"The Beatles" (aka the White Album) sessions
May 30 - Oct 18, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on The Beatles (Mono)
- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1968
Some songs from this session appear on:
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The recording of “Revolution“, the B-side of the next Beatles single, had been completed on Friday, July 12. John Lennon had brought one of the mono mixes home to review during the weekend, and decided that the mix could be improved. On this Monday, two mono mixes – numbered 20 and 21 – were made. Remix 21 would be the version released on the single.
There was no need for a stereo version at this point – a stereo version would be made on December 5, 1969, for release on the US album “Hey Jude”.
Paul McCartney had also brought homework for the weekend. After considering the mono mixes of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” done on July 12, he decided to re-record his lead vocal.
After setting up the vocal microphone for Paul down in Studio Two and getting a headphone mix together, Richard (Lush) and I began the long, tedious process of rolling and re-rolling the tape as he experimented endlessly, making minute changes to the lead vocal, in search of some kind of elusive perfection that only he could hear in his head…’Paul, can you try rephrasing the last line of each verse?’ George Martin asked in his gentle, slightly aristocratic voice…He was still trying to do his job, still trying to steer his charges toward increased musical sophistication and help push them to their best performances. ‘If you think you can do it better, why don’t you f*cking come down here and sing it yourself?’ he snarled as he whipped off his headphones and glared up at the control room.
Stunned, I looked over at George. Even he couldn’t understand why Paul was still trying to redo the vocal track; in those days you simply didn’t spend huge amounts of time doing that sort of fine-tuning. But as the ferocity of McCartney’s verbal attack sunk in, he turned pale, clearly choking back his anger and humiliation. What happened next shocked me to the core: in sheer frustration, quiet, low-key George Martin actually began shouting back at Paul. ‘Then bloody sing it again!’ he yelled over the talkback, causing me to wince. ‘I give up. I just don’t know any better how to help you.’ It was the first time I had ever heard George Martin raise his voice in a session. The silence following the outburst was equally deafening.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com
After two months of work, Geoff Emerick was fed up with the intra-band tensions and arguments that hampered the “White Album” sessions. And this incident led him to stop working with The Beatles at the end of the next day’s session. He would later come back to work on the 1969 opus “Abbey Road”.
Paul finally completed his lead track vocal… letting a glitch in! As remembered by Liverpool friend Pete Shotton, who attended this session:
After finally turning in what sounded like a flawless performance, (Paul) burst out laughing. ‘Oh, sh*t!’ he said ‘We’ll have to do it again!’ ‘Well, it sounded OK to me,’ John yawned. ‘Yeah,’ George agreed. ‘It was perfect.’ ‘But didn’t you notice?’ Paul demanded. ‘Notice what?’ said John. ‘I just sang “Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face”…I shouldn’ve sung “Molly!”‘ The others refused to believe him – until George Martin played back the tape and proved Paul was right. ‘Oh, it sound great anyway,’ Paul concluded. ‘Let’s just leave it in – create a bit of confusion there. Everyone will wonder whether Desmond’s a bisexual or a transvestite.’Pete Shotton – From “John Lennon: In My Life”, quoted in beatlesebooks.com
Ten mono mixes were then made, but would not be used. The final mono mix released on the album would be made on October 12, 1968.
The Beatles had worked on “Revolution” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from 3:30 pm to 8 pm. From 9 pm to 3 am, they began recording “Cry Baby Cry“, a new John Lennon song. They recorded roughly 30 takes which were more rehearsals than proper studio takes.
As those recordings were not considered as serious attempts, the four 30-minute tapes filled on this day would be reused the day after to properly record the song, and for the recording of “Helter Skelter“. When doing the research for the 2018 re-edition of the White Album, 18 minutes of the rehearsals were rediscovered, and a version of “Cry Baby Cry” was released as an outtake.
Somehow I saw the session through to its ragged conclusion. Paul seemed to calm down a bit, though little else got accomplished that night other than a few run-throughs of John’s new song ‘Cry Baby Cry.’ Distracted and distressed, I couldn’t give it my full attention, though: the only thought that kept going through my head was, ‘I wonder if I’ll ever get to finish this song.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com
The Beatles would continue working on “Cry Baby Cry” on the following day.
Last updated on September 4, 2021
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 20 from take 16
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 21 from take 16
Album Officially released on Hey Jude / Revolution
Recording • SI onto take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 12 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 13 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 14 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 15 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 16 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 17 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 18 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 19 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 20 from take 23
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 21 from take 23
Recording • Approximately 30 unnumbered takes
Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)
Musicians on "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Musicians on "Cry Baby Cry"
- Paul McCartney:
- Ringo Starr:
- John Lennon:
- Organ, Lead vocal
- George Harrison:
- Electric guitar
- George Martin:
- Geoff Emerick:
- Richard Lush:
- Second Engineer
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!
The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968 - early 1969)
The fourth book of this critically acclaimed series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968 - early 1969)" captures The Beatles as they take the lessons of Sgt. Pepper forward with an ambitious double-album that is equally innovative and progressive. 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.
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