Recording: Cry Baby Cry, Helter Skelter

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott

The Beatles completed the recording of Cry Baby Cry during this day's two sessions, and also began work on Helter Skelter.

The first session began at 2.30pm and lasted seven hours. Just one track was spare on the four-track tape, so The Beatles filled it with a number of simultaneous recordings. John Lennon redid his lead vocals in the verses, with harmonies by Paul McCartney in places; George Martin played a descending harmonium part in the introduction; Ringo Starr shook a tambourine; and George Harrison added electric guitar and tea party effects were made during the "Duchess of Kirkcaldy" verse.

Cry Baby Cry was transferred to eight-track tape on 17 September 1968, but no further music was added.

The day's second session began at 10.30pm and ended at 3.30am. The Beatles recorded three takes of Helter Skelter, which were essentially rehearsals; they lasted 10'40", 12'35" and 27'11" respectively. An edited mix of take two was released on 1996's Anthology 3.

I made it clear to George Martin when we doing Anthology 3, that the fans are desperate to hear this and I urged him to listen to it, because I don't think initially he was going to do so. He listened it, and he said: "Well, why is this important?" I said forget the quality of the sound, or forget the fact that it's not quite in tune or whatever, what a producer would normally be looking for, just respect the fact please that it is hailed as the most important outtake of them all, and the fans will go crazy if you don't include this on the Anthology.

So he took all that on board, which George always does, and he's very good at that sort of thing, he listens. But, the next time I went in there, they said: "Here it is," and it was like five minutes, and they'd trimmed it right down. And in fact they didn't use the 27-minute one, there was another one as well that was 12 minutes, which they used, and they'd trimmed it down to five minutes. They said: "This is all people will stand, they won't stand the whole thing." And I said: "Well, I think a lot of them will actually..."

Mark Lewisohn

The takes were recorded over two rehearsal reels of Cry Baby Cry made on 15 July. At this stage Helter Skelter was a blues-based jam, although most of the lyrics and chord changes were in place.

These recordings featured two electric guitars, bass and drums all on the same track, and McCartney's vocals on another. It is possible that Lennon played the bass in these recordings.

Following this session, The Beatles didn't return to Helter Skelter until 9 September 1968.

Also on this day...

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