During the Beatles’ stay in Rishikesh in 1968 studying transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the members of the fab four wrote ca. 30 songs. It was a creative boost.
A lot of them ended up on “the white album”.
Lennon wrote “Julia,” “Dear Prudence,” “Sexy Sadie,” and more. McCartney wrote “Rocky Raccoon,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road,” and “Back in the U.S.S.R,” among them. Harrison wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Sour Milk Sea,”and a few others.
The period was so productive that John Lennon and Paul McCartney each wrote a song following the same lecture by the Maharishi.
Paul wrote Mother’s Nature Son (that ended up on “the white album”), John wrote the song Child of Nature ( or I’m just a child of nature that it was called first). John’s song did not end up on any Beatles albums, but was part of the so called Esher demos:
So a long time ago I said that I didn’t want to be singing “She Loves You” when I’m 30. I said that when I was about 25 or something, which in a roundabout way meant that I wouldn’t be doing whatever I was doing then, you know. Well, I was 30 last October, and that’s about when my life changed, really.
This is a traditional country blues that dates back to the1920s. It has been recorded a lot of times under several names, including Daddy Where You Been Gone So Long, Black Dog, Black Dog Blues, Call Me A Dog and Honey Where You Been So Long.
It is however NOT the same song as the Blind Blake song called Black Dog Blues. It also has nothing to do with the Led Zeppelin song.
Beatles recorded this “jam” on the last day of the so called Get Back sessions, 31st of January 1969. I don’t think it should be released as such, but I do think it’s interesting to see (hear) what was floating around in the studio. And to speculate what it resulted in or inspired the Beatles to create on a later stage, together or as solo artists. Also I like to find out why these songs were chosen to run through.
“Now and Then” (sometimes referred to as “I Don’t Want to Lose You” or “Miss You”) is an unfinished song by John Lennon, recorded in 1978 as a solo piano/vocal demo. After his death, it was considered as a third possible reunion single by his former band, the Beatles, for their 1995 autobiographical project The Beatles Anthology, following “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”.
Lennon wrote “Now and Then” in the late 1970s. He recorded the unfinished piece of music in a demo form at his home at the Dakota Building, New York City, 1978. The lyrics are typical of the apologetic love songs that Lennon wrote in the latter half of his career. Despite reports, for the most part the verses are nearly complete, though there are still a few lines that Lennon did not flesh out on the demo tape performance
I think it’s already, in this form, a beautiful melancholic ballad. Full of sadness about estranged friends and lost possibilities, and hope.
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.
This is a song that gets better and better and I really wonder what it could have been if they finished it. It is the song Watching Rainbows by The Beatles. Yes, there are still some unreleased gems out there.
Maybe we’ll see more of this “song” when Peter Jackson’s new documentary is released (Sadly set on hold until August 2021 du to the pandemic):
The Beatles: Get Back is an upcoming documentary film directed by Peter Jackson that covers the making of the Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be, which had the working title of Get Back. The film draws from material originally captured in January 1969 by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg for his 1970 documentary of the album. The Beatles: Get Back endeavours to recut Lindsay-Hogg’s film to show the friendly camaraderie that still existed between the Beatles, as well as to challenge longtime assertions that the project was entirely marked by ill-feeling.
Over 55 hours of footage and 140 hours of audio stemming from the original project were made available to Jackson’s team, and it will include the full 42-minute rooftop concert. In reference to the long-reported acrimony surrounding the original Get Back project, Jackson wrote in a press statement that he was “relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth … Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with.”
Watching Rainbows is recorded on 14 January 1969 during the massive Get Back sessions at Twickenham Studios. It features John Lennon on lead vocal and electric piano, Paul McCartney on lead guitar, and Ringo Starr on drums. Bass guitar is absent from the song because Paul McCartney is playing George Harrison’s usual role as lead electric guitar.
Why was George absent? We’ll come to that, let us listen to the song first. Bare in mind that this is just as much a jam-session as a finished song, but we get a glimpse into what it could have been.
Watching Rainbows – The Beatles (1969) “complete” stereo version:
Watching Rainbows – The Beatles (1969) short “fan edit”:
George Harrison quit the band for a brief period starting on January 10th, 1969. At the time, The Beatles were practicing at the film studio, Twickenham, so that their rehearsals could be filmed. After a morning filed with verbal altercations between George and Paul, a quiet George Harrison eventually met up with the group and crew for lunch a bit late. Rather than joining them, he simply stated, “See you ’round the clubs” and disappeared.
The three remaining Beatles went back to the recording room not knowing what to do and unleashed an angry improvisational ruckus with John Lennon sarcastically leading the group to play The Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away.”
Days later, word got back to Harrison that Lennon had mentioned bringing in Eric Clapton as a replacement, which Lennon had probably said as a ploy to get George back rather than a real solution. After a five-hour meeting, Harrison rejoined the group on January 15th, 1969.