The Beatles are my favorite musical act of all time, easily. But I haven't posted any Beatles albums here until now because they're so very popular, lots of other bloggers have posted just about every sort of album one could think of, many times over. But a few days ago, the 50th Anniversary Edition of "The White Album" was released, and that gave me an idea on how to celebrate that while posting that hopefully a lot of Beatles fans would find useful.
First off, I need to say that the White Album's 50th Anniversary Edition is great, and everyone who really likes the Beatles should get it. I'm especially happy that it includes all of the Esher Demos. It's a shame those weren't a stand-alone release decades ago - I think that would have sold millions. But better late that never. Plus, there are no less than three more albums of outtakes.
However, the release could have been even better, because there were lots of great tracks that weren't included. In particular, for some reason, 1968 was a year the Beatles recorded a lot of acoustic demos, many more by far than any year before or after. So my goal here was to make an album of all the acoustic demos not included on the 50th Anniversary Edition. I couldn't use anything from that release, or any other official releases.
One challenge was to find acoustic demos of the songs that made it on the White Album that weren't included as part of the Esher Demos. These are the ones I found:
Why Don't We Do It in the Road
And here's all the ones I didn't find:
Wild Honey Pie
Don't Pass Me By
Long, Long, Long
Hey Jude (not a White Album track, but it was recorded at the same time)
So I didn't have much success there. For some of those songs, there can't be any demos because the songs were made up on the spot in the studio. That's the case with "Wild Honey Pie," "Birthday," and "Revolution 9," at least. With "I Will," there are a couple of alternate takes included on the 50th Anniversary Edition that serve as acoustic demos, since it's an acoustic song. For the others, if you are aware of demos/acoustic versions that I missed, please let me know, and I'll update this album.
Since I only found two songs that made it on the "White Album," the vast majority of songs here are other songs written in 1968 that got on later releases, including solo releases, or never got officially released at all. The Beatles are said to have written between 30 and 48 songs during their stay in India between February and April 1968. Then add to that all the other songs written the rest of that year, and you have a lot more songs than could even fit on the double LP "White Album."
Some of the songs I've included here were recorded by one or more of the Beatles as part of the "White Album" recording sessions. But more of them were recorded essentially as solo works, including some from the tail end of 1968, after the "White Album" record sessions ended in mid-October 1968. But I label all of them Beatles songs because I consider virtually everything the four of them did in 1968 to be Beatles material since their solo careers hadn't started yet, and any of these could have wound up as Beatles songs. However, in the mp3 tags I make clear which demos were done by whom.
A few of these songs deserve some explanation. The 50th Anniversary Edition included Take 18 of "Revolution 1." It's a very interesting 10 minute long take, because it starts out sounding like the song "Revolution," but by the end it morphs into "Revolution 9." This actually was recorded first, then John Lennon used the second half of it as his starting point for "Revolution 9." That's why there are parts that are exactly the same as on the final version of "Revolution 9," such as Yoko Ono saying "Then you become naked."
However, it's a shame the 50th Anniversary Edition didn't include Take 20 instead, because I like that even better than Take 18. They're the same basic track, except that more sound effects were added. The main difference is a loud, alarm-like whooshing sound effect that gets repeated a lot and makes the whole thing sound very different than Take 18. So I've included Take 20 here, as it is mostly acoustic, even though it's not really a demo.
"Spiritual Regeneration" is an original song done performed by all the Beatles while they were in India. It's done in homage to the Beach Boys style, because it was a birthday present to Beach Boy Mike Love, who was with them in India. I had to edit this song to make it shorter though, because the only version of it I could find includes a spoken section by famous D.J. Wolfman Jack, since the song was played on his radio show once. He talked right over a guitar solo in the middle of the song, explaining the details of where and when it was recorded, so I just cut that solo out. If anyone has the complete version without Wolfman Jack's talking, please let me know.
