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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And Then There Were Four

1968 was the year of revolutions which mostly failed. The Beatles started their own revolution; Apple Corps. Vanity label? Maybe, but as well as releasing their own records The Beatles were offering funds to kick start any creative artist and they began producing as well as writing for other artists. They kicked off this creative jamboree by playing Hey Jude live on the David Frost Show and releasing it as a single backed by the awesome Revolution. A group at the height of their powers? Sounds like it. Hey Jude was the best selling single of the year globally and remains a favourite of British fans; provocative and criticised at the time Revolution sounds like it’s reflections on 1968 were…well you know, we all want to change the world.

The White Album was the first album NOT to feature a group picture of the Beatles on its white, elegantly produced, Richard Hamilton sleeve; just four solo pictures of the boys looking very different and arty. I heard the album the day after it came out and my story is about that. George Martin first heard it when the Beatles turned up at Abbey Road with a tape prepared by the group at George’s house in May 68 containing 27 songs! They had 35 new songs altogether, it was Rishikesh Unplugged. The studio produced version starts off with the drivingly wonderful Beach Boys/Chuck Berry spoof Back In the USSR, which had them branded as Communists and was banned across large swathes of the USA; irony with harmony, and Paul on the drums.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Me Take You Down

I was in the kitchen of our house in Germany, an Army Brat, when I heard the invitation for the first time. The transistor was on the mantlepiece in the main room and it pulled me right in and made me feel that Nothing is Real. This time it was more “bloody hell, this is the new Beatles single? Wow!” I don’t think any single Beatles track ever captured me with its imagery and its setting quite so thoroughly first time out. I leant against the mantelpiece listening attentively and was just about to move when the Ringo-driven coda kicked in. When I did finally move away from the fireplace I was dazed; not sure of what I had heard and wondering how I could hear it again. Almost five years of invention and this was, yet again, a completely new Beatles. Conversely, I remember Penny Lane lighting up the front room the following day back in February 1967 and being so breezy and clean that it made housework feel like fun.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Where do they all come from?

Revolver is tough for me to write about it as it is my favourite Beatles album; how do you deconstruct perfection without going gushingly giggly? To me it is the first time they went into a studio having mastered their craft as recording artists, thanks to George Martin, and with Paul’s musical expression having broadened, John’s lyrics having deepened and George’s playing, and confidence, developing rapidly the available palette was riotously colourful; no wonder the sleeve was in black and white. And, after his tour de force on Rain, don’t ignore Ringo’s ego-less contribution throughout the album.

Revolver came out less than one week after England won the the Football World Cup in 1966 and my story is about how Yellow Submarine became a football chant that summer. It was also released a month after my birthday, making the album too expensive to buy out of pocket money, so I had to wait to the Autumn to hear it on Billy’s record player. 1966 was also a great summer for English Pop Music and I was finally picking up a range of Pirate Radio stations, which had suddenly blossomed across Europe, on my transistor, the ipod of its day. The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, Yardbirds were in their Pop Pomp and skidding across the dial in search of the latest trogglodyte amphetamine blast was a glorious pastime; and cheap. Music always thrives when the distribution costs drop.

A sign of the collaboratively creative democracy that had broken out in the Beatles was that George got to open the album with the much misunderstood Taxman. Ringo singing the single and George kicking off the album; you say they wanted evolution well, you know, they are doing what they can! This YouTube video of Taxman is made by someone (Tony Martinger) who rates Revolver as the “bands greatest album”. And there is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album. Enjoy and return!  Read the rest of this entry »

Eight Arms to Hold You

HELP! is a great mid-period Beatles album, they must have had a lot of free time to work on the songs as they hold up so well. This is Rubber Soul; the Prequel with some terrific songs. This time Lennon didn’t hide his personal problems on the album like he did seven months earlier on Beatles for Sale; his cry for HELP! was the single AND the title of the film. In his own write Lennon produced another single overnight. How many classics like this did he knock off when he wasn’t working? Unfortunately for me back then my family had moved to Germany between the release of the single in July 1965 and the release of the album and film in August, so it took me some months before I heard one and saw the other. My story is about the first time I saw HELP! the movie.

