Recording "Across The Universe"

Sunday, February 4, 1968 • For The Beatles

Part of


February 1968 sessions

Feb 03-15, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Anthology 2 Official album.
Timeline More from year 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Master album


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About

On this day, work began on John Lennon’s “Across The Universe“. John brought the song into the studio with the feeling this could be the next Beatles single. However, despite their efforts on this day and on February 8, he remained unsatisfied with the result, and the group decided instead to release “Lady Madonna“.

Nobody was interested in doing it originally. Everyone was sickened. The tune was good, but subliminally people don’t want to work with it sometimes. I was so disappointed.

John Lennon, 1980

I was psychologically destroyed. Nobody was supporting me or helping me with it, but we would spend hours doing little detail cleaning on Paul’s (songs). When it came to mine, somehow this atmosphere of looseness and casualness – ‘Let’s try a few experiments’ – would come over. It was subconscious sabotage, yeah. He will say this doesn’t exist, that I’m paranoid, but I’m not paranoid. It’s the absolute truth.”

John Lennon – Playboy interview, 1980

From 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm, The Beatles worked on the basic track of “Across The Universe“. But John wasn’t entirely sure of how he wanted the song to be presented. Six takes were recorded, numbered take 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 (there is no take 3 on the tapes, likely a false start).

Take 1 was John on acoustic guitar, George Harrison on Tamboura, and Ringo Starr on tom-toms.

Take 2 was John on acoustic guitar and guide vocal, Paul on acoustic guitars, George on sitar, and Ringo on svaramandal (an Indian harp). It was released on “Anthology 2” in 1996.

Here, for the first time, is an unembellished and alternative recording Across The Universe, Take 2, recorded on Saturday 3 February 1968 in EMI Studio Three, temporarily marked “best” on the tape box and so afforded overdubs and technical wonders like the phasing on John’s guitar and the percussion.

From the liner notes of “Anthology 2

Take 6 was only John on acoustic guitar and guide vocal, Ringo on tom-toms. It was released on the White Album’s 50th anniversary re-release in 2018.

Take 7 was considered to be the best take, and onto which overdubs would be added.


From 8 pm to 2 am, The Beatles added overdubs onto “Across The Universe” take 7. George contributed a tamboura. John double-tracked his vocals.

Then Paul and John decided that high falsetto harmonies needed to complement John’s male voice. In an unexpected move, two fans, waiting outside, were brought into the studio to sing.

There was a whole crowd of girls outside and Paul went out to find a couple of suitable ones. They were so excited. They couldn’t believe they’d actually been invited by Paul not just inside the building but into the studio itself, to sing with The Beatles.

Martin Benge – Technical engineer

One of the three titles which the Beatles recorded at the EMI St. John’s Wood studio in the first week of February, was “Across the Universe” with the lead vocal sung by John. The recording session was well underway on Sunday, February 4th, when John and Paul decided at the last moment that girls would be needed to sing a particularly high falsetto voice passage. So, Paul walked out and started talking to the crowd of Beatle people gathered outside the recording studio gates. Eventually, he invited two girls to come in for a tryout take — they were, Lizzie Bravo, 16 Compayne Gardens, London, N.W.6, and Gayleen Pease, 17 Amhurst Road, London, N.16.

The Beatles were delighted with the girls voices and so Lizzie and Gayleen were suddenly transported from being Beatle fans to actually recording with them.

Quotes from Lizzie and Gayleen:

Said Lizzie: “I still don’t believe it happened!” Added Gayleen: “It was like a dream. The Beatles are so easy to get on with.”

And from producer George Martin: “Considering the girls had never done any recording before, I think they were really great.”

From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°56, March 1968

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”.

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

After their contribution, the two girls were asked to leave the studio.

Before the Beatles added the last overdubs of the day, a reduction mix was made – take 8. Then, backward recordings of Paul’s bass and Ringo’s drums were added. But those would finally be erased and replaced with more vocals on February 8.

At the end of the session, The Beatles taped three experimental sound effects onto a separate four-track tape. The first sound effect was named “Hums Wild“, 15 seconds of humming being overdubbed three more times to fill up all four tracks of the tape.

The second sound effect was a guitar and the third one was a harp-like sound; the tape box indicating that those effects were “to be played backwards” and added to “Across The Universe”.

Those sound effects were indeed added to another open track of Take 8. A mono mix was prepared and given as an acetate for John to review at home. This unique mix, as circulated on bootleg recordings, has become known as the “Hums Wild” version.

Work on “Across The Universe” would continue on February 8.

Last updated on September 19, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1


2.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2


3.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 4


4.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 5


5.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 6

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


6.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 7


7.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 7


8.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 7 into take 8


9.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 8


10.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Sound effects - Take 1


11.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Sound effects - Take 2


12.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Sound effects - Take 3


13.

Across The Universe

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 8 - "Hums Wild" mix

Staff

Musicians on Across The Universe

Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic rhythm guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Tamboura
Lizzie Bravo:
Backing vocals
Gayleen Pease:
Backing vocals

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Phil McDonald:
Second Engineer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Martin Benge:
Engineer
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 Bible

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.

Have a look at https://www.beatlesbible.com/1968/02/04/recording-across-the-universe/

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