To begin with, “Julia” is a song from “The Beatles” aka the “White Album”. Indeed, John Lennon wrote and sang the song in memory of his mother who died in 1958, aged 44. But there’s also references to Yoko Ono too.
Release Date: 22nd November, 1968
Recorded: 13th October, 1968
Track Duration: 2:54
Record Label: Apple
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Ken Scott
John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals, acoustic guitar, humming
Although written and performed as a solo by John Lennon, the credits go to the songwriting partnership of Lennon-McCartney. In fact, this is the only John Lennon solo in The Beatles catalogue.
He began writing the song in 1968 while the band were at the meditation training camp in Rishikesh, northern India under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
While it is clear that the inspiration for the song is his mother, Julia, there is also references to Yoko Ono. In particular, this line “Ocean child calls me” is pretty obvious. This is because Yoko Ono’s name translated from Japanese means, “child of the sea”.
“Julia was my mother. But it was sort of a combination of Yoko and my mother blended into one. That was written in India. On the White Album. And all the stuff on the White Album was written in India while we were supposedly giving money to Maharishi, which we never did. We got our mantra, we sat in the mountains eating lousy vegetarian food and writing all those songs. We wrote tons of songs in India.”
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Fingerpicking Guitar Style
While the band were on the meditation training course in India, they met up with Donovan. Together, the fellow British musicians began exchanging a few ideas. Indeed, this is where Donovan taught John Lennon the song’s finger-picking guitar style aka “Travis-picking”.
“Some afternoons we would gather at one of our pads and play the acoustic guitars we had all brought with us. Paul Horn, the American flute wizard, was there. John was keen to learn the finger-style guitar I played and he was a good student. Paul already had a smattering of finger style. George preferred his Chet Atkins style. John wrote Julia and Dear Prudence based on the picking I taught him.”
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
After returning to England from India, they had a bundle of song ideas. Many needed further work while some were complete and ready to record, or at least rehearse.
This was one of the songs that the band would record in George Harrison’s home, Kinfauns in Esher, Surrey, during those famous demos in May, 1968.
John Lennon began recording “Julia” properly on the 13th October, 1968, in Studio Two of the EMI Studios, London, during the 7.00pm-6.00am session. He recorded three takes with the third one being suitable for the rhythm track. Then he started to double-track his vocals. While take 3 became the main track, take 2 is now on The Beatles’ 1996 album, “Anthology 3”.
On The Beatles’ “Love” album from 2006, “Eleanor Rigby” has a corresponding “Julia” transition piece.