Beatles Nearly Made ‘Revolver’ With Stax’s Jim Stewart

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A newly-seen letter written by George Harrison in 1966 reveals that the Beatles planned to record their landmark ‘Revolver’ album at Stax Studios — not with producer George Martin, but with Jim Stewart, the man behind some of their favourite soul artists, notably Otis Redding.

It was already known that the group had wanted to record at Stax, and had actually booked a two-week session there in April, 1966. But it was previously thought that they withdrew for security reasons when the local Memphis press reported the fact. Harrison’s letter makes clear that the visit was, in fact, cancelled for financial reasons, and mentions Stewart’s specific potential involvement for the first time.

The letter, written in May of that year by the Beatles’ guitarist-writer to Paul Drew — a key DJ friend in Atlanta at radio station WQXI — is for sale for $20,000 via Jeff Gold, a rock memorabilia dealer in Los Angeles. Drew became friends with the group and travelled with them on tour in 1964 and ’65.

In the correspondence, Harrison discusses various aspects of group-related news, then adds after signing his name: “P.P.S. Did you hear that we nearly recorded in Memphis with Jim Stuart [sic]. We would all like it a lot, but too many people get insane with money ideas at the mention of the word “Beatles,” and so it fell through!”

The letter, written from George’s home in Esher, Surrey, is postmarked May 7, shortly after the Beatles started recording ‘Revolver’ at Abbey Road with longtime producer and confidant George Martin. The letter raises the notion that the group gave specific thought to recording without him in Memphis.

“The album we are making now should be out around October,” writes Harrison of ‘Revolver,’ which was actually released in the August. ”But I hear Capitol [in the US] will make an intermediate album with unused tracks from ‘Rubber Soul,’ a few old singles and about two or three of the new tracks we have just cut.” This was the ‘Yesterday and Today’ compilation, released in the US and Canada only, six weeks after the letter in June 1966.

“We have been writing and recording for the last few weeks, and I will let you have copies as soon as they are available,” George writes. “The single is ‘Paperback Writer’ c/w ‘Rain,’ and is issued in the States on about 4th or 5th June.” Later, he adds: “Well I am off to the studio any minute, as soon as John and Ringo arrive for me.”

Gold acquired the letter from Drew’s widow when he died in 2013. He told Rolling Stone: “When I read the Stax part I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this stuff and I knew it was a major revelation.”

Of the discussion of the compilation, Gold adds: “The general assessment is that Capitol did pretty much whatever they wanted with Beatles records. To see that George had a very specific understanding of what ‘Yesterday and Today’ was going to be before it came out was kind of a revelation too. It surprised me.”

Harrison also thanks Drew for sending him records by Edwin Starr “I dig [him] a lot but have never heard much about him. Do you know if he has an album out?” and idiosyncratic Capitol recording artist Mrs. Miller. He also tells Drew about the the wife of Mal Evans, the Beatles’ road manager, giving birth to a baby girl, “so Mal is really knocked-out about that!” Before the postscript, he signs off: “I’ll keep in touch — G.”

Format: Union Jack flagUK English


  1. Teddy Toye

    May 27, 2015 at 11:35 am

    this is good

  2. Greg

    May 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I’m pretty sure he did write in the letter that it would be out in August, not October like is stated in the article.

  3. MarkJ

    May 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Interesting and historic letter! Some small factoids:

    1. Given the info below, the “Friday” mentioned, John and Ringo picking him up at home, and the fact that George’s home in Esher, Surrey, was over an hour south of London and EMI Studios, George must have written this letter around noon on Friday, 6 May 1966–likely shortly after he awoke that day.

    2. The timing is based on the fact that the Beatles did the following recording work on 6 May 1966:

    6 May 1966
    Studio Two, EMI Studios, London (2.30pm-1.00am)
    “I’m Only Sleeping” (overdub onto take 11, tape reduction take 11 into takes 12 and 13)
    Studio Two (control room only), EMI Studios, London (1.00am-2.15am)
    Mono mixing
    “I’m Only Sleeping” (remixes 1-4, from take 13)
    Production staff: George Martin (producer), Geoff Emerick (engineer), Phil McDonald (2nd engineer)

  4. Luke

    May 28, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    “The letter raises the notion that the group gave specific thought to recording without him in Memphis.”

    That’s doubtful. I would assume Martin would have still come. But Stax was Jim Stewart’s company, and he often engineered sessions, so he would have been involved in some way by default.

  5. Ra Bob

    June 1, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Also keep in mind that the chief engineer of the Beatles records up through Rubber Soul, Norman Smith, had just quit his post working with The Beatles in order to take the promotion to “producer” for Pink Floyd. So The Beatles had no chief engineer in March 1966 with Brian Epstein was sent to Memphis to investigate the possibility of recording at Stax. A 19-year-old Geoff Emerick was promoted within EMI to become chief engineer… and told about the decision two weeks before the Revolver sessions started on April 6, 1966.

  6. Randy F.

    December 26, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Beatles at STAX would have been awesome. I feel that some of the Stax artists would have joined the recordings. Perhaps Booker T. on the organ and Otis Redding on a duet of Paperback Writer ?

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