- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968) 7" Single.
- EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road
More from year 1968
Some songs from this session appear on:
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Ringo was absent as he was appearing live on “Cilla“, a BBC TV program hosted by singer Cilla Black. The three other Beatles had to take a break to watch him, taking part in sketches and singing and dancing.
The first session of the day, from 2:30 pm to 8 pm, was focused on “The Inner Light“.
George Harrison had started the recording of this song, in January 1968, in Bombay. George was in India, to record the soundtrack for the film “Wonderwall“. During those sessions, he took time to record some extra stuff, included a track that would become “The Inner Light“.
On this day, Take 5, which only featured Indian players, was first copied onto a four-track tape and named Take 6. George then overdubbed his vocals.
George had this big thing about not wanting to sing it because he didn’t feel confident that he could do the song justice. I remember Paul saying ‘You must have a go, don’t worry about it, it’s good.’Jerry Boys – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Abbey Road’s Studio One was a cold, cavernous place even on the sunniest summer day. In the dead of winter, it was like a cross between a meat locker and an airplane hangar. But that’s where I found myself on a frigid February afternoon, working with George Martin and three of the Beatles…We would be working on George Harrison’s Indian-influenced song ‘The Inner Light’ that day…Mal Evans lit some candles and incense to create a vibe for George…Harrison, in particular, was quite nervous about doing his lead vocal. He felt that he couldn’t do the song justice, but with encouragement from Paul, he actually did a good job of it. John had little to say that day – I had the impression he wasn’t too keen on the song – but he and Paul stayed on anyway, alternating between the control room and the studio, where they would sit behind George, perched up on high stools, the lights turned down low.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com
A first mono mix of the song was then done. On February 8, some additional overdubs would be added before the final mix was made.
The second session started at 9 pm and ended at 2 am. Earlier in the day, Paul McCartney had decided that he wanted real brass players on “Lady Madonna”, and some players needed to be recruited in urgency for this 9 pm session. As released by Mark Lewisohn:
Laurie Gold, a session ‘fixer’ for EMI, often used by George Martin and The Beatles, was called into swift action. Harry Klein, a baritone sax player, has a vivid recollection of events. “They were in a real flap to find four musicians and called on Laurie to conjure some up for them. I was in the bath at about 6:30 in the evening when Laurie called and said, ‘Are you working tonight?’ ‘No, I’m in the bath!’ ‘Well get over to EMI as quick as you can, and how can I find a tenor player?’ I suggested he call Ronnie Scott, the chap who runs the London jazz club, and sure enough, when I got to Abbey Road, Ronnie was there, along with Bill Jackman and Bill Povey. Paul didn’t recognize Ronnie Scott until we told him who he was.“From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Paul McCartney remembers differently:
I used to know Ronnie and I’d meet him in Soho and go to his jazz club quite a lot. I said, ‘We need a nice wild sax solo.’ He came along to the session, played it great but, of course, in the mix we buried it. After he heard it on the radio, he said, “What did you do to my solo?”Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)
Waiting for the musicians to join, the session started with a reduction mix, from take 3 to take 4. Onto take 3, Paul added another lead vocal and another piano overdub. George Harrison and John Lennon brought handclaps, some “see how they run” backing vocals along with some mock brass singing. Ringo Starr added a tambourine.
We spent a lot of time getting the right piano sound for ‘Lady Madonna.’ We ended up using a cheaper type of microphone and heavy compression and limiting.Geoff Emerick
As usual, Paul was looking for a different kind of sound, so I took the same cheap microphone that we had used for John’s lead vocal on ‘I Am The Walrus’ and positioned it way down in the sound holes, which yielded a muffled midrangey tone.Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006
Another tape reduction was then made – take 5. The sax players then joined in. As it was all last minute, George Martin didn’t obviously have the time to write a proper score. So their parts was largely improvised in the studio.
There was no written music but we played around with a few riffs until Paul liked what he heard. And then we recorded it – 101 times! I remember there was a big pile of meditation books in the corner of the studio, like the back room of a publisher’s office, and I also recall that they asked if we wanted a bite to eat. We were expecting a terrific meal but a few minutes later someone returned with pie and chips!Harry Klein – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
There was not only no prepared music for us to follow but when Paul called out some chords at us our first reaction was to look at each other and say, ‘Well, who plays what?’Bill Povey – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Paul went through the song on the piano and we were each given a scrap of manuscript paper and a pencil to write out some notes. Had there been music we would have been in and out in about ten minutes. As it was, it took most of the evening, recording it in A-major pitch with the rhythm track playing in our headphones.Bill Jackman – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
At the end of the session, two attempts at creating the mono mix were done, but the released mono mix would be created on February 15.
Last updated on September 17, 2021
Musicians on "Lady Madonna"
Musicians on "The Inner Light"
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!
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