- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Lady Madonna / The Inner Light (UK - 1968) 7" Single.
- EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road
More from year 1968
Some songs from this session appear on:
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From mid-February to late April, The Beatles had planned a trip to India to continue their studies of Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They scheduled some studio time just before their departure to record a new single to be released in their absence. As it happened, those five days at EMI Studios produced four new songs, all mixed and ready for issue.
On this day, from 2:30 pm to 6 pm, they began the recording of Paul McCartney’s “Lady Madonna“. The basic track was only Paul on piano and Ringo Starr on drums (using brushes instead of sticks).
Paul plays piano on it. We said to George Martin, ‘How did they do it on “Bad Penny Blues”? And he said, ‘They used brushes.’ So, we put an off-beat on it.Ringo Starr – (“Bad Penny Blues” as a minor hit for the Humphrey Lyttleton Band in 1956, produced by George Martin)
By Saturday February 3 all four Beatles were ready to go ahead with recordings for a single, First new number to be tackled was “Lady Madonna”, Paul having done most of the words and music for this item. At the first session George and John put their two guitars through one amplifier while Ringo played drums. Then Paul added bass guitar and his own voice.Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall – From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°57, April 1968
After some rehearsals, three formal takes were recorded. Take 1 was incomplete. Take 2 was completed and was released on the White Album’s 50th anniversary re-release in 2018. Take 3 was the master.
The piano… It’s still there at Abbey Road actually, but we used to call it Mrs. Mills piano because there was a pianist who used to do all this, sort of…stride. But Mrs. Mills piano inspired that. I wrote it at home but it was like, ‘I’ve got to do this on that funky little piano.’Paul McCartney – From “McCartney 3,2,1” documentary
The overdubbing process started in the second session of the day, from 7 pm to 1:30 am. Ringo added more drums. John Lennon and George Harrison played fuzzed guitars, played through the same amplifier. Paul played bass.
Paul then recorded the first of his lead vocal tracks, deliberately overloaded to create an edgy quality. John added some mouth noises in imitation of a tuba. And Paul, John and George sang backing vocals.
MORE THAN A FEW BEATLE PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT PAUL IS THE SOLO SINGER ON “LADY MADONNA”. ALTHOUGH THIS IS AN OUT AND OUT ROCKER, THE SOUND OF PAUL’S SINGING IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM EARLIER THINGS HE DID LIKE “LONG TALL SALLY” OR “I’M DOWN”, THE REAL OLD SCREAMIN’ RAVERS! IN FACT SOME PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CONVINCED THE SINGER IS RINGO, IT ISN’T!Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall – From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°57, April 1968
There’s a lovely sound on ‘Lady Madonna,’ that’s like sort of muted trumpets, or a kazoo, or something. But, in actual fact, it’s just John and Paul (and George as the recording suggests) sort of humming through their hands into a mike. It was purely by accident that we discovered that sound. We had just finished taping a bit of the record, and John and Paul started to hum into the mike with their hands cupped round their mouths. When we played back the piece of tape with this bit tagged on the end, it sounded great, so we decided to use it.Ringo Starr
The four Beatles also contributed some backing vocals, gathering together round a microphone to contribute some mock brass. Also Paul added some mellotron lines. This track with backing vocals and mellotron was released on the White Album’s 50th anniversary re-release in 2018.
Work on “Lady Madonna” would continue on February 6, 1968.
Last updated on September 19, 2021
Musicians on "Lady Madonna"
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 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.