"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.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
- EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road
More from year 1968
Some songs from this session appear on:
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The day started with a very short session (from 5 pm to 5:30 pm according to the EMI records) to complete the mono mix of “Yer Blues“.
On August 14, The Beatles had completed the recording of the song and created a mono mix. On this day, they decided to add a count-in “two, three…” at the beginning of the song.
It is documented that a count-in shouted by Ringo Starr was recorded, but it was John Lennon’s original count-in from take 5 that was used on the finished recording, which is confirmed by listening to the full take 5 released on the White Album’s 2018 re-release.
This count-in was edited onto the mono mix done on August 14 to make the master.
Time was then spent on the mono mix of “Revolution 9“. It would have been impossible to make a mono mix of “Revolution 9” equivalent to the stereo mix. So the decision was taken to simply copy the stereo version onto a mono tape. From beatlesebooks.com:
The mono mix of “Revolution 9” was made on August 20th, 1968 in the control room of EMI Studio Three by engineers Ken Scott and John Smith, but not in the usual way. Since the complicated stereo mix could in no way be duplicated for a separate mono mix, a decision was made to create a straightforward dub of the stereo mix that combined both channels into one. This was improved upon, though, on August 26th, 1968, by the same engineering team to ready it for release on the mono pressings of the album.From beatlesebooks.com
Paul McCartney had recorded “Mother Nature’s Son” by himself, without the other Beatles, on August 9. He was again alone for this overdub session, which lasted from 8 pm to 4 am.
It was quite late at night, the whole building was quiet, and there was Paul playing this enchanting song. I love the phrase “sitting in my field of grass”. It has a completeness about it. It isn’t just any old field, it’s a field of grass. We were all moved by it. Simultaneous to this recording session, Russia was invading Czechoslovakia. Of course, we didn’t know it at that moment, but it did seem such a constrast of events…Alan Brown – technical engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
On June 11, during the recording of “Blackbird“, John Lennon suggested that a “very nice little bit of brass band” could be added, to which Paul agreed saying “yes, that would be lovely“. He then played an early version of “Mother Nature’s Son” on acoustic guitar, remarking “that would be nice with a brass band…like four…cornet, euphonium…little“. In the end, no embellishment was added on “Blackbird“, but brass instruments – two trumpets and two trombones – were added onto “Mother Nature’s Son” on this day.
Paul was downstairs going through the arrangement with George [Martin] and the brass players. Everything was great, everyone was in great spirits. It felt really good. Suddenly, half way through, John and Ringo walked in and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. An instant change. It was like that for ten minutes and then as soon as they left it felt great again. It was very bizarre.Ken Scott – The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Once the brass instruments were recorded, a reduction mix – named take 26 – was made to allow for more overdubs. Paul then added a double-tracking of some of his vocals and a second acoustic guitar track.
Much creativity went into the percussive elements and the bass sound. Mark Lewisohn, in “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions“, reports that a timpani was recorded. A book was used when Paul realized he liked the sound it produced when tapping out a rhythm on it. And the bass drum sound was recorded in a staircase.
Paul wanted an open effect on his drums (to give a bongos sound) and we ended up leaving the studio itself and putting the drums in the corridor, halfway down, with mikes at the far end. It wasn’t carpeted then and it gave an interesting staccato effect.Alan Brown – technical engineer – From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
They never taught you how to get the best sound out of a book at EMI, but I carefully miked it as best I could.Ken Scott – From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)
Eight attempts at a mono mix were then done, but the final mono and stereo mixes would be made on October 12.
During the session, Paul recorded one take of “Etcetera” as a demo, while waiting for session musicians to arrive. After the take was recorded, the tape was taken away by George Martin’s assistant, Chris Thomas. The recording is said to have lyrics, a bridge, and an introduction that is reminiscent of “Here, There and Everywhere“.
This was a very beautiful song. I recall it was a ballad and had the word ‘etcetera’ several times in the lyric. I only heard it twice: when he recorded it and when we played it back to him. The tape was taken away and I’ve never heard of it since.Alan Brown, engineer – The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
At approximately 2 am in the morning, Paul started recording another experiment. This one would be released on the White Album under the name “Wild Honey Pie“. Like “Mother Nature’s Son”, Paul is the sole performer on the recording.
Much later on, at the beginning of October, the fellows recorded “Honey Pie” at Trident. This is NOT the same thing. “Wild Honey Pie” is a very short “link” track on the LP, under a minute in playing time. Paul did this more or less on his own, almost a McCartney ad-lib in fact. He sings and plays both guitar and bass drum, double-tracking the whole thing so that he finishes up sounding like a couple of singers and a quarter of guitarists!Mal Evans – From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°64, November 1968
I started off with the guitar and did a multi-tracking experiment in the control room or maybe in the little room next door.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)
For “Wild Honey Pie”, we’d very recently done John’s “Yer Blues” where we’d packed ourselves into a cupboard, so we were in an experimental mode, and so I said, ‘Can I just make something up?’ I started off with the guitar and did a multitracking experiment in the control room or maybe in the little room next door. It was very home-made; it wasn’t a big production at all. I just made up the short piece and I multitracked a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and built it up scupturally with a lot of vibrato on the strings, really pulling the strings madly. Hence, “Wild Honey Pie”, which was a reference to the other song I had written called “Honey Pie”. It was a little experimental piece.Paul McCartney – from “Many Years From Now”, by Barry Miles, 1997
The 53-seconds long “Wild Honey Pie” was started and completed on this day. A mono mix was made, the one to be released on the White Album. The stereo mix would be made on October 13.
The session ended at 4 am.
Last updated on September 19, 2021
Editing • Editing of remix mono 3 and edit piece take 1
Album Officially released on The Beatles (Mono)
Tape copying • Mono copy 1, from edit of remix stereo 2
Recording • SI onto take 24
Tape copying • Tape reduction take 24 into take 26
Recording • SI onto take 26
Written by Paul McCartney
Recording • Take 1
Recording • Take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 5 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 6 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 7 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 8 from take 26
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 2 from take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 3 from take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 4 from take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 5 from take 1
Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 6 from take 1
Album Released on bootleg Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 4 (1968)
Musicians on "Mother Nature's Son"
Musicians on "Wild Honey Pie"
- George Martin:
- Ken Scott:
- 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 Recording Reference Manual: Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968 - early 1969)
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.
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