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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 27, 1968

The Beatles are making music.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 26, 1968

The Beatles working on their next album.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 25, 1968

The Beatles are busy working on the White Album.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 24, 1968

Demo recordings for the White Album

Friday 24 May 1968 Studio

The precise date is unknown, but towards the end of May 1968 The Beatles met at Kinfauns, George Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey. There they recorded demo versions of a number of songs written in India, 19 of which later appeared on the White Album.

The 27 songs believed to have been taped at Kinfauns were recorded on Harrison's Ampex four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. They were mostly grouped together by the composer of each song, although John Lennon's songs were more scattered across the day. They were most likely taped in this order:

Cry Baby Cry – with a different intro and ending from the album version
Child Of Nature – unreleased, but later became Jealous Guy
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill – the other Beatles make animal noises
I'm So Tired – with a slightly different spoken passage
Yer Blues – John Lennon is 'insecure' rather than 'suicidal'
Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey – far less frenetic than the studio version
What's The New Mary Jane – included on Anthology 3
Revolution 1 – lacks the 'you say you'll change the constitution' verse
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – with different lyrics in places
Circles – unreleased by The Beatles
Sour Milk Sea – unreleased by The Beatles
Not Guilty – studio version included on Anthology 3
Piggies – rather than 'eat their bacon', the piggies 'cut their pork chops'
Julia – in a higher key and with the verses in a different order
Blackbird – with a double-tracked vocal, no break, a slightly slower tempo
Rocky Raccoon – shorter, without the opening and final verses
Back In The USSR – lacks the final verse
Honey Pie – released on Anthology 3, with the final verse edited out
Mother Nature's Son – without the guitar intro of the studio version
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – with a double-tracked vocal from Paul McCartney
Junk – included on Anthology 3
Dear Prudence – with a spoken ending and double-tracked vocals
Sexy Sadie –
Happiness Is A Warm Gun – lacks the intro and the final section
Mean Mr Mustard – his sister is called Shirley, not Pam
Polythene Pam – slightly different chords; 'well it's a little absurd but she's a nice class of bird'; the verses are repeated
Glass Onion – with double-tracked gobbledygook from Lennon

Most of the recordings were widely bootlegged, although the release of Anthology 3 resulted in previously-unheard demos of the four final songs. The seven Kinfauns demos included on Anthology 3 – licensed to Apple by George Harrison – were also of a better quality than the bootlegs.

It is possible that not all of the demos were recorded at Kinfauns, and it has been speculated that some were recorded alone by the songs' composers. Alternatively, previously-made recordings may have been brought to Harrison's house for overdubbing, but, again, this is far from clear.

Of the songs unreleased by The Beatles in 1968, perhaps the best known is Child Of Nature. This was inspired by a Maharishi Mahesh Yogi lecture, and was lyrically similar to Mother Nature's Son. Lennon later reused the melody for 1971's Jealous Guy.

What's The New Mary Jane was based around a nursery rhyme-style melody, and in the studio became one of Lennon's first avant garde compositions. It remained unreleased until Anthology 3, despite Lennon's various attempts to have it released by The Beatles or the Plastic Ono Band.

Two of Lennon's songs, Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, were held back until 1969's Abbey Road, when they became part of the 'long medley'.

Just one of Paul McCartney's songs – Junk – was unreleased by The Beatles, although they returned to it during the Get Back sessions in early 1969. It eventually found a home on McCartney's first solo album.

Harrison fared less well, with three of the five demos failing to be included on the White Album. A studio version of Not Guilty should have appeared on that record, although it was eventually included on Anthology 3. Circles, meanwhile, wasn't issued until Harrison's 1982 solo album Gone Troppo.

Sour Milk Sea was given to Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax. It was his debut single later in 1968, produced by Harrison with McCartney on bass and Ringo Starr on drums.

It isn't known whether any of The Beatles' wives or girlfriends were present, although a female voice may be discernible on Revolution 1. Mal Evans and Derek Taylor are also addressed by the group on the bootleg recordings, and may have contributed.

