Lennon Ono “Wedding Album” Reissue

On her 86th birthday Yoko Ono has announced that the next installment in her lengthy album re-issue project will be the often-maligned John Lennon/Yoko Ono Unfinished Music No.3: Wedding Album from 1969.

The release date of March 22, 2019 will be two days after the 50th anniversary of the couple getting married in Gibraltar, near Spain (see “The Ballad of John and Yoko”):

The new box set (issued via Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music) will re-create the original, which in typical fashion was well ahead of its time in offering a plethora of extras along with the album inside. It was a white box filled with souvenirs of John and Yoko’s nuptials: photographs; a replica of their marriage certificate; their own drawings of the wedding and famous Bed-in honeymoon/peace event which followed; a picture of a slice of wedding cake; more sets of photos; and a booklet of press clippings about the couple.

The box and it’s contents were created by graphic designer John Kosh who is probably better known for his work with The Beatles (he did the cover of Abbey Road, and the lavish box and book that accompanied early editions of Let It Be).The ongoing Yoko Ono Reissue Project was launched in 2016. It aims to remaster and reissue all eleven of Ono’s studio recordings between the years 1968 and 1985. Each will painstakingly reconstruct the original vinyl packaging. There have been six releases to date: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968, with John Lennon); Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions (1969, with John Lennon); Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (1970); Fly (1971); Approximately Infinite Universe(1973); and Feeling the Space (1973). Still to come are Season of Glass (1981); It’s Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982); Starpeace (1985); and A Story (1997, but recorded in 1974).

The Wedding Album is available on white vinyl, on CD, and as digital download, and there are a very limited number (300 copies) being made available on clear vinyl exclusively through the British record store chain, Rough Trade Records.

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Great New Beatle-related Movie – “Yesterday”

Imagine you woke up one day and there were no Beatles.

No one you speak to has ever heard of them, and there are no references to the band or their songs online, in music stores, libraries, or anywhere. But….you can remember them clearly, and you know how to play their songs.

That’s the premise of an interesting new comedy movie coming out later this year called Yesterday. It comes from Danny Boyle (who directed Slum Dog Millionaire and Trainspotting), and Richard Curtis (the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually).

Jack (played by Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter who dreams of making it big, but his career is going nowhere. His biggest supporter is his best friend, Ellie (Lily James). Then, something mysterious happens. During some sort of global electrical blackout, Jack gets hit by a bus and wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Only thing is, he remembers them clearly, starts to perform their songs, and from there things really start to get interesting….

Yesterday looks like it will be real fun for Beatle fans. It is due in movie theatres on June 28.

McCartney Announces “Egypt Station” Super Deluxe Box Set

The long-expected super deluxe expanded edition of Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station is finally on its way.

It’s called the Egypt Station – Travellers Edition, and comes in a stickered suitcase as a limited edition of 3,000 worldwide. Release date is May 10.

Details from the official paulmccartney.com website:

EGYPT STATION – TRAVELLER’S EDITION BOX SET
Strictly Limited Deluxe Edition of 3,000
To Be Released 10th May

  
Paul has confirmed the release of the Egypt Station – Traveller’s Edition box set out 10th May via Capitol Records. This strictly limited deluxe edition of the #1 album Egypt Station will be a one-time-only pressing limited to 3,000 numbered cases. The Traveller’s Edition arrives in a vintage style suitcase and contains exclusive previously unreleased tracks, hidden rarities and all the essentials needed on your journey to Egypt Station and beyond.

Pre-order begins Friday 15th February at 6am PT / 9am ET / 2pm GMT. Due to the limited quantity of this edition, sales will be on a first come, first served basis. 

Egypt Station – Traveller’s Edition contains: 

  • Limited edition concertina tri-fold deluxe 180G black vinyl double LP of Egypt Station
  • Exclusive limited edition bonus 180G vinyl pressing of Egypt Station II in “Night Scene” blue cover, featuring three previously unreleased tracks — ‘Frank Sinatra’s Party’, ‘Sixty Second Street’ and extended cut of the Egypt Station single ‘Who Cares’ — as well as four live performances of Egypt Station tracks taken from Abbey Road Studios, The Cavern Club, LIPA and Paul’s iconic performance at Grand Central Station
  • Limited edition Egypt Station concertina CD
  • Exclusive limited edition collector’s Egypt Station Blue Cassette
  • HD audio of all tracks upon shipment
  • Additional rare performance footage hidden inside

Special Features:

  • Luxury vintage-style embossed Egypt Station artwork suitcase
  • An exclusive copy of a handwritten note from Paul
  • Fold out, vintage-style Egypt Station illustrated map suitable for framing
  • Travel memorabilia including “travel itinerary”, postcards, baggage tickets and first class ticket
  • Egypt Station luggage stickers
  • Travel journal featuring copies of Paul’s handwritten lyrics
  • Two Egypt Station lithographs of Paul’s paintings
  • 500+ piece jigsaw puzzle
  • Egypt Station playing cards
  • And additional hidden surprises and rarities…

No word on price yet, but expect around £315, €350 or US$360. The Daily Beatle site is saying that on May 17 the additional audio content will be released separately in a cheaper package, without all the goodies. 

