Why Paul McCartney Recorded ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ Without the Other Beatles
It’s no news to Beatles fans that 1968’s White Album became a dark time for the Fab Four. During the recording sessions, the band would witness a walkout by Ringo, a near-fistfight between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and plenty of grumbling and dirty looks on the side.
However, there was also plenty of joy and collaboration during the White Album. According to records from the sessions, the band had a blast (very much under the influence) recording “Helter Skelter.” And Ringo had a blast making “Yer Blue,” which became a favorite for him.
But you could tell how bad things got in the summer of ’68 by how many tracks exclude other Beatles. John definitely noticed when Paul recorded “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” without help from him or George.
And there was plenty more where that came from. “Mother Nature’s Son,” a pretty ballad Paul wrote after his return from India, also didn’t feature any of the other Beatles. Part of it had to do with the song’s arrangement.
‘Mother Nature’s Son’ featured a brass section backing Paul’s guitar
While the actual sessions for “Mother Nature’s Son” weren’t until August, Paul rehearsed the track while recording “Blackbird” (another solo Paul song) in June. John was present on that day in the studio and offered Paul a suggestion on the arrangement.
“A little bit of brass band, you know,” John said. “A very nice little bit of brass band.” Paul liked the idea. “That would be lovely,” he said before John left the studio for the day. So George Martin (the Beatles’ producer) got to work on a score for two trumpets and two trombones.
On the finished record, listeners only hear those four horn players in addition to Paul. But that’s not to say they are the only instruments on the track. In addition to his acoustic guitar, Paul also played bass, drums, and timpani.
In short, there was plenty of work for others (Ringo, certainly) to do on “Mother Nature’s Son.” But Paul chose to work on his own. And it led to an especially tense moment during the August sessions.
Resentment bubbled to the surface during the final ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ session
While John might have been helpful discussing the track in June, it was an entirely different story by August. By the second session for “Mother Nature’s Son” (August 20), George had gone off to Greece, so he obviously couldn’t participate. However, John and Ringo were in the studio.
According to engineer Ken Scott, the horn player session began with Paul and everyone else present in good spirits. But in the middle of that, Ringo and John walked into the room. Suddenly, the whole scene shifted.
“Halfway through, John and Ringo walked in and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife!” Scott said in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “An instant change. It was like that for ten minutes and then as soon as they left it felt great again.”
In the end, it went out as one of those White Album songs that featured absences by one or more Beatles. For Paul, working alone had become normal by the time they finished that record.