Only Some Northern Songs in
The Beatles

Disc 1 | Disc 2

The Beatles had in 1968 achieved what any musician of any time would have always dreamt of. Only 5 years after the release of Please Please Me, they were considered the greatest Rock-Pop phenomenon of all time and had all they could wish for. Maybe the need for new experiences, or the need to find themselves again, lead them all to follow a course in trascendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Wales. The course lasted a week, during which Brian Epstein was found dead in his flat, having taken too many sleeping pills. All these factors got together and in early 1968, the Beatles set trip to India, to initiate themselves into trascendental meditation with the Maharishi.

Although they didn't stay in India for too long (having realized that the Maharishi wasn't the kind of person he claimed to be), the truth is that isolation and the absence of worries and daily stress made John and Paul write a good number f songs. In fact between all four Beatles 32 songs were brought from India, most of them basically acoustic due to the lack of any other instruments in India. The acoustic nature of many of these songs was reflected in the Esher sessions and can be heard in many of the tracks of the Anthology 3.

With all these songs, the Beatles decided to issue a double LP which would provide both quality and quantity. There were several reasons for this decision. The individual talents of all four Beatles were already finding the group's structure too restrictive for their own ideas. None of them were willing to discard any of their songs in favor of someone else's. The White Album became the joint effort of four individuals, each one of them claiming the necessary playing time for their songs. The song quota stablished in their new contract with EMI was an additional reason. The Beatles wanted to fulfill it as soon as possible. The songs became often solo recordings, and the sessions were spread across Abbey Road studios, happening simultaneously at 2 or 3 studios at the same time.

With the White Album, the Beatles tried to surprise again the general public. Sgt. Pepper's cover had been copied repeatedly since it was issued, but they decided this time that a completely white cover would be the best for their new album. The title was also to be as simple as it gets (usually the title for a debut album) and the cover simply read "The Beatles" embossed in the white cover. A serial number was the other only visible print in the record. However inside, a poster, four colour photographs and the lyrics to the songs could be found. The album, that originally was to be titled "A Doll's House" and was the first one to be published by Apple, became an incredible success and sold over 2 million copies during the first week in the U.S.A. George Martin would have preferred to have less songs and a single terrific LP. Some of us thank now the Beatles for not letting him have it his own way. The Beatles may not be the best Beatles album (for many it is), but it certainly is the most captivating one of the lot. Mysterious and happy, acoustic and rocking, simple but dense. The eternal White Album.

  • The Beatles (White Album)
  • Recording Dates May 30th 1968 - October 13th 1968
  • Release Date: November 25, 1968

Back in the U.S.S.R.

John:Bass, Drums and Backing Vocal
Paul:Piano, Lead Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drums, Hand clapping and Lead Vocal
George:Bass, Lead Guitar, Drums, Hand clapping and Backing Vocal

The best evidence of the tension between members of the group was Ringo quitting the Beatles for about 2 weeks. Ringo was always caught in the middle, with John and Paul in close competition and George trying not to lag behind. On August 22nd, Ringo left and that same day in his absence the Beatles began recording one of their finest rock songs. Basic track drums were played by Paul although they were later completed by John and George while Paul played other instruments.

The song was written by Paul and the idea came to him while in Rishikesh, India with Mike Love (Beach Boys). Paul thought it would be fun to have a version of "Back in the USA" with the U.S.S.R. Mike Love commented ow th Beach Boys had used that Chuck Berry song, and "Sweet Little 16" to write "California Girls" and "Surfin' USA" (in fact the music in this last song is credited to Berry, as it's identical to "Sweet Little 16"). Paul had then the great Idea... a Beach Boys- Berry sounding song. The result were incredible backing vocals by George and John, in the most pure Beach Boys style (notice not only the high pitched ones but the da-das following the bass line). Hand claps and a first class lead guitar line in the final verse, along with Paul's thrilling vocal, provide an all-time favorite.

