Sgt Pepper Remix

Remix Master Giles Martin… Thank You Very Much!

Finally a real digital remix rather than a mere digital remaster (of 4-track analogue tapes) of the wonderful Sgt Pepper. Listening again, and really enjoying it for the first time in years, after just one hearing this is what I can say… Thank you, Thank you, Giles Martin. I think this outstrips his brilliant work on Love by actually taking a revered national treasure, ignoring the pitfalls that might bring, and simply improving it sonically. First George Martin, now Giles; oh how well we Beatles fans have been served by the brilliant production work of this amazing family. Every track sounds like Giles Martin has said “one more take and this time sound like you mean it!

Rather than sounding like a fascinating set of pop curios left over from some mythical Edwardian era Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band actually sounds like a great rock band embellishing their core sound with fabulous sonic explorations and colourations that, as was customary, serve the purpose of the song, whatever the original quality of the writing. The Beatles now rock fulsomely and several tracks reveal a big difference in the mix. If you loved a track before you’ll find it amplified, with many surprises across several tracks. I can now listen to Sgt Pepper for pure pleasure rather than for nostalgic reasons, as it sounds rich, layered and musical, rather than quirky and psychedelic.

Mojo4music have always maintained that this is Ringo’s best album for drumming and the drums sound just *great* here. The explosive shock of how hard he hits them in With A Little Help from my Friends (the boys and various Fifth Beatles) banishes all wet wet wet thoughts.

Key revelations, as well as Ringo’s drums and Paul’s Bass, are Good Morning Good Morning (thumps), Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite (swirls mesmerically), Lovely Rita (roars away from the meter maid), and Lucy…

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds has moved out of its newspaper taxi version and into a machine-tooled Halewood Evoquation of the summer of love, and kids drawing at school. Lucy’s gold painting never sounded so glossy. The Beatles never sounded so fulsome…

It’s really getting better all the time, the production no longer keeping us apart from the things that we love…

The 2-track sorcerers apprentice has finally followed the Beatles self-help advice and fixed the hole where hand-made EMI technology had left the future brilliance of Peppers’ sonics languishing. For me the simply “good” tracks like Fixing A Hole are burnished afresh and pull you in with their wealth of fresh detail.

The fuller 2017 sound means that the whirligig Wurlitzer brilliance of Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite is now driven by the band performance rather than the amusingly quirky oddities of the circus poster. Another track now full of depth rather than surface brilliance.

Vinyl Pepper offered a perfect interval after that swirling Sevenoaks souvenir and, shortly after Mr Kite, Pepper started again with the Indian world chill meditation masterpiece of Within You Without You, now clear and lighter with fresh details abounding.

Peppers‘ claim to be a concept album lies more in the emotional journey that it carries you on than in the thematic coherence offered by a “rock opera” like the Pretty Things (quite wonderful) S.F.Sorrow. Perfect sequencing.

When I’m 64 offers a musical pacing that works well in the context of “side 2” (some hip vinyl slang) of Pepper, setting us up for the forthcoming finale rather than being a big tune in itself. It remains solidly in place but lacks any real revelations, other than exhibiting the beautifully rich detail and vocal work the album now abounds in.

Lovely Rita perhaps McCartney’s most Lennon-inspired song of the everyday (and their most “Abbey Road” song) rocks along terrifically. I still don’t know why someone hasn’t looped the riff from 2’13” and turned into a floor filler…

Good Morning Good Morning, which I had always loved for the sound effects of ever bigger animals chasing each other in a crazed stereophonic foxhunt, actually rocks, no thumps, like fury with an unbelievably massive sound. Another track that now sounds like a band playing instruments rather than a production of sonic effects.

A Day in the Life, with its double-decker reflective melancholy, remains timelessly brilliant, and a cut above the rest of the album. It’s deathless genius once again produced fearful shivers down my spine in the orchestral sections. Paul’s perfectly banal everyday comb comedown creating a calm before the climatic piano forte climax of the album; now staggeringly forceful all over again despite its familiarity.

