Recording and mixing "Julia", "Dear Prudence", "Wild Honey Pie", "Back In The U.S.S.R.", "Blackbird"

Sunday, October 13, 1968 • For The Beatles

Part of


"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.
Timeline More from year 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Master album


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About

This was a Sunday session because the deadline The Beatles were given to complete the White Album was approaching.

On this day, John Lennon’s “Julia” was recorded, completed, and mixed. This was the last track to be recorded for the White Album and a solo Lennon recording. John played acoustic guitar and sang.

After some rehearsals (some of them were released on the White Album’s 50th anniversary release in 2018), three formal takes were recorded. Take 2 was released on Anthology 3, and take 3 was considered the best take.

Only three takes were logged on the recording sheet. However, during research for this 50th anniversary project, there was a jaw-dropping surprise. When listening to all of the four-track tape for the session, it was discovered that the three ‘proper’ takes had been recorded over a tape of John’s rehearsals from earlier in the session. Following the master, take three, some of those rehearsals remained on the reel. CD Six – Sessions Track 18 features the last 4’25” of audio on the tape.

From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)

John’s gentle ballad Julia – it was his late mother’s name – was quickly and simply recorded on a four-track machine as the 32nd and final new song for the White Album. He performed it solo but was bolstered in his endeavours by Paul, up in the studio two control room, communicating with him by way of the talkback key. Take 2, featured here, is mostly instrumental, John attempting to capture the definitive acoustic guitar track. It broke down, but the next try, Take 3, would prove to be the master, and it was on to this that he overdubbed the vocal track.

From Anthology 3 liner notes

John then overdubbed a second vocal track and a second acoustic guitar track onto take 3.

Having recorded the first version of take three, he overdubbed a second one alongside it on the four-track tape. He sang different parts of the song in each of the versions. This way, certain sections of the vocal were double-tracked and he could overlap his singing as he moved from chorus to verse on the word “Julia”.

From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)

The song was then mixed in mono and stereo versions.


Time was then spent on mixing some other tracks for the White Album.

Dear Prudence” had been recorded from August 28 to August 30. A mono mix had been done on October 5 but would not be used. The mono and stereo mixes released on the White Album were done on this day. The engineering team only needed one try to get the stereo mix, which was done first, but then had a slightly harder time perfecting the mono mix, five attempts being made, presumably the fifth attempt being the “keeper”. The stereo mix has slightly more treble than the mono mix, and also fades to a lower volume during the song’s conclusion.


Blackbird” had been recorded on June 11, and mixed on this day, in mono and stereo. From beatlesebooks.com:

The stereo mix was done first, only one attempt being needed for both the stereo and mono mixes. The mono mix, for some reason, was designated “remix 10” even though only six mono mixes were attempted thus far. The only notable difference between the stereo and mono mixes is the placement of bird sound effects, which were added to the song at this mixing stage. The mono mix leaves the open space in the song completely quiet – quiet enough to pick up the sound of actual birds singing during Paul’s outdoor performance – while the stereo mix includes the blackbirds from the sound-effects tape chirping nicely in the open space of the song.

The bird chirping was added during this mixing session, borrowed from the tape “Volume Seven: Birds Of Feather” from the Abbey Road taped sound effects collection.

I taped that on one of the first portable EMI tape-recorders, in my back garden in Ickenham, about 1965. There are two recordings, one of the bird singing, the other making an alarm sound when I startled it.

Stuart Eltham​ – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn

Well, it’s simple in concept because you couldn’t think of anything else to put on it. And that’s what I was saying about the ‘Sgt Pepper’ thing– Maybe on Pepper we would have sort of worked on it until we could find some way to put violins or trumpets in there. But I don’t think it needs it, this one. You know, it’s just… There’s nothing to the song. It is just one of those ‘pick it and sing it’ and that’s it. The only point where we were thinking of putting anything on it is where it comes back in the end…. sort of stops and comes back in… but instead of putting any backing on it, we put a blackbird on it. So there’s a blackbird singing at the very end. And somebody said it was a thrush, but I think it’s a blackbird!

Paul McCartney – from interview with Radio Luxembourg, 1968

Wild Honey Pie” had been recorded on August 20, and the mono mix released on the White Album had been made on the same day. The stereo mix was made on this day.

Back In The U.S.S.R.” had been recorded on August 22 and 23, and the mono mix had been made on the 23. The stereo mix released on the White Album was made on this day, with some difficulty for the engineering team:

For the mono mix everything came out OK, but the stereo mix took a long, long time and I was holding the pencil to keep the effects tape taught. I guess I must have been leaning back on it and started to stretch it, because the mono has this clear, clean lovely jet sound while the stereo is an abomination of a jet sound.

John Smith, tape operator – from The Beatles super deluxe edition book, 2018

This session which had started at 7 pm ended at 6 am.

Last updated on September 5, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1


2.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2


3.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3


4.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 3

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Stereo)


5.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 1

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Stereo)


6.

Wild Honey Pie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 1


7.

Wild Honey Pie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 2 from take 1

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Stereo)


8.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 6

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Stereo)


9.

Blackbird

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Stereo mixing - Remix 1 from take 32

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Stereo)


10.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 3

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Mono)


11.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 1


12.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 1


13.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 1


14.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from take 1


15.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 5 from take 1

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Mono)


16.

Blackbird

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 10 from take 32

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Mono)

Staff

Musicians on Julia

John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
John Smith:
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/1968/10/13/recording-mixing-julia-dear-prudence-wild-honey-pie-back-in-the-ussr-blackbird/

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