Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unknown George Harrison Letter Surfaces, Reveals Why The Beatles Canceled Stax Sessions

A previously unknown letter written by George Harrison to Atlanta DJ Paul Drew in May 1966 has surfaced and is now for sale for $20,000 by a Los Angeles-based rock collectibles dealer. 

The letter reveals that the Beatles seriously considered recording at Memphis' famed Stax Studio with producer Jim Stewart but did not happen due to financial reasons. It had previously been thought security issues were the reason for the Fab Four backing out. As well, Stewart's possible involvement is a new revelation, over George Martin's who was the only producer the Beatles ever worked with until the end of the band's career three years later. 

"We would all like it a lot," Harrison wrote, "but too many people get insane with money ideas at the mention of the word 'Beatles,' and so it fell through!"

Dealer Jeff Gold acquired the letter from Drew's widow after he passed away in 2013. He told Rolling Stone, "When I read the Stax part I was like, 'What the hell is this?' I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this stuff and I knew it was a major revelation."

The letter was written while the Beatles were at the early stages of recording Revolver and is postmarked May 7, 1966. It also reveals an understanding of the Beatles and the album Yesterday and Today, which it had been thought was released largely without the Beatles' awareness.

"The album we are making now should be out around October," Harrison wrote. "But I hear Capitol will make an intermediate album with unused tracks from Rubber Soul, a few old singles and about two or three of the new tracks we have just cut…Well I am off to the studio any minute, as soon as John and Ringo arrive."

That "intermediate" album Harrison referred to would be released as Yesterday and Today. Gold told Rolling Stone, "The general assessment is that Capitol did pretty much whatever they wanted with Beatles records. To see that George had a very specific understanding of what Yesterday and Today was going to be before it came out was kind of a revelation too. It surprised me."

See images of Harrison's letter below, which ends with a thanks to Drew for sending him records records by Edwin Starr and Mrs. Miller. Drew was an influential radio DJ and program director who formed a friendship with the Beatles after traveling with the group on its 1964 and 1965 world tour.