(Mind you I still think McCartney should have waited for George Martin to finish scoring a track for Cilla rather than using Mike Leander on She’s Leaving Home)

My thoughts on first buying Sgt Pepper in 1967 are captured in the story Good Morning Good Morning  and for some months this was, to me, clearly the best album of all time (even though I was also given Hendrix’s enduring electric guitar masterpiece Are You Experienced as a birthday present in June 1967).  Over time my view changed and it declined in my affections. Recently I would have nominated both Revolver and Abbey Road well ahead of Pepper, and Hard Days Night, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album and Kinfauns as roughly its equal. Pepper, for decades, seemed of its time. This, better revealed version, with its brilliant soundstage now ideal for headphones, should re-establish Pepper as a mighty album, not just of the sixties, but as part of the current canon of wonderfully playable Beatles rock band albums.

Why the Beatles were so #creativeAll You Need is Heutagogy;

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All You Need is Heutagogy

Beatles Creativity

I’ve just summarised the 6 blog posts on Beatles Creativity as a graphical slideshare called All You Need is Heutagogy

I think the Beatles Career went through 6 phases;

1. Live 1957-1963 From That’ll Be The Day;

Until Love Me Do

2. Singles 1963-1964 From Please Please Me;

to Hard Days Night Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Books

A Brief Review of buying Beatles stuff

I have alluded to several books on this blog and so, with Christmas long gone and books, book tokens, book sales and replacements being favoured activities here are some thoughts about books and buying Beatles stuff in. Since I first wrote this blog Mark Lewisohn has published his new meisterwerk Tune-In (2013), which covers everything you ever wanted to know about the Beatles up to Love Me Do. Not only is it a real work of scholarship that moves past the errors in earlier works (by others) to provide both a definitive and balanced account of the flaming pie that gave us The Beatles  but it is a is now the key text for fans as he has interviewed many of them to help contextualise the narrative. I will be rereading it for pleasure.

Records; Of course I am assuming that you will have already gotten the remasters, a key topic of this blog, and they produce a great narrative of Beatle life, but if not I would recommend the following five albums in order.

1) White Album; “the greatest group in the world at the height of their powers” Marmalade Skies

2) Revolver; when then they learnt to play the studio with Geoff Emerick.

3) Hard Days Night; Merseybeat in excelsis 5th Best British Rock Album according to Q in 2000 and composed entirely of Lennon-McCartney songs

4) Rubber Soul; great folk-rock influenced epic by Dylan & Crosby as they lift off (with one last blast of misogyny)

5) Abbey Road; the most polished and 21st century sounding of their albums; White Album Part 2 meets Love Part 1

Acidheads, mellotron-freaks and prog-revivalists (hello Italy!) should head to the Magical Mystery Tour for a breakfast of semolina pilchards and an English tan. A painless MashUp of all things Beatles for the kids is the wonderful Love! The show in Las Vegas is worth seeing too; it feels just like sitting next to Ringo in Abbey Road studio 2 as the music is from the master tapes 🙂

BOOKS

Before I wrote this blog I thought there were only two Beatles book that anyone would ever need and they were both British. Ian McDonald’s “Revolution In The Head” and Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Studio Recording” (now out of print) which both put you at the centre of The Beatles world in the 1960s. Perhaps that is still all that you will ever need to read however recent American scholarship and enthusiasm pretty much trumps those two, in my opinion. Yes I can’t believe it either! So what are the other books worth buying?  Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Creativity (2) Singles

Beatles Singles 1962-64

Love Me Do

Trevor Horn, who in November 1963 was inspired to become a producer when he noticed the difference between the Beatles “error-strewn” live performance (that turned them into multi–media stars in the UK) on the Royal Variety Show compared to the exuberant polish of their studio songs, observed that there is always one weak member of a group when it comes to recording; which is why he says he never recorded U2 (Mojo June 2010). George Martin thought the same with Pete Best and, sadly, I think that Pete was a live rock n roll drummer and not cut out for all the studio work supporting the song that Ringo delivered at Abbey Road; check this out as The Beatles try to find their recording feet whilst auditioning with Pete Best on Love Me Do. There is a version of this post on the Beatles YouTube Album. To my ears Love Me Do is the transition song between the live rock n roll band Beatles and the first self-contained rock band which had unparalleled domination of the pop singles world during 1963 & 1964. Deni includes it as key live track in The Beatles live show late ’62. They weren’t moptops yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Creativity (1) Live

The Beatles Live 1957-1963

In the next six posts I will be looking at the Beatles creativity in terms of the six phases identified in Learning from Learning…With The Beatles. In keeping with the social construction of Popular Music I will tell these stories through six Top Tens of Beatles songs. Consequently, as with many of the posts on this blog, there is an accompanying post with videos on a Beatles YouTube Album; specific videos are linked to from the paragraph headers. The first period discussed here is about how John, Paul, George and Ringo became The Beatles and looks at The Beatles Live 1957-1963. This is the same period as that identified by Malcolm Gladwell when The Beatles were unknown unknowns, or Outliers, and in the process of self-creation.

