The Paul McCartney Project

Julia

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

Other Beatles songs with no contribution from McCartney

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Julia” is a song by the Beatles, but composed and performed as a solo work by John Lennon, regarding his mother Julia Lennon, who died in 1958.

The track is the final song on side two (disc one on CD) of the band’s 1968 album, The Beatles (often called the White Album) and was the last song recorded for the album. It was also released as the “B side” of the Beatles single Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in 1976.

Composition

Julia” was written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney) 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. 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.

Julia” was written for John’s mother, Julia Lennon (1914–1958), who was knocked down and 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 headwaiter, 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 alteration from 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“.

Musical structure

The song is in the key of D and begins with a I-vi7-v7-v9-VI7 progression from D chord note A on “Jul…” to Bm7 chord on “…ia” to Am7 chord on “Jul…” to Am9 chord on “…ia” to B7 chord on “ocean child.” A feature is that the 9th degree in the minor 9th chord Bm9 (1-♭3-5-♭7–9) is heard in the melody as well as the guitar chord (at 0.20secs on “Julia, Ju-li-a).

Release

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“.

A portion of the song also appeared on the Love album mixed with “Eleanor Rigby“.

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 13, 2017

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)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:57 • Studio versionB • Mono

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

Official album • Released in 1968

2:57 • Studio versionA • Stereo

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

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


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:57 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
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 (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

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


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

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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