I was 14 and I had to go to an British Army Boarding School in Germany (see story) where my dorm was fairly rough and had no record player. We had just one transistor radio between us and, over the British Forces Broadcasting Service heard the Top Twenty chart once a week. Singles remained the best way of hearing what was still called Pop Music. The only way I heard any albums was through Billy, a lad in my year, who was in another house, in a separate building and who had that all important record player. We were highly regimented at school and kept busy doing loads of stuff, especially sport, so it took time to make friends outside of your house. Billy, like Danny in the story, was a bit of a contrarian, but he loved Dylan, Them and I’m A Loser, the B-side of HELP! Luckily he loved HELP! the album too, as he saw it as Dylan influenced and so could assert his primus inter pares. Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles in Black

Ah, so Beatles for Sale is the album that seemed to find the Fabs in Midas in reverse mode. Not even the 10,000 hours of hard graft in learning their craft could save them. Malcolm Galdwell’s claim that they had “outlier” genius looked like it was being put on hold. They may have had nothing to declare but their genius, but they were knackered mate. Where had my happy chappies gone?

Well I have to confess that I have never heard the Beatles for Sale album, ever. Even now, no-one has sat me down and said listen to this. Tony would have done so of course, but his family had recently moved and we had lost our oracle of all things Beatle. Just when the Beatles suffered a dip we lost the one true-hearted fan who would have played it endlessly and explained it to us weaker hearts. When I finally heard What You’re Doing on Love my first thought was that it must have been an outtake they hadn’t even bothered to include on Anthology.

It being 1964 and Beatles for Sale being a Christmas release it was, remarkably, the best selling album of 1964. However at the time singles were outselling albums by 4 to 1 and I had finally been able to save up the money to buy I Feel Fine on the day it came out. I was broke after that and could only afford Beatles albums as presents anyway. Somehow my first bike seem more exciting than the glumsome foursome. For a year we had thought they were glib cheeky chappies cheering up our black and white Britain but now they had gone monochrome; Beatles in Black. Read the rest of this entry »

Working Like A Dog

Unbelievably Hard Days Night extended Beatlemania by catapulting it into a multi-media phenomenon. They had conquered the singles chart, redefined albums, owned the EP chart and the BBC had created chart-driven TV programming to keep up with them. With Hard Day’s Night they were using film to reflect their experience of transcending the limitations of life in post-war, post-rationing Britain; releasing our sub-conscious desires and documenting them for us. Hard Days Night, their first classic album, is flawless. Read the rest of this entry »

We Wanna Be Your Band

The popular music landscape of the UK was transformed in September 1963 when She Loves You went to number one ushering in Beatlemania; the name attached to their phenomenal popularity by the Daily Mirror after their performance at Cheltenham Odeon on November 2nd. Beatlemania was stoked by the irreducable excitement of the song, it’s yeah, yeah yeah catchphrase, the maniacal media hype and the Beatles own ferocious work ethic. Fuelled by this With the Beatles remarkably became the best selling album of 1963 despite only being released on November 22nd; the same day as President Kennedy’s assassination. Read the rest of this entry »

1-2-3-4

Please Please Me isn’t a great album and you can live without it. However it is an awesome album considering it was recorded in one day! Just 13 hours and the best track was recorded last and in one take. As would become clear throughout the sixties the Beatles were breaking new ground and the album was more significant at the time than it sounds now. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Please Me (album)

The Beatles first album was called Please Please Me. In a pleasing symmetry for this blog the first Beatles song I heard was Please Please Me. I have captured that particular experience in chapter 8 of “63/68 A Visceral History“, the unpublished book that this blog is promoting. However this blog is about The Beatles albums and is designed to run up to the digital launch of the The Beatles albums on 9/9/9. I have written about the first time I heard a Beatles album, which was Please Please Me, not long after it was released on March 22nd 1963, in chapter 10 of 63/68. You can read about that in the story called From Me To You. You can also access it by clicking on Please Please Me in the Pages section on the left.

So a little context concerning what was happening when it was released in 1963. Read the rest of this entry »