Dear Prudence

John:Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Tambourine and Lead Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar, Hand clapping, Vocals and Drums
George:Lead Guitar Hand clapping, Vocals and Tambourine
Mal Evans, John (Paul's cousin) and Jackie Lomax: Hand clapping

Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia Farrow, was in India with all four Beatles following the same course. However, Prudence seemingly took it more seriously than anyone else and tried to meditate more and better "trying to reach God quicker" as John later explained. The song was written in India in an attempt from the Beatles to make her go out.

Glass Onion

Glass Onion
John:Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal
Paul:Bass Guitar, Piano and Recorder
George:Lead Guitar
Ringo:Drums and Tambourine
Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lenderman and Ronald Thomas: Violins
Eldon Fox and Reginald Kilbey: Cellos
John Underwood and Keith Cummings: Violas

John began to try to fool people with the meaning of the lyrics in his songs. Beatles songs, always were looked closely to find hidden messages, allegories and puns. They were often object of study, and Lennon was quite tired of this situation. In Glass Onion he tried to refer to as many previous Beatles songs as he could to make it even more difficult than before to understand the connection between them. The reference to Paul being the walrus surely did achieve its purpose by increasing the hoax of McCartney's death

Originally, the song ended up with several sound effects as can be heard in the Anthology 3, but George Martin on vacation at the time of the sound effects mixing, scored a string score to end the song.

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da

John: Piano, Maracas and Vocals
Paul: Bass Guitar Lead Vocal
George:Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Ringo Starr:Drums
Session Musicians: 3 saxophones

Probably the most fun song in The Beatles, Ob-la-di was a hard song to record for the Beatles. Written by Paul and originated in a phrase from Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott meaning "life goes on", the song was an attempt by Paul McCartney to make a reggae song. In fact it has been sometimes regarded as the first white effort to do reggae. The recording of the song however, wasn't smooth and several remakes were tried. Specially interesting is the one of the remakes, appearing as a full version in the Anthology 3

One of the most curious points of the song is listening to George and John joking around in the background. And so, after Paul sings "Desmond lets the children lend a hand" John says "arm" and George says "leg". After the second time, it's George saying "foot". Maybe the song didn't fully achieve the reggae feeling McCartney intended. However, it's bright enough with the backing "la-la-las" to lighten anybody's day.

Wild Honey Pie

Paul:Guitars, Drums and Vocals

Out of a singalong in Rishikesh, Paul recorded Wild Honey Pie in just one take overdubbing a bass drum vocals and several acoustic guitars. Quite an strange song, Paul recalled it as "fragment of an instrumental we weren't sure about. But Pattie Harrison liked it very much,so we decided to leave it on the album"

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

John: Acoustic Guitar, Organ and Lead Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar and Vocals
George: Acoustic Guitar and Vocals
Ringo: Drums, Tambourine and Vocals
Yoko Ono and Maureen Starkey and others: Vocals
Chris Thomas: Mellotron

Bungalow Bill was really Richard A. Cooke III, a young college graduate from USA who was visiting his mother in Rishikesh. Nancy Cooke was in India following the same course as the Beatles, and one day they both went tiger hunting. Richard did indeed shoot a tiger, and he happened to tell the Maharishi in front of John and Paul. Of course, John didn't like the story a bit (he had indeed shot the animal hidden in a tree in a wooden platform) and the song came along. The name of Bungalow Bill was the result of putting together "Buffalo Bill" and the bungalows in which they lived in India. The recording of the song was quite fun, as almost everyone around there joined in for the chorus, as it can be heard in the song.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

John: Lead Guitar and Backing Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar, Organ, Piano and Backing Vocal
George: Acoustic Guitar, Organ and Lead Vocal
Ringo: Drums and Percussion
Eric Clapton: Lead Guitar

George go the idea to write While My Guitar Gently Weeps out of a book. In fact, he was reading the "I Ching" (Chinese book of changes) and decided to write a song with the first line he got out of a book. The line was "gently weeps". The song demonstrates that George had already grown a lot as composer, and this was a clear demonstration of it. From the first song demo, which can be found in Anthology 3, an outstanding acoustic version of the song, the number proved to be almost magical. However, it was quite hard for Harrison to achieve the same magic with more instruments. For the first time, The Beatles brought in an 8 track machine to record a song in Abbey Road, and several tries were made to record the song.

