Record Store Day 2020 – Beatle Related Titles

It’s been a bit quiet on the new Beatle product front for a while. Then comes the 2020 Record Store Day official lists – and not one, but three titles that will be of ineterst to collectors.

First up, Paul McCartney and yet a further re-issue of his first solo album from 1970, simply called McCartney:

This time around, for it’s 50th anniversary, McCartney is getting the Half Speed Master treatment. There will be just 7000 copies produced. If you’d like to know more about Half Speed Mastering UMe has produced this article. Abbey Road Studios engineer Miles Showell (who worked on this 2020 re-issue of McCartney) explains more here:

And, as one wag said on one of the better re-issue forums (Super Deluxe Edition – which we love): “Just as he did fifty years ago, Paul’s making sure his solo album gets released before Let It Be hits the streets…” That’s actually very funny. History repeats.

Also on this year’s Record Store Day list, a Ravi Shankar Centennary Edition of his Chants of India album, produced by George Harrison in 1997. In what is the first physical product to come out of the new distribution relationship between BMG and Harrison’s Dark Horse Records, this LP is being issued for the first time on vinyl – and it will be on red coloured vinyl to boot! 3000 copies are being pressed, and the 2LP set will come in a gatefold cover with an exclusive photo print:

Finally, a John Lennon title is included in the 2020 RSD list. A 7″ black vinyl single of his 1970 hit ‘Instant Karma!’ is being billed as the 2020 Ultimate Mixes. The single will feature newly mixed audio and a faithful reproduction of original UK sleeve artwork. 7000 copies are being pressed:

Record Store Day this year is on Saturday, April 18. Check here for the full list of what is planned for release. You can find the US RSD store here. The official RSD UK store is here.

The Salvos Take On a Vision for Strawberry Field in Liverpool

After a battle with local authorities The Salvation Army has finally received a full planning go-ahead to build a much-needed training and work placement hub for young people with learning disabilities at its Strawberry Field site in Liverpool. The site, which has been closed to the public for years, will also house an exhibition centre where visitors can find out more about John Lennon and his connection to the parklands, as well as a place to explore spirituality. It’ll look something like this:

The next phase of the project is to raise the money needed to move the Salvos plans from vision to reality. And that’s where you come in.

To find out how you can donate, purchase merchandise and support the project, visit www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com

You’ll be helping young people like Jordan Clark to overcome their learning difficulties, get jobs, and make a real contribution to the community:

One of the fundraising projects launched recently saw a group of young people from the City of Liverpool College and the Salvos’ Steps to Work programme come together to form a choir to record a version of John Lennon’s legendary ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. They did it at the Abbey Road Studios in London, no less:

To hear the song in full, click here.

Jules Sherwood, Development Manager for The Salvation Army, said: “We believe Strawberry Field is the final piece of the Beatles jigsaw in Liverpool and once open will offer a magical experience to visitors who will be able to follow in the footsteps of the young John Lennon.”

“The very latest technologies will be adopted to create an exhibition where visitors will enter a space where “nothing is real” as they experience the wondrous, intertwined histories of the house, John Lennon and the writing and recording of the iconic song. The gardens will be filled with messages of peace and love which we hope will inspire visitors as Lennon himself was inspired.”

Strawberry Field is an iconic part of Liverpool’s history, as well as an important part of the local community in Woolton. The Salvation Army has owned the site since the 1930s and ran a children’s home there until 2005. John Lennon was inspired to write ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ after climbing over the wall and playing in the grounds. For him, it was a special place which had a lasting impact on his life.

If you’d like to help you can donate here, plus there’s lots of cool merch in the official Salvos store

New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 1

A fascinating and well-researched new Beatle book has just landed. It’s rather lengthy title is The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 1: ‘My Bonnie’ through ‘Beatles For Sale’ (1961-1964). The book is written by musician, recording engineer, producer and Beatle aficionado, Jerry Hammack:

As the front cover says: “From the first take to final remix, discover the making of the greatest pop recordings of all time”. It is the first installment of what will be a four-book series.

