February 1968 sessions

Feb 03-15, 1968 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968) 7" Single.
Timeline More from year 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

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About

From mid-February to late April, The Beatles had planned a trip to India to continue their studies of Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They scheduled some studio time just before their departure to record a new single to be released in their absence. As it happened, those five days at EMI Studios produced four new songs, all mixed and ready for issue.

The “Lady Madonna / The Inner Light” single would be released on March 15, 1968.


From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°57, April 1968:

The recording sessions took place early in February. Just before that George finished the last bits of work on his “Wonderwall” film music – using The Fool playing flutes and Tommy Reilly playing mouth organ.

By Saturday February 3 all four Beatles were ready to go ahead with recordings for a single, First new number to be tackled was “Lady Madonna”, Paul having done most of the words and music for this item. At the first session George and John put their two guitars through one amplifier while Ringo played drums. Then Paul added bass guitar and his own voice.

SURPRISE

MORE THAN A FEW BEATLE PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT PAUL IS THE SOLO SINGER ON “LADY MADONNA”. ALTHOUGH THIS IS AN OUT AND OUT ROCKER, THE SOUND OF PAUL’S SINGING IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM EARLIER THINGS HE DID LIKE “LONG TALL SALLY” OR “I’M DOWN”, THE REAL OLD SCREAMIN’ RAVERS! IN FACT SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONVINCED THE SINGER IS RINGO, IT ISN’T!

The addition of saxophones to “Lady Madonna” was a last-minute decision on Paul’s part. Four top Jazz-type session musicians were called in to play sax – Ronnie Scott, Harry Klein, Bill Povey and Bill Jackman.

All the piano you hear on “Lady Madonna” is played by Paul. There’s quite a bit of vocal backing which sounds as though The Beatles might have used the old comb and paper combination. Actually they just cupped their hands round their mouths to create this effect. “A bit like The Mills Brothers used to do” commented George Martin who is good at remembering things like that!

CHARITY LP

On Sunday February 4 another new number was started one which — was NOT used on the single. It is “Across The Universe” which is going to appear as one track on a special charity LP album. It was for this session that Paul invited two teenage girl fans to provide extra vocal accompaniment. “Across The Universe” has some very high bits in it so Paul went out of the front door of the EMI Studios in St. John’s Wood and chatted up the bunch of Beatle People who were waiting there in the rain. Eventually he chose Lizzie Bravo a 16-year-old who came from Rio de Janeiro and is hoping to become an actress plus Gayleen Pease, a 17-year-old who is studying for her ‘A’ level exams this summer. Lizzie lives in Maida Vale and Gayleen lives in Stoke Newington, both just a few miles from St. John’s Wood. It’s the first time fans have joined The Beatles in a recording session. The two girls had to repeat over and over the line of lyrics which goes “nothing’s going to change my world”.

SITAR

Incidentally George plays sitar on “Across The Universe”, the lead singer is John and Ringo plays drums and coke tin! When the session was finished we all went round to Paul’s house and got one of those dial-a-meal suppers delivered!

RINGO’S TV

There wasn’t much The Beatles could do in the recording studio for the next couple of days because Ringo was all tied up at the BBC doing his guest appearance in Cilla’s television show. Mal was there with him and remembers having to go to great lengths to get hold of three precious TV show tickets for three Beatle People Ringo had met at the stage door and felt sorry for because it was raining hard!

On the Tuesday itself (February 6) everyone sent funny telegrams to Ringo at the BBC Television Theatre. They read: “Come home Jim. All is forgiven. Love. Your Buddies And Pals.”, “We will be watching luv Herbert & Family” and “Big brothers are watching and wishing you well. Love from Your Big Brothers.”

VOICE ADDED

Meanwhile George was able to add his voice to “The Inner Light’. The rest of that number was already completed because George had recorded all the accompaniment out in India at the EMI Studios in Bombay. A couple of days later he got John and Paul to add harmony behind his voice but that was all that had to be done to finish “The Inner Light”.

At the beginning of the following week George and John were due to leave for India with Cynthia and Pattie. So it was time for a final decision about the two sides to go on the March single. Everyone agreed from the word go that it would be nice for George to have something on a single — he’s never done so before. And “Lady Madonna” was an obvious choice for the main side of the record. That left “Across The Universe” as an album track.

TWO ORGANS

Some more work was done on “Across The Universe” before everybody flew off to the East. On Thursday February 8 John and producer George Martin added the sound of two organs, George played a favourite pair of maracas (“the ones with moustaches painted on them!”) and Paul added extra piano to the end.

The last session before India took place on Sunday February 11 — and we had a lot of cameramen in from Apple Films to make the film clips The Beatles wanted to have available for TV use here and in America to coincide with the release of the “Lady Madonna” single. But the day wasn’t set aside for filming — an entirely new number was rehearsed and recorded that day — one of the fastest session jobs The Beatles have accomplished in recent years. The number was John’s, one called “Hey Bulldog” made specially for the soundtrack of the colour cartoon film “Yellow Submarine” which we shall be seeing in the cinemas a bit later this year.

Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall – From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°57, April 1968

The Beatles’ next single will probably be “Lady Madonna”, a Lennon-McCartney song which was recorded in London this week (writes Laurie Henshaw). Two former [Melody Maker] Jazz Poll winners, tenorist Ronnie Scott and baritone saxist Harry Klein, were on the session which used a four-piece sax section.

Four titles were recorded. The B side of the next single, which is expected to be issued on March 12, will possibly be a George Harrison composition.

Said Ronnie: “Lady Madonna is rock ‘n’ roll thing on which I take a solo“.

The Beatles were due to fly to India this week to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

From Melody Maker – February 17, 1968
From Melody Maker – February 17, 1968

The Beatles’ follow-up to “Hello Goodbye” is being issued by Parlophone on March 15. Titled “Lady Madonna”, it is described as being “as close to rock ‘n’ roll as The Beatles could get in 1968”. Paul McCartney, who is the featured soloist on the disc, told the NME: “It is not outright rock, but it’s that kind of thing – we think the time is right.”

The B side “The Inner Light” is composed and sung by George Harrison – the first time he has soloed on a Beatles single. Paul described it as an unusual composition, and one of the most commercial George has ever written. It has a backing of Indian instrumentation which was recorded recently in Bombay – the vocal was added at EMI’s London studio last week. […]

From New Musical Express, February 17, 1968
From New Musical Express, February 17, 1968

The Beatles’ new single “Lady Madonna”, a Lennon-McCartney composition, will be released on March 15. The B side will be “The Inner Light” written and sung by George Harrison.

George’s song has Indian instrumental accompaniment recorded under his supervision in Bombay last month when he was recording music for the film “Wonderwall”. John and Paul contribute vocal harmony but are not instrumentally involved in this track.

Both recordings were made within the last three weeks but the group have not recorded any tracks for a new album. The group have recorded two film clips for promotional TV spots.

From Melody Maker – February 24, 1968
From Melody Maker – February 24, 1968

Last updated on September 19, 2021

Related sessions


Mixing "Lady Madonna"

Feb 15, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968)


Recording and mixing "Hey Bulldog"

Feb 11, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968)



Recording and mixing "The Inner Light", "Lady Madonna"

Feb 06, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968)


Recording "Across The Universe"

Feb 04, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Anthology 2


Recording "Lady Madonna"

Feb 03, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968)

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

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