There's an interesting story in a science fiction anthology I read a few months back. The anthology is The Year's Best SF 4, edited by David G. Hartwell, and is published by Harper Prism.

The story in question, "The Twelfth Album", by Steven Baxter, caught my attention for several reasons. It's about the Beatles, whose music are an integral part of my childhood and has been a constant companion in my life. It's also an alternate history of a sort. It's not one of those grand sweeping alternate history dramas like the ones written by Harry Turtledove, but rather about two ordinary people who find an artifact from an alternate reality whose mere existance turns their world, briefly, on its ear.

Two stevedores, 'Lightoller' and the Narrator (who goes unnamned) are going through the personal effects of one of their deceased co-workers, 'Sick Note'. Sick Note always claimed to have travelled to more exotic places than any other man alive.

Among his effects, the two stevedores find an album by the Beatles that they have never seen before. It is described as such:

"The cover was elementally simple: just a black field, with a single word rendered in a white typewriter font in the lower left hand corner.
"God."
The album itself was published by Apple Records, but had no dates or track listings on it. For all intents and purposes, it seemed to be something that shouldn't exist: The Beatles' twelfth album, when both the proponents of the story know that they only produced eleven. They do what just about everyone would do: They played it.

Side One:

  1. Give Me Some Truth. (This was on John's solo album, Imagine. Unlike his usual production style, however, the vocals weren't drowned in echo, but rather allowed to stand alone.
  2. It Don't Come Easy. (A Ringo solo track.)
  3. Every Night. (From John's first solo album.)
  4. All Things Must Pass. (A track origianally written by George for Let It Be, but they declined to put it on the album to 'keep George in his place'.)
  5. Child of Nature. (By John; auditioned for The White Album, but held back and released on on Imagine. The song is "Jealous Guy" with changed lyrics.
  6. Back Seat of My Car. (Also auditioned for Let It Be, but held back and released on Paul's Ram. Also, instead of the two part harmony with Paul and Linda, the song has the standard Beatles three part harmony.
At this point, the narrator says,
"Lightoller, I'm starting to feel scared."
Side Two:
  1. Instant Karma. (We all know this one.)
  2. Isn't It a Pity. (One of George's; tried out in 1969 and shelved, and later appeared on one of his solo albums.)
  3. Junk. ("...an instrumental written by Paul when they were staying with the Maharishi in India.")
  4. Wah Wah. (Written by George, but he kept it to himself when he stormed out of the Let It Be Sessions. It later appeared on one of his solo albums.)
  5. God. (By John, in which "...Lennon, at great and obsessive length, discarded his childish idols, including Jesus, Elvis, Dylan, even the Beatles." It appeared on the Plastic Ono Band.
The final track bears special scrutiny. In Baxter's words...
This would be the the ultimate track--the twelfth track on the twelfth album.

The last new Beatles song we would ever hear.

Because, of course, by now we both believed.

It was recognizable from the first, faded-in, descending piano chords. But then the vocals opened--and it was Lennon.

"It's 'Maybe I'm Amazed,'", I said, awed. "Mcartney's greatest post-Beatles song--"

"Just listen to it," said Lightoller. "He gave it to Lennon. Listen to it."

It didn't sound like the version from our world, which {McCartney], battered and bruised from the breakup, recorded in his kitchen.

Lennon's raw, majestic voice wrenched at the melody, while McCartney's melodic bass, Starr's powerful drumming, and Harrison's wailing guitar drove through the song's complex, compulsive chromatic structure. And then a long coda opened up, underpinned by clean, thrusting bass, obviously scored by George Martin.

At last the coda wound down to a final, almost whispered lament by Lennon, a final descending chord sequence, a last trickle of piano notes, as if the song itself couldn't bear to finish.

The stylus hissed briefly, reached for the run-off groove, and lifted.

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