Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968

Master album


Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions


The Esher recordings

Late May 1968


Other Beatles songs with no contribution from McCartney



She Said She Said

Officially appears on Revolver (UK Mono)


What's The New Mary Jane

Officially appears on Anthology 3


Revolution 9

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)


Good Night

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)

Related interviews


Paul McCartney on the Adam Buxton Podcast

Dec 11, 2020 • From The Adam Buxton Podcast


McCartney talks guitar!

July 1990 • From Guitar Player

Related articles


The Beatles in India

From mid-February to March 1968

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Julia” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). It is performed as a solo piece by John Lennon. The song was written by Lennon (though credited to Lennon–McCartney) about his mother Julia Lennon, who died in 1958 at age 44.

The track is the final song on side two (disc one on CD) of The Beatles and was the last song recorded for the album. In 1976, it was issued as the B-side of the Beatles single “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da“.

Composition

“Julia” was written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) in the key of D major and features Lennon on vocals and acoustic guitar. It was written during the Beatles’ 1968 visit to Rishikesh in northern India, where they were studying under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was here where Lennon learned the song’s finger-picking guitar style (known as ‘Travis-picking’) from the Scottish musician Donovan. Donovan later explained:

He [Lennon] told me he wanted to write a song about his mother. He said, “Donovan, you’re the king of children’s songs. Can you help me? … I want to write a song about the childhood that I never really had with my mother.” He asked me to help him with the images that he could use in lyrics for a song about this subject. So I said, “Well, when you think of the song, where do you imagine yourself?” And John said, “I’m at a beach and I’m holding hands with my mother and we’re walking together.” And I helped him with a couple of lines, “Seashell eyes / windy smile” – for the Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland feel that John loved so much.

No other Beatle sings or plays on the song. While Paul McCartney made several “solo” recordings attributed to the group, dating back to his famous song “Yesterday“, this is the only time that Lennon played and sang unaccompanied on a Beatles track. The ballad itself was the final track to be composed during recording sessions for The Beatles.

“Julia” was written for John’s mother, Julia Lennon (1914–1958), who was killed by a car driven by a drunk off-duty police officer when John was 17 years old. Julia Lennon had encouraged her son’s interest in music and bought him his first guitar. But after she split with John’s father, John was taken in by his aunt, Mimi, and Julia started a new family with another man; though she lived just a few miles from John, Julia did not spend much time with him for a number of years. Their relationship began to improve as he neared adolescence, though, and in the words of his half-sister, Julia Baird:

As he grew older, John would stay with us more often. He and Daddy got along well enough, and in the evenings when our daddy, a head waiter, was at work, John and Mummy would sit together and listen to records. She was an avid Elvis Presley fan, and she and John would jive around the room to ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘ and other early Elvis recordings. John inherited his love of music from her, and she encouraged him to start with piano and banjo, making him play a tune again and again until he got it right.

“I lost her twice,” Lennon said. “Once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again when she actually physically died.”

The song was also written for his future wife Yoko Ono, whose first name, which literally means “child of the sea” in Japanese, is echoed in the lyric “Oceanchild, calls me.” Towards the end of his life, he often called Yoko “Mother.”

The line “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you” was a slight variation of Kahlil Gibran’s “Sand and Foam” (1926) in which the original verse reads, “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you”. Lennon also adapted the lines “When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind” from Gibran’s “When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind”. […]

Releases and legacy

“Julia” was originally released as the final song on side two of The Beatles on 22 November 1968. In 1976, it was released as the B-side of the “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” single. In 1988, “Julia” was one of the nine Beatles songs on the soundtrack album Imagine: John Lennon. In 2006, a portion was used for the Love album, mixed with “Eleanor Rigby“.

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent listed “Julia” at number 13 in his ranking of the White Album’s 30 tracks. He commented: “The first disc ends on a sanguine note with Lennon’s ode to his deceased mother, Julia. It remains the only Beatles song he wrote and performed by himself.”

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 13 Oct 1968.
UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968.
US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

[b] mono 13 Oct 1968.
UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.

From Anthology 3 liner notes:

John’s gentle ballad Julia – it was his late mother’s name – was quickly and simply recorded on a four-track machine as the 32nd and final new song for the White Album. He performed it solo but was bolstered in his endeavours by Paul, up in the studio two control room, communicating with him by way of the talkback key. Take 2, featured here, is mostly instrumental, John attempting to capture the definitive acoustic guitar track. It broke down, but the next try, Take 3, would prove to be the master, and it was on to this that he overdubbed the vocal track.

Last updated on May 23, 2021

Lyrics

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia
Ocean child calls me
So I sing the song of love, Julia

Julia
Seashell eyes, windy smile calls me
So I sing the song of love
Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering
Glimmering in the sun

Julia, Julia
Morning moon touch me
So I sing the song of love
Julia

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind
Julia

Julia
Sleeping sand, silent cloud touch me
So I sing the song of love
Julia

Calls me
So I sing the song of love for Julia
Julia, Julia

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

LP • Released in 1968

2:57 • Studio versionB • Mono

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

LP • Released in 1968

2:57 • Studio versionA • Stereo

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 3

Official album • Released in 1996

1:57 • OuttakeC • Stereo • Take 2. [John] performed it solo but was bolstered in his endeavours by Paul, up in the studio two control room, communicating with him by way of the talkback key. Take 2, featured here, is mostly instrumental, John attempting to capture the definitive acoustic guitar track. It broke down, but the next try, Take 3, would prove to be the master, and it was on to this that he overdubbed the vocal track.

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:57 • Studio versionB2009 • Mono • 2009 mono remaster

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Paul Hicks :
Remastering
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

2:57 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

LP • Released in 2014

2:57 • Studio versionB2014 • Mono • 2014 remaster

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Steve Berkowitz :
Remastering

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Anthology 3 (2016 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2016

1:57 • OuttakeC2016 • Stereo • Take 2. [John] performed it solo but was bolstered in his endeavours by Paul, up in the studio two control room, communicating with him by way of the talkback key. Take 2, featured here, is mostly instrumental, John attempting to capture the definitive acoustic guitar track. It broke down, but the next try, Take 3, would prove to be the master, and it was on to this that he overdubbed the vocal track.

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:57 • Studio versionD • Stereo • 2018 stereo mix

John Lennon :
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Ken Scott :
Recording engineer
Sam Okell :
Mixing engineer

Session Recording:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

3:56 • Demo • Esher Demo

Giles Martin :
Mixing engineer, Producer

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio :
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

4:31 • Outtake • Two rehearsals

Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

3:58 • Studio version


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

1:57 • Studio version • Take2 Stereo


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

0:18 • Studio version • Take 3 with dialogue Video Mix Stereo


White Album Sessions Volume 1

Unofficial album

0:33 • Studio version • Take 3 with dialogue DVD Mix Stereo


Complete Home Recordings 1967-68

Unofficial album • Released in 2002

2:52 • Demo • 1


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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