Disc 1, demo recordings at Esher House, May 1968: Julia, Blackbird, Rocky Raccoon, Back In The U.S.S.R., Honey Pie, Mother Nature’s Son, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Junk, Dear Prudence, Sexy Sadie, Cry Baby Cry, Child Of Nature, The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill, I’m So Tired, Yer Blues, Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey, What’s The New Mary Jane, Revolution, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Circles, Sour Milk Sea, Not Guilty, Piggies
Disc 2, John’s Home Demo 1967: Cry Baby Cry, Across The Universe – Cry Baby Cry. Rishkesh Tape – March 1968: When The Saints Go Marching In – You Are My Sunshine – Jingle Bell – She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Mountain – Instrumental – Blowin’ In The Wind – Hare Krishna Mantra – O Sole Mio – Catch The Wind. Mike Love’s Birthday in India 15th May 1968: Spiritual Regeneration – Happy Birthday. Home Demo At Weybridge May 1968: Julia (Take 1), Julia, Julia (Instrumental), Back In The U.S.S.R. (Take 6, RM1), Back In The U.S.S.R. (From Acetate), Dear Prudence (Take 1), Dear Prudence (Take 1, RM1), Dear Prudence (Backing Vocal Only), Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 5), Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 23, RM21), Wild Honey Pie (Take 1, RM6), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Take 1), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Monitor Mix #1), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Monitor Mix #2), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Monitor Mix #3), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Monitor Mix #4), Lady Madonna (Monitor Mix), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Monitor Mix #5), Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Take 65), I’m So Tired (Take 14 #1), I’m So Tired (Take 14 #2)
Disc 3: Blackbird, Blackbird – Congratulations, Blackbird, Blackbird, Helter Skelter, Gone Tomorrow Here Today, Blackbird, Blackbird, Mother Nature’s Son, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird, Improvisation, Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackbird (From Apple Corps Promo), Rocky Raccoon (take 10), Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7, RM6), I Will (Take 68 Alternate Mix), A Documentary Of The Recording Sessions At The Abbey Road Studio July 18th, 1968
Disc 4: Birthday (Take 27, RM1), Yer Blues (Takes 16&17, RM 3), Yer Blues (Takes 16&17, RM 3 from Acetate), Mother Nature’s Son (Take 26,RM8), Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (Take 12, RM5), Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (Take 12, RM5 from Acetate), Fuck A Duck – Sexy Sadie (Monitor Mix), Brian Epstein Blues (Monitor Mix), Sexy Sadie (Monitor Mix), Sexy Sadie (Play Back), Sexy Sadie (Take 117, RM5), Helter Skelter (Acoustic Version from Apple Corp Promo), Helter Skelter (Take 21, RM1), Revolution 1, Revolution 1, Revolution 1, Revolution 1, Can You Take Me Back, Revolution 9 (Alternate Mono Mix from Acetate), Good Night (Take 34, RM6), White Album Outtakes Medley – Blackbird – What’s The New Mary Jane? – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – Good Night – Rocky Raccoon – Sexy Sadie – While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Mother Nature’s Son – Piggies – I Will – Julia – Why Don’t We Do It On The Road – I’m So Tired – Don’t Pass Me By
Disc 5: Hey Jude (Fragment), Hey Jude (Introduction Rehearsals), Hey Jude, Hey Jude, Hey Jude – Las Vegas Tune, Hey Jude (Fragment), Hey Jude, St. Louis Blues (Fragment), St. Louis Blues, Revolution (Stereo Alternate Mix 10th-13th July 1968), Not Guilty (Take 102), Not Guilty (Take 102 RM1), Not Guilty (Play Back), What’s The New Mary Jane? (RS4), What’s The New Mary Jane? (RS5), What’s The New Mary Jane? (Take 4 RS4), What’s The New Mary Jane? (1968 Alternate Stereo Mix), Step Inside Love (Demo Version Nov. 1967), Step Inside Love, Los Paranoias, The Way You Look Tonight, Down In Havana, Improvisation
Misterclaudel’s White Album Working Version is another collection of demos and alternate tracks and follows other compilations made by the label for other Beatle albums. All of the material in this collection appears on titles dating back to the eighties, but this five disc set makes it convenient to have together a comprehensive overview on silver discs. The standard of completeness for The Beatles is the twelve cdr set The Beatles Deluxe Volumes 1-6 on Purple Chick. Compared to that massive set, Misterclaudel omit the copy of the official mono and stereo release, Harrison’s appearance on The Smothers Brothers, Cilla Black, the Rock And Roll Circus set by Dirty Mac among other things. This collects the pertinent documents surrounding the conception and recording of the classic. Like any such document, the sound quality varies from the different tracks but on the whole they are very good to excellent sound quality.
