The Esher recordings

Late May 1968 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Anthology 3 Official album.
Timeline More from year 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK

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About

In February – March 1968, The Beatles stayed in Rishikesh, India, to take part in a Transcendental Meditation (TM) training course at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During that time, they wrote around 40 new compositions. In late May, they met for one day at Kinfauns, property of George Harrison, to record 26 of those new songs in demo form. Most of those songs would be properly recorded for their next album, “The Beatles“, which recording started on May 30, 1968.

We are going in with clear heads and hoping for the best. We had hoped this time to do a lot of rehearsing before we reached the studios rather than rehearse actually on the instruments but, as it happens, all we got was one day.

Paul McCartney, 1968

From Wikipedia:

Kinfauns was a large 1950s deluxe bungalow in Esher in the English county of Surrey, on the Claremont Estate. From 1964 to 1970 it was the home of George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles. It was where many of the demo recordings for the band’s 1968 self-titled double album (also known as the “White Album”) were made. The bungalow has since been demolished, and another house built in its place.

Beatles gatherings

Kinfauns was probably the home the Beatles gathered at most, as it was only a short drive from the homes of John Lennon (Kenwood) and Ringo Starr (Sunny Heights), both in St George’s Hill. It was where Harrison, Lennon and their wives retreated during their first LSD experience in 1965, and in May 1968 it was where many of the demo recordings for the White Album were made, on Harrison’s Ampex four-track tape recorder. These demos have been released on various bootleg albums; seven of them appear on the Beatles’ Anthology 3 compilation album, and 27 appear on The Beatles (album) (the ‘White Album’) 50th Anniversary Edition as the Esher Demos CD.

Harrison was the first Beatle to own or use a Moog synthesizer, and he recorded “Under the Mersey Wall” with his Moog at Kinfauns. The track filled one side of his Electronic Sound album, released in May 1969.

Kinfauns was where police arrested Boyd and Harrison in March 1969, for hashish possession, as Lennon and Yoko Ono had been months earlier while staying at Starr’s flat at Montagu Square in London. Both couples insisted the drugs found had been planted on the premises.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

The demo is interesting in that it consists mostly of Paul on acoustic guitar and double-tracked lead vocals, at least one other acoustic guitar being heard as well as backing vocals, handclaps and a tambourine. While no one can say for sure who contributed these other elements, Paul definitely played the biggest role, undoubtedly layering most (if not all) of these himself. In place of where the guitar solo eventually would appear, Paul repeats the first verse, the flight being described as “awful” instead of “dreadful” as in the finished version. Also, the third verse as we’ve come to know it (“Show me around your snow-peaked mountains…”) did not appear on this demo, this verse probably not in existence as of yet. In place of this, Paul repeats the second verse and then follows that up with another verse, mouthing what a guitar solo would be as the song fades away. This demo is in a lower key and is substantially slower, thereby lacking the excitement of what we hear as the finished product, yet it did express the flavor of what Paul intended.

From beatlesebooks.com

Dear Prudence

This recording of “Dear Prudence” appears to be a solo performance by John Lennon on acoustic guitar and vocals, double-tracking his guitar as well as his vocals, although other Beatles are faintly heard vocally toward the end of the song. This demo shows that John had the bulk of the lyrics and musical arrangement already figured out, there hardly being any difference from the finished version as we know it. Some minor differences include the lyric “sleeping child” in the third verse instead of “little child” as in the finished version.  This line also appears in the original handwritten lyric sheet, which stipulates that this was the 13th song that John wrote while in India. The demo recording also includes a repeat of the “look around, round” bridge after the third verse, a faster tempo on the final verse, and a continuation of the verse guitar passage at the song’s conclusion instead of a repeat of the guitar introduction as on the released version. 

From beatlesebooks.com

Glass Onion

The recording consists of John double-tracking himself on acoustic guitar and vocal with a hint of tambourine played by someone else in the third verse.

All three verses, however, consist of the first verse repeated three times with slightly different lyrics from what became the finished version. John here sings “I told you about Strawberry Fields, well here’s a place you know just as real…where everything glows.” In the second verse, John flubs the line “to see how the other half lives” which results in him mumbling gibberish, and then does the same thing when this point arrives during double-tracking. John then continues this nonsensical habit in many other places on this recording, right down to the song’s last moments, which descend into a brief impromptu version of the Frank Sinatra standard “Chicago (That Toddling Town).” Another difference in this demo is the dramatically slowed tempo in the third verse during the line “here’s another place you can go, where everything glows,” during which time you hear other Beatle voices in the background, one even saying “Help!” at one point. This recording can be heard in its entirety on the compilation album “Anthology 3.”

From beatlesebooks.com

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Paul recorded a very charming acoustic guitar rendition of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” overdubbing himself on guitar and vocals as well as beating on what sounds like bongos (but what very likely may have been the back of his acoustic guitar). Also heard on this demo are both tambourine and maracas played by other Beatles, as well as John’s voice being heard at the beginning saying “Molly” after Paul says “Desmond.” Paul convincingly demonstrates the Jamaican-flavored imagery he envisioned for the song, complete with vocal “chick-a-boom, chick-a-boom...” expressions in the bridges of the song. The primitive recording made on this day easily gets out of sync during double-tracking at times, but nonetheless shows the enduring quality of the song.

From beatlesebooks.com

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

This demo consisted of John playing acoustic guitar and singing lead vocals, which he then double-tracked while the rest of the group sang along on the choruses, clapped, played bongos (or the back of acoustic guitars), and even provided animal noises during the second verse. The song was completely written by this point so all the lyrics and chord changes were in place as on the released version with only a couple noticeable differences. The fourth measure of each chorus has one less beat per measure which makes the flow of the song sound a little awkward and actually trips up the vocalists during the last chorus because of the appearance of someone’s clapping to the strange time signature. It’s also unusual for the listener to hear John himself sing Yoko’s vocal contribution “Not when he looked so fierce.” The song then falls apart at the end with John repeating random variations of the song’s title, such as “What did you kill, Bill…What did Bungalow Bill Kill?”

From beatlesebooks.com

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

This demo version was only two-and-a-half minutes long and is at a faster tempo than what became the finished product much later in the year. George double-tracked himself on acoustic guitar as well as vocals while someone, probably Paul, played an organ during both bridges and during the conclusion of the song, this conclusion differing quite a bit from the finished version. Despite the slight differences in the lyrics mentioned above, you can hear Paul exclaim “Cool!” after the conclusion of this demo as if to suggest he is quite impressed with George’s new song. The version of this demo as contained on the 50th Anniversary editions of the “White Album” released in 2018 omits the tracks containing Paul’s contributions.

From beatlesebooks.com

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Only John is heard on this demo, singing and playing acoustic guitar simultaneously. Not too much of the song had been formulated at this point, John struggling with the chord changes at times. He even exclaims “Oh sh*t, wrong chord” at one point, as heard on the version released on the compilation album “Anthology 3.” A small segment even mentions Yoko Ono by name, as mentioned above. The mix of this demo that was released on the Super Deluxe edition of the “White Album” 50th Anniversary reveals that John here double-tracked his voice, repeatedly singing “Mother Superior jumped the gun” in falsetto at the end. In any event, he appeared far from ready to bring this composition into the recording studio, this not happening until nearly four months later.

From beatlesebooks.com

I’m So Tired

John plays acoustic guitar and sings, double-tracking both his vocals and guitar afterward. We also hear maracas, a tambourine, and clinking percussion sounds played by other Beatles, as well as Paul adding some “woooo”s and other backing vocals here and there. This demo recording is substantially longer than the finished version, John repeating the first verse after the third verse is sung as well as adding yet another additional verse followed by a third chorus.

This final verse, undoubtedly intended to be used for a solo of some kind, included the following ad libbed vocal recitation from John for the time being: “When I hold you in your arms, when you show me each one of your charms, I wonder should I get up and go to the funny farm.” The first phrase of this recitation ended up becoming a striking feature of another of John’s “White Album” songs, namely “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” This demo of “I’m So Tired” ends with five repeats of the phrase “I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little piece of mind” instead of three on the finished recording, this followed by John stating “I’ll give you all I’ve got, Derek!,” possibly addressed to press officer Derek Taylor who may have been present at ‘Kinfauns’ on this day.

From beatlesebooks.com

Blackbird

This recording consists of Paul on acoustic guitar and vocals, both double-tracked, with a slight bit of bird sound effects courtesy of John in the background. The structure of the song hadn’t been settled on yet and the ending was different than we know it now, but the lyrics were all in place at this point.

