Welcome back for another Beatles Rarity Of The Week. During February and March 1968 The Beatles were in Rishikesh, India learning about Transcendental Meditation (TM) as guests of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They were joined by a few other celebrities including actress Mia Farrow (who was soon to be divorced from Frank Sinatra), her sister Prudence Farrow, Donovan, Mike Love of The Beach Boys and others.
Each day after the Maharishi’s lectures, The Beatles and many of the others would socialize and jam a little or write songs together. Prudence Farrow, however, turned into a near recluse and rarely came out of her cottage, rushing back to meditate on her own. John Lennon was later quoted as saying that she’d been locked in for three weeks and was trying to reach God quicker than anyone else. Farrow later admitted she was a bit fanatical about it all, but at the time it seemed to her the right thing to do. She wanted to learn TM well enough to teach it herself (and eventually did). The song “Dear Prudence” that was later to appear on the White Album was written by John and, of course, a message to Prudence. Within the lyrics John writes words to encourage her to come out and socialize with everyone and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors at their camp.
The sun is up, the sky is blue,
it’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
John played the song using a finger-picking style on his guitar shown to him by Donovan and also used on his other White Album tracks “Julia” and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” When The Beatles were leaving India, George Harrison mentioned to Prudence that John had written a song about her. She was very flattered but chose to not hear it until it came out on the album.
Later during the White Album sessions, tensions were high within the group to the point where Ringo Starr had actually left the band temporarily. On August 29, 1968 The Beatles were at Trident Studios in London recording “Dear Prudence” for the White Album without Ringo. A single take of the song was completed that day with both George and John playing guitars and Paul McCartney on Ringo’s drum kit. Additional overdubs were added later to include a double tracked vocal by John and backing vocals by John, Paul, George, Mal Evans, Jackie Lomax and Paul’s cousin John McCartney. Handclaps were also added by the backing vocalists and George added a lead guitar overdub. Paul added bass, piano, fugelhorn, tambourine and a cowbell. “Back In The U.S.S.R.” was another track on the White Album that Ringo was not around for drumming duties.
Before the White Album sessions began, The Beatles taped some demos of songs they had written mostly while in India. This week’s BROW feature of “Dear Prudence” comes from this collection of demos and was recorded at George Harrison’s Kinfauns home in Esher, or possibly John Lennon’s Kenwood home in Surrey, in late May 1968.
Unlike the final version, this demo has a repeat of the bridge after the third verse and John says “oops” after a vocal flub in the last verse. It also has a vocal narration over the coda where John cheekily explains the situation with Prudence that inspired the song.
1) Other material from the Esher demos recorded in late May 1968 appear on this site for these songs (just click the links to read and hear more): “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill”, “Cry Baby Cry”, “Sour Milk Sea” and “Julia”.
2) After India, Prudence Farrow went on to teach TM for about 37 years. She also received a BA, MA and PhD in South and Southeast Asian studies from University of California at Berkeley.
The music of The Beatles make great holiday gifts! Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:
1) The White Album 2-CD 2009 remaster of original 1968 double LP, featuring “Dear Prudence.”
2) 1) I Wanna Be Santa Claus – 1999 CD of holiday tunes by Ringo Starr.