In many ways, the Beatles' trip to
India in March of 1968 to study Transcendental Meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
can be seen as the true turning point of the group being a group. After
completing sessions for a stopgap single, "Lady Madonna" / "Inner
Light" in early February, they left for Rishikesh united in their desire for
enlightenment, but they came back fragmented and somewhat disillusioned. Ringo left
the meditation compound after two weeks, blaming bad food, but not before stating that the
experience had been "just like Butlin's", the holiday camp where he used to play
with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in the early '60's. Paul flew off after a month,
claiming he'd "Gotten as much as he needed". John and George brought up
the rear after John had gotten wind of some possible misbehavior by the Yogi regarding one
or more of the women who accompanied the Beatles on their trip. This deterioration
of the trip was an ominous foreboding of the remainder of the Beatles' career: still a
group in theory, but not in group practice.
During the period the four were there, however, the three songwriting Beatles' muses
were working overtime, fueled by more "down time" than they had enjoyed in over
five years, and the bucolic atmosphere in which they were living. The songs flowed
as they hadn't in years... but in their composition the tunes were truly solo efforts,
each reflecting John's, Paul's and George's own interests musically, philosophically and
spiritually. Between the three composers, almost forty songs were written, most of
which would end up on the Beatles' next eponymously-titled LP. Others were left for
the last two Beatles album projects, Get Back/Let It Be and Abbey Road.
Additional tunes were used were used for future solo projects, in either complete or
similar form compared to the 1968 versions, with one in particular, George's
"Circles", not seeing the light of day until fourteen years after its
After John and Paul returned form the activities in New York to publicly launch their
new company, Apple, in mid-May of 1968, the Beatles did something as a group they had
never done prior to this period. The four gathered at George's house,
"Kinfauns", in Esher, Surrey around the third week of May to record group demos
for almost thirty of the songs they had penned in Rishikesh. While the individual
Beatles had all recorded home demos before, the group generally rehearsed their songs at
EMI either after having heard the solo demos, or simply after having the writer(s) in
question show the others the chord changes, etc., in person. However, never before
(and never again) did they join together to undertake something of this rudimentary
nature. Recorded on George's four track equipment, the tracks were mixed to mono by
George, and John, Paul and Ringo each received copies of this reduction tape.
George held on to the "Kinfauns" masters, and in 1996 was able to claim
ownership of them in the credits of the third edition of the Beatles Anthology CD
series. Geoff Emerick newly mixed some of these tapes to stereo at the time of Anthology's
production, but John's copy of the original mono tape reduction is the source for the CD
of this set. While bits of this tape have been heard on The Lost Lennon Tapes
(both the radio and Bag records LP series), as well as previous, inferior CD issues, this
is the first time that this copy of John's tape has been heard in its entirety, in crisp,
The "Esher Tapes" represent one last great gasp of the Beatles working as a
unit, displaying the joy and spontaneity for which they had once been revered. The
previous year's activities has severely curtailed such looseness in the recording process,
what with the technical marvels of the "Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane"
45, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the other fabs' psychedelic
wonders of 1967. Here were the four Beatles, playing and singing with abandon in a
wonderfully loose atmosphere. Much of the recording actually echoes the 1965 Beach
Boys Party! LP in terms of the taping's laid back approach (not to mention the fact
that, as on Party!, one can hear conversations occurring in the background
throughout most of the tape!). Never again would the fab four sound this happy; the
upcoming sessions for The Beatles would cement that fact.
Another important occurrence during the trip to India was that while John was in
Rishikesh, he began to seriously consider pursuing a relationship with the woman who had
been a shadowy presence in his life during the previous year and a half: avant garde
artiste Yoko Ono. She sent him letters constantly during the trip, often simply
featuring cryptic, monosyllabic phrases. John was entranced, and when he returned to
the UK, he began his pursuit of Yoko, consummating the relationship in mid-May of 1968.
An immediate result of John's newfound love was that Yoko became a constant presence at
all Beatles-related activities from June 1968 on. From film premieres (Yellow
Submarine on July 17th), to photo sessions (the multiple location "mad day"
photo session on July 28th, though she was not pictured in the photos), to recording
sessions (the upcoming "White Album" dates), Ms. Ono was present and accounted
for at all of these events. One such happening was the mixing session on June 4th
1968 for the "White Album" version of "Revolution", "Revolution
#1, which was recorded on May 31st. Disc two of this collection features the
unedited, offline recording of this EMI mixing date, made on John's portable tape
The thought of hearing this tape sounds extremely tantalizing, particularly when one is
aware that this original, "slow" rendering of the Lennon classic (the first
track to be worked on for The Beatles) was originally over ten minutes in length.
However, Paul and the others objected strongly to the idea that this version should
be issued as a single, as John intended. Macca's gripe was primarily that the middle
section featured Yoko adding her own unique vocal stylings to the proceedings, not to
mention the fact that ten minute singles weren't a particularly commercial concept then or
now (not that any of this mattered to John or Yoko). In the end, John capitulated
and the "Revolution #1" single idea was scrapped. However, the ten minute
version was mixed down, and this Lennon archive tape captures the mixing session.
Due to its offline nature, we hear music we've never heard before but, unfortunately, on
top of the tune we also hear Yoko pontificating on any matter that crosses her mind.
If this happened occasionally, it would be bad enough; however, the motor mouth antics
occur throughout the entire tape, as the fabs play on in the background. This makes
for a taxing listening experience at best, but one can argue that it's no worse than
listening to something like "12 Bar Original"; at least this tape is interesting
to hear more than once! Many musical items of note come to the fore, once the
listener can tune out the jabbering.
The final six minutes of "Revolution #1" (which went unused on the
"White Album", but are heard here) were used as a foundation on which to build
the "musique concrete" "Revolution #9", utilizing tape loops, live
"vocal performances" and other recorded oddities to build a dense collage of
sound. While John (or more specifically Yoko) may have pushed for this
"take" to be a single, this was happily not to be. In the end, the band
recorded a faster, far superior version of "Revolution" in July of 1968, for
placement on the B-side of the Beatles' first single on their own Apple label, Paul's
seven minute opus, "Hey Jude". The shortened "Revolution #1" and
the nine minute "Revolution #9" would both end up on the fourth side of the
double LP "White Album".
Despite the fact that this archive tape is not something a person would pull out often
for his or her listening pleasure, it is still a fascinating document of the
disintegration of a band, and the genesis of a dysfunctional relationship. While it
is admirable that John found what he wanted in a personal sense with Yoko, it is also
unfortunate he could not separate his romantic life from his art. He would have, of
course, disagreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment, but it can be argued that in a
purely musical sense, John was "held back" during the period from mid-1968 to
late 1969, writing only a few songs that were among his best. One listen to this
"Revolution #1" mixing tape gives ample evidence as to why this was the case.
Once he got back in touch with his own muse, particularly after kicking his heroin
addiction in mid-1969, the compositional fire returned with songs like "Instant Karma
(We All Shine On)" and those which would end up on his first solo LP.
Tellingly, these were not written for the Beatles.