But a crying guitar was not that easy to play. Well, any other musician would have had an immediate solution (a tone pedal, wah-wah, or a Cry-Baby -commercial brand). George however wished the guitar to cry, but not as 60's guitars were crying all over, specially in Hendrix's hands. First he tried to record a backwards solo, but the thing didn't quite work out. The day after, as Eric Clapton gave him a lift from Surrey into London, he suggested Eric might want to play a bit for The Beatles. Clapton didn't want to "because no one plays with The Beatles". However, George finally convinced him, and a Gibson Les Paul can be heard crying all over the song.

Eric Clapton didn't make much fuzz about this session. He went in, delivered a solo out of this world and left. The solo did in any case, and in Clapton's opinion, sound "too Clapton". Chris Thomas was given the job to give the guitar a flanging effect by playing around with an oscillator. A hard job, worth a masterpiece.

Happiness is a Warm Gun

John: Lead Guitar, Tambourine and Lead Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar and Backing Vocal
George: Lead Guitar and Backing Vocal
Ringo Starr: Drums

John saw a in the cover of a magazine belonging to George Martin the phrase "Happiness is a Warm Gun In Your Hand". Obviously, a song followed. However, it was not a single song but three, what John put into the song. The three parts are described in the Anthology 3 review. A curious fact, is that to complete some of the lines of the song, Lennon gathered Derek Taylor, Neill Aspinall and Pete Shoton during a night of acid tripping. From this peculiar brain storming he got some of the weirdest lines appearing in the song.

Martha My Dear

Paul: Bass, Lead Guitar, Piano, Hand clapping and Lead Vocal
14 Session Musicians: Strings and Brass sections

Although not even Lewisohn can confirm it, apparently Martha My Dear may have been recorded entirely by Paul, with the exception of the (once again) perfect score by George Martin. Although many claim that Martha in the song was Paul's sheep dog, the truth is that maybe he got the name from her, but that was all relation of Martha with the song.

I'm So Tired

John: Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Organ and Lead Vocal
Paul: Bass Guitar and Backing Vocal
George: Lead Guitar and Rhythm Guitar
Ringo: Drums

John began to feel so tired while in India. Meditating didn't take that much of an effort, but it sure led to sleepless nights that left as a result tiring days. The Academy of Meditation was also alcohol and drug free. John missed both drinks and cigarettes. He also missed Yoko (although Cynthia was with him in Rishikesh, he's mind was set on Yoko).

The song was recorded from beginning to end the same night as Bungalow Bill, both being very fast in their recording. The line muttered at the end of the song by John is "Monsieiur, monsieur, how about another one?, and it leads straight into


Paul: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal

Legend tells that Paul got this song in India out of a real blackbird after being awaken by the bird. He just transcribed what the Blackbird sang into music. The truth is that no matter what the origin was, Blackbird is in my humble opinion the best acoustic song ever written. The song was simply recorded with an acoustic guitar masterfully played by Paul, a metronome ticking the beat and Paul singing with blackbirds singing as well, not in the dead of night but in Stuart Eltham's back garden (where he had recorded them for EMI 3 years earlier).


Paul: Bass Guitar
George: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal
Ringo: Tambourine
Chris Thomas: Harpsichord
Session Musicians (same as in Glass Onion): Strings

Piggies was another song by George with social meaning. Quite in the line of Taxman, George used the song to express some of his ideas, and piggies were those from the middle classes. All four Beatles were in the session, although John only participated by putting together some pig sounds in the control room. Specially remarkable is the baroque feeling of the song with the harpsichord skilfully played by the producer of the session, Chris Thomas and the string section. It is also interesting to note that Paul's plucking of the bass strings was meant to somehow bring a remembrance of a pig grunting.

