Recording "Piggies"

Thursday, September 19, 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
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Master album


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On this day, The Beatles started working on the George Harrison-penned “Piggies“. The session lasted from 7:15 pm to 5:30 am. As George Martin was on holiday for most of September 1968, Chris Thomas produced this session.

The Beatles recorded 10 takes of the basic track, with George Harrison on acoustic guitar and guide vocal, Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on tambourine (John Lennon stayed away). “I’ll just be singing to guide you,” George instructed the others, his intentions being to record his vocals later as an overdub.

Chris Thomas then had the idea to use a harpsichord on the basic track:

All four Beatles were there for the session and we were working in [studio] number two. I wandered into number one and found a harpsichord, not knowing that it had been set up overnight for a classical recording. So we discussed wheeling the thing into number two but Ken Scott said ‘No, we can’t, it’s there for another session!’. So we moved our session into number one instead.

George Harrison agreed that my harpsichord idea was a good one and suggested that I play it. This I did, but while George and I were tinkling away on this harpsichord he started playing another new song to me, which later turned out to be ‘Something’. I said ‘That’s great! Why don’t we do that one instead?’ and he replied ‘Do you like it, do you really think it’s good?’. When I said yes he said ‘Oh, maybe I’ll give it to Jackie Lomax then, he can do it as a single!’

Chris Thomas ​ – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn

As explained in “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018), the harpsichord in Studio One had been brought in for a classical session scheduled on the following day – September 20. During that session, British cellist Jacqueline Du Pré would be recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, and the harpsichord would be played by Australian virtuoso Valda Aveling.

The Beatles then moved to Studio One, to record take 11 – the last take of the day – with Chris Thomas playing the harpsichord. Overdubs onto take 11 would be added the day after.


At the end of Take 11, The Beatles were recorded laughing. This laughing would be used on the Beatles Love album released in 2006, where it was mixed with “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!“.

It’s worth noting that, aside George Harrison playing “Something” during that session, Paul McCartney also played “Let It Be“, like he did on September 5.

There were a couple of other songs around at this time. Paul was running through “Let It Be” between takes

Chris Thomas​ – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn

Around that time, and maybe also on this day (or night), Paul recorded a demo of “The Long And Winding Road“, according to technical engineer Alan Brown, as mentioned in “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn. This story is also mentioned in the book “Hello Goodbye: The Story Of Mr. Fixit” by George Gunby:

The finest example of Paul’s songwriting turned out just as Alistair [Taylor] had hoped. It was the end of a particularly difficult week at [EMI Studios] and Apple during which he had been working twenty-hour days. He was feeling the effects of being, virtually, Paul’s personal assistant and keeping an eye on things at the office. He was very, very tired and looking forward to spending Saturday and Sunday at home with [his wife] Lesley. As the Friday night session wound down he went in search of Paul to say goodnight. John, George and Ringo had no idea where McCartney was and when he could not be found in the canteen or any of the offices Alistair pretty much gave up.

As he passed the cavernous Studio One he noticed a faint light. Stepping quietly inside, he stood in the shadows and listened as the figure hunched over the grand piano picked out a melody and began adding lyrics. The voice was unmistakably McCartney’s. Alistair listened intently as the tune developed. More lyrics were added. “This is sensational”, Alistair thought. Spellbound, he walked over to the piano when Paul stopped playing. “That is a beautiful, beautiful melody and fabulous words”, he said. “Lesley would love that”. Paul smiled. “It’s just an idea at this stage”, he said. “For ‘just an idea’ it’s sensational”.

Paul looked up to the control room. “Have you got any tape left?” he asked the engineer who nodded. “Roll it, please”, McCartney said. Alistair stood by the piano as Paul ran through the song again. Although not the finished article, the fundamental outline and character were clear and distinct. It was, Alistair felt, destined to be a classic. When the song ended he applauded quietly. Paul looked up from the keyboard. “Glad you like it”, he said. “Now go home. You look shattered”.

Monday morning came round far too quickly for Alistair. He was in the office early and had cleared most things by the time Paul appeared in mid afternoon. He sat down and asked how Lesley was. “Fine”,’Alistair replied. “Did you tell her about the song?” “No. I couldn’t do it justice”. “Well you can now”, McCartney said with a broad grin. From inside his coat he pulled out an acetate record and placed it on the desk in front of Alistair. “That’s the recording from Friday…It’s for Lesley”. “You shouldn’t have. Thank you very much”. “Give me your waste bin and a pair of scissors”, Paul said. As Alistair handed them to him, McCartney pulled a spool of recording tape from his pocket. “That’s the tape from Friday”, he said as he picked up the scissors and proceeded to cut it into small pieces that fell into the waste bin.

“Now you have the only copy of that recording in the world”, he said with a broad smile. “Thank you very much”, Alistair said. “It’s my way of saying thank you”, Paul said as he stood to leave the office. “Just one thing, what’s it called?” “The Long And Winding Road”, McCartney replied.

From “Hello Goodbye: The Story Of Mr. Fixit” by George Gunby

Last updated on November 11, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 1


2.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 2


3.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 3


4.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 4


5.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 5


6.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 6


7.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 7


8.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 8


9.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 9


10.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 10


11.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Take 11


12.

Something

Written by George Harrison

Recording • Brief demo


13.

Let It Be

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Several demos between takes

Staff

Musicians

Paul McCartney:
Bass
Ringo Starr:
Tambourine
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar
Chris Thomas:
Harpsichord

Production staff

Chris Thomas:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
Mike Sheady:
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/1968/09/19/recording-piggies/

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