Saturday, March 21, 2020

Carnival of Light

How is it possible I have never heard of this until yesterday? If it wasn't for French in Action I may have gone to my grave never knowing about this.

According to Wikipedia:
"Carnival of Light" is an unreleased avant-garde recording by the English rock band the Beatles. It was commissioned for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, an event held at the Roundhouse in London on 28 January and 4 February 1967. Recorded during a session for "Penny Lane", "Carnival of Light" is nearly 14 minutes long and contains distorted, echo-laden sounds of percussion, keyboards, guitar and vocals. Its creation was initiated by Paul McCartney's interest in the London avant-garde scene and through his connection with the designers Binder, Edwards & Vaughan. 
Since the event, "Carnival of Light" has rarely been heard, and does not circulate on bootlegs. For McCartney, the piece came to hold significance in his efforts to be recognised as the first Beatle to fully engage with the avant-garde, over a year before John Lennon recorded "Revolution 9". In 1996, McCartney tried to release the track on the Beatles' Anthology 2 compilation, but its inclusion was vetoed by his former bandmates. The tape was confirmed by McCartney to be in his possession in 2008. As of 2016, he was still considering the track's release.
I've been a fan of the Beatles since I was fourteen and I have never ever heard of this before.

And I found it while falling down the Internet rabbit hole. I find the Wikipedia article about Carnival of Light from another Wiki article about raves and which mentions it in passing:
Presaging the word's subsequent 1980s association with electronic music, the word "rave" was a common term used regarding the music of mid-1960s garage rock and psychedelia bands (most notably The Yardbirds, who released an album in the United States called Having a Rave Up). Along with being an alternative term for partying at such garage events in general, the "rave-up" referred to a specific crescendo moment near the end of a song where the music was played faster, more heavily and with intense soloing or elements of controlled feedback. It was later part of the title of an electronic musicperformance event held on 28 January 1967 at London's Roundhouse titled the "Million Volt Light and Sound Rave". The event featured the only known public airing of an experimental sound collage created for the occasion by Paul McCartney of The Beatles – the legendary Carnival of Light recording.[16]
I came upon the rave article from a Wiki on MMDA (aka ecstasy and Molly) and I come to that article from one about sassafras - apparently MMDA is made from an essential oil found in sassafras, which was once an important ingredient in rootbeer which also contains anise, which is an ingredient in pastis, which a character in French in Action drinks in one episode.

And that's how I finally heard of Carnival of Light. 

I thought I knew every interesting thing there was to know about the Beatles.

It's amazing it's never been bootlegged, and you can't hear it although McCartney still has a copy and tried to get it into the Beatles Anthology. I mean, you can hear A Toot and a Snore in 74, why can't you hear Carnival of Light?

There are four tracks and I would love to especially hear the third:

eatles historian Mark Lewisohn was granted access to the completed recording of "Carnival of Light" while compiling his 1988 book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions.[22] He outlined the contents of the four-track tape:
  • Track one: "distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds"
  • Track two: "a distorted lead guitar"
  • Track three: "the sounds of a church organ, various effects (water gargling was one) and voices ... perhaps most intimidating of all, John and Paul screaming dementedly and bawling aloud random phrases like 'Are you alright?' and 'Barcelona!'"
  • Track four: "various indescribable sound effects with heaps of echo and manic tambourine"[23]
The piece concludes with McCartney asking the studio engineer in an echo-soaked voice, "Can we hear it back now?"[21] Lewisohn wrote that a rough mono mix was given to Vaughan,[4] while Miles stated that the mixdown had "full stereo separation".[17] After completing the session, according to engineer Geoff Emerick, Martin said: "This is ridiculous. We've got to get our teeth into something constructive."[2] Emerick wrote that Lennon's "Barcelona" yell and other "bits and pieces" from the "Carnival of Light" session were later recycled for "Revolution 9", the sound collage Lennon recorded with Yoko Ono in June 1968.[24]