Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 173
Sun. June 30, 2012

“Julia [Take 2]”
The Beatles
1996 [circa 1968]

“♫ […] Half of
what I say is
I say it just
to reach you

One of the most quintessential Beatles recordings is this lovely solo acoustic outtake of “Julia” on Anthology 3. I love hearing Lennon hit the wrong chords but even so, “Julia” sounds even more beautiful in this imperfect state.

Buried at the end of Disc 1 on Anthology 3, my favorite part of this Take 2 of “Julia” is at the end you hear an abbreviated conversational exchange between Lennon and McCartney. Just to hear, John’s smile and laughter, after such an intimate recording—you can actually feel the nervousness in his voice, asking Paul if the take was alright. You realize by this short exchange how much John looked to Paul for assurance.

How much did he trust Macca? So much that John allowed only Paul to be in the control room while he sung his most personal song. You feel the love between them and Paul is trying to coax another take, upcoming, would be the master of one of the most personal songs Lennon penned in the whole Beatles catalog.

How much self-assurance did John need while recording “Julia?” Engineer Ken Scott wrote in his book Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust—“John always wanted to double-track his vocal, not because he thought he couldn’t sing, but because he didn’t like the sound of his voice.”

“Julia” was actually the last song to be recorded for The Beatles, Lennon waited until the end of the White Album sessions to complete Julia. According to Peter Doggett’s The Beatles: The Music and The Myth—“For The first and last time in The Beatles career, [Julia], was an entirely solo performance by John.” John didn’t want anyone else but Paul, and Macca was in the control room, to witness him attempt to record the song which he described—“Julia was my mother. But it was sort of a combination of Yoko and my mother blended into one.”

Ian MacDonald expanded on Lennon’s assertion about “Julia” in his classic Beatles tome, Revolution in the Head, when he explained —““Julia” is psychologically one of Lennon’s fulcrum pieces: a message to his dead mother telling her that, in ‘ocean child’ (Japanese meaning for Yoko), he has finally found a love to replace her […].” Unbeknownst to some, Lennon referred to Yoko as “mother” throughout their marriage continuing the oedipal like connection that John described with “Julia.”

The roots of Julia were actually unearthed in India when Dylan-esque troubadour Donovan taught John, Paul and George his won finger style guitar technique, without picks as he explained—“[John] wanted to know about patterns I was using. John was a diligent student and mastered the complex pattern in a few days. Learning a new style meant composing in a different way. John opened up feelings for his mother. John found release for these emotions in Julia, the song he learned with the new finger style.”

I never knew John adapted the opening lyrics of “”Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you,” from a poem “Sand and Foam” by Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran. Gibran’s “When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind,” also inspired John to compose the lyric—“♫ When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind. ♫”

Singing his mind and speaking with his heart, “Julia” was one of John Lennon’s most intricate songs. A delicate ode to both his mother Julia and his newly found soulmate Yoko, “Julia” so personal that only Paul McCartney, his closest Beatles confidant, was allowed to witness her creation. Within the brilliance of this Take 2, you can experience a glimpse inside the sacred song creating process, rarely seen or heard, of Lennon’s “Julia.”

More than a love song, “Julia” Lennon’s lyrical touchstone, poetic and beautiful— today we honor this gem, the essential outtake from Anthology 3, join me as we “♫ sing the song of love for Julia. ♫”