Volume 1 takes us in great detail through the albums Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, and Beatles For Sale.

Over eight years in the making, Jerry Hammack has collected and analysed hundreds of recordings (takes, outtakes, remixes and the officially released versions), read hundreds of books and magazine articles, scoured photos, film and videos, and interviewed key personnel who worked on Beatle sessions to compile a definitive statement about just how each of their classic recordings was made.

From his home in Toronto, Canada, Hammack explained, “I’d be working on a session and an artist would ask for McCartney’s bass sound on Sgt. Pepper, or Clapton’s solo guitar sound on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. While I could eventually track down the details that brought those sounds to life for them, it required a lot of detective work sorting through outdated, or even worse, unsubstantiated misinformation on the topic. As The Beatles influence is as present now as its ever been, I thought it was important to put those questions to rest.”

And put them to rest he does. The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 1 – ‘My Bonnie’ through ‘Beatles For Sale’ (1961-1964) includes song-by-song descriptions of the entire recording process, complete with diagrams to visually describe what happened with each song. This allows the reader to follow the critical milestones of each work. Every entry has detailed session by session breakdowns of the people involved, instruments and studio tools used. Plus there are numerous appendices at the back of the book covering release versions, gear, and more.

You’ll find in this book minute detail – right down to the studio gear in the control room at the time – like this beautiful old Telefunken M10 Master Recorder (which was the model used to record masses of the band’s earliest songs):

The book also has what I very much like to see in reference works of this nature: a Glossary of Terms, a thorough Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index, making things easy to find and cross reference.

Future volumes in this definitive, four-volume series will be released approximately every 6 months. Jerry Hammack has created a great website to support the book series, and you can purchase his book direct from the site, or through Amazon (where you can also take a “Look Inside” peek at the contents). Here’s the rear cover of Volume 1 (click the image for a larger version): 

Volume 2 will take us from Help! to Revolver (1965-1966); Volume 3 will look just at 1967 (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour); and the final in the series Volume 4 takes in the LPs The Beatles (aka The White Album, through to Abbey Road (1968-1970). Really well worth getting hold of if you love to delve into how Beatle magic was made in the recording studio.

Legendary Abbey Road Studio Recording Console to be Auctioned

It is best known as the mixing desk used to record Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, but this Abbey Road Studios EMI TG12345 MK IV Recording Console was also used by Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr on various solo projects between 1971-1983: 

The TG12345 MK IV, formerly housed in the famous Abbey Road Studio 2, is now up for sale as “Lot 35” in an upcoming Bonhams Auction event featuring a wealth of collectable rock music items. The console comes with letters concerning its provenance, including one from Ken Townsend, Abbey Road Studio manager at the time and future Chairman. Townsend worked with The Beatles as an engineer on numerous albums over the years. There’s a great little film about him here.

The auction will take place in New York on March 27. Click here for more details.

Abbey Road Beatles Pianos Sampled

For any musicians out there looking to recreate the exact piano sounds found on many iconic Beatle recordings, it is now possible.

A company called Cinesamples, working directly with Abbey Road Studios, has been given complete access to two of the vintage upright pianos in Studio 2.

One is called the Challen Studio piano (as played by the Beatles on several albums), and the other the “Mrs Mills” piano (again used extensively by the Beatles). Both pianos have also featured on countless recordings by numerous other famous acts:Challen-IMG_9908The samples were recorded in-house by Abbey Road’s studio engineers, in the same studio the Beatles used as well. You can’t get any better than that! These samples can now be purchased and played by anyone – using software developed by Cinesamples:abbey-road

There are two pianos but three main sounds which can be reproduced: the Challen, the Challen Tack, and the Mrs Mills. Here Mike Patti from Cinesamples demonstrates the upright Abbey Road Challen pianos:

According to reviews, these two pianos – three if you count the harder-edged and more jangly Challen Tack version – sound flawless. These are really some pretty special instruments, with piano sounds that are just not available anywhere else. Given the impossibility of ever getting near one of these two pianos yourself, if you’re a musician this software provides a remarkable way to get the exact same sounds that the Beatles made onto your own recordings – or in live performances.

