A Carnival Of Light And Sound

The Beatles Obscure Track That The World Hasn’t Heard Yet

A Carnival Of Light And Sound

The recording sessions for “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” between 1966 and early 1967 produced many outtakes and other songs that were not meant to be used in the album, among it “Carnival Of Light”.


This was an experimental piece recorded by the Beatles on the 5th of January 1967 for “The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave”, a Psychedelic event held at the Roundhouse Theatre on 28th of January and 4th of February 1967. The track is nearly 14 minutes long and contains distorted sounds of percussion, keyboards, guitar, vocals, and various effects. It has since then remained unreleased and unheard to the general public. Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, who listened to the song in 1987 while compiling his book “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”, says the song included “distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds, a distorted lead guitar, the sound of a church organ, various effects (water gargling was one) and, perhaps most intimidating of all, John Lennon and McCartney screaming dementedly and bawling aloud random phrases like ‘Are you alright?’ and ‘Barcelona!’

The basic bed track of an organ playing bass notes and drums was recorded at a fast speed, meaning that when played back at a regular speed they are deeper in pitch and slower in tempo. There is also a huge amount of reverb used on the instruments and on Lennon’s and McCartney’s vocals (the only two voices on the track); Lennon and McCartney also recorded Native American war cries, whistling, close-miked gasping, genuine coughing and fragments of studio conversation. Other overdubs to the song include bursts of guitar feedback, schmaltzy cinema organ, snatches of jangling pub piano and electronic feedback with Lennon shouting ‘Electricity!’. The track concludes with McCartney asking the studio engineer in an echo-soaked voice, “Can we hear it back now?

The Beatles in 1967

The Mixes and The Tape

Dudley Edwards (one of the organizers of “The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave” and friend of McCartney’s) said that an early take of “Fixing a Hole” with a piano appeared during the song.It is unlikely that a sample of an early take was heard since the recording of “Fixing a Hole” did not commence until five days after the last “The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave”, but it is not impossible that McCartney played a few bars of the song on the track. In The Complete Beatles Chronicle it is listed as lasting 13 minutes and 48 seconds. Although Lewisohn’s book says that a rough mono mix was given to Vaughan, Miles claims that the mix down “was made with full stereo separation, and is an exercise in musical layers and textures”. Whether a second mix was made after the event or Vaughan was in fact given a stereo mix which was not logged in Abbey Road’s records is unspecified. Edwards has said the tape was taken to San Francisco by one Ray Anderson (who was brought over from the U.S. to assist with the light show). The master session tapes of “Carnival of Light” are still at Abbey Road Studios.

Avant Garde A Clue”

Giles Martin commented that while it was considered at one point for inclusion, “it wasn’t really part of Pepper. It wasn’t part of the Sgt. Pepper recording. It’s a very different thing”

“Carnival of Light” has not yet appeared on any official Beatles release. In 1996, McCartney tried to release the track on the compilation album The Beatles Anthology 2, but George Harrison voted to reject it.According to McCartney, the reason was that “he didn’t like avant garde music” and referred to avant garde as “avant garde a clue”. In November 2008, McCartney confirmed he still owned the master tapes, adding that he suspected “the time has come for it to get its moment. I like it because it’s the Beatles free, going off-piste.” McCartney would need the consent of Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison, as well as Ringo Starr to release the track. In 2016, McCartney stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that he considering issuing unused Beatles recording takes. During this interview he again admitted he was still toying with the idea of releasing “Carnival of Light” As of 2017, the track remains unreleased. Many anticipated it to be included as a bonus track for the upcoming super deluxe edition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, but it failed to appear in the released track listings. At a preview event hosted at Abbey Road Studios to unveil the new Pepper stereo remix, Giles Martin commented that while it was considered at one point for inclusion, “it wasn’t really part of Pepper. It wasn’t part of the Sgt. Pepper recording. It’s a very different thing”. However, he expressed an interest in “do[ing] something interesting” with the track in the future.

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