Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 19, 1968

Recording: Sexy Sadie

The Beatles began recording Sexy Sadie, John Lennon's barbed tribute to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, during this 7.30pm-4am session.

More than three tape reels were filled with rehearsals, as the group searched for a successful arrangement. Nothing was used from this session, although the recordings to offer a revealing insight into the various attitudes within The Beatles at the time.

The recordings featured Lennon on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, George Harrison on electric guitar, Paul McCartney playing an organ and Ringo Starr on drums. Each of the day's takes lasted between 5'36" and 8'00", partly because of the slower tempo.

Twenty-one takes of Sexy Sadie were recorded, although it was clear that none would be given further overdubs. Take six was, however, released on 1996's Anthology 3.

Several improvisations also made their way onto tape. At one stage Lennon sang an uncomplimentary song – later bootlegged as Brian Epstein Blues – about The Beatles' former manager.

What about Brian Epstein and his brother Sam?

They was workin' in a coal mine, doing what I am.

And what about brother Andy, he's shuttin' down the fire.

But if you tell the time about his brother Sam,

Wah dap, a wah dap bop

Wah dup, a ba ba bow...

About his brother Clive, he's a dirty old man,
Well what about Brian Epstein, he's god damned in jail.
He's working in the coal mine sittin' dead as a fail (?).
His mother's dirty Queenie, well she's the queen of them all.

Lennon also sang to McCartney some crude alternative lyrics to Sexy Sadie:

Sexy Sadie, you little twat
Who the fuck do you think you are?
Who the fuck do you think you are?
Oh, you cunt.

After singing them he jokingly asked McCartney if that was how it should sound, and McCartney responds: "With a little more sympathy."

Three days after The Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick quit working with the group in protest at the worsening atmosphere in the studio, the microphones captured a frosty exchange between George Harrison and George Martin.

Ken Scott: Sorry George, what did you say?

George Harrison: I said it's no point in Mr Martin being uptight.
Paul McCartney: Right.
Harrison: You know, we're all here to do this, and if you want to be uptight...
George Martin: I don't know what to say to you, George.
Harrison: I mean, you're very negative!

At another point on the tape, Yoko Ono suggested that The Beatles might be able to play the song better. Lennon, sensing the volatile situation within the group, responded by saying "Well, maybe I can."

The Beatles continued work on Sexy Sadie on 24 July 1968.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 18, 1968

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

The Beatles completed the recording of Cry Baby Cry during this day's two sessions, and also began work on Helter Skelter.

The first session began at 2.30pm and lasted seven hours. Just one track was spare on the four-track tape, so The Beatles filled it with a number of simultaneous recordings. John Lennon redid his lead vocals in the verses, with harmonies by Paul McCartney in places; George Martin played a descending harmonium part in the introduction; Ringo Starr shook a tambourine; and George Harrison added electric guitar and tea party effects were made during the "Duchess of Kirkcaldy" verse.

Cry Baby Cry was transferred to eight-track tape on 17 September 1968, but no further music was added.

The day's second session began at 10.30pm and ended at 3.30am. The Beatles recorded three takes of Helter Skelter, which were essentially rehearsals; they lasted 10'40", 12'35" and 27'11" respectively.

The last was the longest recording in the group's career. An edited mix of take two, meanwhile, was released on 1996's Anthology 3.

I made it clear to George Martin when we doing Anthology 3, that the fans are desperate to hear this and I urged him to listen to it, because I don't think initially he was going to do so. He listened to it, and he said: "Well, why is this important?" I said forget the quality of the sound, or forget the fact that it's not quite in tune or whatever, what a producer would normally be looking for, just respect the fact please that it is hailed as the most important outtake of them all, and the fans will go crazy if you don't include this on the Anthology.


So he took all that on board, which George always does, and he's very good at that sort of thing, he listens. But, the next time I went in there, they said: "Here it is," and it was like five minutes, and they'd trimmed it right down. And in fact they didn't use the 27-minute one, there was another one as well that was 12 minutes, which they used, and they'd trimmed it down to five minutes. They said: "This is all people will stand, they won't stand the whole thing." And I said: "Well, I think a lot of them will actually..."

