The Beatles Songs: "Come Together"

The history of this classic Beatles song

The original US 45 of "Come Together"
The original US 45 of "Come Together". source:

Come Together

Written by:
First released:
Available on:
  • Abbey Road, (US: Apple SO 383, UK: Apple PCS 7088, Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2)
  • The Beatles 1967-1970 (UK: Apple PCSP 718, US: Apple SKBO 3404, Apple CDP 0777 7 97039 2 0)
  • The Beatles 1 (Apple CDP 7243 5 299702 2)
Highest chart position:
  • Counterculture hero Timothy Leary, a Harvard psychologist who was among the first to investigate the hallucinogenic properties of psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, was a national figure by 1969, when he decided to run for Governor of California against the incumbent, former actor (and future President) Ronald Reagan. John Lennon, an admirer of Leary's, was asked to contribute a campaign song based around Leary's slogan "Come together, join the party."
  • Lennon penned a song with the chorus "Come together right now, don't come tomorrow, don't come alone." But Leary found it unsuitable for campaigning -- and his campaign was soon derailed by his conviction for possession of marijuana. So it was brought to the Beatles instead, replacing his initial offer of a new single, the primal scream heroin-withdrawal freakout "Cold Turkey." (That song, which horrified producer George Martin, later became a solo hit for the Plastic Ono Band.)
  • Based around a standard Chuck Berry riff, the song was worked out in the studio, with Paul suggesting it be slowed down considerably to give it a "swampier" feel. The basic track was recorded on July 21, 1969; the lead vocal, electric piano, rhythm guitar, and maracas were overdubbed the next day. Various attempts at double tracking were attempted over the next several days.
  • The first line in this song -- "Here come old flat-top, he come groovin' up slowly," bears a strong resemblance, musically and lyrically, to Chuck Berry's 1958 hit "You Can't Catch Me" (whose couplet, written about a car chase, goes "Here come a flat-top, he was moving up with me"). This slight homage would prove to cause major discomfort in John's life, as Morris Levy, legendary record promoter and publisher, owned part of the rights to Berry's song. Levy sued Lennon, a suit which was finally settled when Lennon agreed to create a whole album of covers owned by Levy. It was released in 1975 as the Rock And Roll album. Paul has since claimed he was the first to notice the similarities between the two songs, and suggested slowing the tempo down to make it less noticeable.
  • Paul originally wanted to sing a high harmony with John on the whole song, but was vetoed by the songwriter; he settled instead for popping in at various points with a few backing vocals (some in harmony, others not).
  • The lyrics to "Come Together" are largely nonsense in the vein of John's other late-period works like "Dig A Pony" and "I Am The Walrus." The phrase "one and one and one is three" is often seen by "Paul Is Dead" theorists as a clue to his death, while "Ono sideboard" and "spinal cracker" are thought to refer to John's wife Yoko Ono ("spinal cracker" being a reference to the Japanese art of walking on a back to crack it). Several phrases, including "mojo filter," "goo goo eyeball," and "shoot Coca-Cola" are thought to be references to drugs; the BBC banned this song due to its policy of not playing tunes which contain references to brand names. Finally, the real lyrics to the lines "He bad / bag production" and "Hold you in his armchair / arms, yeah" are disputed to this day.
  • At the beginning of the song, John is heard singing "shoot" before every riff. Bootlegs and video of live renditions reveal that he is in fact singing "shoot me," a phrase half-covered by Paul's bass line and the percussive echo on his voice. (The effect is often compared to, but not caused by, the dial on an old-style rotary phone.) Considering that John was shot to death in 1980, this strikes some as adding to the song's ominous tone.
  • When recording this song, John had just finished recuperating from a car accident involving himself, Yoko, and her two children (from a previous marriage) on July 1, 1969. John was adamant about having her present during the recording of this song, to the extent of putting a cot in the studio for her to rest on.
  • This has been erroneously reported as the last track on which all four Beatles played together at the session; that record actually belongs to, appropriately enough, "The End," recorded on August 8, 1969.
Covered by:

Aerosmith, Count Basie, Bob Belden, The Brothers Johnson, Spencer Brewer, The Butthole Surfers, Chairmen of the Board, Joe Cocker, Craig David, Defunkt, Desmond Dekker, Eurythmics, Firefall, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Israelites, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Syl Johnson, Tom Jones, Ben E. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Herbie Mann, Delbert McClinton, The Meters, Buddy Miles, The Neville Brothers, Oasis, The Persuasions, Dianne Reeves, Rockin' Dopsie, Diana Ross, Shalamar, Soundgarden, Sugababes, The Supremes, Ike and Tina Turner, Junior Vasquez, Rick Wakeman, Paul Weller, Robin Williams, Cassandra Wilson, Zakk Wylde