Paul McCartney is pushing for the release of the lost Beatles song “Carnival Of Light”. The track was recorded in 1967, and has only once been played for an audience. While this initially sounds like great news, I must admit to having some concerns.
Inspired by avant-garde composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, the fourteen-minute track was born out of McCartney instructing his band mates to “just wander round all of the stuff [in the studio] and bang it, shout it, play it. It doesn’t need to make any sense.” And while this may not be the type of thing most people are accustomed to hearing from the Fab Four, if any band could pull off making such an indulgent experiment fun for the listener, it’s The Beatles.
But why hasn’t the track ever been released? According to Time Magazine, McCartney tried to include the track—which features distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling, and shouts of “Barcelona!” and “Are you all right?” from McCartney and John Lennon—on the Anthology compilation released in the nineties, but was vetoed by George Harrison and Ringo Starr. To release the track now, McCartney will need permission from Starr, as well as Lennon’s and Harrison’s widows.
The fact that Harrison and Starr didn’t want “Carnival Of Light” included on Anthology is troubling. If the track is worthwhile, why didn’t they find a place for it on the massive 6-disc, 155-song set? I love The Beatles as much as anybody, and I’m all for the release of any lost tracks. But the sudden desire to release the track now seems like a cash-grab by McCartney, who lost $38.5 million last year in his divorce settlement with Heather Mills.
Rabid fans will of course jump on any official release—see Love—from the Beatles camp, but if the track does get released it should be as a single. Hopefully McCartney and Co. won’t try to fleece their fans by attaching the song to a superfluous “Best Of” album. The classy thing to do would be to include the single as a free bonus disc with The White Album when the remastered Beatles discography gets released next year. It would serve as a nice thank-you to the legions of fans who will undoubtedly be double-dipping on their Beatles albums.