Mark Lewisohn

The takes were recorded over two rehearsal reels of Cry Baby Cry made on 15 July. At this stage Helter Skelter was a blues-based jam, although most of the lyrics and chord changes were in place.

They recorded the long versions of Helter Skelter with live tape echo. Echo would normally be added at remix stage otherwise it can't be altered, but this time they wanted it live. One of the versions developed into a jam which went into and then back out of a somewhat bizarre version of Blue Moon. The problem was, although we were recording them at 15 ips [inches per second] – which meant that we'd get roughly half an hour of time on the tape – the machine we were running for the tape echo was going at 30 ips, in other words 15 minutes... The Beatles were jamming away, completely oblivious to the world and we didn't know what to do because they all had foldback in their headphones so that they could hear the echo. We knew that if we stopped it they would notice.

In the end we decided that the best thing to do was stop the tape echo machine and rewind it. So at one point the echo suddenly stopped and you could hear 'bllllrrrrippppp' as it was spooled back. This prompted Paul to put in some kind of clever vocal improvisation based around the chattering sound!

These recordings featured two electric guitars, bass and drums all on the same track, and McCartney's vocals on another. It is possible that Lennon played the bass on these recordings.

Following this session, The Beatles didn't return to Helter Skelter until 9 September 1968.

Source: Brian Gibson, technical engineer
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisoh

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 17, 1968

July 17, 1968: Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Premiere

The animated feature film inspired by and adapted from themes and ideas in songs by The Beatles and starring cartoon characters based on John, Paul, George and Ringo made its world premiere at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus on July 17, 1968.

All four Beatles were in attendance: John Lennon with Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr with wife Maureen Starkey and George Harrison accompanied by his spouse Pattie. Paul McCartney came solo; three days later his fiance Jane Asher announces that their engagement has ended.

As was typical of any event in the 1960s where the Beatles were present, a mob scene ensued on the street outside
The Beatles themselves only appeared in a short live-action snippet at the end of Yellow Submarine and their characters were voiced by professional actors. The film has come to be recognized as a genre-changing work that led to animation gaining greater respect as an art form and Time magazine noted that it “turned into a smash hit, delighting adolescents and esthetes alike” Although the band members were initially skeptical about the film, in 1995 all three surviving Beatles expressed an appreciation for it in The Beatles Anthology documentary series.nteresting bit of trivia: he Harrison song in the movie, “Only a Northern Song,” was written as a cynical commentary on the music publishing company, Northern Songs, that Beatles manager Brian Epstein had formed with publisher Dick James. The deal was unfavorable to the band who eventually lost control of their very valuable song copyrights.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 16, 1968

Recording: Cry Baby Cry

 Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

 Following a six-hour rehearsal session on 15 July 1968, The Beatles began proper recordings of Cry Baby Cry on this day.

 The day was divided into two separate sessions, both held in Abbey Road's Studio Two. The first took place from 4-9pm, and the second from 10pm to 2am.

 The group recorded 10 takes of the song, with John Lennon on acoustic guitar and vocals, Paul McCartney playing bass guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. Take one was released on 1996's Anthology 3.

 Two reduction mixes of take 10 combined the instruments but kept Lennon's vocals only in the chorus. These mixes were numbered takes 11 and 12, and the latter became the basis for further overdubs.

 During the second session Lennon recorded a piano part and George Martin added harmonium, both on the same track. The fourth track of the tape would be filled on 18 July 1968.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 15, 1968

Recording, mixing: Revolution, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Cry Baby Cry

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

The Beatles completed work on two songs, and began another, during two sessions on this day.

The first session took place from 3.30-8pm in Abbey Road's Studio Two. Two mono mixes of Revolution, numbered 20 and 21, were created.

These mixes were to replace the four created on 12 July 1968, which John Lennon thought to be substandard. Mix 21 was duly selected for the b-side of the Hey Jude single.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da was the second song to be tackled. Paul McCartney had decided to re-record his lead vocals. Background contributions from the rest of the group, included various jokey noises such as forced laughter, and "arm", "leg" and "foot", after Molly or Desmond let the children lend a hand.

Ten mono mixes were then made, which were numbered 12-21. This saw the completion of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, doubtless to the relief of the group.

