The White Album: The Album, The Beatles and the World in 1968

The Beatle world is in the middle of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) 50th Anniversary fever right now.

Giles Martin’s 2018 stereo remix is now out, as are the accompanying album demos (a.k.a. The Esher Demos). Add to that no less than three CDs of previously unreleased recording session outtakes and studio chatter, a new 5.1 surround sound mix, plus a lavish accompanying book about the making of the album. The package is getting very good reviews too. But to get all that content you’ll have to buy the Super Deluxe Edition.

If you’re a more casual Beatle fan though, or the purse strings don’t quite stretch to the significant asking price of the SDE, there’s a possible alternate route for you. Just buy the new remix/Esher demos in the reasonably priced three-disc “basic” CD version, and add this new book by Brian Southall called The White Album – Revolution, Politics and Recording: The Beatles and the World in 1968.

Brian Southall worked as a journalist with Music Business Weekly, Melody Maker and Disc magazines before joining A&M Records and then EMI Music, where over a 15-year career he served in press, promotion, marketing, artist development and corporate communications, working on many Beatle solo projects. He’s been a consultant to Warner Music International, the HMV Group and both the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). His other books include the official history of Abbey Road Studios, the story behind the Beatles’ publishing company, Northern Songs, The Beatles in 100 Objects, and (with Julian Lennon) Beatles Memorabilia: The Julian Lennon Collection.

True to its title, Southall’s book takes an in-depth look The White Album in what he likens to two “sides” of a record. The A-side providing a definitive guide to the album, it’s recording and the events surrounding it, while the B-side examines world events, politics and the history of 1968, and how turmoil and revolution helped shape the context in which The Beatles where working on their extraordinary new double LP.    

The book has a great Foreword written by Chris Thomas who, in 1968 as a fledgling producer, found himself almost by accident in the studio producing (and playing with) the greatest band in the world as they made their new LP.

It is also filled with a treasure trove of great images, around 150 of them in colour and black and white, and there’s a song-by-song breakdown of the album, with each track examined in detail. The story of how the album’s stark white cover came about is told, and there’s a section on the reaction the record received in 1968: “Within a week The Beatles was at No.1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway and West Germany, while in America Capitol Records sold over 3 million copies into record stores within 4 days. Consequently, on December 14 it debuted at No.11, jumped to No.2 the following week, and topped the US album chart on December 28 – and stayed there for nine weeks, spending a total of 155 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.”

Brian Southall’s White Album book is a companion to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Album, The Beatles and the World in 1967where he utilises a similar A-side/B-side examination linked to the 50th anniversary re-issue of the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band LP last year: 

The White Album – Revolution, Politics and Recording: The Beatles and the World in 1968 is published in the UK by Carlton Books.

(As usual, click on images to see larger versions)

Advertisements

John Lennon The Ultimate Edition – Finally

Guess what landed on the front doorstep yesterday? Our Universal Music bundle of the John Lennon Ultimate Edition box set, Imagine 2 LP (on clear vinyl), Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and the Imagine movie poster!

Ordered 24 August, officially released 5 October………delivered 30 October: 

This order was placed directly with Universal’s uDiscover UK music store. Despite being the commercial arm of the actual publisher and distributor of these titles, it has to be said uDiscover don’t have a great track record for delivering items on time, nor keeping their customers up-to-date on what is going on. Usually it’s because they can’t get stock. Go figure. This time they ran out of the Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and so had to hold back dispatch of the bundle until more copies came in.

One needs patience when dealing with uDiscover. Stuff usually does arrive, it’s just a matter of when.

Thankfully, everything (except the poster) arrived in very good shape – this is despite the four items being shoved into a plastic courier bag with no additional padding around them. Yes, they were each in individual cardboard mailers, but they’d been banging around together in that bag all the way from Europe to Australia, so it was with a sigh of relief that we opened each to find no dings, bent corners, rips or other damage.

There was however one casualty. They’d packed the rolled-up movie poster into a long triangular-shaped box that simply wasn’t up to the task. It had been bashed around and squashed along the way, putting deep creases into the good quality paper stock the poster is printed on. It’s a shame because it is an impressive piece, but sadly now far from mint condition.

We’re counting that as minor collateral damage, and just thankful the main content (i.e. box set, 2 LP and Blue-ray) is finally here and in pristine condition….

The Results of a Day Spent Crate Digging for Beatle Treasure

We had the chance to visit the lovely city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia last weekend. A friend directed us to a record store they knew nearby – Licorice Pie – in the suburb of Prahran, not far from the CBD. If you are ever in Melbourne, this place is well worth a visit as they have heaps of well catalogued stock and at very reasonable prices.

Of course we were on the trail of some Beatle treasure, trying to fill in some gaps in the collection, and Licorice Pie did not disappoint.

We’ve been looking for some time for a copy of John Lennon’s Mind Games on the Axis label. Axis was an EMI subsidiary, the Australian equivalent of the UK budget label Music for Pleasure.

Axis released Mind Games three times in all, and each release is slightly different and even has different catalogue numbers. We had two of the three, but not the third – until now: 

This one has the catalogue number AXIS.6441 (the others are AX701272 and AX1009, both of which have yellow Axis labels). This one has black and white labels:

The sleeve also contained an original advertising insert with lists of other Axis budget titles on both sides, all for just A$4.99!