Abbey Road Studios Revealed

Using Google today we accidentally stumbled across a fantastic interactive gateway they’ve created which takes you into the world of the historic Abbey Road studios in London – the place where so much Beatles history was created:Abbey Road 5

On the Google home page all you have to do is click on the link ‘Step inside Abbey Road Studios‘. When you do you’ll see this:Abbey Road 1Once inside you can choose to go to Studio One, Studio Two, or to Studio Three.

If you choose Studio Two (where the Beatles made so much of their music), have a look around. You can also click on a link to the making of Paul McCartney’sQueenie Eye‘ video, which was shot entirely in Studio Two:Abbey Road 4Don’t forget to go upstairs to the Studio Two control room. There you’ll find Giles Martin at the mixing desk and a number of interesting features to click on:Abbey Road 2There’s also an option to visit the Abbey Road Mastering Room. Have a look at what’s on top of the stack of LPs on the coffee table at the back:Abbey Road 3This is a fantastic resource, one you can spend quite a while clicking around on and finding our more about the famous Abbey Road. Thanks Google!

Produced by George Martin – DVD, BluRay and Six CD Box Set

We’ve really been enjoying the newly-released BBC-Arena documentary “Produced by George Martin“. And it has been getting some very good reviews too. You might recall a little while ago we gave away a copy of the DVD to a lucky Beatlesblog reader, Eric Leon in France.

Produced by George Martin BR FrontProduced By George Martin BR rProduced By George Martin DVD

The DVD and BluRay contain the extensive documentary, plus over 50 minutes of extended interviews with Martin, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and many others. But it is not just Sir George’s work with the Beatles which is featured. “Produced by George Martin” is a history of Parlophone Records, which is a division of the huge recording conglomerate known as EMI. George Martin was the boss of Parlophone and so alongside the Beatles (by far his most famous signing) he was responsible for recording some of the top hit-makers in Britain (and the world) including Cilla Black, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Rolf Harris, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey, and of course Wings. Many who see the doco will be wondering if there’s a way to get hold of some of the great music and comedy featured which Martin produced. There is – it’s a six CD box set of his work that came out way back in 2001. Interestingly, although it was released more than ten years before this latest documentary, it carries a very similar title to this year’s DVD and BluRay: “Produced by George Martin – 50 Years in Recording”:

Produced by George Martin Cov F

Each CD set is individually numbered (mine is 08750) and comes in a fold-out, long-box length holdings which holds the six CD’s and a book. Here’s the rear cover and some of the inside fold-out panels:

Produced by George Martin Cov RProduced by George Martin Cov2Produced by George Martin Cov 3

The CD’s themselves contain tracks that date back to Sir George’s earliest work, beginning in 1955 and then traversing his entire career up to his post-Parlophone days recording acts like America, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Webb and John McLaughlin. Whoever designed the set decided to give each CD an authentic and historic Parlophone label. It’s a design idea that the Beatles themselves decided to copy in the their latest series of remastered re-issues of their own work, both for the 2009 CD remasters (mono and stereo), and for the LP box set which has only just been released:

Produced by George Martin CD1Produced by George Martin CD2Produced by George Martin CD3Produced by george Martin CD4Produced By George Martin CD5Produced by George Martin CD6

Glued inside the fold-out package is a 35 page book, with liner notes by Mark Lewisohn (who will be well-known to Beatles fans as the band’s most knowledgable and respected biographer). In it Lewisohn details the background to Sir George’s life and the multitude of artists and styles he produced over a 45-year span in the business:

