The Commonwealth Song and No Pakistanis come to mind when at the recent British elections in May 2005, the Labor Government was challenged over its immigration policies. It recalled an earlier situation 36 years ago in January 1969.

British cabinet minister Enoch Powell made his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech in which Powell used a reference in Virgil to the river Tiber foaming with much blood to describe what he thought would happen if the tide of Commonwealth immigrants was not stemmed. This speech influenced Eric Clapton to comment favorably of Enoch Powell and it made a deeper impression on Paul McCartney.

The Beatles had gone into Twickenham studios on Jan 2, 1969 to rehearse and prepare for an as yet unscheduled live performance. Most of the sessions were jams of old rock ‘n’ roll tunes. But on Jan 9, McCartney rewrote the lyrics to a song he had started on Jan 7.

McCartney wrote what he called the "Commonwealth Song" based on Powell's speech. One of the stanzas was "You'd better get back to your Commonwealth homes". However, as evident from bootlegs, the "Commonwealth Song" has no resemblance to the final version of "Get Back". On the same day, the Beatles recorded yet another version, this time entitled "No Pakistanis". The choruses of both were almost the same, but "No Pakistanis" was more racially charged, as the singer sang about how he "don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs". This reference haunted the 2005 British elections as well, voters remembered the stories of dead migrants found in the back of lorries.

 

There is only one instance of the "Get Back" song jammed as "No Pakistanis". In the next few days, McCartney changed the lyrics to describe a man named Jojo who leaves his home in Tucson, Arizona "for some California grass", and then recommending that he return to Tucson. Linda McCartney's former residence in Tucson was likely the inspiration for the revised lyrics. In a 1980 interview with Playboy, Lennon described it as "...a better version of 'Lady Madonna.' You know, a potboiler rewrite."

It was only in 1986 that bootlegs featuring "No Pakistanis" were made public. As expected, McCartney was heavily criticised for his alleged racist tendencies. Although McCartney denied the accusations, the controversy failed to subside for a few months.

The BigO Audio Archive now has a complete set of all the recordings the Beatles made from Jan 2 to Jan 31, 1969, a total of 83 CDs. There is only one version each of "The Commonwealth Song" and "No Pakistanis" indicating that both were jammed to relieve the tedium and depression the Beatles were in, in the early days of January. Performed for laughs, you can hear Paul laughing when John sings "yes" in a high voice when responding to Paul’s yelp of "Commonwealth". There are upwards of 30 takes of Get Back by comparison.

 

Otherwise, the Get Back sessions were depressing with bitching between Paul and George and the band uncomfortable with Yoko Ono’s presence. The interviews recorded on Jan 13 and 14 are very revealing of this.

More than three decades have passed, yet both songs have never been officially released. It is likely that if they are ever released, it will be post-humously, when the remaining Beatles are gone, given their controversial content.

- The Little Chicken

 

Here are the lyrics to the songs.

The Commonwealth Song

Paul: (the start is inaudible) ...Immigrants, immigrants had better go home,
Tonight Commonwealth/Wilson said to the immigrants,
You'd better get back to your Commonwealth homes,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, he said you'd better get back... home!

Paul: Now Enoch Powell said to the folks,
He (inaudible) to the colour of your skin,
He said he don't care what it's... (sounds like he's going to say
'all about' but he starts vocalising),
So Ted Heath said to Enoch Powell he said you better get off...,
(more vocalising)... Enoch... Enoch you better go home!

Paul: So Wilson said to the Premier, come on we gotta swing,
We gotta go back to the summat or the other (more vocalising),
So Enoch Powell said to Wilson/Heath by... the Commonwealth!

Paul: Commonwealth!
John: (in a high voice) Yes! [X3]
Paul: If you don't want trouble then you better go back to home!

John: (singing in a high voice) ...I went to India, I've been to old Calcutta and I've had enough of that,
John: I'm coming back (Paul: Yeah?) to England-town. (Paul: Yes, welcome!)
John: And dirty Enoch Powell and he's had enough of coloured men.

Paul: Commonwealth!
John: Yes? [X2]
Paul: Can you hear me Commonwealth?
John: Yes!
Paul: Well Enoch Powell you gotta go back to home!

Paul: Well I (inaudible) to Australia and I said to New Zealand,
You better go in with us because we're gonna have some fun,
We're going out to India, we're goin' to Pakistan,
We're going... (starts laughing)... gonna... alright,
I hear that Enoch Powell... (vocalising)... he said he's gonna... (more vocalising)

Paul: Commonwealth!
John: Yes? [X2]
Paul: Yeah, Commonwealth!
John: Yes?
Paul: Can you hear me talking Commonwealth?
Paul: Yeah the Commonwealth but it's much too wealthy for me
John: It's too common or me... much too common for me, oh yes.

Paul: I went (inaudible) here in New Zealand too,
I went up to Pakistan and India too,
I came back to West Indies and I had a cricket match,
I went into South Africa and... (vocalising)... match,
Oh Commonwealth, you're much too common for me.

Paul: Everybody sing! Commonwealth!
John: Yes?
Paul: Yeah, Commonwealth!
John: Yes?
Paul: Oh Enoch Powell, Commonwealth!
John: Yes?
Paul: Immigrants, Commonwealth!
John: Yes?
Paul: Well I would join the Common Market, but it's much too common for me.
John: Yes.

No Pakistanis

Paul: ...don't dig no Pakistani's taking all the people's jobs.
Oh, get back! Get Back! Oh, get back to where you once belonged. [X2]

(vocalising)... was a Puerto Rican... (more vocalising),
(vocalising)... living in the USA.
Get back! Oh, get Back! Get back to where you once belonged. [X2]

(Paul vocalises lots of 'whoo!' and 'whoop' noises)
Oh, get back! Oh, get back! Get back to where you once belonged. [X2]

(vocalising)... was a Pakistani... (more vocalising),
(vocalising)... don't dig no Pakistanis taking all the people's jobs.
So, get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged. [X2]

(Paul vocalises more 'whoo!' and 'whoop' noises)
(almost screaming now) Get back! Get back! Get back! Get back! [X2]


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