Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Beatles - Making of Across the Long and Winding Road - CD 1 (1968-70)


To mark the anniversary of John Lennon's passing, here's a bootleg that documents the writing and recording of one of his most beloved songs, "Across the Universe." It starts with Lennon's home recordings, moves to Abbey Road studios, treks through Twickenham Studios, and ends up in the hands of Phil Spector.

I'm pretty sure I got this bootleg from the now-defunct Here, There and Everywhere blog, which was dedicated to unreleased Beatles recordings. There is a second disc to this set which documents the recording of "The Long and Winding Road," but since I never could locate it, it won't be presented here.

But as for "Across the Universe," if any of you are serious Beatle fans, maybe you can help me with a question about recording dates of the track..

According to my original 1988 copy of Mark Lewisohn's "The Beatles Recording Sessions," the Fabs began recording "Across the Universe" on Feb. 4, 1968. On the day before, Feb. 3, they were working on "Lady Madonna."

But several other sources say that Feb. 3 was also dedicated to recording "Across the Universe," such as the liner notes to Anthology 2. Does anyone know if Lewisohn revised his original recording dates from that book or if he made a mistake when he wrote those liner notes in the '90s? My own feeling is the liner notes were probably wrong because I think it's unlikely the group would have started recording this song after a whole day recording "Lady Madonna" (the session ran 2:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. with a dinner break). But you never know.

Anyway, this bootleg has a the Feb. 3 date, so I left it. If it's incorrect, well, Lewisohn can be forgiven one tiny mistake considering the wealth of knowledge he's brought to the table about the Fabs.

Update: Helpful commenter Peerke cites John C. Winn's book "Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957–1965" as confirming the Feb. 3 recording date for this song, and this sounds accurate to me. For more details, see the comments section where Peerke quotes the text in detail. Or click here. Thanks, Peerke!

Track list:
1. Home Recording 1 - 1967
2. Home Recording 2 - 1967
3. Take 2 - Monitor Mix - 3 Feb. 1968
4. Take 7 - Acetate Mix - 4 Feb. 1968
5. Get Back Session - 7 Jan. 1969
6. Get Back Session - 7 Jan. 1969
7. Get Back Session - 9 Jan. 1969
8. Get Back Session - 9 Jan. 1969
9. Take 2 - Anthology - 3 Feb. 1968
10. Take 8 - Acetate Bird Version - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968
11. Bird Version - Past Masters - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968
12. Album Version - Phil Spector Mix - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968

13 comments:

  1. http://www63.zippyshare.com/v/MhKNcon1/file.html

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  2. Ian Macdonald in his book "Revolution in the Head" 3rd edition (2005) (a very excellent book detailing each Beatles song recorded) says Across The Universe was recorded February 4 and February 8 with no mention of other dates. Macdonald clearly does not think much of the song calling it Lennon's most shapeless song, claims no one other than Lennon took it seriously, and that Paul MaCartney sabotaged it. Apparently the backup singers were two groupies who were hanging around outside the studio at the time and pulled in on the spur of the moment. However, this "plaintively babyish incantation" has been covered over the years billions of times in, at times, astonishingly beautiful renditions.
    Thanks for the post.

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    1. I love "Revolution In The Head" but don't always agree with MacDonald's ideas about specific songs. Like in this case. I think he also came down on some other favorites, like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" which had me scratching my head.

      Thanks for the confirmation on those recording dates. It probably was not done on the 3rd.

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  3. John Lennon RIP. He was such an original. sorely missed.

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  4. Here's what John C. Winn writes in his excellent book Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957–1965 about the confusion re the date of recording:

    "This take is noted in both of Mark Lewisohn’s books as being from February 4, but a specific correction in his Anthology 2 liner notes (he even mentions it was a Saturday) indicates that more accurate information must have turned up in the interim. John Barrett’s notes show tape E67494 as containing takes 1–3 of “Lady Madonna” (marked February 3) and takes 1–2 of “Across the Universe” (marked February 4). Tape E67495 has “Across the Universe,” with no take numbers noted, also from February 3. Presumably these would be takes 4–7 (there was no take 3). It’s possible that John was undecided at the end of the day whether he preferred take 2 or 7 and added overdubs to both the next day.

