Beatles 2019 The Singles Collection Unboxing – Super Deluxe Edition

If you’re looking for the definitive unboxing video of the recent Beatles The Singles Collection box, then you’d be hard pressed to go past this one.

Paul Sinclair is the editor of Super Deluxe Edition, a terrific website dedicated to detailing and discussing all sorts of box sets and re-issues. As his website strapline says, it’s “the box set and reissue music site for fans who love holding the music in their hands”.

Note: this video is about the box set presentation, not about the sound quality of the vinyl.

The Design of McCartney’s RSD Release – ‘Home Tonight’/’In A Hurry’

One of the most striking things about Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station LP from last year was the amazing cover design – both for the initial release, and for the Explorer’s Edition which came later.

The art directors hired for those projects were Ferry Gouw, an illustrator, graphic designer and video director, and Gary Card, a set designer, illustrator and artist. Both are based in London. They took an original McCartney painting and extended out its themes and style across many panels (for both the CD and the LP) in colourful and spectacular ways.

Turns out the latest McCartney vinyl single, the limited edition picture disc just issued on Record Store Day Black Friday with two tracks recorded during the Egypt Station sessions but never released, is also designed by Card and Gouw. Again, the design looks fantastic.

Ferry Gouw posted this message on his Instagram account over the weekend: “Made this for @paulmccartney for his Record Store Day release (really great songs). This was based on a card that my dad bought me some time ago, you spin the wheels n the faces get jumbled up.”

The official press release says that the design is also inspired by the parlour game/collaborative drawing method known as Exquisite Corpse.

It seems however that there’s now some bad blood between Ferry Gouw and collaborator, Gary Card?

Card has messaged Gouw on Instagram saying: “Love how you bastards have completely cut me out now. I’ll be talking to my lawyers.”

Hmmm. Clearly not a happy camper……wonder what is going on?

McCartney – ‘Coming Up’ Sheet Music

Sometimes record-hunting can have very slim returns.

A recent trip to Melbourne, which is a great city and usually a very good place to go crate digging, turned up very little. All we came home with was this, found not in a record store but a second-hand bookshop:

It’s the sheet music for Paul McCartney’s song ‘Coming Up’, the single taken from the McCartney II LP, released back in 1980.

And that was it. Must admit, it was fairly easy to bring home on the plane!

The White VW Beetle and Abbey Road

In the big marketing lead-up to the release of the 50th Anniversary editions of The Beatles Abbey Road a couple of months ago a number of companies jumped on the advertising bandwagon.

Probably most prominent among them was the car maker, Volkswagen. After all, apart from the four Beatles striding across the road on the famous front cover, one of the company’s cars is also on prominent display – a white VW Beetle, just behind George.

Well, to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road Volkswagen Sweden has produced – in limited numbers – a reprint of the album cover, only this time minus the fab Four but with the white Beetle correctly parked up against the gutter instead of up on the footpath/sidewalk as it was in the original:

The album cover is called The Beetle’s Abbey Road – Reparked Edition. Volkswagen did it to advertise a feature available on their latest models called Park Assist that automatically helps you get the tricky task of reverse parking done just right.

Here’s the rear cover (as you can see, ours got almost bent in half of the long journey from Sweden to Australia!):

The LP cover was available for mail order only through the VW Sweden site. All proceeds raised are going to Bris – a children’s rights organisation.

There’s no vinyl inside – you’ll have to provide that yourself – but it’s a cute advertising gimmick. A lot of other people must agree with that because the first run sold out in no time. We kept checking back and there was a second print run which also quickly sold out. At present the site is again showing as “SOLD OUT”, but it’s probably worth checking back from time to time to see if they do a third print run.

The good news is that if you’d like a CD-sized version of The Beetle’s Abbey Road – Reparked Edition to print up for yourself, you can download a pdf file of the front image for free from the VW Sweden site here.

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

New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4

How did The Beatles get the particular and unique sounds they achieved on their records?

If that’s a question you’ve been asking, then you’ll find a lot of the answers in a series of books written by Canadian musician, producer and recording engineer Jerry Hammack.

To date Jerry has produced an impressive body of work across three previous volumes in what he calls The Beatles Recording Reference Manuals (check out our reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3). In these books you’ll discover in intricate detail how The Beatles went about the recording process: the studios and equipment they used, their instruments, personnel, processes and recording dates and times. In short, just how they created their masterpieces.

Well, released today is the latest instalment in the series, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4: The Beatles through Yellow Submarine (1968-early 1969).

This new book picks up where the third left off, covering the period 1968 and early 1969. The songs recorded for the double LP, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) are dealt with in great detail. By comparison Yellow Submarine, which is included due to it’s release in the time span covered, isn’t. That’s because most of the Beatle songs used for that project (except for ‘Hey Bulldog’) were recorded earlier and are covered off in previous volumes. Also included here are the singles ‘Lady Madonna’/’The Inner Light’ and ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’.

This series is a labour of love that has taken Jerry Hammack more than ten years to complete, and this latest volume serves as a fantastic companion to last year’s remixed and remastered 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles double LP.

You can follow the journey of each song, from first take to final mix. There are text explanations and simple diagrams detailing what occurred in the studio as each track became the songs that we know and love today.

