Sour Milk Sea

Written by: Harrison
Recorded: May 1968


George Harrison: vocals, acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: bass
Ringo Starr: tambourine

Sour Milk Sea was one of the demo songs recorded in May 1968. Although it was an early contender for the White Album, it was eventually given to Apple recording artist Jackie Lomax.

The song was written by George Harrison. Although not explicitly mentioned, the song contains clear references to Transcendental Meditation, the "very simple process" which takes "no time at all". Although the connection has never been acknowledged by the group, Sour Milk Sea's refrain of "Get back to where you should be" bears a similarity to the chorus of The Beatles' 1969 hit Get Back.

I wrote Sour Milk Sea in Rishikesh, India. I never actually recorded the song - it was done by Jackie Lomax on his album Is This What You Want? Anyway, it's based on Vishvasara Tantra, from Tantric art. 'What is here is elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere'. It's a picture, and the picture is called Sour Milk Sea - Kalladadi Samudra in Sanskrit. I used Sour Milk Sea as the idea of - if you're in the shit, don't go around moaning about it: do something about it
George Harrison

The Beatles taped a version at Kinfauns, Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey, prior to the sessions for the White Album. They recorded 23 demos on his Ampex four-track machine. The demo of Sour Milk Sea remains unreleased, and is only available on unofficial bootleg recordings.

The Beatles never attempted a studio version of Sour Milk Sea. It was taped by Lomax at Abbey Road on 24, 25 and 26 June 1968; Harrison produced the song, with Paul McCartney on bass, Ringo Starr on drums, Eric Clapton on guitar and Nicky Hopkins on piano.

Lomax was the first artist to sign to The Beatles' Apple label. Sour Milk Sea was released as a single in August 1968, with the catalogue number Apple 3. It was part of Apple's "Our first four" set of singles, which also included The Beatles' Hey Jude, Mary Hopkin's Those Were The Days and the Black Dyke Mills Band's Thingumybob.

The song also appeared on Lomax's debut album, Is This What You Want?, released by Apple in March 1969.


If your life's not right, doesn't satisfy you
Don't get the breaks like some of us do
Better work it out, find where you've gone wrong
Better do it soon as you don't have long

Get out of Sour Milk Sea
You don't belong there
Get back to where you should be
Find out what's going on there

If you want the most from everything you do
In the shortest time your dreams come true
In no time at all it makes you more aware
Very simple process takes you there

Get out of Sour Milk Sea
You don't belong there
Get back to where you should be
Find out what's going on there

Looking for release from limitation?
There's nothing much without illumination
Can fool around with every different cult
There's only one way brings result

Get out of Sour Milk Sea
You don't belong there
Get back to where you should be
Find out what's going on there

6 responses on “Sour Milk Sea

  1. FrankDialogue

    Very good song, good performance by Lomax, good production by George & top notch rhythm section.From ‘Within You, Without You’ on, George showed he was quite the producer & arranger.

  2. beatles4sale

    I hear a lot of Savoy Truffle in this. Is George imitating himself? Which was penned first, Sour Milk Sea or Savoy Truffle? There is nothing wrong with borrowing I am just pointing out what I hear. Eric Clapton was over the top in this song. It is great guitar playing but a little bit of subtlety would have gone better musically, in my opinion. Split the difference between this and While My Guitar Gently Weeps and it would have been perfect. Ringo actually rocks near his best in this tune. Great job Ringo!

    Of course I was referring to the Lomax version, not the demo.

  3. BogeyMusic

    When I first heard the Kinfaus bootleg, more than 20 years ago, it was on a cassette tape with no tracklist at all. For a while I thought I was listening to ‘Glass Onion’, until I realized it was an unknown George’s song. Even now when I play it I have the same ‘GO’ feel. 🙂

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