The presentation of the material isn’t in strict chronological order but rather thematically with the intital demos of the material on the first disc and sessions of songs that were worked on at that time but no included on The Beatles appear on the fifth disc. Many have argued this is the creative peak of the band and there is certainly much to support these claims. They were certainly prolific in 1968 by writing enough material for not only a double album but songs that would appear on Abbey Road and three members’ solo albums in the following years. The first disc starts at the beginning with the initial demos for the album with the recordings made at George Harrison’s home in Esher in May 1968 after their return from India. Previous releases of this material include the vinyl release in 1986 Not For Sale (Condor), and the compact disc release The 1968 Demos (The Genuine Pig Records TGP-CD-094) copied from vinyl. Unsurpassed Demos (Yellow Dog YD008) contained more tracks and with its spectacular sound would serve as a pattern for future releases. The 1968 Demos (Vigotone Vigo-100) was released in 1993 and contains fifteen tracks.
Other titles that have these recordings are Acoustic Masterpieces – The Esher Demos (Birthday Records (BR 029)), Finest Collectors (The Only One TOO 971/2) and From Kinfauns To Chaos (Vigotone VIGO 183). The latter Vigotone release claims to be from John Lennon’s copy of the demos. Finally some tracks saw official release on Anthology Vol. 3 in 1996. Four songs, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Glass Onion,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” and “Polythene Pam” are sometimes attributed also to Esher and are included on some collections, but other sources claim these demos date from Weybridge. The tracks were recorded in mono and are in excellent sound quality. It is remarkable how close to the finished product many of these songs are considering how early they were recorded in the process. Some commentators have questioned the credibility of the documentation offered for some of the songs by pointing out that “Julia” wasn’t written until later in the sessions and that “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” demoed at EMI and not Esher, so their inclusion with the others in incorrect. However, the quality of the two are certainly similar enough to the others to merit their appellation as Esher demos.
It is interesting to hear some of the little differences in these early versions. John’s track “Julia” is followed by seven Paul compositions. “Blackbird” contains the final lyrics but has a different, happier ending. “Rocky Raccoon” features Paul on acoustic guitar and someone on shakers and is missing the first and fourth verses. “Back In The U.S.S.R.” has Paul on acoustic guitar and hand claps from the rest of the band. Only the first two verses and half of the chorus had been written and they sing through it several times before the song breaks down. “Honey Pie” lacks the introduction, has about three verses and plenty of scat singing over the melody. “Mother Nature’s Son,” by contrast, has all of the final lyrics and melody found in the final version.
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” begins with John saying, “Desmond…Molly” before Paul begins the track. All of the verses are present and the only variation occurs in the final where “Desmond lets the children lend a hand” and “Molly stays at home and does a pretty face.” The final Paul song was called “Jubilee” at this time but would be recorded as “Junk” for his first solo album McCartney in 1970. The next ten songs are John’s beginning with “Dear Prudence” with complete lyrics and melody and John’s voice over at the end explaining how Prudence went insane. “Cry Baby Cry” begins with the King Of Marigold and lacks the opening and closing “Can You Take Me Back.” “Child Of Nature” is a little travelogue about the trip to India and was not recorded by The Beatles but was resurrected three years later for “Jealous Guy” on Lennon’s solo album Imagine.
“The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” has the complete lyrics and is complimented with hand claps for emphasis. “I’m So Tired” contains a bridge that isn’t in the final version where John sings, “when I hold you in your arms / when you show each one of your charms / I wonder should I get up and get to the funny farm.” In “Yer Blues” Lennon sings, “My mother was of the earth / my father was of the sky / but I am of the universe / and that’s the reason why / I’m so lonely” and instead of feeling “suicidal” he feels “insecure.” The disc ends with five Harrison demos, two of which ended up on the album. Jackie Lomax eventually recorded “Sour Milk Sea” that year, but this is the only recording of the Beatles performing the song.
