5/17/68: The Pentangle
May brought the outstanding self-titled debut release of the influential British folk-jazz group, The Pentangle, consisting of vocalist Jacqui McShee, guitarist/vocalist John Renbourn, guitarist/vocalist Bert Jansch, bassist Danny Thompson, and drummer Terry Cox – all of whom were accomplished musicians prior to the formation of this unit.
I find The Pentangle and British folk music in general from the mid-late 60’s, including Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, and Davey Graham, to be the perfect tonic when I want that 60’s vibe but from a different angle than the electric scene we know so well. This is a timeless musical stew of folk, jazz, blues and rock.
- Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
- Hear My Call
- Way Behind the Sun
- Bruton Town
5/30: The Beatles White Album sessions commence
It’s hard to say any one year in the Beatles’ existence was more of a whirlwind than the others, but 1968 was packed with activity and notable moments in the band’s lore. The four spent varying lengths of time in India in February, where in addition to taking the Maharishi’s meditation course John and Paul wrote most of the songs that would wind up on the group’s eponymous release later in the year. The film Wonderwall, with its Harrison-produced soundtrack, premiered at Cannes on May 17, and in the midst of all the recording activity during the year, the Fabs would appear in psychedelic cartoon form in Yellow Submarine, though their actual contribution (other than the music) was limited to a cameo at the end of the film.
John and Paul returned from their US publicity tour for the introduction of the group’s new company, Apple Corps, Ltd., in mid-May, and on an unspecified date later in the month, the Beatles assembled at George’s house in Esher to record demos of the songs they’d written in India. Finally, on this date 50 years ago, recording sessions began in earnest at Abbey Road Studios and would continue until October 14. Some sessions would take place at Trident Studios.
While traces of the Beatles’ demise can be seen as far back as the final concert tour in ’66 (and even earlier when taking into account some of George’s comments), the sessions for this double album marked the beginning of a definite acceleration of their split two years later. Engineer Geoff Emerick quit, and producer George Martin took a hiatus during recording, as did Ringo in a story recounted in the Anthology documentary and George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
Personal issues and resentments began to foment, as Yoko became a permanent presence in the studio. For that matter, Pattie, Maureen, and Paul’s girlfriend Francie were also present at times, breaking the group’s rule up until then of not allowing wives and girlfriends in the studio. George was growing rapidly as a songwriter, yet was still alloted minimal room for his songs on the album (a couple of his tunes, Not Guilty and Sour Milk Sea, would’ve been among my favorites had they been included on the album).
As we’ll see in August, the sessions would also yield another monumental non-album, double A-sided single with accompanying promotional films. When all was said and done, a glorious mish-mash of songs and sound experiments – “very varied” as Paul refers to it in the Anthology – would be released as a self-titled double album in November. A common argument among fans is whether the album is too long, too short, or just right. Perhaps we’ll discuss this debate further down the line on the release anniversary date, but for now I’ll just mention that hopefully those of us in the “More please!” crowd will be satiated with the anticipated 50th anniversary White Album reissue later this year.
Among the recordings many of us would like to see cleaned up for a deluxe anniversary White Album reissue are the above-mentioned Esher Demos linked below: