Take a Dip in the "Sour Milk Sea," a 1968 Track Featuring Three Beatles and Eric Clapton
The late Jackie Lomax was born on this date (May 10) in 1944.
I'd like to celebrate this seemingly arbitrary milestone by discussing the most famous thing Lomax, a former member of a Liverpool band called the Undertakers, has ever been 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 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.
That's Lomax on vocals.
"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 Jackie Lomax single in August 1968 on 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."
The top clip features the Lomax version of the song. Clapton's guitar solo starts at 1:50; Harrison's solo starts at 2:08. Below that, you can check out Harrison's original demo of the track, which features his double-tracked vocals; this recording is part of the Beatles' much-bootlegged "Esher demos/sessions."
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