Some have pointed out that this arrangement sounds close to T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong.” “Circles,” unlike the other demos in this collection, is played on harmonium and not acoustic guitar and features a haunting vocal performance by George Harrison as sings the words “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know. And I go round in circles.” This song would be released sixteen years later on 1982’s Gone Troppo. “Not Guilty” would appear eleven years later on Harrison’s George Harrison LP. Finally “Piggies” is Harrison alone on guitar and contains all of the lyrics except for the Piggies eating pork chops instead of bacon at the end.
The first thee minutes of the second disc are devoted to a home demo Lennon recorded. Misterclaudel and Vigotone (Arrive Without Aging VT-6869) attribute this tape to 1967 but other sources claim this dates from either January or February 1968. It begins with him sitting at the piano playing the melody of “Cry Baby Cry” and singing the first line. This segues into the chorus of what would become “Across The Universe.” At the end Lennon switches to electric guitar and plays the melody to “Cry Baby Cry” again. This is followed by an eight and a half minute television documentary of the trip to Rishkesh, India filmed on February 15, 1968. Lennon and the others are clearly audible singing various songs on the acoustic guitar while a commenter speaks about the visit in Italian. A two and a half minute radio broadcast, hosted by Wolfman Jack, follows from Mike Love of the Beach Boys birthday.
“Spiritual Regeneration” and “Happy Birthday” are both sung in with Beach Boys style harmonies. The following “Julia” home demos can also be found on Revolution (Vigotone VT-117) and Unsurpassed Demos (Yellow Dog YD008). The final instrumental run-through is in lesser quality than the others. “Back In The U.S.S.R. (Take 6, RM1)” can be found on Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 4 (Yellow Dog YD004) and this is the “Peter Sellers mix” with different airplane effects at the end. “Dear Prudence” was recorded at Trident Studio between August 28 and 29. “Dear Prudence (Take 1, RM1)” contains some studio chatter at the end. The backing vocal is a ten second fragment from the remixing of the track on October 15.
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 5)” can also be found on Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 7. This take has sparser instrumentation and at the end someone in the control room says, “Woo, you’ve done it!” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 23, RM21)” and “Wild Honey Pie (Take 1, RM6)” are taken from the Peter Sellers tape. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 23, RM21)” begins with a few seconds of talking and doodles and hand claps during the introduction which were removed for the final mono version (but are present on the stereo). At the very end, after John says “thank you,” he adds, “I’m sure.” There was a final mono mix for the LP version on 12 October, so this is probably the last remix from 15 July, MR 21. The following takes of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are a true highlight of this five disc set. The first, labeled take one, is the original, unedited version recorded at EMI on July 25, 1968. It consists of only George on acoustic guitar and features different lyrics at the end when he sings, “I look from the wings of the play you are staging / while my guitar gently weeps / I sit here doing nothing but aging / while my guitar gently weeps.” The four following monitor mixes are further run through of the initial demo with a subtle harmonium accompaniment.
The “Lady Madonna” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” tracks are grouped together because they come from the same tape. The sound quality is below the standard of the others and feature Paul sitting at the piano playing “Lady Madonna” which leads to him playing the Harrison song on the organ. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Take 65)” is the version used on the album and this track consists of Lennon laying down the guitar break while listening to the guide vocal. McCartney can also be heard playing the organ along with the recording. The final two songs are two takes of “I’m So Tired.” Lennon’s vocals are sped up producing the “chipmunk” effect.
The bulk of disc three is concerned with the June 11, 1968 recording session at EMI when “Blackbird” was recorded. These tracks first surfaced in 1997 on Gone Tomorrow Here Today (Midnight Beat MBCD113) and its enjoyment is dependent on how much one likes the song. These are all in breathtakingly clear quality and truly offer a “fly on the wall” perspective of being in the studio with the Beatles and producer George Martin. The first “Blackbird” is the very end of the song which ends with Martin giving suggestions to McCartney. The next track is taken at a slower tempo and leads into an impromptu “Congratulation.” Paul attempts the song a couple more times with more success than the earlier takes. The fourth track contains most of the song before it breaks down. Lennon and Yoko speak to Martin about “Revolution #9,” regarding a cartoon voice ending while Paul plays “Helter Skelter” in the background.