There is a short “unboxing” style video doing the rounds on social media:

 

Original “Blackbird” To Get An Orchestral and Choral Overdub

For the first time ever° an original version of a Beatle song has been overdubbed with strings and choir and will be included on a forthcoming charity album called Animal Requiem.

Animal Requiem is the brainchild of composer (and wife of Pete Townsend), Rachel Fuller. An animal lover, she has written a musical work with the intention of celebrating, remembering and honouring all the animals we have loved and lost.

As a long-time animal rights supporter Paul McCartney was also keen to be involved, and has granted permission for the Beatle song ‘Blackbird’ to be included. It’s apparently the original White Album recording (featuring McCartney’s vocal and guitar), but now accompanied by an entirely new classical arrangement performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Choir of London, conducted by Robert Ziegler.

Rachel Fuller, Animal Requiem composer
            Rachel Fuller, Animal Requiem composer. Picture: Terry McGough

Rachel Fuller said, “I composed the Animal Requiem for all of us who have lost a much beloved pet – the pain we feel is equal to the love we felt for them. With this music, I honour and remember all the animals I have loved and lost. All their lives have had an extraordinary impact on mine and I am forever grateful.”

The Requiem has been created for every person who is passionate about animal welfare, who believes in a world where animals are treated with kindness and compassion, and that each and every life is a valuable one.

All profits from the album and ticket sales from concert performances will be donated to animal charities and small independently run shelters around the world.

The album will be released in the UK on March 8. It is already available as a digital download in the US, with ‘Blackbird’ only downloadable if you purchase the whole album.

° Of course there was the lovely George Martin string arrangement for ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ used in the Cirque Du Soleil stage show and included on the Beatles Love album. But that’s a different vocal/acoustic version of the song, not the original from The White Album. Have there been any others?

The Beatles, “Let It Be”, and Peter Jackson

Of course you’ll have heard by now that the multi-award winning film maker Peter Jackson has been selected by to re-cut the hours of Let It Be footage and audio from the winter of 1969 into an entirely new film.

We’ve been letting that huge news from last week sink in and percolate a bit – and have come to the conclusion that it’s a stroke of genius by the remaining Beatles and their Apple company.

We all know that the original Let It Be film has been languishing in the vaults for years, with seemingly no chance of unanimous agreement amongst the four-headed monster that controls these things (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison) that a re-issue – on its own – would ever get the green light.

But giving all the footage (over 55 hours of never-before-seen film and 140 hours of audio) to the Oscar-winning Jackson is something of a masterstroke.

First and foremost is the fact that Peter Jackson (who made the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies) is a mad keen Beatle fan, and has been for decades.

Secondly, his most recent project – the documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old – has seen he and his team at Park Road Post in Wellington, New Zealand, work wonders with the restoration and colorization of old photos and never-before-seen footage from World War I. The film was made to commemorate the centennial of the end of the war.

If you want proof of what they can do with footage and images from one hundred years ago just take a look at the trailer for They Shall Not Grow Old. It is breathtaking:

The services at Park Road Post include: restoration from scanned film – scratch and splice fixes, de-noise, image sharpening, stabilizing, re-speeding and re-timing; grading – black and white and final colour grading of specialised colour created footage; and dialogue recording, Foley, and pre and final sound mixing and mastering. So they are very capable experts in their field.

As to the legend that The Beatles’ time together during the filming of Let It Be was entirely fraught and only shows a band in its final death throes, Jackson – who has seen all the footage – begs to differ: “I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth. After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. I’m thrilled and honoured to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage – making the movie will be a sheer joy.”

This all points to what should be something very special being produced.

As to fans who were worried that the new film would take the place of the original Let It Be, that it would forever consigned to the Apple dustbin, well that seems not to be the case. A restored version of director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s theatrical release is set to finally get its belated digital release “following the release of this new film”, according to Apple’s official announcement.

And, it’s kind of ironic that The Beatles once tried to obtain the film rights to The Lord of the Rings…..

Beatles “White Album” 50th Anniversary Turntable

There’s another Beatle-themed turntable out there: 

Turntable manufacturer Pro-Ject Audio Systems, in association with Universal Music, has launched a Beatles White Album model to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of the legendary recording.

Based on a Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB model, the limited White Album version really is all-white, down to the platter, tonearm, switch gear, and even a specially produced white-bodied Ortofon 2M cartridge pre fitted at the factory:The company now has six Beatle-related record players: the Yellow Submarine model; two Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band models (in Drum and Limited Edition versions); a Beatles 1964 edition; and a George Harrison turntable as well:

The Beatles White Album turntable is limited to 500 pieces worldwide. It looks to have a limited edition number stamped on it, just like the original LP covers did back in 1968, but it’s not clear if these are individual or not:The Pro-Ject White Album Limited Edition is up at the higher end of Pro-Ject’s turntable offerings and retails for US$1799 (and in Australia for $2699). You can read the official press release here.

