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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

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.

Link: The Esher demos on YouTube


James19 said...

Do you have any links to the sources or material? I can only find a couple things on the Steve Hoffman Forums but nothing about Richard Porter

Unknown said...

I'd have to go back and look..but the faded down and back Helter Skelter was not part of the 27 minute version. IIRC.


wogew said...

James19: Facebook comment by Richard Porter. And recent info from anonymous source known to me.

James19 said...

Hey Roger! Do you have a link?

Charlie Ricci said...

I have a bootleg CD version of the Esher Sessions that are of fairly good quality. I like listening to them but the finished versions are better. They are worth hearing for educational purposes. I love the acoustic version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." It's the one entry that rivals the original.

S e as garotas que erraram said...

I didn't know Sour Milk Sea was broadcasted in a higher quality. Isn't the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" demo from the Esher sessions? They released a music video for that.

Hans Bruun said...

What's The New Mary Jane - the version included on Anthology 3 is a studio version, not the demo.

Daryl said...

This is the greatest thing that has ever happened. :)

Martin said...

I think George Martin once said that the supposedly 'legendary' 20+ minutes version of Helter Skelter was incredibly monotonous and boring. That it was basically like a much longer version of the plodding Anthology 3 version and a far cry from the blistering rock track off the White Album.

Unknown said...

Two separate recordings. The one with the video is take 1 with an orchestra overdub by George Martin. The Esher demos is nice but not as good as the basic take 1, IMHO.

James Peet said...

It's also worth noting that the studio demo of, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was edited, I think for the aborted "Sessions" album in 1985, so that it had the end coda repeated as it faded. The unedited version actually had George playing each string with the Aminor chord from 6th to 1st string and then doing a few strums, after which George can be heard saying, "Let's hear that back". It would be nice if the unedited version was released on this new project.

I love the demos from George's house. They don't seem weighed down like the final studio incarnations, though I love the White Album very much.

We'd better get saving!!!

CrackinThunder said...

Great news about Giles Martin working on the White Album!!! Hope it is a remix! A deluxe edition could include the DVD Hey Jude rehearsal footage made around that time in better quality that the bootleg that is out. That would really kick up the sales for sure. There are nice alternate takes on some of the white album tracks beyond the acoustic demos. Listen to the subtle differences of Back in the USSR on the Beatles Circus de Solei"Love" album.

Popper said...

No disrespect intended, but this is a non-story.

"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"

Ukuleleman said...

This is pretty exciting news! Those Acoustic Guitar demos from Esher would make a very pretty sounding Beatles Unplugged Album. I wonder if a demo of I Will from the Esher sessions Exists? Or possibly Look at Me, as John has said he wrote it in India?

Ukuleleman said...
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Unknown said...

I really would enjoy a complete remastering and remixing. Whitology just didn't do it for me.

Matthew said...

The latest edition of the UK's music-mag, 'Mojo' doesn't confirm that there is a 'White Album' reissue on the way, but in a short piece, it does leave me (at least) with the impression that it's 'all systems go'... It states that the album's "expected to be formulated similarly to last year's Sgt. Pepper's reissue, suggesting fascinating outtakes could be included. Regular Fabs remixer Giles Martin told the BBC the album was when the group,'started becoming indulgent... there are 70 takes of Sexy Sadie, for instance." The Mojo piece also states that there'll be an expanded edition of the 'Imagine' album out this year too.

Gerry said...

For what it's worth there are these posts on Richard Porter's website ( )

JANUARY 11, 2018

White Album Reissue Update – Esher Demos to be Included?

As reported on this blog a while ago, Giles Martin is working on a special 50th Anniversary Box set of the ‘White Album’.

I’ve been told by numerous sources that at least of some the ‘Esher Demos’ will be included. These were done by the Beatles at George’s place, Kinfauns, in late May 1968, before recordings of the album were started at Abbey Road Studios. The demos have been widely bootlegged over the years, but only a very few ended up on ‘Beatles Anthology 3’. It now seems that many more will emerge on the box set, which will be released in November.

Stay tuned to the blog for further exciting news on this project :>)

NOVEMBER 21, 2017

‘White Album’ Reissue Next Year?

I’ve been told by a very good source that Giles Martin IS working on a re-issue of the ‘White Album’ for its 50th anniversary next year. It was originally released on November 21st 1968.

As with the Sgt Pepper re-issue, it’s likely the album will be remixed, and include loads of out-takes. Hopefully these will include the demos made at George’s place, Kinfauns, before the album was recorded.

Giles Martin has been at Abbey Road Studios in the last few days, almost certainly working on this project.

More news when we get it!


Ringo Starr Hints at White Album Reissue

After the success of the reissue of Sgt Pepper, Ringo has said he would like to see the same treatment given to the ‘White Album’. He said “I think Giles should redo that. I don’t know why not. And ‘Abbey Road.’

For the full interview see:

Ariel C said...

Interesting theory about Ringo's tape being the main source on the bootlegs. I always thought it was John's offline tape as broadcasted on the LLT, which begs the question, would it be slightly different mixes per each source? The While My Guitar Gently Weeps - beginning part only- was played during the George Harrison "bio", oddly enough the missing bit from the bootleg source. The Sour Milk Sea demo though was partially broadcast on BBC Radio a few years ago. I think THAT demo was a Harrison/Lomax recording. Anyways, I hope this project goes well. We certainly would like upgrades of the full 4-track reels... and yes, the 27 minute Helter Skelter version is similar to the Anthology take.

db said...
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david said...

Would be nice to see a "deluxe " edition. Hopefully the complete studio version of Not Guilty ( not the bastardized, edited version that was on Anthology )will be included . The electric "outfake " of Sour Milk Sea is actually pretty well done. Wouldn't mind seeing that on there as well. Lots of possibilities. A stand alone version of The Esher Tapes would be preferable.

Martin said...

The 'unfaded' version of the White Album's 'Helter Skelter' was used for the 'Rock Band' game in 2009. It's the same length, only without the fade out/in. I hope John's demo of 'Good Night' surfaces

db said...

Outtakes and demos, yes, but no remix necessary

CrackinThunder said...

Remix is many cases it is a layered album with lots of mix downs that have reduced the fidelity and made some tracks not have much dynamic range or individual vocal or instrumental definition. Certainly a song like Blackbird is not necessarily going to strongly benefit...with fly-in additions of chirping on the final mix (can they source that original bird calls to fly it in again?). If you listen to the first CD issue of the Rubber Soul (remixed) and Revolver (remastered) album, the Yellow Submarine Songtrack (all remixed), the difference between remix and remaster is clearly evident even to my aged and hearing challenged ears.

piper909 said...

I'd love to hear a remixed and expanded White LP reissue a la Sgt. Pepper as much as any fan. And I hope late 2018 brings us exactly that, Esher demos and all. However, please let us not forget or overlook the need to take a few steps back as well -- what about a similar deluxe reissue project for Revolver, a truly ground-breaking album at release and one that any other group would rightfully regard as its masterpiece? Had the Beatles disbanded in late 1966, Revolver would still stand as a testament to their genius. many fans and critics still rate revolver as among the best, or THE best, Beatles LP. I would like to see 1966 given its due as well as 1967, 1968, or 1969.