From beatlesebooks.com

Piggies

This demo is quite similar in structure to the finished product and consists of George double-tracked on acoustic guitar and, in most places, vocals as well. An instrumental section had already been put in place, George whistling where a harpsichord solo would eventually be. The final verse, as mentioned above, includes George hesitantly singing about “pork chops” instead of “bacon,” seemingly because he hadn’t yet decided which lyric to go with yet. The demo ends somewhat awkwardly, George not as yet concocting a suitable conclusion to the song. Nonetheless, it already displays the charm heard on the finished product.

From beatlesebooks.com

Rocky Racoon

The demo recorded on this day was very similar to what was to become the released version with the exception being the exclusion of the spoken-word introduction and the “doctor” section of the second verse, these not being formalized until he got into the studio two-and-a-half months later. This demo consisted of Paul double-tracking himself on acoustic guitar and vocals, George adding country-like acoustic guitar fills in between lyric phrases, and sporadic maracas that were probably played by Ringo. The song concludes with a tricky surprise ending by George and Paul not unlike what they recorded for “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” back in 1964.

From beatlesebooks.com

Yer Blues

This recording consisted of John on two different acoustic guitar parts and double-tracked vocals along with George doodling on lead acoustic guitar passages and Paul and Ringo on bongos and tambourine. The lyrics were pretty much in place at this point with a couple of exceptions. The third verse was sung as “My mother was of the earth / my father was of the sky / but I am of the universe and that’s the reason why,” these lyrics being written in this way on his original handwritten lyric sheet, which was designated as the #13 song he had written while in India. Both the lyric sheet and the “Kinfauns” demo shows that the worm “eats my bone” instead of ‘licking’ it in the final version. The original lyrics state that he’s “feeling so uptight now / just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones,” while in the demo John sings that he feels “so insecure, now,” which he eventually changed to “suicidal.” John gets tripped up with both his tempo and his time-signature changes during this demo which, incidentally, omits an ending solo section but concludes with John repeating the line “Yes, I’m lonely” many times without changing the time time-signature of the song as we’re used to hearing. Otherwise, this is a very compelling acoustic version of the song.

From beatlesebooks.com

Mother Nature’s Son

This charming demo features Paul double-tracked on acoustic guitar as well as double-tracked vocals, harmonizing with himself quite effectively during later moments of the song, although this idea was dropped for the official recording two-and-a-half months later. Light tapping is also heard on the recording, this percussive element undoubtedly produced courtesy of the back of an acoustic guitar. The lyrics and structure of the song were complete at this stage, the intro and conclusion not being finalized until it was brought into the studio.

From beatlesebooks.com

Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

Onto George’s Ampex 4-track machine, John recorded himself singing and playing acoustic guitar, both of which were double-tracked, while the rest of the group added various percussion sounds, such as maracas, tambourine and bongo beats on the back of an acoustic guitar. Another acoustic guitar is also heard in the background playing experimental lead phrases, which could very well have been George.

From beatlesebooks.com

Sexy Sadie

This demo consists of John double-tracking himself on acoustic guitar and vocals with slight accompaniment by the other Beatles on maracas, tambourine and bongos (or the back of an acoustic guitar). The lyrics were all in place, but the arrangement and structure needed to be fleshed out in the studio. In order to add to the illusion that the song was really about a seductress, John jokingly adds some lovesick repetitions of “Oh, Sadie” as the performance winds down.

From beatlesebooks.com

Revolution

This demo recording of “Revolution” is very lighthearted and spirited, conveying the semi-political lyrics in a way that one could easily envision as their next single. John plays acoustic guitar and sings while the other Beatles clap along and occasionally join in on backing vocals with a great sense of harmony. John then double-tracks himself on acoustic guitar and vocals but, as the final verse begins to kick in, his timing gets noticeably off. This results in the overdubbed tambourine in this verse, probably played by Ringo, having to compensate in order to catch the beat correctly (this awkwardness being corrected for this version’s 50th Anniversary “White Album” releases). All in all, while containing flaws, this acoustic version is very impressive and paints a very accurate picture of how Lennon originally intended the song to sound like.

From beatlesebooks.com

Honey Pie

The demo for “Honey Pie,” recorded on this second day, consists of Paul on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, overdubbing himself on another acoustic guitar as well as various background vocal effects. Other elements on this demo include tambourine and percussive thumping (undoubtedly the back of an acoustic guitar) as well as other extraneous voices that can easily be attributed to the other three Beatles that were present on this day.

