Take a Dip in the "Sour Milk Sea," a 1968 Track Featuring Three Beatles and Eric Clapton
I'd like to discuss the most famous thing Jackie Lomax, a former member of a Liverpool band called the Undertakers, was ever involved in—the recording of "Sour Milk Sea."
The song, which was recorded and released in 1968, is legendary because it is very nearly a Beatles recording.
Like a lot of Beatles songs, "Sour Milk Sea" was recorded—in the Sixties—at Abbey Road Studios in London. Also like a lot of Beatles songs, it was written by George Harrison and features Harrison on lead guitar, Paul McCartney on bass and Ringo Starr on drums.
John Lennon didn't take part in the session. However, we get to hear the brilliance of Cream guitarist Eric Clapton (who played on the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps") and ace session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins (who played on the Beatles' "Revolution") on piano.
See what I mean by "very nearly a Beatles recording"?
That's Lomax on vocals, by the way.
"I wrote 'Sour Milk Sea' in Rishikesh, India," Harrison said. "I never actually recorded the song. It was done by Jackie Lomax on his album Is This What You Want? It's based on Vishvasara Tantra, from Tantric art. 'What is here is elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere.' It's a picture, and the picture is called Sour Milk Sea—Kalladadi Samudra in Sanskrit. I used 'Sour Milk Sea' as the idea of—if you're in the shit, don't go around moaning about it: Do something about it."
"Sour Milk Sea" was released as a Lomax single in August 1968 on Apple Records. It also appears on his 1969 album, Is This What You Want? (Apple Records).
"With Eric Clapton playing on it, it was on fire," Lomax said. "When the backing tape was played back, I thought it worked as an instrumental. 'You want me to sing on top of that?!' There I am in the studio and there are three Beatles in the control room watching me ... I guess I was nervous at first, but after a couple of takes I was into it."
Clapton's guitar solo starts at 1:50; Harrison's solo starts at 2:08.
Sadly, Lomax died in September 2013. If you can get your hands on a copy of Is This What You Want, you really should!
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/swing/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City instrumental surf-rock band Mister Neutron, also composes and records film soundtracks. He writes GuitarWorld.com's The Next Bend column, which is dedicated to B-bender guitars and guitarists. His latest liner notes can be found in Sony/Legacy's Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.