Produced by George Martin Book Front CoverProduced by George Martin Book 3Produced by George Martin Book 4

For those who were not able to fork out the considerable outlay for the full 6 CD box set, EMI/Parlophone also produced a “Highlights” single CD version containing 24 tracks:

Prodused by George Martin Highlights CD FrontProduced by George Martin Highlights CD RearProduced by George Martin Highlights CD

And there was also a promo CD produced. It came in a simple cardboard slipcase with a further reduced selection of material (14 tracks). This would have been  sent to radio stations, and reviewers at magazines and newspapers to promote the box set:

Produced by George Martin CD Promo FrontProduced by George Martin CD Promo Rear

Produced by George Martin Promo CD

This 2001 box set from 2001 forms a great companion to the filmed “Produced by George Martin” DVD and BluRay documentary released in 2012.

produced by george martin

Here Comes the Sun – New Guitar Solo

There is a great little video from the deluxe materials included with the “Living in the Material World” DVD and BluRay sets. It features George Martin, Giles Martin and Dhani Harrison (George and Olivia’s son) filmed at the mixing desk listening back to the Beatles “Here Comes The Sun” – complete with a previously unheard guitar solo from the song which never made the final mix. Nice.

Beatles Engineer Geoff Emerick Interview

ABC Radio in Australia has done a lengthy interview with the man often referred to as “the sixth Beatle” –  studio engineer extraordinaire Geoff Emerick. As a 21 year-old he was George Martin’s right-hand man in the control room on albums such as “Revolver”, “Sgt Pepper”, “The Beatles (White Album)” and “Abbey Road”.

702 ABC Sydney Evening Show presenter Robbie Buck spoke to Geoff for over twenty minutes about his career recording the greatest band in the world. Visit the 702 ABC Sydney site to read about the interview. You can play it from that site – or you can listen here:

Geoff Emerick will be in Australia this week to attend “Integrate 2011“, a sound, music and light industry convention where he’ll give a special presentation that is being billed as a “world first”Geoff will be interviewed live on stage with another legend from the industry, Australian Richard Lush, who also worked extensively with the Beatles in the 1960’s. And they’ll play examples of how they came up with some of the unique and ground-breaking sounds we hear on the Beatles recordings.

Thinking About Abbey Road Studios at 80

I stumbled today upon an article on (of all places) the computer/gadget specialist site CNet. It is about the famed EMI Abbey Road studios in St. John’s Wood, London – the site of so much fantastic recorded music including just about all the songs recorded, in one way or another, by the Beatles. The studios have just turned 80 years old and it got me thinking about what an important role this particular pile of bricks and mortar on a nondescript street has played in the history of popular and classical music – not the least of which is the music of the the Beatles.

If George Martin is often referred to as “the fifth Beatle” then surely Abbey Road could be regarded as one of the instruments they played – with as much importance to the Beatles sound as the Gibson acoustics, the Gretsch and Epiphone electrics, the Ludwig drums, and the famous Hofner bass.

The CNet article has some very interesting observations made during a recent tour of the famous building and it’s numerous rooms – so many of which are associated with Beatles tracks. You have got to scroll through the thirty photographs taken during CNet’s visit. Its a terrific tour with some great shots for both Beatles fans and technical nerds alike.

The studio itself has a website which is worth a visit every now and again to catch up on their news – one of the latest of which is the remastering of the Beatles “Anthology” series for digital download.

So much happened at this one address – including the Beatles themselves honoring their home-away-from-home with an album bearing the studio’s name.

Abbey Road photo session - August 8, 1969

Then there was the heritage listing for that famous zebra crossing out the front….and the zebra crossing web cam, now complete with live street sounds. Its no longer in exactly the same spot as the photo on the front of the “Abbey Road” album having been moved down the road a bit from the studios – but countless fans still come each day, month, and year to be photographed striding across it.

Happy 80th birthday Abbey Road Studios. Here’s to 80 more years.