When was it recorded? Aug. 13, 14 & 20 1968
When was it first released, and on which album? Nov. 22, 1968 on “The Beatles”
Who wrote it? Lennon
Have I heard this song before? Yes
What my research dug up:
“‘Yer Blues’ was written in India, too. The same thing up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal.” — John Lennon (David Sheff, All We Are Saying)
Quoth Wikipedia, “The half-satirical, half-earnest song mockingly acknowledges the British blues boom of 1968 and the debate among the music press at the time of whether white men could sing the blues.” Alan Pollack defends the song’s sincerity, writing “[Beatles biographer Mark] Lewisohn labels this song as simply ‘a parody of the British blues scene.’ Maybe so. But, when you contemplate John’s track record over the long run, (from ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Money’ in the early days to ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ in the Late Period), you’ve got to acknowledge that this screaming style is also in equal measure a genuine part of his essential musical persona.”
Many of my sources noted how “Yer Blues” sounds like a precursor to John’s post-Beatles compositions, both solo and with the Plastic Ono Band. Speaking of, the Beatles Bible believes John’s “cause of anguish” in this song is Yoko. Quoth the Beatles Bible, “Although their relationship had yet to begin, Ono wrote regularly to Lennon from England, and it is likely that she is the ‘girl’ the song is addressed to.”
Like most White Album tracks, the Beatles recorded a demo of “Yer Blues” in May 1968 at George’s Esher home.
According to Wikipedia, “The song is in the key of E major, but like many blues numbers, it prominently features accidentals, such as G natural, D natural, and B flat. The song is primarily in a 6/8 meter, but as with several of Lennon’s songs, the time signature and tempo are altered many times.”
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “The Beatles recorded ‘Yer Blues’ in a small annex room next to Abbey Road’s studio two. The Beatles got the idea from a sarcastic comment made by engineer Ken Scott during the recording of George Harrison’s ‘Not Guilty.’”
“George had this idea that he wanted to do it in the control room with the speakers blasting, so that he got more of an on-stage feel… I remember that John Lennon came in at one point and I turned to him and said, ‘Bloody hell, the way you lot are carrying on you’ll be wanting to record everything in the room next door!’ The room next door was tiny, where the four-track tape machines were once kept, and it had no proper studio walls or acoustic set-up of any kind. Lennon replied, ‘That’s a great idea, let’s try it on the next number!’ The next number was ‘Yer Blues’ and we literally had to set it all up – them and the instruments – in this minute room. That’s how they recorded ‘Yer Blues,’ and it worked out great!” — Ken Scott (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
The Fab Four recorded 14 takes of the rhythm track on Aug. 13, 1968. Then they made reduction mixes to free up tape space – according to the Beatles Bible, “Takes 15 and 16 were reductions of Take Six, and Take 17 was a reduction of part of Take 14.” Got all that? Then they spliced the start of Take 17 onto the end of Take 16. It is obvious.
John recorded another vocal part Aug. 14, and Ringo completed the song on Aug. 20, recording the count-in.
“‘Yer Blues,’ on the White Album, you can’t top it. It was the four of us. That is what I’m saying: it was really because the four of us were in a box, a room about eight by eight, with no separation. It was this group that was together; it was like grunge rock of the sixties, really – grunge blues.” — Ringo Starr (Anthology)
While the Beatles never performed this song live, John performed “Yer Blues” live at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus on Dec. 11, 1968 with The Dirty Mac – a super-group of Eric Clapton, Lennon, Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richards. This concert was widely bootlegged before being released on film in 1996.
Wicked. I like this song; I always have and hopefully always will. It’s quite a jam (in addition to being quite existentialist, of course. It’s an odd combination, but it works).