Licorice had some other John Lennon records we couldn’t resist. For example, this 7″ single in a picture cover, released in November, 1981 on the Parlophone label. It’s got two ‘A’ sides:

And this Lennon/Ono 7″ picture sleeve, a single taken from the Milk and Honey LP, released in 1984:

This next find is going to sound pedantic. It’s an Australian pressing of The Beatles ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’. We had it already, but not with the Northern Songs publishing credit printed on the left-hand side of the Apple label:

When we discovered ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ it was in a large box full of other Apple 7″ singles – quite a few of which we were after. Probably the most collectable was Paul and Linda McCartney’s ‘Eat At Home’ single from the Ram period (1971):

This one is interesting because not only is it kind of rare (you don’t see many copies of it around), but it has an uncut Apple label on the ‘B’ side (the song ‘Smile Away’, also from Ram):

There was a nice clean pressing of George Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love [Give Me Peace on Earth]’ in the box too: 

Then two non-Beatle artists signed to the Apple label. First up, Badfinger with ‘No Matter What’:

And finally, the late great Billy Preston from 1969 and ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’:All these records filled gaps – they were records we didn’t have, despite years of collecting. That’s testament to a great record store. Get along to Licorice Records in Melbourne if you can!

(As usual, click on images to see larger versions)

Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album – First Look

Some reviewers are flouting the embargo on showing and reviewing The Beatles new 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album).

While it is not officially released until November 9, Michael Fremer – who is an equipment reviewer for the legendary Stereophile magazine, but who also runs his own YouTube channel and a blog called AnalogPlanet – has given fans a tasty preview of what to expect.

Fremer shows us not only the 4 LP set, but also the Deluxe 6 CD plus Blu-ray box containing Giles Martin’s new remix, the Esher Demos, and much much more in this YouTube clip:

He’s also published this lengthy review. In a nutshell – he really likes the vinyl:

“….the reissue does not sound like the original U.K. pressing nor was it intended to. Yet it remains true to the original’s intent, in part because there was less Mr. Martin could do to change it.

The new mix does sound more “modern” because modern techniques and gear were used, and the final source was a modern digital storage system, but this reissue does not sound “digital” as the pejorative use of the term has come to be used.

You’ll definitely be able to hear further into the reissue mix because it has greater transparency. And you can crank it up farther because it’s less harsh and somewhat smoother but not to where it’s soft.”

Mr Fremer also says that the Esher Demos LP is exceptional:

“…..they are truly wondrous. John brought 15 songs, Paul 7 and George 5. You are in the Kinfauns Bungalow as they strum, bang and shake and you’ll love every minute of it.”

So, how was the CD box set by comparison?

“When I played the CD version….all of that magic disappeared. I was hearing a plastic-sounding recording. Was it different EQ? Was it the downrez from 96/24 to 16/44.1? I don’t know and I don’t care. Am I prejudiced against CDs? Damn straight I am! Based on what I hear and nothing else.”

And how does he sum it all up?

“My conclusion about this remix is that if you have an original British pressing that you love, you will still love that. If you have an open mind you will also love this re-mix. You might be surprised which one you choose when you want to revisit this album. Yes, The Beatles has been “Martinized” but you won’t be left thinking you’ve been taken to the cleaners!”

Traveling Wilburys – 30th Anniversary Picture Disc Announced

The official George Harrison social sites (Instagram, Twitter) have been carrying cryptic Traveling Wilbury teasers for a couple of days:

It’s now been revealed what it’s all about:

Universal Music, via a Concord Records’ subsidiary Craft Recordings, is to release a limited edition, 30th Anniversary picture disc pressing of The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 LP.Pre-order pics show that Side 1 carries the Wilbury logo, while Side 2 features an image from this video for ‘Handle Me With Care’, shot by Alberto Tolot:

The picture disc will be issued on November 2.

The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 Picture Disc Track List

A1. “Handle With Care”
A2. “Dirty World”
A3. “Rattled”
A4. “Last Night”
A5. “Not Alone Any More”
B1. “Congratulations”
B2. “Heading for the Light”
B3. “Margarita”
B4. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man”
B5. “End of the Line”

Paul McCartney – 2018 Record Store Day Single

The Record Store Day people have just announced their Black Friday release list, and it features a Paul McCartney 7″ vinyl single.

On November 23 Capitol Records will issue a limited edition, hand-numbered, one-time pressing of the special Double A Side single ‘I Don’t Know’/’Come On To Me’.

The two tracks, from Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album, Egypt Station, were initially only released as a “digital” Double A Side single in the lead-up to his LP release.

The vinyl single is described as a Record Store Day exclusive (i.e. a title that is physically released only at indie record stores), and only 5,000 will be issued worldwide.

Vale Geoff Emerick – Audio Engineer Extraordinaire

Very sad to learn that Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer who worked on so many legendary Beatle and McCartney recordings, has passed away. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 72.

Paul McCartney pays tribute on his official site, and recalls Geoff being central to the recording of his classic Band On The Run LP from 1973.

Rolling Stone magazine says he was a crucial collaborator who helped The Beatles re-invent music.

When reviewing his 2006 book Here,There and Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles, the magazine said “Emerick was integral to the sounds of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper – he is, in his way, as responsible for McCartney’s bass tone at the time as the bassist himself – and the band’s sonic palette was never richer.”

As we said in our own review of his memoir: we wouldn’t have the Beatle canon without him.