George Harrison Letter Confirms Beatles’ ‘Revolver’ Was Almost Recorded at Stax
One of the most tantalizing rumors that have floated around the Beatles over the years is that they had considered recording at Memphis’ famous Stax Studio, home to Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MG’s and Sam & Dave. A newly unearthed letter handwritten by George Harrison confirms that the idea was discussed, but it fell through due to money issues.
Rolling Stone reports that rock memorabilia dealer Jeff Gold, who owns the letter, says it was written by Harrison to Atlanta DJ Paul Drew in May 1966, a month into the Revolver sessions. Drew had befriended the Beatles on their first U.S. tour, and Harrison wrote to thank him for sending him some records and to give him an update on the group. In the postscript, Harrison breaks the news about Stax.
“Did you hear that we nearly recorded in Memphis with [Stax label and studio co-owner] Jim Stewart?” Harrison writes. “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!"
Rob Bowman’s 1997 history of Stax, Soulsville, U.S.A., notes that, in March 1966, Beatles manager Brian Epstein flew to Memphis, reportedly to discuss the possibility of recording at Stax. House guitarist Steve Cropper told Bowman that he had heard that it was canceled due to a lack of security in Memphis. Bowman acknowledges that it had never been confirmed by anybody associated with the Beatles. Harrison’s letter is the first conclusive proof by the Beatles that they had looked into it.
Harrison also mentions in the letter that he was going to the studio that day, but Mark Lewisohn's exhaustive book, The Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Abbey Road Studio Session Notes, 1962 – 1970, lists no entry for May 7, 1966 -- the date on the letter's postmark. The previous two days had been spent recording “I’m Only Sleeping.”
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