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The Beatles Songs: Julia

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: Julia

The 1996 "jukebox 45" release of "Julia" on white vinyl

classic45s.com

Julia

Written by: John Lennon (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)

Recorded: October 13, 1968 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 13, 1968
Length: 2:53
Takes: 3

Musicians:

John Lennon: lead vocals (double-tracked), acoustic guitars (1967 Martin D-28)

Available on: (CDs in bold)

The Beatles (a/k/a "The White Album"; UK: Apple PMC 7067-8; US: Apple SWBO 101; Parlophone CDP 7 46443 2; CDP 7 46444 2)

History:

  • The death of John Lennon's mother on July 15, 1958 was a shattering event in his young life; though John's Aunt Mimi had petitioned the government to take over his custody, both he and Mimi remained close to Julia Stanley Lennon, with John visiting her in the same neighborhood nearly every day. She was, after all, the one person who had encouraged his desire to be a musician. John was spared the sight of her being struck and killed by the car of an off-duty cop, but he was traumatized for most of his adult life by the event, and he searched for years to find a suitable female muse and source of comfort to take her place. By the time he returned from his spiritual retreat in Rishikesh, India in May 1968, he'd come to believe that female was performance artist Yoko Ono. By the time the band gathered to record the "White Album," she was a constant presence at his side, which inflamed tensions within the band.
  • While in Rishikesh, John noticed folk-rocker Donovan, also studying at the ashram, playing acoustic guitar with what he called a "claw-hammer" picking technique, and over the next few days, he diligently taught it to Lennon. Inspired by the style, John immediately wrote two songs: "Dear Prudence" and "Julia." He made a demo of the latter song at his "Kenwood" home in Weybridge upon his return to England, at which time he also made a demo of a similar finger-picking song he would later revisit during his solo career, "Look At Me." He made yet another demo of "Julia" at George's home, Kinfauns, in Esher.
  • Taking several phrases from Sand and Foam, Kahlil Gibran's recent book of philosophical musings, John crafted a dual ode to Julia and Yoko, melding the two together once and for all in his psyche: at one point he calls "Julia, ocean child," referring to the literal English translation of the name "Yoko." He recorded the song in three takes on October 13, 1968, double-tracking his guitar and vocal, with Paul McCartney offering support from the control room.

Trivia:
  • "Sand and Foam" was referenced by Lennon in at least two places: Gibran's phrase "Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you" became the opening lines of the song, "Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you, Julia." Likewise, the beginning of the last verse, "When I cannot speak my heart, I can only sing my mind," was a nearly direct lift from the text: "When life does not find a singer to sing her heart, she produces a philosopher to speak her mind." Donovan, perhaps not coincidentally, had a few years earlier written a song of his own called "Sand and Foam."
  • The mysterious character Julia, who has a romantic past with both the hero and villain of the anime series Cowboy Bebop, was named after this song.
  • The first 18 notes of "Julia" are exactly the same.
  • Capitol issued "Julia" as the b-side of their 1976 US single release of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." The two were also released as a special white-vinyl jukebox 45 in the mid-'90s.
  • This is the only Beatles song featuring John alone. He would go on to deal with the tragedy of his loss on the Plastic Ono Band track "Mother."

Covered by: Ramsey Lewis, Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood, Bongwater, Sean Lennon, Charlie Byrd, Chocolate Genius, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

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