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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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 »

All You Need is Heutagogy

There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made.

No one you can save that can’t be saved.

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you (It’s easy)

1! 2!! 3!!! 4!!!! was replaced by a woozy “a-one, a-two, a-three, a-four!” and the bass that inspired The Jam’s best track kicks in. The Beatles had replaced the urgent intro to the faux live show of Please Please Me with the lazy faux ambience of their studio recording. Presence, the Holy Grail of recording since Edison in 1888, was to be replaced with artifice. Revolver, what goes around, was to come around again, this time at the bidding of the artisans.

“It was like letting the workmen take over the factory,” said McCartney about Revolver two years before May 68, five years before Lennon supported the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in and ten years before the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards alternative Corporate Plan. But before they could run their own factory they needed yet another Fifth Beatle, the golden-eared wunder-kid Geoff Emerick who, as a nineteen year old studio engineer was promoted to work on Revolver. A fan, young and imbued with the shape-shifting sixties spirit, Emerick was to set up Abbey Road for recording in ways that were forbidden by EMI, but demanded by the Beatles. He miked McCartney’s bass with a loudspeaker on Taxman and told the stuffy classical string players on Eleanor Rigby to play loud.

Despite their productivity tending to support McCartney’s industrial assertion, The Beatles in fact turned Abbey Road into an Art School not a factory. A musical research lab for their creativity, just before Arts Labs, from which David Bowie would emerge, gained popular currency, along with the mid-sixties fad for multi-media happenings and various forms of experimental art. McCartney befriended the emerging leading lights of London counter-culture, Hopkins, Miles, Dunbar, supported the Indica Gallery and it, engaging with various tropes of the English counter-culture. Lennon, of course, was ready to Howl on a Daily basis if he could throw a Spaniard in The Works. So let’s get inside The Beatles creativity like Vpmatt on the Beatles most “experimental” track.   Read the rest of this entry »

Good Morning Good Morning

Sergeant Pepper is easy for me to write about. It came out twelve days before my sixteenth birthday in 1967 and, thanks to Mum, my birthday present was a stereo copy of the album AND a Philips stereo record player. To let you know just how rare and cool this was at the time I was at Windsor Boys School Hamm with 650 other boys and I was the first to get a stereo record player and the first to get Sgt. Peppers; boy was I lucky.

In the weeks leading up to its release the album was widely promoted in the press and without the distractions of an England World Cup win like the year before, there was no chance of overlooking it. Living in Germany the album took a little longer to reach the shops so when my parents turned up at Boarding School on my birthday it felt like there had already been weeks of hype, then down went the needle and up went my popularity.

The track that grabbed me straight away was Good Morning Good Morning, because of the stereo effects and it also sounded recognisably Beatles. Stereo was such a novelty that lots of friends, neighbours and others came to my dorm to hear the album just to “hear the stereo effects, please.” Good Morning Good Morning ends with a great circular dog eats cat sequence where Lennon asked for each animal sound effect to be followed by one of an animal which would eat it! We teenagers lapped it up. Tally Ho!  Read the rest of this entry »