|OxTango Music: Esher Sketching|
Considered by many to be an alternate "unplugged" version of the White Album, the Esher demos are unique not only for offering stripped-down, acoustic versions of songs that would later be rocked up and/or more elaborately arranged in their White Album incarnations, but also several rarities never formally recorded by the band. But even more than that, there’s a pervasive spirit of fun and relaxed joy in their collaborative music-making here that would be all too rare in their final working years as a unit. The collection is to feature the 27 available recordings newly re-mastered, and is due out in mid June.
The company has also started a new blog – "Vintage Re-masters" – where you can hear source and remaster audio comparison clips for all the tracks included.
The 27 songs believed to have been taped at Kinfauns were recorded on Harrison's Ampex four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, a fact that he mentioned in an early nineties interview with Musician magazine. They 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 later became Jealous Guy with a new set of 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
- Sour Milk Sea - unreleased by The Beatles
- Not Guilty - a studio version is included on Anthology 3, but the Esher demo is different.
- 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
- 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
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. Alternatively, previously-made recordings may have been brought to Harrison's house for overdubbing, but, again, this is far from clear.
Of the songs unreleased by The Beatles in 1968, perhaps the best known is Child Of Nature. This was inspired by a Maharishi Mahesh Yogi lecture, and was lyrically similar to Mother Nature's Son. Lennon later reused the melody for 1971's Jealous Guy.
What's The New Mary Jane was based around a nursery rhyme-style melody, and in the studio became one of Lennon's first avant garde compositions. It remained unreleased until Anthology 3, despite Lennon's various attempts to have it released by The Beatles or the Plastic Ono Band.
Two of Lennon's songs, Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, were held back until 1969's Abbey Road, when they became part of the 'long medley'.
Just one of Paul McCartney's songs - Junk - was unreleased by The Beatles, although they returned to it during the Get Back sessions in early 1969. It eventually found a home on McCartney's first solo album.
Harrison fared less well, with three of the five demos failing to be included on the White Album. A studio version of Not Guilty should have appeared on that record, although it was eventually included on Anthology 3. Circles, meanwhile, wasn't issued until Harrison's 1982 solo album Gone Troppo.
Sour Milk Sea was subsequently given to Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax. It was his debut single later in 1968, produced by Harrison with McCartney on bass and Ringo Starr on drums.
It isn't known whether any of The Beatles' wives or girlfriends were present, although a female voice may be discernible on Revolution 1. Mal Evans and Derek Taylor are also addressed by the group on the bootleg recordings, and may have contributed.
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 had entered general circulation by the early 1990s.
Source: The Beatles Bible
In a recent Daily Mail article, then 19-year-old Beatles fan Michael Herring tells a story about attending an Esher demo session on May 28, 1968 where Paul McCartney was the only Beatle not present.