The demo songs were mono mixed by Harrison, with copies given to each Beatle. The general public first heard them in the late 1980s as part of the Lost Lennon Tapes radio series, and 23 had entered general circulation by the early 1990s.

I just realized that I've got a really good bootleg tape – demos we made at my house on an Ampex 4-track during The White Album.

George Harrison
Musician magazine, early 1990s

Work began on the album on 30 May at EMI Studios, Abbey Road.

We are going in with clear heads and hoping for the best. We had hoped this time to do a lot of rehearsing before we reached the studios rather than rehearse actually on the instruments but, as it happens, all we got was one day.

Paul McCartney, 1968

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 23, 1968

Paul McCartney Interview: All My Loving 5/23/1968

This chat with Paul McCartney appears in the program 'All My Loving - A Film of Pop Music,' directed by Tony Palmer.

At the time of it's airing, this 1968 BBC documentary was both highly-acclaimed and controversial. It captured the changing attitudes of the late sixties by mixing graphic news footage of police brutality and the vietnam war with the rock music of times. Heavily interspersed throughout are interviews with many of 1968's more influencial rock stars. Also appearing in this made-for-TV film were Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon and others. Tony Palmer spoke with Paul in an interview that was filmed on May 23rd 1968. The documentary was telecast on BBC television on November 3rd.

As the interview segment begins, the film has drawn a comparison between the growing seriousness of rock 'n' roll and other styles of music which in the past had been taken more seriously, such as opera and the classics.

PAUL: "I was always frightened of classical music. And I never wanted to listen to it because it was Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and sort of, big words like that... and Schoenberg. I mean, like... A taxi driver the other day had some sheet music of a Mozart thing, and I said 'What's that?' And he said 'Oh, that's the high-class stuff. You won't like that. No no, you won't like that.' And I said, 'well, what is it?' (giggles) He said 'No, you won't like it. It's high-class, that. It's very high-brow!' And uhh, that kind of way I always used to think of it. I used to think 'Well you know, that's very clever, all that stuff.' And it isn't, you know. It's just exactly what's going on in pop at the moment. Pop music is the classical music of now."

"People just take our music... and you know, in a line we sort of say 'She was just seventeen,' and they just read everything into it. Like, 'She was a seventeen-year-old nymphomanic, working on the streets of Broadway.' But you know, all we meant is 'She was just seventeen.' But it might mean all the other as well... I don't know, you know. (smiles) I have no idea if there's any Aeolian cadences and... myasmic climaxes and all of that." (laughs)

"We're the last people to know about our songs, because the pop world's never heard the pop world as such. It's like, if you look at a snapshot of yourself, you're looking at what tie you were wearing or whether you were looking nice in the snapshot. But anyone else will just take the snapshot and say 'Oh, that's good. That's a snapshot of Tony,' you know. We're always just thinking of ourselves as just happy little songwriters. (giggles) Just little rockers, you know. Just playing in a rock group. But it gets more important than that, after you've been over to America... and you've sort of... got knighted." (laughs)

"And when we were touring, everybody was at a sort of peak of hysteria. Instead of just thinking, 'Oh, that's nice...' I mean, we could have just thought, 'A ha!! Click!! Let's use this!!' but there's no desire in any of our heads to sort of take over the world, you know. That was Hitler -- that was what HE wanted to do. There is, however, a desire to get power in order to use it for good. (comically points to camera) When you've got power, you've got to use it for the good!"

"Because like everyone else, we read the papers... we go through all the things that most people go through. So when everyone wants to say a thing at a certain time, it's handy being a songwriter. You know, you can put your finger on it."

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 22, 1968

John and Yoko attend press launch of Apple Tailoring

Three days after their relationship began, John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared in public for the first time, for the lunchtime launch party and press conference for Apple Tailoring (Civil and Theatrical), the second boutique from Apple Corps.

It took place at Club Dell'Aretusa, at 107 King's Road, Chelsea, London. Also present at the launch were George Harrison and his wife Pattie, and a number of other celebrities.

We're still involved in a hectic recording scene at the moment, although I've spent this week at the office. All that paperwork!

