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In The Life of...The Beatles

Funny Beatles Interview During the Recording of the White Album (1968)

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The Beatles was recorded between 30 May 1968 and 14 October 1968, largely at Abbey Road Studios, with some sessions at Trident Studios. Although productive, the sessions were reportedly undisciplined and sometimes fractious, and they took place at a time when tensions were growing within the group.[18] Concurrent with the recording of this album, the Beatles were launching their new multimedia business corporation Apple Corps, an enterprise that proved to be a source of significant stress for the band.[citation needed]

The sessions for The Beatles marked the first appearance in the studio of Lennon's new girlfriend and artistic partner, Yoko Ono, who would thereafter be a more or less constant presence at all Beatles sessions.[19] Prior to Ono's appearance on the scene, the individual Beatles had been very insular during recording sessions, with influence from outsiders strictly limited. McCartney's girlfriend at the time, Francie Schwartz, was also present at some of the recording sessions, as were Pattie Harrison and Maureen Starkey, the other two Beatles' wives.[20]

Author Mark Lewisohn reports that the Beatles held their first and only 24-hour recording/producing session near the end of the creation of The Beatles, which occurred during the final mixing and sequencing for the album. The session was attended by Lennon, McCartney, and producer George Martin.[21]

Despite the album's official title, which emphasised group identity, studio efforts on The Beatles captured the work of four increasingly individualised artists who frequently found themselves at odds.[21] The band's work pattern changed dramatically with this project, and by most accounts the extraordinary synergy of the Beatles' previous studio sessions was harder to come by during this period. Sometimes McCartney would record in one studio for prolonged periods of time, while Lennon would record in another, each man using different engineers.[21] At one point in the sessions, George Martin, whose authority over the band in the studio had waned, spontaneously left to go on holiday, leaving Chris Thomas in charge of producing.[22] During one of these sessions, while recording "Helter Skelter", Harrison reportedly ran around the studio while holding a flaming ashtray above his head, "doing an Arthur Brown."[21]

Long after the recording of The Beatles was complete, Martin mentioned in interviews that his working relationship with the Beatles changed during this period, and that many of the band's efforts seemed unfocused, often yielding prolonged jam sessions that sounded uninspired.[18] On 16 July recording engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked with the group since Revolver, announced that he was no longer willing to work with them.[21]

The sudden departures were not limited to EMI personnel. On 22 August, Starr abruptly left the studio, explaining later that he felt that his role was minimised compared to that of the other members, and that he was tired of waiting through the long and contentious recording sessions.[18] Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison pleaded with Starr to return, and after two weeks he did. Upon Starr's return, he found his drum kit decorated with red, white, and blue flowers, a welcome-back gesture from Harrison.[18] The reconciliation was, however, only temporary, and Starr's exit served as a precursor of future "months and years of misery", in Starr's words.[18] Indeed, after The Beatles was completed, both Harrison and Lennon would stage similar unpublicised departures from the band.[18] McCartney's public departure in 1970 would mark the formal end of the band's ensemble. He described the sessions for The Beatles as a turning point for the group. Up to this point, he observed, "The world was a problem, but we weren't. You know, that was the best thing about the Beatles, until we started to break up, like during the White Album and stuff. Even the studio got a bit tense then."[18]

According to Lewisohn, McCartney played drums on "Dear Prudence" because Starr had left the group while the song was being recorded.[21] Lewisohn also reports that, in the case of "Back in the U.S.S.R.", also recorded during Starr's absence, the three remaining Beatles each made contributions on bass and drums, with the result that those parts may be composite tracks played by Lennon, McCartney and/or Harrison.

Though not formally credited on the album, Eric Clapton played lead guitar on Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".[23] Harrison explains in The Beatles Anthology that Clapton's presence temporarily alleviated the studio tension and that all band members were on their best behaviour during his time with the band in the studio.[18] Harrison, who had invited Clapton to the sessions, soon reciprocated by collaborating with Clapton on the song "Badge" for Cream's last album Goodbye. Harrison, too, was not formally credited at first, but was identified as "L'Angelo Misterioso" on the cover.

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