Rocky Raccoon

John: Bass Guitar, Harmonica, Harmonium and Vocals Paul: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal
George: Vocals
Ringo: Drums
George Martin: Piano

Rocky Raccoon is another example of a wonderful acoustical song written by the Beatles during the India period. In fact Paul recalled that when he wrote the song he was "sitting at the roof at the Maharishi's". He first got the chords, to later co-write the lyrics with John and Donovan of what was then "Rocky Sasoon". They later decided that Raccoon was a better last name for a Cowboy living in Dakota. It is said that the doctor stinking or sminking of gin, was a real life character. When Paul chipped his tooth and cut his lip, the doctor that assisted him "smank" of gin, and that was why Paul's lip had a nasty aspect for a while (much to the distress of the believers of the Paul Is Dead hoax, which saw in that yet another evidence of his substitution by a look alike)

Don't Pass Me By

Working Titles: Ringo's Tune (Untitled), This Is Some Friendly
John: Acoustic Guitar
Paul: Piano, Bass Guitar
Ringo: Sleigh-Bell, Drums and Lead Vocal
Jack Fallon: Violin

Although reports exist that Ringo had begun the composition of his first song (at least the first to be recorded and released by The Beatles) as early as 1963 (when it was said he was half way through) and the song was already called "Don't Pass Me By", for the White Album sessions, maybe looking for another title, the song had two working titles. The song has a marked country feeling, much like Ringo's tastes. The final touches to the excellent tune were a sleigh-bell and a fiddle played by a session musician (and not by George Harrison as it has sometimes been written).

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?

Paul: Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Lead Guitar, Hand claps, Bass Guitar and Lead Vocal
Ringo: Drums

Another song which Paul recorded all on his own, well almost. The truth is that Ringo provided the drumming for Why Don't We Do It In The Road. The song is one of the stronger numbers in the double LP. However as it's been verified after the release of Anthology 3, Paul started the recording as an acoustic number with a fixed idea: One verse sung loud and the following sung quiet. It's been said that John was angry with Paul in this song because he recorded with Ringo's only help, and mainly because it was a typical Lennon number (the truth is that Paul's voice has never sounded so Lennonish)

I Will

John: Percussion
Paul: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal
Ringo: Cymbals and Maracas

Another sample of Paul's incredible talent to produce mythical tunes with just an acoustic guitar. In fact, I Will, one of my favorite Beatles' songs is pretty simple in its production. Just two acoustic guitars played by Paul, Maracas and Cymbals by Ringo, and John hitting a piece of wood are all the instruments I Will needed. But if there's something very characteristic of this song is the bass guitar played by Paul. It's magnificent, outstanding, the bass line is the perfect counterpoint to the melody. .. the only problem is that it isn't a bass guitar but Paul dum-dumming the part. I Will was the first song Paul dedicated to Linda.


John: Acoustic Guitar and Lead Vocal

If Paul had showed us until this moment how exquisite he could be with an acoustic guitar, John was to prove at the end of disc one that along with his rockers he was able to write the most intimate, simple and beautiful song dedicated to his mother. Julia Stanley, John's mother, was born in 1914 and after she married Freddy Lennon, John was born. At the age of 5 John went to live with his aunt Mimi, and although they were quite distant for years, just as John was becoming an adult, they began to get closer again. John used to do rehearsals with the Quarry Men in her house, and she teached him how to play banjo and piano. In 1958 Julia died in a road accident.

The song doesn't exclusively refer to John's mother. In fact "Ocean Child", refers to Child of The Ocean, in Japanese "Yoko Ono". It was Yoko who helped John to finish the lyrics. The guitar technique of finger picking that John uses in Julia was shown to him by folk singer Donovan while in Rishikesh

Now You're ready for Disc 2

©Copyright 1997-2000 Enrique Cabrera
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