That’ll Be The Day

The pre-Fab Four were feral and provincial, outlawed themselves to Germany and worked in Hamburg’s red light district to make live music for significant periods in the early sixties. Bob Spitz in The Beatles Biography identifies the Litherland Hall Concert in Liverpool on December 27 1960, after the Beatles had returned from Hamburg in Wild Ones black leather, as the point at which they became legends in their own backyard. Nice short film about Litherland made by their manager of the time Allan Williams, which captures this confusion about their provenance. But even legends started small and the craft collective known as The Beatles started as The Quarrymen. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re Leaving Home

1969 – Nothings Gonna Change My World

In 1969 the Art Collective known as The Beatles imploded; more precisely the “Musical Instrument known as The Beatles”, as Brian Eno would characterise them, no longer had Brian Epstein to care of the business. In 1968 they really had taken care of the music and taken care of business, after a fashion. The Beatles had triumphed musically, but it hadn’t really been recognised; Lennon, left fuming at the end of 1968, shared his pain in a lengthy interview to a student, recently published in New Statesman. They had taken care of Business by launching Apple Corps and Apple Records, but they couldn’t hang on to the money they were making. Despite making the music/business equation work in 1968 it was to tear them apart during 1969. Not least because their work as creators of, and commentators on, the sixties was done. They didn’t fully understand how they had achieved that, and we didn’t get it at the time either. Read the rest of this entry »

We Are The Beatles

After Learning…With The Beatles

After Geography, their decision to stop touring, and After Math, the necessity to look after their own business affairs, for The Beatles it was also After School; time to be mature and make their own business decisions. They might have appeared like omnipotent masters to their fans, but from late 1967 they had to take all the decisions about their ever-expanding business affairs without Brian Epstein’s support; and work out how to realise their increasingly complex approach to music-making into something marketable. Read the rest of this entry »

Paperback Walrus

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from album to artefact

Bookending the Beatles heutagogic period were twin attacks on print formats. In Paperback Writer Paul boasted that if you liked the style he “could turn it round” and in Walrus John delivered a nonsense poem about nonsense poems, containing probably his most visceral attack on the British Establishment. Heutagogy is about playing with form and The Beatles did this explicitly and implicitly within this period which lasted from 13th April 1966 to 27th August 1967. Read the rest of this entry »

We Can Work It Out

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from romantic to Romantic

Having proved themselves in the school of hit records, by narrowing their focus and delivering to EMI’s template, The Beatles grew in confidence between the return from their first visit to the USA and the end of their second visit in August 1964. They met Dylan at Delmonico’s, who dismissed their silly love songs and gave them a greater Romantic vision of their possibilities. And so they embarked on the andragogic phase of their learning. Read the rest of this entry »

And In The End

Part 8 of Learning…With The Beatles, The Assessment

This set of posts have been reviewing the The Beatles life story album-by-album, using the Open Context Model of Learning as a framework for evaluating the processes of learning that they went through and how that affected their music. The reason for this is to try and uncover exactly what constituted their enduring creativity and how we might learn from it today. The Open Context Model of Learning is concerned to examine how the education process itself might be structured to enable more creativity to emerge from it naturally rather than being a thing apart uncovered in various culture contexts outside of formal education.

The Beatles themselves, “four underachieving schoolboys” who “changed the world”, seem ideal subjects for such an analysis of how you might learn creativity. Not least as the author is also fan and can bring some additional musical and contextual insights to the analysis. Having written these posts and reflected on the insights provided by them I think there are some real lessons to be drawn out. Most notably in fact that the creative phase of learning is deeply rooted in the collaborative phase. Building meaningful collaborations is the core of creativity. Lets examine how The Beatles work reveals that to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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