Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 16, 1967

Penny Lane - Number One this week!

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 15, 1967

Recording: Within You Without You

Although they had recorded George Harrison's song Only A Northern Song on February 13th and 14th, 1967. The Beatles decided not to include it on the Sgt. Pepper album. In its place, work began during this session on another Harrison song, the Indian-flavoured Within You Without You.

At this early stage the song was known as Untitled; Harrison often had trouble deciding on names for his songs, and working titles were often used instead.

The song had been written at the London home of Klaus Voormann, a friend to The Beatles since their Hamburg days. Harrison had composed Within You Without You on a harmonium.

Several musicians - their names undocumented - were recruited from the Asian Music Circle, a collective based in Fitzalan Road in Finchley, north London. They were joined by Harrison and The Beatles' assistant Neil Aspinall on tamburas.

Although it was recorded as one piece, the song was referred to as having three parts during the recording. Following rehearsals, the basic track for Within You Without You was recorded in one take during this session, and lasted 6'25".

The tamburas were recorded onto track one of the four-track tape. Track two contained tabla and svarmandal, and track four had a dilruba playing the main melody.

Within You Without You was a great track. The tabla had never been recorded the way we did it. Everyone was amazed when they first heard a tabla recorded that closely, with the texture and the lovely low resonances.
Geoff Emerick

Overdubs were added on March 22nd and April 3rd. None of the other Beatles appeared on the song.

Also present in the studio on this occasion was artist Peter Blake, who had been commissioned to work on the cover artwork for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

George was there with some Indian musicians and they had a carpet on the floor and there was incense burning. George was very sweet - he's always been very kind and sweet - and he got up and welcomed us and offered us tea. We just sat and watched for a couple of hours. It was a fascinating, historical time.
Source: The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 14, 1967

Released as a double A-sided single with “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the flip side, “Penny Lane” was the 13th U.S. #1 single for The Beatles and the first Beatles song release in the U.K. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and never included on an official original Beatles album release.

Both songs were written about actual places in the band’s hometown of Liverpool. Paul McCartney wrote “Penny Lane” in response to Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields” (though both are credited to the Lennon/McCartney team). Both the street itself and particular sites along it mentioned in the song are actual places, and the name was also assigned to a bus shelter on a roundabout where the members of The Beatles often passed through in their youth.

The song in fact began many years earlier with notes McCartney took about the barber’s shop and woman selling poppies while waiting at the bus stop for Lennon. The shelter itself would later become a restaurant named Sgt. Pepper’s, one of a number of businesses along the street and in Liverpool to take their cue from The Beatles. The city has also in recent decades sought to encourage the lane as an alternative business and commerce district.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 13, 1967

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

The overdubbing of brass unto take ten of "Good Morning Good Morning" played by six members of Sounds Inc: three saxophones (Barrie Cameron, David Glyde and Alan Holmes), two trombones (John Lee and one other) and a French Horn (Tom someone - no one can recall his surname). Previously Sounds Incorporated. Sounds Inc. were a top instrumental group who had a long history of backing American stars in Europe,had first met the Beatles at the Star Club in April 1962, were signed to a NEMS management contract by Brian Epstein in March 1964 and had then played on some of the Beatles tours, including the August 1965 US visit that resulted in the TV film, The Beatles At Shea Stadium. The six were paid £201, via NEMS Enterprises, for this 7:00 pm to 3:30 am session.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 12, 1967

The number one song in the US on March 12, 1967 was Penny Lane by The Beatles.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 11, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 10, 1967

Recording: Getting Better

This was the second recording session for the Sgt. Pepper song Getting Better.

The work had been mixed down to one track at the end of the previous day's session. The tape was then filled with Ringo Starr's snare and bass drums on track two, Paul McCartney bass guitar on track three, and George Harrison's tambura on track four.

The session ended at 4am on the morning of March 11th 1967. Work continued on Getting Better on the evenings of March 21st and March 23rd.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 9, 1967

Recording: Getting Better

The Beatles began recording a new Sgt. Pepper song during this session: Getting Better.

The group recorded the song's rhythm track in seven takes. Paul McCartney's rhythm guitar and Ringo Starr's drums went onto track one of the tape, and McCartney's guide vocals were on the second. George Martin hit the strings of an electric keyboard called a pianette on track three, and Starr added more drums to the fourth.

The tape was then subjected to a reduction mix to free up more space. This took five attempts, numbered takes 8-12, with the guide vocals omitted.

This was one of the few Sgt Pepper sessions in which Geoff Emerick did not work as the studio balance engineer. He and tape operator Richard Lush were given the night off, and were replaced by two other EMI staffers, Malcolm Addey assisted by Ken Townsend.

Geoff had been doing a lot of late-night work and was getting very tired. I remember the session was booked to begin at 7pm but there was barely a Beatle in sight before midnight, and we were sitting around waiting. They eventually straggled in one by one. Ringo came in about 11 and ordered fish and chips. The others arrived later, they all hung around and finally started work at about one in the morning. The ego trip of the big-time artists had started to set in.
Malcolm Addey

Source: The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The session ended at 3.30am on the morning of 10 March 1967. Work continued on Getting Better on the evenings of March 10, 21 & 23.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 8, 1967

The Beatles in-between recording at EMI Studios in London.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: March 7, 1967

The Beatles in the recording studio (Studio Two, EMI Studios, London). Additional overdubs are recorded for Lovely Rita, including harmony vocals, effects, and the ending percussive sound of a piece of toilet paper being blown through a haircomb. The session begins at 7:00 p.m. and ends at 2:30 a.m.

At the Bluecoat Chambers, in John Lennon’s hometown of Liverpool, Yoko Ono performs a “Concert of Music for the Mind.” The following day, she lectures to Liverpool College of Art students. “There are never any sounds at my concerts,“ she explains to them, “because the real music is in people’s minds.”