Here's my notes from the book that came with the The Beatles (White Album) 50th Anniversary Reissue Deluxe Edition. This is not a review (the whole package is very good) but I thought you might like to see what I learned from it. All of this will end up in the posts on the songs themselves eventually, no apologies for presenting it in a raw form here. I might post notes on the Esher Demos and outtake discs too if I have the time.
Thanks so much to my buddy Neil Barrett for the loan of his copy. (Neil has an Elton John focused podcast that's recommended if you dig Elton). On that score if anyone has a copy of Recording The Beatles that they'd be willing to loan me let me know!
Facsimile of Paul's “Spring Songs: Rishikesh 1968”
Gives lots of clues to the development of songs. Must be his 'best copy' version. It's a nice old manuscript. Very clean.
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da is titled Obla Dee Obla Da
Back In The USSR has alternate line (as heard on Esher) 1st verse.
Man it was an awful flight > Man I had a dreadful flight
And the last verse doesn't exist yet.
Rocky Racoon is missing the intro verse (clearly improvised in studio as the Anthology alternate take shows).
Honey Pie has no intro verse – but there's blank page left at beginning so there was always supposed to be one.
The notebook also contains Junk and an untitled version of Maxwell's Silver Hammer in scruffier handwriting and different ink (possibly written later?).
Context of the White Album
Has a running time of 93 minutes. Too long to fit on a C90 cassette. This marked it out as special to 10 year old me.
1968 was a time of going back to basics. The stripped down approach most notably embodied in Dylan/The Band.
Q: What was the timeline/chronology of John Wesley Harding, Music From Big Pink, The White Album?
Q: How stripped down was WA compared to SPLHCB? Compare the number of tracks featuring guest musicians - Indian musicians, classical musicians, horn sections etc, George Martin and friends – between WA and Pepper. [I'm working on a post about this]
Side 3 was “The Heavy Side” - Helter Skelter, Monkey, Yer Blues, Birthday. (but it also has Mother Nature's, Sadie and Longx3).
The subject of Julia is a composite of Mother/Lover, Julia/Yoko. Evidence? The name Yoko translates as 'child of the ocean'.
Can You Take Me Back is referred to as 'an improvised piece'.
There is some evidence that the sessions were not as grim as received wisdom would have it. I'm still not convinced that Geoff Emerick and Ringo quit because everyone was having so much fun but there is some supporting evidence
Recording Happiness Is A Warm Gun:
John: “Is anybody finding it easier? It seems a little easier … it's just no fun, but it's easier”
George: “Easier and fun”
John: “Oh all right. If you insist”
But then Paul says “I think it was a very good album. It stood up, but it wasn’t a pleasant one to make”. [Anthology]
Another example of Lennon and McCartney 'mirroring' each other. Inspired by the Maharishi's lectures John writes Child Of Nature; Paul writes Mother Nature's Son.