In addition to recently experiencing the Cirque du Soleil show "The Beatles LOVE" and seeing the movie "Across the Universe" again (just bought the DVD), I've been reading the book Here, There, and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick, the recording engineer who worked with the Beatles and George Martin on most of their recordings from Revolver to Abbey Road. Although Emerick made major contributions to the innovative recording techniques and sounds used on the Beatles' records, he's really pretty modest about it - just doing his job, after all. He has a lot of great stories, and although he wasn't involved with the Beatles very much outside of EMI's Abbey Road studios, he spent a lot of time with them over six years and watched them grow and change in many ways, musical and otherwise. He also worked with Paul McCartney on several solo recordings after the Beatles broke up, from Band on the Run (recorded under rather trying conditions in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973) to very recent McCartney projects, so his relationship with Paul has been much closer than with the other Beatles.
As a songwriter, singer, and occasional "recording artist" (of a fashion) myself, I really love this stuff. It also takes me back 40 years or so. At this time in February 1968, the Beatles had just recently recorded Paul's "Lady Madonna" and John's "Across the Universe" (though John was unhappy with his vocals and it was put aside and not used as the B-side of "Lady Madonna" as planned - George's "The Inner Light" was used instead). I was a high school sophomore who had only recently discovered pop music. For reasons I find hard to understand now, it took me until late 1967 to finally get excited about the Beatles. "Hello Goodbye" b/w "I Am The Walrus" (November 1967) was the first Beatles single I bought, followed by the "Magical Mystery Tour" album a few weeks later. I caught up on other Beatles albums through 1968 and remember being especially obsessed with "The White Album" for weeks and weeks when it was released in late November. According to Emerick, this beautiful record was made under most chaotic and stressful circumstances. Not surprisingly, this is also when I first started to learn to play guitar.
Of course 1968 would turn out to be quite an eventful year with the Vietnam War, assassinations, demonstrations, political chaos, and on the exciting and positive side, the first visible achievements of the Apollo program, Apollo 7 in October and Apollo 8 in December. I feel lucky to have been around and open to the inspiration of both Apollo and the Beatles in that strange and wonderful year.