The Esher Demos
Late May, 1968
Kinfauns (George Harrison's House), Esher, Surrey, UK
Home demo recordings, good quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and mp3 (320 kbps) versions
Continuing with my posts of all-time classic bootleg albums, it would be criminal not to include something by The Beatles here. After all, they are probably the most bootlegged act of all-time. And although I am as big a Beatles fan as anyone out there (and have several hundred Beatles bootleg titles), I have never even considered posting any Beatles here, just because Beatles stuff can be found so many other places, there was no need to post them here. But now, this special 5th Anniversary classics posting provides the perfect excuse to feature some Beatles. There are literally thousands of Beatles-related bootlegs out there, ranging from utterly fantastic to complete rubbish, with most somewhere in the middle, and many constituting endless re-sortings and re-compilations of the same batches of outtakes and 'rarities' as so many others, in varying levels of sound quality. So, out of all the Beatles-related bootlegs, from live recordings to all the rarities, outtakes, compilations, remixes, and remasters collections out there, what would be the single greatest Beatles boot? Given that many of the historical outtakes-rarities and remasters bootlegs have been rendered, maybe not obsolete, but certainly less essential, with the official releases of the Anthology series, Let It Be Naked, and the 2009 Remastered albums, probably the one bootleg release that most stands out to me as the best are The Esher Demos. This refers to the collection of acoustic demo recordings made by John, Paul, and George (there is no indication Ringo was present) at George's bungalow home (named Kinfauns) located in Esher, England. Here, in late May 1968, after returning from their trek to India and prior to going back into the recording studio to work on their next album (in June), the boys got together and presented to each other the songs they had each recently come up with. So, using George's Ampex 4-track Reel-to-Reel recorder, they laid down these mostly acoustic demos consisting primarily of early versions of songs that would later become the 'White album', as well as some that would be later released on respective solo albums ('Junk', 'Child of Nature' which was later re-worked to become 'Jealous Guy', and 'Circles'), and a few that were never officially released ('What's the New Mary Jane', 'Sour Milk Sea', 'Not Guilty'). It is a unique and wonderful opportunity and such a historical document to hear these early demo versions. One can imagine them just sitting around sharing their songs with each other, getting feedback, etc. When listening, you can get the feeling of having your own personal, casual and informal concert with them just sitting around your living room. It's quite remarkable. In some cases, the songs are still quite rough, in others, they are very similar to what the song would sound like on the finished album. Most intriguing are the early acoustic versions of songs that became much more electric or 'rockier' (like 'Revolution', 'Everybody's Got Something...Monkey', 'Yer Blues', 'While My Guitar...Weeps', etc). It has been reported that 27-28 songs were recorded over a couple days, after which George Martin had several copies of an acetate of these sessions pressed and distributed to each Beatle for their perusal at home to work with before heading into the studio in the following weeks. There have been many bootleg variations of the Esher demos circulating (with titles such as 'From Kinfauns to Chaos', 'Acoustic Masterpieces', Unsurpassed Demos', 'The Beatles-Unplugged', 'Release from Limitation', and countless others), in varying quality, for many years, but all have consisted of the same 23 songs (it has been rumored that the bootleg releases came from copies of Lennon's own Acetate, which he traded for some other bootlegs). It wasn't until Anthology 3 was released in 1996 that we got to hear 4 additional demo songs recorded at Kinfauns, 'Happiness is a Warm Gun', 'Glass Onion', 'Mean Mr. Mustard', and 'Polythene Pam', all in excellent quality (perhaps the original acetate that was bootlegged did not include these recordings?), but yet very few of the other previously available Esher tracks were included (just 'Junk', 'Piggies', 'Honey Pie' with improved sound and stereo). Thus, even after Anthology, the bootleg Esher demo versions remain the only source for almost all these tracks (Considering the much higher quality available from the original tapes as evident on the Anthology-released tracks, we can only hope that some day all the Esher demos will be officially released, which would make a great full CD release). Until that day, however, we are very fortunate to have these bootleg versions of the Esher Demos. For me then, this is the best single Beatles bootleg. If you only had one Beatles bootleg (as ludicrous a concept as that seems), it probably should be this one (although that would certainly be debatable - any discussion is certainly encouraged). The version I have presented here comes from the excellent Purple Chick 'Deluxe Edition' series, as they have compiled the best quality recordings available from various different bootleg sources. So, if you don't have these already, by all means get them now, as these are essential, and certainly an all-time classic.
3. Rocky Raccoon
4. Back In The U.S.S.R.
5. Honey Pie
6. Mother Nature's Son
7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
9. Dear Prudence
10. Sexy Sadie
11. Cry Baby Cry
12. Child Of Nature
13. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
14. I'm So Tired
15. Yer Blues
16. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
17. What's The New Mary Jane
19. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
21. Sour Milk Sea
22. Not Guilty
These are taken from the Purple Chick compilation 'The Beatles - Deluxe Edition Vol. 3' (The Demos)
From Purple Chick's notes - "For what it's worth, not only do these tracks sound better to us than on 'From Kinfauns To Chaos' but they're also in the 'correct order', at the correct speed and in true mono for the first time (as best we can tell)."
However, the Purple Chick collection also included the 4 additional Esher songs taken directly from the official Anthology 3 release. I have not included these tracks here as they are commercially available on Anthology 3. For the other songs that are also included on Anthology 3, I have used the the available bootleg versions, and not the upgraded, remixed, remastered versions available on the commercial release.
FLAC - Beatles - Esher Demos - Mega Link
mp3 - Beatles_Esher_Demos_(PC)_mp3.rar
For those just getting started in the world of Beatles bootlegs, but wanting the full range of available recordings, I would highly recommend getting hold of the complete Purple Chick 'Deluxe Edition' series, which is available for each Beatles album, and consists of the compilation of the best available outtakes, rarities, and unreleased recordings and sessions from each album period. Purple Chick also has a Live series compilation, which again compiles all the best quality live recordings over the Beatles career. Collection of these PC series (which amounts to several dozen CDs worth) contain most all of the Beatles bootleg recordings you would ever need, as they were compiled from many different bootleg sources, keeping the best stuff, and eliminating all the reundant and low quality remainders, and rendering most of the rest of the bootlegs obsolete.
But please, let me know what your favorite Beatles bootlegs are.