Playing Those Mind Games: A 1973 Beatles Album That Never Was

John Lennon was killed in New York City 31 years ago today.

That's more than three decades' worth of pissed-off Beatles fans asking, "What If"?

What if Lennon were still alive? What kind of music would he be making right now? At what point would the Beatles have gotten back together? Would it have been awesome or a horrible mistake?

I'm reading a new Paul McCartney biography -- Fab by Howard Sounes (Da Capo Press, 2010) -- in which the author suggests that McCartney, especially in 1979 after several years with Wings, truly missed writing music with Lennon. It, of course, points out several more "What If" moments -- for instance, when Lennon and McCartney considered showing up on the set of Saturday Night Live in 1976.

But in the spirit of all those "What If" scenarios, I'd like to theorize on an album -- clearly a fictional album, of course -- that the Beatles might've made as an on-again, off-again group in 1973.

What if, instead of breaking up in 1970, they just said, "Guys, we're all so freakin' sick of each other! Why can't we just take some time off and make an album together in a few years?"

Anyway, here's my take on what a 1973 Beatles album might've sounded like. Note that, by 1973, the practice of Lennon and McCartney dominating Beatles albums as writers and vocalists would've been ancient history, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr would've been equally represented. Also note that all the recordings on this list are solo releases by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr from that year.

Anyway, enjoy. And remember, this is purely fictional. Just the makings of another "What If" moment.

01. Band on the Run (McCartney) Vocal: Paul

This multi-section masterpiece would've been a worthy opener for the Beatles' comeback album.

02. Tight A$ (Lennon) Vocal: John

A nice rocker by Lennon from his 1973 album, Mind Games.

03. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) (Harrison) Vocal: George

Harrison's hit single from 1973 would've made a great side one, track three on a Beatles album.

04. I'm the Greatest (Lennon) Vocal: Ringo

Outside of the two "new" Beatles songs that appeared on the Anthology albums in the mid-'90s, this is the closest thing to a Beatles song to be recorded after 1970.

The song, which was written by Lennon and sung by Starr, features Lennon on piano and backing vocals, Harrison on guitar and Starr on drums, plus Beatles buddies Klaus Voormann on bass and Billy Preston on keyboards. This is the opening track on the Ringo album.

05. My Love (McCartney) Vocal: Paul

You couldn't have a Beatles album without a love song by McCartney, and this one would've done the job nicely.

Of course, Henry McCullough's beautiful guitar solo could've been played -- and/or improved upon -- by Harrison, perhaps on a Strat, using a slide.

06. Mind Games (Lennon) Vocal: John

Simply put, this is one of Lennon's best songs -- ever. It's totally worthy of being on a Beatles album.

07. Living in the Material World (Harrison) Vocal: George

The title track from Harrison's 1973 album makes references to Lennon, McCartney and Starr -- and even features Starr (aka "Richie") on drums.

08. Photograph (Harrison/Starkey) Vocal: Ringo

This one, another stand-out track from the 1973 Ringo album, was co-written by Harrison and Starr and features Harrison on guitar.

09. Live and Let Die (McCartney) Vocal: Paul

Maybe Hollywood execs found out the Beatles were working on an album and asked them to write a song for the new James Bond film. Hey, it could've happened!

10. Out the Blue (Lennon) Vocal: John

One of Lennon's best solo compositions, also from 1973's Mind Games.

11. Don't Let Me Wait Too Long (Harrison)

An awesome and off-the-beaten-path Harrison song from Living In the Material World.

12. Six O'Clock (McCartney) Vocal: Ringo

This was written by McCartney for inclusion on the Ringo album. McCartney also performs on the track and sings backing vocals.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.