George Harrison

After the party Lennon and Ono walked the short distance to the new Apple Tailoring shop, at 161 King's Road, for the benefit of photographers. The boutique opened the following day.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 21, 1968

The Beatles working on their next album.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 20, 1968

The Beatles busy working on their next album.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 19, 1968

John Lennon and Yoko Ono record Two Virgins

The beginning of John Lennon's relationship with Yoko Ono was of huge significance, not just to the couple, but also to their families, The Beatles, and those who lived and worked alongside them.

It occurred at Kenwood, Lennon's house in Weybridge, Surrey. Lennon was nervous about inviting Ono, so made sure his childhood friend Pete Shotton was also present as she arrived.

Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins – John Lennon and Yoko OnoAt the time, Lennon's wife Cynthia Lennon was on a two-week holiday in Greece, at Lennon's suggestion, with 'Magic' Alex, Jenny Boyd, Donovan and his friend Gypsy Dave.

The lengthy recordings were made in the attic of the house, which Lennon used as a music room. The sounds included birdsong, vocal improvisations, sound effects, feedback and distorted musical instruments, and contained nursery rhymes, music hall songs and novelty piano tunes amid the less orthodox moments. One outtake segment from the recordings, known as Holding A Note, can also be heard as a bootleg.

When we got back from India, we were talking to each other on the phone. I called her over, it was the middle of the night and Cyn was away, and I thought, 'Well, now's the time if I'm going to get to know her any more.' She came to the house and I didn't know what to do; so we went upstairs to my studio and I played her all the tapes that I'd made, all this far-out stuff, some comedy stuff, and some electronic music. There were very few people I could play those tapes to. She was suitably impressed, and then she said, 'Well, let's make one ourselves,' so we made Two Virgins. It was midnight when we finished, and then we made love at dawn. It was very beautiful. (John Lennon, 1970 Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner)

The avant-garde recordings were released as Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins on 11 November 1968 in the United States, and on 29 November in the United Kingdom.

More controversial than the musical content was the cover artwork, which featured a nude photograph of Lennon and Ono. The rear sleeve, fittingly, sported a similarly naked picture of the couple with their backs to the camera, looking over their shoulders.

The photograph was taken not on this day, but later in the year, at Ringo Starr's basement apartment at Montagu Square, London, where Lennon and Ono were temporarily living.

Even before we made this record [Two Virgins], I envisioned producing an album of hers and I could see this album cover of her being naked because her work was so pure. I couldn't think of any other way of presenting her. It wasn't a sensational idea or anything.

After Yoko and I met, I didn't realise I was in love with her. I was still thinking it was an artistic collaboration, as it were – producer and artist, right? We'd known each other for a couple of years. My ex-wife was away in Italy, and Yoko came to visit me and we took some acid. I was always shy with her, and she was shy, so instead of making love, we went upstairs and made tapes. I had this room full of different tapes where I would write and make strange loops and things like that for the Beatles' stuff. So we make a tape all night. She was doing her funny voices and I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects. And then as the sun rose we made love and that was Two Virgins. That was the first time.

John Lennon, 1980

Lennon gave the camera film from his unorthodox photoshoot to Jeremy Banks, a staff member at Apple Corps. Banks had it developed, and gave the prints to Derek Taylor, the company's press officer.

We were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture, so I took it myself with a delayed-action shutter. The picture was to prove that we are not a couple of demented freaks, that we are not deformed in any way and that our minds are healthy. If we can make society accept these kind of things without offence, without sniggering, then we shall be achieving our purpose.

What we did purposely is not have a pretty photograph; not have it lighted so as we looked sexy or good. There were a couple of other takes from that session where we looked rather nice, hid the little bits that aren't that beautiful; we looked good. We used the straightest, most unflattering picture just to show that we were human. (John Lennon Anthology)

Although Two Virgins was to become one of the most controversial episodes of Lennon's life, his union with Yoko Ono caused a monumentally significant personal shift. It marked the beginning of the end of his time as a Beatle, and, influenced by Ono, saw him increasingly challenge public expectations with a series of confrontational artistic statements, political campaigns and experimental musical releases.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: May 18, 1968

The Beatles working on their next album.