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    1. Thanks for the info. The Winn book is one of the few I've never read -- probably because my local library never carried it. I guess something was recorded Feb. 3 -- although if it were takes 4-7, that would place them before takes 1-3 on the 4th, unless I'm misreading that or if overdubs altered the numerical sequence.

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  5. Here are the complete entry's for the sessions.

    8. Studio session
    Date: 3 February 1968
    Time: 7:00 p.m.-midnight
    Location: EMI Studio 3
    Producer: George Martin
    [A.] Across the Universe - monitor mix of take 2 (mono) (4:12)
    [B.] Across the Universe - take 2 (stereo) (3:26)

    In the wake of the Magical Mystery Tour fiasco, the Beatles wanted to release a strong follow-up single to fill the public void left by their imminent departure to study with the maharishi in India.
    John, Paul, and George each had a new composition to offer, and after working on the basic track of Paul’s “Lady Madonna” the first night, they turned to John’s “Across the Universe.” The song had taken full shape, with the tentative chorus melody from the earlier demos set to a spiritual refrain, and a series of stream-ofconsciousness verses of irregular lengths.
    It was clearly a beautiful song, but John had diffculty translating the sounds in his head to a finished recording. He should have quit while he was ahead, for in a mere two takes, a suitably celestial and delicate backing track was perfected. The choice of using all acoustic stringed instruments (two guitars, a table harp, and tamboura) was effective, particularly when overlaid with a flanging effect. John’s breathless and exquisite lead vocal floated above it all, and as they left the studio that night, take 2 was marked “best” - it would have made a superb release as is.
    John didn’t see it that way and would start afresh the next day, but luckily, take 2 was chosen for release on Anthology 2. It was also considered for inclusion in the 1983 multimedia presentation The Beatles at Abbey Road. A monitor mix (A) from preparation of this show has some extra warm-up material at the start, including
    John making a comment about Leslie Bryce (a Beatles Book Monthly photographer who would document the February 8 session). This mix isolates the harp and guitar tracks briefly and also carries on past Anthology’s fade to the take’s true ending.

    NOTE
    This take is noted in both of Mark Lewisohn’s books as being from February 4, but a specific correction in his Anthology 2 liner notes (he even mentions it was a Saturday) indicates that more accurate information must have turned up in the interim. John Barrett’s notes show tape E67494 as containing takes 1–3 of “Lady Madonna” (marked February 3) and takes 1–2 of “Across the Universe” (marked February 4). Tape E67495 has “Across the Universe,” with no take numbers noted, also from February 3. Presumably these would be takes 4–7 (there was no take 3). It’s possible that John was undecided at the end of the day whether he preferred take 2 or 7 and added overdubs to both the next day.

    RELEASE HISTORY
    • 1993: Most of A was included on the bootleg CD Control Room Monitor Mixes.
    • 1996: B was officially released on Anthology 2.
    • 2002: A more complete version of A, including a very faint take announcement, appeared on the bootleg CD Complete Controlroom Monitor Mixes, Volume 2.

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    1. Thanks again. I updated my post to reflect this new info -- and cited you and the book. I have to get this book.

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  6. 9. Studio session
    Date: 4 February 1968
    Time: 8:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
    Location: EMI Studio 3
    Producer: George Martin
    [A.] Across the Universe - rough mono mix from take 7 and FX (3:51) Mixed: 4 February 1968
    [B.] Across the Universe - RS3 (3:29) Mixed: 5 January 1970
    [C] Across the Universe - RS from take 7 (3:34)

