The Story of the unreleased Sour Milk Sea by The Beatles

Sour Milk Sea was written by George Harrison during the Beatles’ stay in Rishikesh, India, and given to Jackie Lomax to help launch Apple Records. The recording is a rarity among non-Beatles songs since it features three members of the band – Harrison, who also produced the track, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, the song also includes musical contributions from Eric Clapton and session pianist Nicky Hopkins, and was the first of many Harrison productions for artists signed to the Beatles’ record label.

“..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 (I, me, mine, august 1980)

George Harrison wrote “Sour Milk Sea” to promote Transcendental Meditation, which the Beatles had been studying in Rishikesh with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In the lyrics, Harrison espouses meditation as a remedy for worldly cares. The group recorded a demo of the song while considering material for their 1968 double album, The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). The Demo is part of the so called Esher recordings (also called the Kinfauns tapes). This version has now been officially released on the 50th anniversary box-set of The White Album.

The Esher-version:


Jackie Lomax version, with George, Paul, Ringo, Eric Clapton, Eddie Clayton and Nicky Hopkins (some sources says that McCartney also played the drums, I don’t know…there is also an uncredited Hammond organ part on the song):

“Sour Milk Sea” by Jackie Lomax received favourable reviews in 1968 and has continued to invite praise from music critics, particularly for the energetic quality of the performance. Several writers consider that the song deserved to be a hit for Lomax and that, had the Beatles retained it for the White Album, it would have been among the best songs on the album. The track also appears on the 2010 multi-artist compilation Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records.

The Beatles did not revisit “Sour Milk Sea” during the White Album sessions, but some clever sound guys on the internet has taken the backing track from the Jackie Lomax session and paired it with the vocal track from the Esher demo. What we then get is an idea of what it could have sounded like of it was released on “The White Album”.

 

and our favourite version:

Lyrics:

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, 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

Do-do-doo
Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do
Do-do-do-do-do

Looking for release from limitation
There’s nothing much without illumination
Can fool around with every different cult
There’s only one way really brings results

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

.

Sources:

George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (1981)
Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962–1970, Bounty Books (1988)
Richie Unterberger, The Unreleased Beatles: Music & Film, Backbeat Books (2006)
Mark Lewisohn, The complete Beatles chronicle (1992)
Mojo Special Limited Edition: 1000 Days of Revolution (The Beatles’ Final Years – Jan 1, 1968 to Sept 27, 1970) (2003)
Wikipedia
YouTube

 

– Hallgeir

 

2 thoughts on “The Story of the unreleased Sour Milk Sea by The Beatles

  1. Wow, very nice (especially the Beatles’ version. I agree it would have been incredibly popular, with a nod to the Clapton guitar. The keyboard on the Lomax version would have also enhanced it. Very fun to discover some of this “lost” stuff!

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