed their talents individually if they'd never met. I'd bet the group success and their influence on each other gave them all sorts of new inspiration and confidence. Still, they were a miracle of music any way you slice it.Andy - New York, Ny
No-one doubts that Lennon & McCartney were stunning songwriters, individually and together. Is it by coincidence that another stunning songwriter was in the band too? These guys were not put together following national auditions after all! With Ringo, who I believe fully played his part in their succcess, they had something very very good going. But what are the chances of these three world class songwriters emerging out of a local dance hall band? Someone is going to say 'hype' and 'good marketing' I expect :-)Calum - Edinburgh, Scotland
I disagree, Nessie. While I love Here Comes the Sun, I still have to go with For You Blue, Old Brown Shoe, and Something as the top 3 George songs. Those 3 songs display his beautiful songwriting capabilities. For You Blue is still my favorite song of all time. George is by far my favorite Beatle. He has the whole 'back-up guitarist with mystique' going but he still has the talent to be the front man on many of the songs. RIP George.Matt - Clifton Park, Ny
This is one of George's three best songs, along with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun." "Something" is better written. "Here Comes the Sun" is better recorded. But "Old Brown Shoe is the most rhythmically interesting of the three, by far, thanks to Paul's driving bass. I would've double-tracked the vocals, since they're a bit tinny and thin. Anyway, it's a great song, and the most underrated of any Beatles song.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
This is such a wonderful song. It's unfortunate that George Harrison's talents were neglected. This deserved a lot more that a b-side of a single. There's a fantastic version of this song on the Concert for George soundtrack I would recommend as well.Marina - Seattle, Wa
I just noticed- in this song's Anthology version, Harrison sang the line "if I grow up I'll be a singer" as opposed to "when". Odd.Martin - Sterling, Va
This is the best Harrison work, ever.Martin Bonica - Sterling, Va
It's strange that Lennon impatiently bagered McCartney into the studio (just the two of them) to record "The Ballad of John & Yoko" when George & Ringo weren't around, and yet this track was recorded with all 4 Beatles just two days later. I often wonder what would have happened to this song (another underrated Harrison contribution) if John hadn't wanted to release "The Ballad of J&Y" so quickly.Martin - London, England
A rockin' song with a great guitar solo, one of George's best ever. The demo version on the Anthology 3 is great as well.Adrian - Wilmington, De
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