“Gone Tomorrow Here Today” is a short, unreleased catchy tune which again ends in more “Blackbird.” John and Yoko can be heard conversing during the seventh track on the disc while Paul plays “Blackbird” in the background. Paul then plays the songs with a metronome to get the tempo correct. Eventually there is audible discussion between Paul and Martin talking about “Mother Nature’s Son” about a “string quartet after the second verse.” Martin suggests using the quartet as background accompaniment before Lennon speaks over the studio intercom suggesting using a brass band instead. Both Paul and George Martin like the idea and a brass band was used on the final cut. (So Lennon did have a hand in “Mother Nature’s Son.”)
The next seven tracks are various run throughs of the song ending with Paul saying he’ll take a break. The improvisation track features an unknown tune played on the harmonium. The next two takes are featuring a more confidant delivery of the words. The final “Blackbird” is in poorer quality taken from the Apple Corp promotional filmed on June 15 and lasts for a minute and a half. “Rocky Raccoon (take 10)” can also be found on Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 4 (Yellow Dog YDCD 004). This is an advance preview tape given to Peter Sellers. It is the final version in mono but has some studio chatter at the beginning. “Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7, RM6)” is the mono mix of the final version of the song. It can be found on White Sessions (Silent Sea SS 012), but is a bit of a mystery because there is no record of an RM6 of the track.
This is identical to the cut found on the mono version of the official LP but with an additional fifteen seconds at the ending fade. “I Will” is the stereo version of the final song and is two seconds shorter than what is found on the final LP but otherwise sounds identical. The disc ends with a 13:41 long interview hosted by Kenny Everett on Thursday June 6th 1968 at Abbey Road, while more work on Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By” was taking place. This is the full version of the interviews that Kenny taped, and they are different from the broadcast show of Sunday June 9th 1968. George is evident on this recording but was not on the Radio One airing. The source of this recording is from Kenny Everett’s private acetate collection.
The fourth disc begins with “Birthday.” It is listed as take 27 RM1 but sounds like the mono take of the song from the album, which would be take 22. It begins with some studio chatter and Lennon saying, “This is Ken MacIntosh And The Roving Remixers take thirty-one.” It comes from scratchy vinyl. What follows are two “Yer Blues” tracks. They are musically the same (the mono version of the final take), but the first comes from the Peter Sellers tape which features middle eastern sounding music as an introduction. The second “Yer Blues” track comes from a scratchy acetate and lacks the middle eastern intro. Recorded between August 13 and August 20, the final track is an edit piece between take 17 (up to 3:17) and take 16. “Mother Nature’s Son (Take 26,RM8)” comes from the Sellers tape and is identical to the final version. “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (Take 12, RM5)” has two identical tracks but from different sources, just like “Yer Blues.” This is the mono mix of the final version with slight differences in the backing vocals.
The following four tracks are amateur recordings from the studio control room. These tracks can be found also on The Alternate White Album (Pear PDP 010) among other releases. Recorded on July 19, 1968, Lennon sings the song with much stronger lyrics than the final version. “Brian Epstein Blues” is an impromptu track sung as a tribute to the former Beatles manager. Finally “Sexy Sadie (Take 117)” comes from the Sellers tape and includes sixteen bars that were edited out of the commercial version of the song which consist mainly of raw instrumental passages. The short “Helter Skelter (acoustic version)” is from the Apple promo. “Helter Skelter (Take 21, RM1)” is the same track found on the third volume of the Mythology set and sounds tamer than the commercial version and lacks Ringo at the end. The next four tracks are various takes of “Revolution 1.”