Two Interviews Worth Reading

Here are two interview-based articles – one featuring Paul McCartney, the other the John Lennon Imagine re-issue box set from late last year. If you haven’t seen these already they are both worth a look.

The first is from GQ magazine and dates back to September, 2018 when Paul McCartney was very much in publicity mode for his then new album Egypt Station.

In it he’s quite revealing and, as the opening hype paragraph states, the article takes in some familiar ground, but traverses some very new territory too:

“He’s as famous and accomplished as a man can be. He could just stay home, relax, and count his money. But Paul McCartney is as driven as ever. Which is why he’s still making music and why he has loads of great stories you’ve never heard—about the sex life of the Beatles, how he talked John Lennon out of drilling holes in his head (really), and what actually happened when he worked with Kanye.”

One pertinent section deals with his brand new song ‘Get Enough’, which was only made public earlier this month (on New Years Day actually).

The song is right now polarizing listeners because of the heavy use of Auto-Tune as an effect on the vocal. At the time of the interview the song wasn’t yet in the public domain, but what McCartney says about it in the interview gives some valuable context now, shedding light on where he was coming from, why he recorded it, and why he released it:

“McCartney proceeds to tell me that he recently used Auto-Tune on a song—one that’s not even on his new album—and how he worried for a moment about it. “Because I know people are going to go, ‘Oh no! Paul McCartney’s on bloody Auto-Tune! What have things come to?’… At the back of my mind I’ve got Elvis Costello saying, ‘Fucking hell, Paul!'” But then he considered it some more, and what he thought was: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been—John, particularly—would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be…”

McCartney demonstrates a version of how he’d imagine a modern-day John Lennon singing in an extreme Auto-Tune warble, and then he gets out his iPhone and plays me some of the song in question, another collaboration with Ryan Tedder, called “Get Enough”, which has an emphatically full-on Auto-Tuned McCartney vocal, plenty more than would be required to horrify any passing purists. It also sounds pretty good.”

The GQ article is accompanied by photographs of McCartney modelling some stylish and expensive menswear. It’s also associated with a lengthy YouTube video the magazine uploaded to its channel where the songwriter steps through the background to some of his best-known works, both solo and Beatle:

The second article is an interesting (if a little rough around the edges) insight into the recording of John Lennon’s classic Imagine LP – which was beautifully remixed, remastered and re-issued late last year in a number of formats. It provides fans with cleaned-up sound and a wealth of previously un-heard outtakes, demos and more.

The article comes from Rock Cellar magazine and takes the form of interviews with three of the musicians who made key contributions to the iconic recording: bass player Klaus Voormann; drummer Jim Keltner; and guitarist Joey Molland.

In contrast to the GQ offering, Rock Cellar is an online magazine operated by volunteers so the attention to detail is a bit lacking in places. They could really use a good sub-editor to lift the quality of simple things like spell-checking and grammar. But there are some really valuable recollections, insights and information here on how Imagine came together from three artists directly involved at the time:

What were the things that most impressed you about John as an artist, both professionally and personally?

Jim Keltner: Well, he was John Lennon. He always found it interesting and funny when I told him I never liked rock and roll. When he was a young guy, we were all around the same age, Ringo’s a little bit older than me, Klaus is a little bit older too — John was older than me by just a little bit. As we were coming up he was a rocker. Along with Paul and George and Ringo, he loved American blues and rock more than anything, it affected their lives big time.

They dedicated their whole lives to that, and we know what happened. But for me, over here during that same time I was just listening to Miles (Davis) and (John) Coltrane; I didn’t want to have anything to do with any rock and roll. I hated it. John just thought that was so funny. And then when I started playing with him I could tell that he liked my feel. I could feel it because we shared the same kind of attitude about feel. By the time I had gotten with him I made a commitment to understand this rock and roll thing. So I was doing it from my gut, plus I had listened to Ringo so much.Whether you wanted to or not, if you were a drummer you were influenced by Ringo. Whether you even knew it or not you definitely were influenced by Ringo because any Beatles music you listened to it was all about Ringo’s feel.

John and George both told me, John especially, that Ringo was his very favorite drummer. I loved hearing him say that, because he was my favorite drummer too. John was the easiest person to play with. It’s interesting for me because John and Bob Dylan and were on my radar right at the same time. I played with Bob right around that same time with Leon (Russell) and Carl Radle and Jesse Ed (Davis) in New York. I got the same feeling from both of them. They were so strong in the way they played and sang and of course when you’re talking about rising to the level of a good song, if you’re talking about John Lennon or Bob Dylan it’s a no-brainer. You knew the songs were gonna make you wanna play at your best.

You can check out the full interviews here.

John Lennon photo by Peter Fordham © Yoko Ono