Esher demos for 2018?
Rumours of a 50th Anniversary super deluxe edition of The Beatles aka ‘The White Album’ means that the Esher Demos and other early takes/sessions aren’t out of the question. Here’s a little something about those demos.
The precise date is unknown, but towards the end of May 1968, The Beatles met at George Harrison’s bungalow in Surrey. Back from the Maharishi’s meditation camp in Rishikesh, India, John, Paul and George all sought to get their new songs onto tape. John and Paul had likely already taped some at home and brought these tracks over to George’s so-called Kinfauns bungalow in Esher, Surrey. A few photos taken by Michael Herring document the Beatles on May 28, with Paul allegedly considering leaving the band. George owned an Ampex 4-Track recorder, on which they subsequently demoed their new material. Ringo, Mal Evans and Derek Taylor were present at times and likely assisted with percussion.
|One of Michael Herring’s photos from 28 May, 1968 in Esher.|
The 27 songs believed to have been taped at Kinfauns were mostly grouped together by the composer of each song, although John Lennon’s songs were more scattered across the day. They were most likely taped in this order:
Cry Baby Cry – with a different intro and ending from the album version
Child Of Nature – unreleased, but the melody later became Jealous Guy with new lyrics
The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill – the other Beatles make animal noises
I’m So Tired – with a slightly different spoken passage
Yer Blues – John Lennon is ‘insecure’ rather than ‘suicidal’
Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey – far less frenetic than the studio version
What’s The New Mary Jane – included on Anthology 3
Revolution 1 – lacks the ‘you say you’ll change the constitution’ verse
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – with different lyrics in places
Circles – unreleased by The Beatles, later released by George Harrison
Sour Milk Sea – unreleased by The Beatles, later released by Jackie Lomax
Not Guilty – studio version included on Anthology 3
Piggies – rather than ‘eat their bacon’, the piggies ‘cut their pork chops’
Julia – in a higher key and with the verses in a different order
Blackbird – with a double-tracked vocal, no break, a slightly slower tempo
Rocky Raccoon – shorter, without the opening and final verses
Back In The USSR – lacks the final verse
Honey Pie – released on Anthology 3, with the final verse edited out
Mother Nature’s Son – without the guitar intro of the studio version
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – with a double-tracked vocal from Paul McCartney
Junk – included on Anthology 3
Dear Prudence – with a spoken ending and double-tracked vocals
Sexy Sadie – also with double-tracked vocals from John, Paul adds “Oh Sadie” several times near the end.
Happiness Is A Warm Gun – lacks the intro and the final section
Mean Mr Mustard – his sister is called Shirley, not Pam
Polythene Pam – slightly different chords; ‘well it’s a little absurd but she’s a nice class of bird’; the verses are repeated
Glass Onion – with double-tracked gobbledygook from Lennon
Most of the recordings were widely bootlegged, although the release of Anthology 3 resulted in previously-unheard demos of the four final songs (The Beatles Bible).
It is possible that not all of the demos were recorded at Kinfauns, and it has been speculated that some were recorded alone by the songs’ composers. Still, these recordings continue to be referred to as “the Esher demos”. John is likely to have come by George’s house several times to record overdubs, as George had a permanent setup for doing this, whereas John’s equipment was stored away in a cupboard. Also, John was nowhere near as technically minded as George.
|John and George at Kinfauns, May 28, 1968. Photo:Michael Herring.|
The demo songs were mono mixed by Harrison, with copies given to each Beatle. The general public first heard them in the late 1980s as part of the Lost Lennon Tapes radio series, and 23 of the songs had entered general circulation by the early 1990s through bootlegs. Most of these came from John Lennon’s own tape, as mixed in mono by George in 1968. Still, they were a generation further away from the source, as they were likely taken from John’s cassette transfers of the tape. It is also believed that after a burglary, Ringo’s tape copy was leaked in full, which accounts for the bootlegged songs not aired on the Lost Lennon Tapes radio series.
The seven recordings included on the Anthology 3 album (“Happiness is a Warm Gun”, “Mean Mr. Mustard”, “Polythene Pam”, “Glass Onion”, “Junk”, “Piggies” and “Honey Pie”) are of a significantly higher fidelity, as they came from George’s original stereo reels of the demo sessions, and were processed at Abbey Road Studios. After that release, parts of two more (“Sour Milk Sea” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) have been broadcast on the radio in this quality. This raises the possibility that there are higher-quality versions of all twenty-seven songs. As a number of the songs included on the Anthology series were included in edited form, it has been suggested that the release of all the Esher demos as a legitimate future Beatles release is likely (Wikipedia).
The 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ White album is in November, as the album was originally released on the 22. of November, 1968. From what we are hearing, plans about a fiftieth anniversary deluxe release have not been finalised. We have no idea whether a new mix is in the cards, whether outtakes like the 27 minutes long version of “Helter Skelter” (it was faded down and then up again on the original record) will appear, or whether working versions or demos will be made available. In fact, a fiftieth anniversary release hasn’t even been announced, but it’s still early days. London Beatles tour guide Richard Porter reports that Giles Martin has been working on the White Album at Abbey Road for several weeks.