As Hammack says: “We are aware of most of the “when” and “where”, but the “what was done?” isn’t always clear. We rarely know what guitars or amplifiers were used on a song-by-song basis. There is even less knowledge about the format of the recordings or the studio equipment used on a specific song or session. It takes a lot of detective work to figure these facts out, and a number of popular sources for the information are in conflict, out of date, or just plain wrong. A picture of the work that comprised the creation of each song must be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. Thus began my quest to research, gather and organize both the narrative and core technical details of each of the classic Beatles recording sessions.”

The background introductions to each song often contain some pertinent observations. Take this one for ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’:

“The fact that McCartney would insist on beating the song to death over eight recording sessions, and three different versions, would only add fuel to the fire of frustration. While songs like Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields Forever had taken more sessions to record, they were perfected in a spirit of cooperation, where everyone was on-board regarding the value of the work being done. Times had changed. No doubt the extent of the animosity surrounding The Beatles sessions was somewhat exaggerated (though Starr did walk out, Martin deliberately absented himself, and business affairs under Apple were another matter). However, the seeds of the band’s ultimate unravelling through a single member’s insistence on his own particular vision were undoubtedly planted here. Bra.”

As in previous volumes there are numerous appendices at the back of the book covering the different release versions, gear and instruments used, and more.

Bring on the fifth and final volume that will cover the period 1969 to early 1970 (Let It Be and Abbey Road) where maybe, finally, the lengthy and sometimes tedious debate on Beatle chat rooms at the moment about who played drums on ‘Old Brown Shoe’ might finally be put to rest! (If you’re interested in this discussion it’s on this particular thread beginning about here. It continues for about fifty pages…..)

In the meantime, try and get yourself a copy of Jerry Hammack’s The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 4. Check it out here on Amazon.

The Beatles ‘The Singles Collection’ – First Unboxing Video and Review

Once again* every other reviewer and music writer has been beaten to the draw by US critic Michael Fremer of Analog Planet website fame.

Fremer has not only the first review of The Beatles new The Singles Collection box set, but also the first unboxing video showing in detail what the box, the 23 seven-inch singles and booklet look like. This box set is not officially released until this coming Friday (22 November), but Fremer uploaded his unboxing video on November 16:

The review, which followed the unboxing, is not kind.

Fremer, who had hoped the laquers for the singles had all been cut direct from the original analogue tapes, says: “The new box sounds dry, flat and boring. All of the voices reside on a flat plane, attack is stunted, sustain minimized and decay almost non-existent—all of the telltale signs of bad digitization—obvious even on the early “primitive” tracks. After comparing a few I moved forward to “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and after that comparison I stopped to write this.”

He went on to compare these latest singles with those from the 1978 World Records/EMI box set containing 25 Beatle singles. These he writes “…sound alive, exciting and packed with transient details and depth. The top end sparkles where appropriate—like on “Ticket to Ride”, where the guitar jangle is intense and Ringo’s toms have depth and texture.” 

“To say I’m disappointed with the sound [of this new box] is an understatement. It’s as weak as the packaging is strong. As a souvenir or attractive shelf item this set gets an 11. As something you’d want to play it gets a 5: middling. I don’t know what happened here but it produced a dull top, rubbery bottom, congested midrange, flat, dry perspective and heavy dynamic compression.”

This has re-ignited the hot debate about whether or not these new singles are indeed all analogue (AAA), or if they have been digitised and then cut to vinyl. You can read Fremer’s full review here.

* Fremer did the same with the 50th anniversary re-issue of Abbey Road in September this year, and The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) in October last year.

Vale Robert Freeman – Beatle Photographer Extraordinaire

If you don’t think you know the work of photographer Robert Freeman, you do.

He captured some of the most iconic images of his generation. Today has come the sad news that Robert Freeman, the Beatle photographer who has given us so much joy, has passed away at the age of 82.

The official Beatles site has posted a memorial, as have newspapers around the world. This is because of Freeman’s creative legacy, not the least of which is some of the most memorable album covers of all time:

The Paul McCartney official website has run a tribute today, testament to the regard in which he, and The Beatles, held Robert Freeman:

Dear Robert Freeman has passed away. He was one of our favourite photographers during the Beatles years who came up with some of our most iconic album covers. Besides being a great professional he was imaginative and a true original thinker. People often think that the cover shot for  Meet The Beatles of our foreheads in half shadow was a carefully arranged studio shot. In fact it was taken quite quickly by Robert in the corridor of a hotel we were staying in where natural light came from the windows at the end of the corridor. I think it took no more than half an hour to accomplish.

Bob also took the Rubber Soul cover; his normal practice was to use a slide projector and project the photos he’d taken onto a piece of white cardboard which was exactly album sized, thus giving us an accurate idea of how the finished product would look. During his viewing session the card which had been propped up on a small table fell backwards giving the photograph a ‘stretched’ look. Instead of simply putting the card upright again we became excited at the idea of this new version of his photograph. He assured us that it was possible to print it this way and because the album was titled Rubber Soul we felt that the image fitted perfectly.

I will miss this wonderful man but will always cherish the fond memories I have of him.