20 May1968: Beatles’s lost tape became the White Album


The group’s jovial May 1968 home recordings mark the last time they sounded like true friends

The Beatles armed with a bunch of new songs after their visit to India, met at George Harrison’s home in Esher, Surrey. They taped 23 new songs on George’s 4-track recorder, many of which would end up on The Beatles’ next two albums, (The White Album) and Abbey Road. The demos include: ‘Cry Baby Cry’, Revolution’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Child of Nature’ (a Lennon song that became ‘Jealous Guy’).

Beatles’ unheard treasures – the May 1968 Esher demos they recorded at George Harrison’s pad, preparing for the White Album, not suspecting their friendship was about to turn upside down.

This is an extract from the article by Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone.com)

  “We sat in the mountains eating lousy vegetarian food and writing all these songs. We wrote tons of songs in India. (Lennon)

The end of May, 1968: the Beatles meet up at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher. Just back from India, gearing up to go hit Abbey Road and start their next album, the lads bang out some rough acoustic tunes into George’s newfangled Ampex reel-to-reel tape deck.

The result is one of their weirdest and loveliest unreleased recordings: the Esher demos. There’s nothing else in their music quite like this. Most of the 27 songs ended up on the White Album, yet there’s none of that record’s tension and dread. At Esher, they’re having fun; they don’t realize all the tortures they’ll inflict on each other making the White Album.  white

Fifty years later, the Esher demos remain one of the Beatles’ strangest artifacts. When the boys gathered at George’s pad in the last days of May – nobody’s sure of the exact date – they had excellent reason to feel cocky about their new material. They wrote these songs on retreat with the Maharishi in Rishikesh, India, a place where they had no electric instruments. They also had no drug connections, which might help explain why they came up with their sturdiest tunes in years.

When the Beatles regrouped in England, they decided to get together and tape home demos on their own turf before stepping into Abbey Road – an innovation they’d never tried before and would never revisit. So they met at George’s hippie bungalow in the Surrey countryside, decorated in the grooviest Indian style. John showed up with 15 tunes, more than Paul (7) or George (5)

A couple of half-finished sketches got saved for Abbey Road (“Polythene Pam,” “Mean Mr. Mustard”), others for their solo records (Paul’s “Junk,” George’s “Not Guilty” and “Circles,” John’s “Child of Nature,” which he later rewrote as “Jealous Guy”). They whoop through each another’s songs – even “Honey Pie” rocks.

The lads keep trying to crack each other up, like when John does his mock doo-wop monologue in “I’m So Tired”: “When I hold you in your arms, when you show each one of your charms, I wonder should I get up and go to the funny farm? No, no, no!”

The Beatles spent five agonizing months making the White Album, often splitting up to work in separate studios. The fighting got so ugly Ringo quit for a week. In many ways, the Esher demos are the last recorded moment of the Beatles as a band. For the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, they tried to re-create this basement-tapes spirit, but instead documented their sad demise. Seven of the Esher songs appeared on Anthology 3 – “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Glass Onion,” “Junk,” “Honey Pie,” “Piggies,” “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam.” The rest remain unreleased.


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