The rest of The Beatles worked on two songs, ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘The Inner Light’, which were to be the two sides of their next single. The first to be worked on was The Inner Light, which George Harrison had begun recording in India on 12 January 1968.
The first task of the session was to copy the two-track tape from India onto four-track. Harrison then recorded his lead vocals, and an additional overdub of a shehnai – an Indian reed instrument – was added. This was likely played by a member of London’s Asian Music Circle.
‘The Inner Light’ was given a mono mix towards the end of the day’s first session, which ran from 2.30-8pm. This was not the final version, however, as the song was given more vocal overdubs on 8 February.
The Beatles took a break from recording between 8pm and 9pm, presumably to watch Starr’s television appearance. Afterwards, a second session took place for ‘Lady Madonna’, beginning with a reduction mix to enable more overdubs.
The reduction mix, which was known as take four, combined the bass, guitars and drums on a single track. Paul McCartney then added a second piano part, and his vocals were double-tracked during the second “See how they run”, backed by a brief organ overdub. Handclaps were also recorded.
McCartney, Lennon and Harrison then imitated brass instruments by cupping their hands around their mouths, while someone else in the studio simultaneously shook a tambourine.
McCartney then decided that a real sax section should be brought in, and two tenor and two baritone saxophonists were arranged at short notice.
They were in a real flap to find four musicians and called on Laurie [Gold, a session organiser for EMI] to conjure some up for them. I was in the bath at about 6.30 in the evening when Laurie called and said ‘Are you working tonight?’ ‘No, I’m in the bath!’ ‘Well get over to EMI as quick as you can, and how can I find a tenor player?’ I suggested he call Ronnie Scott, the chap who runs the London jazz club, and sure enough when I got to Abbey Road Ronnie was there, along with Bill Jackman [baritone] and Bill Povey [tenor]. Paul didn’t recognise Ronnie Scott until we told hiim who he was.
There was no written music but we played around with a few riffs until Paul liked what he heard. And then we recorded it – 101 times! I remember there was a big pile of meditation books in the corner of the studio, like the back room of a publisher’s office, and I also recall that they asked if we wanted a bite to eat. We were expecting a terrific meal but a few minutes later someone returned with pie and chips!
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
Ronnie Scott played the tenor saxophone solo in the song’s middle eight, and also played a flourish at the end. This was left out of the final single mix, but can be heard on 1996’s Anthology 2.
After the session musicians had left the studio, The Beatles added a second overdub of vocal brass, this time without tambourine accompaniment. The “See how they run” lines were also harmonised, and more handclaps were recorded.
Two rough mono mixes were the last task of the night, but more successful versions were made on 15 February. The session came to a close at 2am on the morning of 7 February.
Also on this day...
- 2012: UK album release: Kisses On The Bottom by Paul McCartney
- 1970: John Lennon and Yoko Ono are interviewed for the BBC’s Scene And Heard
- 1970: UK single release: Instant Karma! by John Lennon
- 1968: Ringo Starr appears on Cilla Black’s television show
- 1964: Interview: John Lennon and George Harrison
- 1963: Live: Granada Cinema, Bedford
- 1961: Live: Lathom Hall, Liverpool
- 1958: George Harrison meets the Quarrymen
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.