Recording and mixing "Only A Northern Song"

Tuesday, February 14, 1967 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Yellow Submarine (Mono) LP.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Master release


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On the previous day, The Beatles recorded nine takes of George Harrison’s “Only A Northern Song” under the working title “Not Known“.

During the session, which started at 7 pm and ended at 12:30 am, they continued working on the track, which received its final name, “Only A Northern Song“.

The first task was to create a reduction mix of Take 3 to free up space on the four-track tape. They made three reduction mixes, numbered Takes 10 to 12. During this process, drums and tambourine filled track one, the organ was put on track two, and Paul McCartney’s bass part was dropped.

George Harrison then overdubbed his double-tracked lead vocal parts on tracks three and four of Take 12. The lyrics he sang on this day differ noticeably from the released version, but they can be heard on the composite version released on “Anthology 2” in 1996.

At the end of the session, three mono mixes, labelled Remix Mono 1 to 3, were made for demo purposes only.

At this stage, the song was deemed not good enough to be included on the upcoming “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. As a result, George Harrison was asked to come up with another composition as a replacement. He did so with the Indian-flavored “Within You Without You,” which recording began on March 15, 1967.

The recording of “Only A Northern Song” resumed on April 20, 1967.


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

It took several more hours of work the following evening before they came up with something they felt was even halfway decent. Shortly afterward, an unhappy Paul said, “Look, let’s knock it on the head for the night,” and they ended the session early. There was no more mention of resuming work on the song until after the mixes of Pepper were done and they were looking for material to give to the Yellow Submarine film project. It wouldn’t surprise me if John and Paul had simply told George to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

From The Beatles History (beatles-chronology.ru)
From Meet the Beatles for Real: you really got a hold on me – Photo by Henry Grossman – I find this to be just so awesome!   Notice the girls sitting at EMI waiting for the Beatles. Lizzie Bravo is the girl in the glasses with the beautiful smile. Next to her is who I believe to be her friend, Denise who took this great photo of Paul where he looks sort of like a spy during the recording of the Sgt. Pepper album. In the Grossman photo she is holding up the Paul photo that she took and here is a copy of the actual photo.  I just think this is so cool and I hope it doesn’t anger anyone that I posted it.

Last updated on February 7, 2024

Songs recorded


1.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 3 into take 10


2.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 3 into take 11


3.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 3 into take 12


4.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Recording • SI onto take 12


5.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 12


6.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 12


7.

Only A Northern Song

Written by George Harrison

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 12

Staff

Musicians on "Only A Northern Song"

George Harrison:
Lead vocals

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Richard Lush:
Second engineer

Going further


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!

Shop on Amazon


The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967)

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.

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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.

Read more on The Beatles Bible

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