Day 128: The most obscure song by The Beatles that you can think of.

“The Sheik Of Araby” – The Beatles (Duh)

Sheik Of ArabyIt’s pretty tough for a Beatles song to be obscure these days. I was going to say “Her Majesty” since that 23-second song from Abbey Road was originally considered a “hidden track” (and possibly the first hidden track ever). It got tacked on to the end of the album when it was decided to pull it out from in between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam.”

So, since it was on an album that sold a bajillion copies, it can hardly be considered “obscure,” despite the fact that for years people didn’t really know what it was.

Thus, I decided to go with something even more obscure: “The Sheik Of Araby.” This song was actually recorded in 1962 by The Beatles for their Decca audition (you know, Decca, the brain trust of a label that passed on The Beatles). But it didn’t see official release until The Beatles Anthology 1 in 1995.

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I first became aware of this song during a 1996 visit from my friend and brain-sharer Woody. During this visit we visted many, many, many, many
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many, many used record shops. And we would actually race each other into said shops to see who could find the rarities first, because as fellow Genesis- (and related-) fanatics, we were always looking for the exact same things.

The Beatles Anthlology series, which contained a slew of demos and rarities, was relatively new at that time, and much cheaper here than in Woody’s native Australia, so it was high on the “must acquire” list. And so he did. I might have acquired it during that trip, too. I don’t remember.

“The Sheik Of Araby” was a cover song, originally written and recorded long before The Beatles were playing music. And it became a jazz standard. The Fab Four’s version, however, was far more rock than jazz, and was apparently pretty popular when they played it live during that era.

I’m willing to bet that most people, except for those who like The Beatles enough to seek out the anthologies, don’t even know if this recording’s existence. (You’re better off, truly.) So I think it qualifies for the obscure title.

For my money, it’s nothing more than a weird song. It’s certainly a long way from where The Beatles would end up. Sung by George Harrison, it includes these musical breaks where Paul and John interject “not half!” which simply made (and still make) no sense to me. That alone was enough to make it not one of my favorites, but it tickled Woody’s funny bone, so we had to agree to disagree. (Which is rare, since, as mentioned, we share a brain.)

It’s so weird, in fact, that I’m going to speculate that it’s the reason Decca didn’t sign The Beatles.

And you can’t prove otherwise, so I’m going with it.