- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Yellow Submarine (Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1967
Some songs from this session appear on:
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On this day, in a session that lasted from 7 pm to 3:30 am, The Beatles began recording George Harrison’s “Only A Northern Song“. The track was intended for the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album but was only released on the soundtrack for the “Yellow Submarine” film in January 1969.
The session began, however, with the creation of four mono mixes of “A Day In The Life“. These were numbered 2-5 and were for reference purposes only. The song remained incomplete until the recording of the final piano chord on February 22, 1967.
At approximately midnight, The Beatles began working on “Only A Northern Song,” under the working title “Not Known.” They recorded nine takes of the rhythm track, featuring George Harrison on the Hammon organ, Paul McCartney on bass, John Lennon on tambourine, and Ringo Starr on drums. Each instrument was recorded on a separate track, filling the four-track tape.
Only four of those takes were complete. Take 3 was deemed the best and was used as the basis for the overdubs that were recorded the next day.
Unfortunately, George’s songwriting wasn’t quite as impressive [as John and Paul’s]. His first attempt at contributing a song to the Sgt. Pepper album was […] a weak track that we all winced at. It was called “Only A Northern Song,” and it had minimal musical content that seemed to go nowhere. What’s more, the lyrics seemed to reflect both his creative frustration and his annoyance with the way the pie was being sliced financially. (Northern Songs was the name of the publishing company set up by Dick James through which all Beatles songwriting revenues were routed.) It seemed like such an inappropriate song to be bringing to what was generally a happy, upbeat album.
Everyone in the control room shared my opinion. In our private conversations, George Martin simply said, “I’m disappointed that George didn’t come up with something better,” but I knew what he really meant; he was always on his guard because he didn’t ever want disparaging comments to be reported back. The other Beatles were clearly underwhelmed too. John was so uninspired, in fact, that he decided not to participate in the backing track at all.
Still, Paul, Ringo, and George ambled through quite a few takes of “Only A Northern Song”; it took a long time because nobody could really get into it, not even George himself. I think he was actually a bit embarrassed about the song – his guitar playing had no attitude, as if he didn’t care. None of the takes they did that night were particularly good […]Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
When [George Harrison] brought a new song along to me, even before he had played it, I would say to myself, ‘I wonder if it is going to be any better than the last one?’ It was in this light that I looked at the first number he brought me for the Sgt. Pepper album, which was ‘It’s Only A Northern Song’. I groaned inside when I heard it. We did make a recording of it on 14 February, but I knew it was never going to make it.
I had to tell George that as far as Pepper was concerned, I did not think his song would be good enough for what was shaping up as a really strong album. I suggested he come up with something a bit better. George was a bit bruised: it is never pleasant being rejected, even if you are friendly with the person who is doing the rejecting.George Martin – From “With A Little Help From My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper“, 1995
Last updated on January 13, 2024
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!
The third book of this critically - acclaimed series, nominated for the 2019 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) award for Excellence In Historical Recorded Sound, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)" captures the band's most innovative era in its entirety. From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time. Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.