The second session started at 9pm and finished at 3am on the morning of 16 July. The Beatles began work on Cry Baby Cry, although these were unnumbered rehearsal takes rather than proper attempts. Four reels of tape were filled, but unfortunately most of the recordings were erased in subsequent sessions.


The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 14, 1968

The Beatles in-between recording.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 13, 1968

In-between recording "Don’t Pass Me By, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Revolution"

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 12, 1968

Recording, mixing: Don’t Pass Me By, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Revolution

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Ringo Starr's first published composition Don't Pass Me By was completed during the first of this day's sessions, which began at 3pm and lasted eight hours.

Jack Fallon had been a booking agent for five English concerts played by The Beatles between March 1962 and June 1963. They were therefore surprised to see him turn up as the session violinist booked by EMI to perform on the song.

George Martin had jotted down a 12-bar blues for me. A lot of country fiddle playing is double-stop [two notes played simultaneously] but Paul and George Martin – they were doing the arranging – suggested I play it single note. So it wasn't really the country sound they originally wanted. But they seemed pleased. Ringo was around too, keeping an eye on his song.

The violin overdub was completed by 6.40pm. Afterwards Paul McCartney re-recorded his bass guitar part, and Starr added a piano part, fed through a Leslie speaker, which included the tinkling introduction.

Four mono mixes of Don't Pass Me By were then created. Starr took home a copy of the last of these, which he later gave to his friend Peter Sellers. The album contained a different mix, however, which was made on 11 October 1968.

Two mono mixes were also made of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, numbered 10 and 11, at the end of the session. These mixes were rendered unnecessary, however, after Paul McCartney decided to re-record his lead vocals on 15 July.

Source: Jack Fallon - The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 11, 1968

Recording, mixing: Revolution, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Thursday 11 July 1968 Studio

Studio Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Two separate recording sessions took place on this day at Abbey Road's Studio Three.

The first was for overdubs onto Revolution, which was destined to be part of The Beatles' next single. Session player Nicky Hopkins added electric piano to track four on the tape, playing a solo and again in the coda.

The electric piano overdub took up the whole of the 4-7pm session. The second session that evening began with three saxophones added to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. The session performers' names were undocumented.

The Beatles then turned their attention back to Revolution. A third reduction mix – take 16 – was made, which combined tracks three and four onto the third track of a new tape. Paul McCartney then recorded a bass guitar part, but it was re-recorded the next day.

Risking the antagonism of the studio engineers and tape operator, The Beatles then returned to Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. Another reduction mix was created, which was numbered take 23. McCartney then double-tracked his bass guitar line, as the original had become buried in all the previous mixes.

The session ended at 3.45am, after two mono mixes of Ob-La-Di had been created. These were improved upon on 12 July 1968, but McCartney re-recorded his lead vocals on 15 July, rendering them unnecessary.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 10, 1968

Recording: Revolution

Wednesday 10 July 1968 Studio

Studio Three, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Following a set of rehearsals on the previous evening, The Beatles began proper recording of Revolution, which was to feature on their next single Hey Jude.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the recording was the two distorted lead guitars, a sound achieved by plugging the instruments directly into the recording console. These were recorded onto tracks one and two, while Ringo Starr's drums were recorded onto the third.

They were overdriving two of the mic preamps on an EMI REDD desk that was being used at the time. I was a mastering engineer at the beginning of the White Album recordings, and I happened to go to Studio 3, where they were recording that track.

John, Paul and George were all in the control room and had their guitars plugged directly into the board, and Ringo was all on his own on the drums in the studio. Geoff Emerick came up with a very cool way to distort by going in one preamp to overload and into another preamp to distort it even more.

The drums were double-tracked onto the tape's fourth track, to add further weight to the song. Three reduction mixes were then made – takes 11-13 – which put the guitars onto track one and the drums onto two.

John Lennon recorded his lead vocals onto track three. Another vocal part was overdubbed onto track four, for which he sang selected words to add emphasis, and screamed in the introduction. Handclaps and a drum crack by Starr in the third bar of the song were also recorded on this fourth track.

Before the session ended at 1.30am two new reduction mixes were made. These were numbered 14 and 15, and combined tracks three and four onto track three of a new tape.

John Lennon took away a mono copy of take 15, prior to further overdubs beginning on the next day.