    Having decided to concentrate on take 7 of “Across the Universe,” John added his lead vocal this evening (with the tape running slow to raise the pitch of his voice). This joined the basic track of his acoustic guitar, Ringo’s tom-tom, and George’s tamboura to produce a simple and satisfying recording. It was at this point that John’s
    later charges of Paul’s “sabotaging” the song with experimentation perhaps began to have some merit.
    For whatever reason, Paul felt it would be a grand idea to invite in two young ladies from among the fans congregating outside the studio to sing backing vocals. The lucky teenagers, Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, warbled “nothing’s gonna change my world” tentatively on the tape’s fourth track and were then escorted back outside. It’s likely none of their friends believed the anecdote of their good fortunes, as the song didn’t see release for almost two years, and then only on an obscure charity LP - the mix released on Let It Be in 1970 omitted their efforts.
    In the meantime, more of that experimentation conspired to clutter the song unnecessarily. A reduction into take 8 freed up space for an overdub of backwards bass and drums on track 4.
    Three separate effects tapes were also prepared, of guitar and harp, both “to be played backwards,” and four tracks of humming, titled “Hums Wild.” At some point on this day, a rough mono mix (A) was apparently prepared for John to take home. This must be from take 7, as it doesn’t include any backwards bass or drums, but it does incorporate the backwards guitar and harp, as well as “Hums Wild” during the “om” chant sections, and right near the end.
    On February 8, the backwards track was erased and replaced with wordless three-part harmony from John, Paul, and George. After discarding organ and Mellotron overdubs, John settled on final adornments of electric guitar (with volume pedal swells), maracas, and piano. With Paul and George’s songs now selected for the upcoming single, Spike Milligan came to the rescue of “Across the Universe.” In the studio visiting old Goon Show
    producer George Martin, as well as Cilla costar Ringo (see next entry), Milligan asked John if he would donate the song to a projected album to benefit the World Wildlife Fund. John, not satisfied with the recording but unwilling to let such a good composition go unheard, agreed.
    And there the matter sat for many months. A mono mix incorporating animal effects was prepared sometime later that year (an acetate is played back during the January 1969 Twickenham sessions), but the charity LP failed to surface. In March 1969, the mix was copied for inclusion on a mooted Yellow Submarine EP, but that was aborted as well. Finally, the Wildlife album surfaced in December 1969, by which time John must have felt the recording was cursed.
    Since the song was featured in the Let It Be documentary, Glyn Johns wanted to add it to the soundtrack LP he was preparing in January 1970. To differentiate it from the Wildlife version, he went back to the original four-track of take 7 and mixed it into stereo: guitar, tom-tom, and vocal centered, tamboura right, and the girls’
    vocals left. This mix (B) ignored any backwards effects and animal noises, as well as the February 8 overdubs, but ended up unreleased when Phil Spector was brought in to helm the Let It Be project.
    A remix (C) for Let It Be … Naked pares the song down to John’s vocal and acoustic guitar, plus unobtrusive tom-tom from Ringo, with George’s tamboura gliding in halfway through and hovering over the song, which fades out in a heavy-handed wash of echo.

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    1. Peerke -- Thanks for taking the time to post this. If you transcribed all that, extra thanks.

      This really does clear up the confusion. It also seems like as great a book as you said. It has the technical aspects of Lewisohn's book, but with some much-needed critical perspective.

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  7. Has this point re the song's genesis been brot up?:
    Some journo named taylor or asher or something was interviewing lennon one day at his estate, outside. He mentioned JL hadnt been listening to any music for a few days [on purpose to stimulate juices de la creativit-ay] and they heard an ambulance sireen with that british two-note A-B pattern that is heard in 'drifting through my opened mind'... 'rain into a paper cup' and there ya go!

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    1. The siren inspired the opening riff of "I Am the Walrus" according to Pete Shotton's book -- and others. From what I've read, the words to this song popped into his head when he went to bed with Cynthia after an argument, so he went downstairs and wrote it down.

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    2. http://www.beatlesfaq.com/2015/09/what-was-inspiration-for-across-universe.html
      heehee --can we all be wrong or 1/2 rite?
      i say the proof is in my interp: those 2 note patterns are just like police lorries you hear in old movies

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