Around the Thanksgiving of 1968, George Harrison visited Bob Dylan where he lived in Woodstock, New York. The two of them wound up co-writing two songs, "Nowhere to Go," and "I'd Have You Anytime." I wasn't going to include these, because the only recordings I'd ever heard of them had extremely poor quality. (Better sounding demos of both songs were recorded by Harrison later, which I've included in some Harrison albums I've posted here.)
However, while putting this together a few days ago, I found versions that sounded significantly better, so I've included them after all. But there still were parts that sounded horrible, due to lots of crackling noise. In the case of "Nowhere to Go," the recording already missed all of the first verse, then there was about ten seconds of that crackling before the chorus came in. So I just cut out the crackling part and faded the song in from that point. Trust me, you're not missing anything. Luckily, with "I'd Have You Anytime," the crackling takes place during some fiddling about before and after the song is performed, so nothing was missed there when I cut those bits out. What's left for both songs has almost no crackling whatsoever.
I'm not a big fan of Dylan's backing vocals on the two songs, but hey, it is Dylan and a Beatle recording together, so it's of historic interest, if nothing else.
There are still other songs written by the Beatles in 1968 that I could have included, except I couldn't find any demo recordings of them from 1968. "Dehra Dun" by George Harrison and "Teddy Boy" by Paul McCartney are examples, where I only know of versions from 1969. Again, if you know of any recordings that I missed, please let me know.
All together, there's 46 minutes of music here. Not all of it great. Some of the songs are just goofs, or needed more work, for instance. But I think it's all interesting, and it's all stuff that could have been included on the 50th Anniversary Edition if they were more inclusive.
By the way, I've added one bonus track. It doesn't fit the acoustic demo theme, and it's an "outfake" or mash-up, but I think it's worthy of hearing. George Harrison wrote the song "Sour Milk Sea" in India, and it's included as one of the Esher Demos. During the "White Album" sessions, he produced a version of the song for a single by little-known singer Jackie Lomax. That was practically a Beatle recording, because it had Harrison on lead guitar (including playing the guitar solo), Paul McCartney on bass, and Ringo Starr on drums. In addition, Eric Clapton added lead guitar fills, and Nicky Hopkins played piano.
It's a very good song, and a good performance. Record Collector magazine has called it "the greatest record the Beatles never made." It's actually much more of a Beatles song than lots of songs on the "White Album" since only 16 of the 30 songs on it have all four Beatles on them, and many of those other 14 were essentially solo tracks. The problem was that Jackie Lomax did the singing. However, somebody, I don't know who, removed Lomax's vocals and replaced them with Harrison's vocals from his Esher Demo of the song. So it is a mash-up, but it's like discovering another great Beatles song you never knew existed.
01 Spiritual Regeneration [Edit] (Beatles)
02 The Maharishi Song (Beatles with Yoko Ono)
03 Revolution 1 [Take 20] (Beatles)
04 Helter Skelter (Beatles)
05 Gone Tomorrow, Here Today (Beatles)
06 Brian Epstein Blues (Beatles)
07 Look at Me (Beatles)
08 The Way You Look Tonight [Improvised Variant of I Will] (Beatles)
09 Why Don't We Do It in the Road (Beatles)
10 Oh My Love (Beatles)
11 Nowhere to Go (Beatles with Bob Dylan)
12 I'd Have You Anytime (Beatles with Bob Dylan)
13 Heather (Beatles with Donovan)
14 How Do You Do (Beatles with Donovan)
15 Everybody Had a Hard Year [Early Version of I Got a Feeling] (Beatles)
16 Don't Let Me Down (Beatles)
17 A Case of the Blues (Beatles)
18 Goodbye (Beatles)
Sour Milk Sea [Merged Version] (Beatles)
I made the cover art using a photo of John and Paul playing guitar in Rishikesh, India, with Ringo looking on. There are some diagonal whitish areas due to the photo being shot through a chain link fence.