When was it recorded? Jun. 5-6 and Jul. 12 & 22, 1968
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 22, 1968 on “The Beatles”
Who wrote it? Starkey
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
“Don’t Pass Me By” was Ringo’s first solo-written song (perfectly timed since I was watching his “Strange Garden” video this afternoon to pass the time). Despite being released on the White Album in 1968, signs point to him composing it four years earlier. On Jul. 14, 1964, while introducing a performance of “And I Love Her” (Day 10 if you’re looking for it on this blog) on BBC radio’s “Top Gear,” Ringo is asked if he’s written any songs. He says yes and then Paul sings a few bars from what would become the chorus of “Don’t Pass Me By.” You can hear the exchange in this video around 1:10.
Quoth Alan Pollack, “In that context, you could imagine the song being delivered as a rocking bluesy number, in the manner of “Can’t Buy Me Love”. But wait four years, slow down the tempo, add a part for fiddler, and voila: we have it served up all countrified and back woodsy, as if it ever could be any other way.”
“Don’t Pass Me By” had the super clever working title “Ringo’s Tune (Untitled),” then later “This is Some Friendly” while it was being demoed. To again quote Pollack, “The track is bracketed at both ends by noodling; i.e. by a piano on the way in, and by the fiddle on the way out. This is a novel studio effect that falls somewhere on the spectrum between suggesting a live performance and exploitation of the recorded album medium.” According to my notes, John and George do not appear on this track. Ringo and Paul man most of the instruments, with Jack Fallon on the violin.
Jack Fallon was a Canadian-born British musician. Born in 1915, he excelled at playing violin but primarily played the double bass. After being stationed in Britain by the Royal Canadian Air Force in WWII, he decided to live there and played with numerous bands at numerous jazz clubs around the country. Quoth Wikipedia, “Fallon continued to play jazz locally in London and in the studios into the 1990s.” He died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 90. Sounds like a pretty cool guy.
Fallon also established the Cana Variety booking agency, which booked (duh) and promoted jazz artists. Eventually the agency expanded into promoting rock band, including the Beatles (hence his involvement on this number) and the Rolling Stones.
“George Martin had jotted down a 12-bar blues for me. A lot of country fiddle playing is double-stop [two notes played simultaneously] but Paul and George Martin — they were doing the arranging — suggested I play it single note. So it wasn’t really the country sound they originally wanted. But they seemed pleased. Ringo was around too, keeping an eye on his song.” — Jack Fallon (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
George Martin also originally wanted an orchestra to play an interlude, but this segment was rejected. It did, however, find it’s way into the “Yellow Submarine” film and onto “Anthology 3,” entitled “A Beginning.”
Nice oboe. It’s a neat arrangement but I can see how it got cut. It doesn’t seem to go with the rest of “Don’t Pass Me By.”
When the White Album was first released, the mono version “featured some improvised fiddle playing at the end” while the stereo version did not (The Beatles Bible). The extended ending was carried over to CD reissues, so I’m assuming that’s the version I’ve linked to below.
Worth noting – “Don’t Pass Me By” debuted at #1 on the Denmark music charts and stayed in the Top 10 for one month. If Ringo was looking for his fanbase (and I’m sure by this period he was), I think he probably got one clue as to where they were hiding out.
Pollack wrote in his review, “Seek out, by the way, the mono “White Album” where this track is mastered a full half-step higher (and consequently runs faster) than the stereo version.”
…the hell was that? Can I post it and still pretend I don’t know it exists? OK. Furthermore there’s a version on “Anthology 3” composed only of Ringo’s vocals and the rhythm track, which was interesting but not different enough for me to justify posting another video.
I love how quintessentially Ringo this song is. It’s kind of beachy, kind of country, quite simple, and if you learn a bit about Ringo and then listen to this song your brain definitely goes, “I can see how this person would create this piece.” I liked this one a lot.