From beatlesebooks.com

Cry Baby Cry

John confidently plays acoustic guitar and sings on this demo recording and then goes to the effort of double-tracking his vocals. This is basically a solo performance by John alone with one of the other Beatles shaking a tambourine lightly at times. All the correct lyrics and chords are in place at this point but there are some variations to the arrangement. For instance, there is no opening chorus as in the finished version, the first verse being the first thing heard. And for the final chorus, John plays it once through in the usual 4/4 time signature and then changes it to 3/4 waltz time to repeat the chorus three more times while omitting the final measure. He then starts to perform the chorus a fifth time but only makes it about half way through until it falls apart, apparently assuming it will have faded out by that time when the song would be officially recorded.

From beatlesebooks.com
From 003692 – George Harrison’s House Kinfauns à Esher, Surrey, le 8 août 1969 Photo Stock – Alamy (alamyimages.fr) – 003692 – George Harrison’s House ‘Kinfauns’ in Esher, Surrey 8th August 1969

Last updated on September 30, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


2.

Dear Prudence

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


3.

Glass Onion

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


4.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)



6.


7.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


8.

I'm So Tired

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


9.

Blackbird

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


10.

Piggies

Written by George Harrison

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


11.

Rocky Raccoon

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


12.

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


13.

Yer Blues

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


14.

Mother Nature's Son

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)



16.

Sexy Sadie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


17.

Revolution

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


18.

Honey Pie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


19.

Cry Baby Cry

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


20.

Sour Milk Sea

Written by George Harrison

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


21.

Junk

Written by Paul McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


22.

Child of Nature

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


23.

Circles

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


24.

Mean Mr. Mustard

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


25.

Polythene Pam

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on Anthology 3


26.

Not Guilty

Written by George Harrison

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)


27.

What's The New Mary Jane

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording

Album Officially released on The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

Staff

Musicians on Blackbird

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
John Lennon:
bird sound

Musicians on Mother Nature's Son

Paul McCartney:
Lead vocal, Acoustic guitar

Musicians on Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
?:
Tambourine, Maracas

Musicians on Back In The U.S.S.R.

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Double-tracked lead vocals
?:
Acoustic guitar, tambourine, handclaps

Musicians on Dear Prudence

John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals

Musicians on Glass Onion

John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
?:
Tambourine

Musicians on The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

Paul McCartney:
Handclapping, Backing vocals
Ringo Starr:
Backing vocals, Handclapping
John Lennon:
Lead vocals, Acoustic guitar
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Handclapping

Musicians on While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Paul McCartney:
Organ
George Harrison:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar

Musicians on Happiness Is A Warm Gun

John Lennon:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar

Musicians on I'm So Tired

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals
John Lennon:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar
?:
Tambourine, Maracas

Musicians on Piggies

George Harrison:
whistling, acoustic guitar, vocals

Musicians on Rocky Raccoon

Paul McCartney:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar
Ringo Starr:
Maracas
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar

Musicians on Yer Blues

Paul McCartney:
Tambourine ?, Bongos ?
Ringo Starr:
Bongos ?, Tambourine ?
John Lennon:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar

Musicians on Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey

Paul McCartney:
Maracas ?, Bongo ?, Tambourine ?
Ringo Starr:
Maracas ?, Bongo ?, Tambourine ?
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Acoustic guitar ?, Maracas ?, Bongo ?, Tambourine ?

Musicians on Sexy Sadie

Paul McCartney:
Bongo ?, Tambourine ?, Maracas ?
Ringo Starr:
Tambourine ?, Maracas ?, Bongo ?
John Lennon:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar
George Harrison:
Bongo ?, Tambourine ?, Acoustic guitar ?, Maracas ?

Musicians on Honey Pie

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, lead vocals
Ringo Starr:
Percussion ?, Tambourine ?
John Lennon:
Tambourine ?, Percussion ?
George Harrison:
Percussion ?, Tambourine ?

Musicians on Cry Baby Cry

John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals

Musicians on Revolution

Paul McCartney:
Handclaps ?
Ringo Starr:
Tambourine ?, Handclaps ?
John Lennon:
Vocals, Acoustic guitar
George Harrison:
Handclaps ?

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/1968/05/24/demo-recordings-for-the-white-album/

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