They all feature Yoko Ono speaking non-sequiturs over the band playing through the track. “Can You Take Me Back” was recording during take 19 of “I Will” and was used in between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution 9” in part on The Beatles and first surfaced on Mythology Vol. 3 (Strawberry STR 015/16/17/18) in 1999. “Good Night” is another track from the Sellers tape. There are two obvious differences between this and the commercial version. The first, it is slightly shorter (about two measures have been removed after the second verse, just before Ringo begins to hum). Second, there are children’s voices at the end where he wishes everybody “goodnight.” Because the orchestration is so incredibly lush, it is impossible to detect any significant differences between the two. The song was mono mixed for LP on October 11, but there were also six mono mixes at the end of the July 23 sessions. The disc closes with the white album outtakes medley. This is four and half minutes of snippets from the sessions and first surfaced on White Sessions (Silent Sea SS 011). It is a fun track but is completely pointless and is used simply as filler summarizing the previous discs in this collection.
The fifth and final disc in this collection documents material that was not used for The Beatles and were either released as singles (“Hey Jude”), solo (“Not Guilty”), or not at all. The first third of this disc is occupied with rehearsals for “Hey Jude.” This is the soundtrack from an appearance on NBC’s “Experiment In Television” taped on July 30, 1968. A rehearsal of “Hey Jude” dated July 30, 1968. Paul on piano and singing, Ringo on drums, and Lennon picking an acoustic guitar and grinning backup vocals. As one collector writes, “In a late 1970s interview, McCartney once explained how he had told Harrison to stop “echoing phrases” on electric guitar after each line of the text.
This is a complete take without overdubs, and George apparently has decided to bow out completely. Lennon doesn’t sing much until Paul reaches the line: “The movement you need…” Then, John responds in a mock American accent “…is on yer shoulder.” Interesting, considering Paul’s comments about the lyric in the Anthology TV program. Twice during the lengthy chorus, Lennon sings “Na, na, now… Goo goo ga Jude,” and that inspires some honky-tonk piano lines from Paul. At 4:40, Lennon announces off mic: “We’ve gotta put more voices in the chorus.” The tape cuts. Then Paul sings 15 seconds of melody vaguely reminiscent of “Bonnie and Clyde,” with the lyrics: “…mess Jude, or the powder on your vest. Sing that Las Vegas Tune. Don’t make a mess Jude.” “Hey Jude” was the longest single The Beatles recorded – clocking in at seven minutes and fifteen seconds. This version is an unreleased rehearsal followed by an impromptu “bust” of “Las Vegas Tune” and “St.Louis Blues”.
The middle part of the disc contains several excellent quality takes of George Harrison’s “Not Guilty.” It is amazing to think they recorded more than one hundred takes of the song and it still didn’t appear on The Beatles. This is followed by Lennon’s “What’s The New Mary Jane?” One collector writes, “The recording … is actually the full-length, full-blown noise festival that happened in Studio II on Aug. 14, 1968 – a.k.a. ‘What A Shame Mary Jane Had A Pain At The Party.’ No doubt, the band were getting a bit naughty in those days. Years after penning ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ perhaps after realizing the massive social implications that his endorsement carried, Lennon denied that ‘Lucy’ was a conscious attempt to depict LSD-inspired bliss. But it would have been more difficult for him to deny the drug references in ‘Mary Jane,’ which depicts a bad trip by mixing metaphors with various illegal substances.
In his witty lyrical way, John managed to work in references about LSD (a.k.a. window “pane”); marijuana (a.k.a. ‘Mary Jane’); morphine derivatives (rhyming ‘thin’ with ‘bean’ so as ‘…to make that her body more thin’), Peruvian peyote (a.k.a ‘Patagonian pancake'”), and alcohol (‘…with that one and gin, party makes’). The result? An unreleasable cacophony of limerick lines, clanging bells, squeeze box, slide whistles, plucked piano wires a la John Cage, and horror-house howls from both John and Yoko. It all ends, appropriately enough, with a demented giggle from Lennon, who asks: ‘Let’s hear it. Before we all get taken away!’ No wonder Lennon was forced to choose between this track and “Revolution No. 9” for inclusion on the White Album. Listen to “What a Shame” a few hundred times, and you’ll probably want to take No. 9 as a sedative.”
The rest of the disc contains several unreleased doodles. The demo for “Step Inside Love” is in poor quality, but the rest are very good studio outtakes. The White Album Working Version is packaged in a five disc fatboy jewel case inserts giving a track listing and a Misterclaudel discography. As with their other releases, it comes with an obi around the spine. Overall this is a competent collection of previously released material and this makes it convenient to have the relevant documents surround this landmark release.