Why The Beatles' 'Carnival of Light' Should Remain a Mystery
Graphic by Julia Province
It was (nearly) 50 years ago today that "SGT. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was released.
The groundbreaking Beatles album that Rolling Stone called the greatest of all-time will get a deluxe, five-disc anniversary edition. Releasing May 26, the re-release date nearly coincides with its original June 1, 1967 release.
And while the collection features unreleased tracks and video, it's what's not there that might be more fascinating.
Countless bootlegs of unreleased music from the Fab Four exist online, and have been traded illegally for decades. Very little is unknown about one of the most documented bands in music history. And very little hasn't been heard by anyone with an internet connection.
But one piece of the group's history has been almost completely under wraps.
The Beatles recorded "Carnival of Light" in January 1967. It's an experimental, avant-garde piece that lasts nearly 14 minutes. Reportedly, by the few who have heard it, it features virtually no melody and screamed phrases from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The song has been thought of as a precursor to "Revolution 9," which would appear on "The White Album" a year later in 1968.
Unlike many officially unreleased Beatles tracks, it's not available to listen to on YouTube or really anywhere, legally or not -- despite Paul McCartney's best efforts.
McCartney previously attempted to include the track on the Beatles "Anthology 2," but George Harrison was not on board. And it's unclear if Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono were either.
It's been very well noted that each song the band released had to be agreed upon by all four members. And while it would be possible to release the song with the blessing of Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison, he did already say 'no.' (McCartney would need Ono and Starr's 'okay' as well.)
In addition to not getting Harrison's blessing prior to his passing in 2001, it should be noted "Carnival of Light" would likely not be considered one of the band's best hidden gems by any definition.
A reason to release it would be to document the greatest band of all time at their most experimental. But with the aforementioned "Revolution 9" widely available online and in stores, it could also be redundant.
Perhaps the biggest reason to not release it is that it's more fun as a mystery. It's like a secret society. Only a select few have ever heard it. In a world where albums leak online before release dates, the mystique of "Carnival of Light" is somehow refreshing.