JOHN TAVENER The Whale (1968 On Apple) (1944-2013 R.I.P.)

John+Tavener+-+The+Whale+-+White+Label+Test+Pressing+++Finished+LP+-+DOUBLE+LP-467179The Whale (1968)
Apple’s Avant Adventure

Back in the day, some of us bought up practically anything that appeared on The Beatles’ Apple Records. Much of it was forgettable, of course, but John Tavener’s The Whale was not. The Whale is a challenging, two-part, half hour mix of esoteric, avant garde classical adventurism – a kindred spirit of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s “Lux Aeterna” (for 16 unaccompanied voices) and Frank Zappa’s later, neo-operatic musings for 200 Motels. Unlike most Apple artists, Tavener went on to enjoy a successful career that would render The Whale a footnote. Worth a listen for those who thought “Revolution #9” was a good start for Apple. Amazon has it HERE. John Taverner died today, November 12th, at 69 (info here).

The Whale, Part 1 (18:26)
The Whale, Part 2 (13:15)


  • Anonymous
    March 11, 2009 - 08:54 | Permalink

    He even looks like George Martin

  • Capt. Willard
    March 26, 2009 - 17:05 | Permalink

    You know how stoned Lennon was at the time. Maybe that's how he got the job.

  • Capt. Willard
    November 12, 2009 - 19:50 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • Rob
    January 11, 2011 - 15:10 | Permalink

    Dear Captain Willard Sir,

    Am streamimg "The Whale" by John Taverner right now. Good stuff. Your allusion to Revolution 9 is spot-on. Stoned John must surely have had a laugh when he heard those incomprehensible voices come shrieking in and out of the music.

    Lots of fun to be had with the streaming players on your blog, and the hundreds of erchived posts. All the best….

  • October 7, 2011 - 23:03 | Permalink

    Although I have the vinyl, I keep hoping someone someday will put Lon and Derek Van Eaton’s Brother up; it’s a great, forgotten record and is nowhere to be found online, at least by my meager resources…

  • October 9, 2011 - 19:14 | Permalink

    In my defense on the Lon & Derrek album, I’ve heard the remastered version, and it has definitely been tampered with, with speed changes and earlier fades. I still prefer the original version.

    Their other album is there somewhere too.

  • Colin H
    October 11, 2011 - 17:13 | Permalink

    Another fantastic left field pick I’d perhaps otherwise have never gotten to hear – this totally made my afternoon today. A house with many rooms, to be sure, this disc, not unlike this blog, or the White album, for that matter, in their own diff. ways… and not hard to imagine JL grooving to some smudgy afternoon after digging his tool box of goodies from the back yard, staring at the reel to reels of his home studio setup and wondering if he should finally call the strange Japanese bird from the Indica and have her over, ir just screw about with tapes all day again…

    Colin H, Cambridge, Canada

    • Willard
      October 11, 2011 - 19:06 | Permalink

      How come all I could picture was a big whale?

  • MoonRisk7
    November 12, 2013 - 23:01 | Permalink

    Hello Mr. Willard,
    I am afraid “they” have already gotten to your link; any chance for a re-up?
    Many thanks for the fine, fine resource you continue to provide here!

    • Willard
      November 12, 2013 - 23:11 | Permalink

      Try it again… or a few more times. It’s working fine for me. We had a few weird instances lately of links being OK, then not OK, then OK again at MF. Strange but true.

    • Willard
      November 12, 2013 - 23:30 | Permalink

      There’s a new Zippy up, just in case.

      • MoonRisk7
        November 13, 2013 - 15:47 | Permalink

        That works fine! Many thanks!

  • Souter Johnny
    November 13, 2013 - 11:29 | Permalink

    There’s an interesting quote from John Tavener in the report of his death in today’s Guardian, about being signed to Apple. “I was less surprised at John Lennon’s enthusiasm, but I was surprised at Ringo’s.”

    • James
      November 13, 2013 - 14:15 | Permalink

      My understanding was always that it was Ringo’s thing, more than John’s, in releasing ‘The Whale’. Of course, that might be a bit of historical revisionism to make Ringo appear more involved than he was with Apple. I do like the idea of Ringo slamming his fist on the table in the Apple boardroom and shouting ‘we’re signing this Tavener bloke’.

      There’s a train of though that runs that the Beatles drove the 1960s, rather than reflecting upon it, and it’s hard to say for sure which version of the decade might be true. And releases like ‘The Whale’ only muddy the waters further. If the Beatles weren’t driving the 60s, and anticipating where the decade might turn, then how come -after they broke up- that the Apple roster is a pretty accurate reflection on where the 70s would go?

      Lennon signed Hot Chocolate, and they were a dominant force in the UK’s 1970s pop charts.

      James Taylor, ditto, on the US charts.

      ‘World Music’ was practically an epidemic by the end of the 70s, and it can be traced back to George championing Ravi Shankar.

      Plastic Ono Band? Even Yoko’s ‘squalling’ (I think she’s brilliant, actually) would be common ground in the tape/noise/experimentalism of early electronic music and the post-punk era.

      Jackie Lomax? Well…it’s a blue-eyed soul that, given half a chance with a ‘thriving’ label as opposed to a vehicle for the former members of a band that had split up, could probably have rivalled someone like Robert Palmer by the end of the decade.

      The MJQ existed before and after Apple, so they can’t really be regarded as presaging anything other than pop/rock music widening its brief and nod towards a jazzier feel, at times (although a sense of jazz was probably apparent, as some sort of cul-de-sac, throughout the 60s anyway. Jack Bruce, for example. Or Graham Bond, maybe.

      Oddly missing from this menu of 1970s signposts is anything noteworthy from McCartney, in terms of championing the direction of the 1970s. What’s his input into Apple? Mary Hopkin. A fine voice, a fine folk singer, for sure, but not really ‘essential’ UK folk music, which remained a backwater of music, a small band of enthusiasts apart, until the 80s, despite its occasional surfacing in the UK Top 40.

      Which is kind of odd, given that McCartney HAD had his finger on the avant-garde pulse throughout the 60s (the genesis of ‘Revolution 9’ possibly being his thing, and wasn’t Stockhausen included on the ‘Pepper’ sleeve at his insistence?) and he claimed -probably accurately- that he introduced John Lennon to Stockhausen’s work, and that ‘Gesang der Junglige’ was his favourite piece by KHS.

      Odd, too, that subsequently it was McCartney who further dabbled in other styles of music, classical, oratorio, etc.

      Yet it is McCartney whose fingerprints remain oddly missing from the Apple discography.

      Anyway….’The Whale’ is a terrific piece of work in my opinion, and most of Sir John Tavener’s subsequent work is sublime, possibly reaching a (commercial) zenith in ‘The Protecting Veil’.

      For anyone unfamiliar with Sir John’s work, I suggest they seek out ‘The Protecting Veil’ and immerse themselves in a thing of extraordinary beauty.

      I’ve dug it out on an archaic form of music delivery, ‘the compact disc’, and am playing it now. Marvellous.

  • Squa
    November 14, 2013 - 06:05 | Permalink

    Very interesting stuff, Cap’n! Thank you for the heads up.

    I agree: it does prelude Zappa’s 200 Motels.

    Although Zappa already had heard a lot of avant garde music of course this just may have influenced him strongly to create 200 M the way he did.

    • Willard
      November 14, 2013 - 09:04 | Permalink

      I’m guessing both just got some of their influences from the same places.

  • November 14, 2013 - 11:26 | Permalink

    This post reminded me that I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever run across Jack Nitzsche’s St. Giles Cripplegate album.

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