Carnival of Light

Carnival of Light

Song infobox
Name = Carnival of Light

Caption =
Artist = the Beatles
Released = "Unreleased"
Recorded = January 5, 1967
Genre = Psychedelic rock, musique concrète, experimental music
Length = 13:48
Writer = Lennon/McCartney
Producer = George Martin
"Carnival of Light" is an unreleased experimental piece by The Beatles. It was recorded on January 5, 1967, after the vocal overdubbing sessions for Penny Lane. The track was created for "The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave", an event held at the Roundhouse Theatre on January 28 and February 4, 1967. Some people claim that it was around thirteen minutes long, and Paul McCartney has said it was around fifteen minutes. (In "The Complete Beatles Chronicle" it's listed as lasting 13 minutes and 48 seconds.)


The genesis of the track came in December 1966 from designer David Vaughan (part of the designer trio Binder, Edwards & Vaughan), who had recently painted a psychedelic design on a piano owned by Paul McCartney. About the same time as he delivered the piano to McCartney's Cavendish Avenue address, he asked if McCartney would contribute a musical piece for the upcoming "The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave". To Vaughan’s surprise McCartney agreed to make a contribution.

The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave

"The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave" (sometimes referred to as "The Carnival of Light Rave") was an art festival organised by Binder, Edwards & Vaughan as a showcase for electronic music and light shows. It was held at the Chalk Farm Road Roundhouse Theatre and featured on the bill not only a public playing of 'Carnival of Light' but performances by Unit Delta Plus, whose members included early electronic music pioneers Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and fellow electronic artist Peter Zinovieff.


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!'"Lewisohn (1988), p.192]

Barry Miles, the official McCartney biographer, wrote in "" that the song had "no rhythm, although a beat is sometimes established for a few bars by the percussion or a rhythmic pounding piano. There is no melody, although snatches of a tune sometimes threaten to break through."

The basic bed track of an organ playing bass notes and drums was recorded at a slow speed, giving them a deeper sound. 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?"

Also, according to Barry Miles, musically it "resembles "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" from Frank Zappa 's Freak Out! album, except there is no rhythm and the music ... is more fragmented, abstract and serious."

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" (from "Sgt. Pepper's") with a piano appeared during the song. [ [ "Carnival of Light" The history of the Beatles' most mysterious unreleased track] ] 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.

The mix

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 unknown. Edwards has said the tape was taken to America 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.


"Carnival of Light" has not yet appeared on any release, either official or a bootleg recording. In 1996 McCartney tried to release the track on the compilation album "The Beatles Anthology 2". But it was George Martin who voted to reject it. According to McCartney, the reason being was that "he didn't like avant garde music" and referred to avant garde as 'avant garde a clue'. George Harrison had also created avant-garde music as a solo composer (in 1969 he released an experimental album using the then new Moog synthesizer called "Electronic Sound", and dabbled in the avant-garde with a couple of his Beatles compositions). This, according to some, explains why the instrumental backings of "Eleanor Rigby" and "Within You Without You" appear on "Anthology 2" instead.

In August 1996, McCartney claimed (in an interview for Mojo) that he was working on a photo collage film of the Beatles that was similar to a film made about the Grateful Dead in 1995 called "Grateful Dead -- A Photo Film". He was planning to use "Carnival of Light" in the soundtrack, but this project has yet to be seen and McCartney has not commented on the film's status since 2002.

Phony "bootleg" on filesharing networks

A minute-long mp3 file of backwards, sped up electric guitar noises showed up on filesharing networks under the title of "Carnival of Light." Unfortunately, this track was a misnamed partial track (originally 1 minute 9 seconds long) by the Lord of Boothferry, a very keen Beatles-related music collector. It was recorded mid-2000, using a damaged Hondo guitar, on a digital eight-track machine, and was released under a pseudonym on Napster. The track was a response to misnamed files on filesharing networks that made outrageous claims. Although not released as "Carnival Of Light," once circulating the name of the file was changed by various fans to fit descriptions of this unreleased composition. A follow-up track named "Joker's Relief" did not gain such a "following" or misnaming.




External links

* [ "Carnival of Light": The history of the Beatles' most mysterious unreleased track.]
* [ The Beatles Bible: Carnival Of Light]
* [ Unit Delta Plus]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Carnival of Light — The Beatles Veröffentlichung bislang unveröffentlicht Länge 14 min Genre(s) Avantgardemusik Carnival of Light ist ein bis heute unveröffentlichtes Stück der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carnival of Light — Carnival of Light (англ. «Карнавал света»)  экспериментальная запись The Beatles, записанная 5 января 1967 года, после записи вокальных партий для песни Penny Lane, сингла, записанного во время записи альбома Sgt. Pepper s… …   Википедия

  • Carnival of Light — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Carnival of Light (homonymie). Carnival of Light Chanson par The Beatles …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carnival of Light (album) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Carnival of Light (homonymie). Carnival of Light Album par Ride Sortie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carnival of Light (album) — Infobox Album | Name = Carnival of Light Type = Album Artist = Ride Released = 20 June 1994 Recorded = Genre = Alternative Length = 56:33 Label = Creation Records Producer = John Leckie Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|3|5… …   Wikipedia

  • Carnival of Light (homonymie) — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Carnival of Light peut désigner : Carnival of Light, une chanson des Beatles jamais publiée Carnival of Light, un album du groupe anglais Ride.… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carnival glass — is an inexpensive pressed glass, made as both functional and ornamental objects, always iridescent and found in a wide spectrum of colors. It was produced in the U.S., Britain, Australia, and several European and Asian countries from the early… …   Wikipedia

  • Light at the End — is a 2007 studio album by the Portland, Maine band Rustic Overtones, the first album put out by the band since its break up in 2002. The album was recorded in the spring of 2007, released on July 24th, 2007 [… …   Wikipedia

  • Carnival Legend — is a Spirit class cruise ship owned by Carnival Corporation PLC and operated by Carnival Cruise Lines. It was built by Kvaerner Masa Yards which was a subsidiary of Kvaerner, in Helsinki, Finland. It was launched on December 17, 2001, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Carnival — Car ni*val, n. [It. carnevale, prob. for older carnelevale, prop., the putting away of meat; fr. L. caro, carnis, flesh + levare to take away, lift up, fr. levis light.] 1. A festival celebrated with merriment and revelry in Roman Gatholic… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.