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a lot of detective work to figure these facts out, and a number of popular sources for the information are in conflict, out of date, or just plain wrong.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.

Paul McCartney – ‘Hey Grandude!’ Book and Audio Book

Two new McCartney items to add to the collection today.

First up the children’s book Hey Grandude!, written by Paul McCartney and illustrated by Kathryn Durst, plus the audio book for the same title on CD – with McCartney not only reading the story but also providing some original music that’s played by him as well.

Firstly, here’s the book’s cover, front and rear. It’s a large format hardback with a protective dust jacket:

Interestingly, if you take the dust jacket off, there’s a completely different cover design underneath, front and rear:

The design of the book is stylishly done and has lots of nice touches. Here are two pages from inside to give you a feel for the contents:

And this is the audio book CD, which has Paul himself reading the book. Penguin Books has packaged this up nicely. It takes all the elements from the book and carries them through the whole design. Here’s the front cover:

And the rear:

They’ve gone to some trouble, making it a gatefold:

And there’s an insert booklet containing the credits (and two biographies) that folds out:

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

 

 

 

The Complete Beatles Songs – The Stories Behind Every Track Written by The Fab Four

Here’s a nice little Christmas stocking-filler for you.

If you’re on the lookout for a decent Beatle book this holiday season, you should consider The Complete Beatles Songs – The Stories Behind Every Track Written by The Fab Four. It is written by the respected music writer, Steve Turner, and has just been re-published in a paperback format:

This book has actually been around in a couple of different forms and editions dating back as far as 1994.

You might know it as A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, and over the years more than 440,000 copies have been sold. That’s because when it was first released the book was a first of its kind, a definitive examination of Beatle lyrics all gathered together in one complete package.

And this is why it has stayed in print, and why it is regularly updated and re-issued with new information as it comes to hand, and as new titles in the Beatles discography are added. It has been expanded considerably over the years with new findings added, and it has jettisoned some false information along the way too.

The book’s purpose is the definitive analysis of the words of the songs. It includes the full lyrics to each, and details why, how and where the recordings were created. The meaning behind each song is explored, as are the characters, places and themes. It is richly illustrated throughout too.

Steve Turner is a journalist, biographer and poet who writes about music, and has done so for a wide range of publications over many years. He’s the author of a number of books, and in 2016 wrote the critically acclaimed Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year.

As he writes in the Introduction to The Complete Beatles Songs, “More than forty years since the band stopped playing, those songs still mean something to us. They are like old friends who we met when we were young and who made life a little more exciting and easier to cope with. Because of what they did for us, we heave great affection for them. It is because we hold such affection for them that it makes sense to find out where they came from”.

So, maybe your old copy of Steve Turner’s original is getting a bit dog-eared and beaten-up, or you just want to get this latest, updated edition, or maybe this will be your very first copy of this essential book. Either way, The Complete Beatles Songs should find it’s place in every serious Beatle collector’s library.

The edition shown here was re-issued in paperback by Carlton Books in October this year.(As usual, click on the images for larger versions)

New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 3

If you’ve got the first two volumes in this impressive (and growing) body of work, then you’ll definitely want to have Jerry Hammack’s latest installment, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 3: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band through Magical Mystery Tour (late 1966-1967) as part of your collection:

Hammack is a Canadian-American musician, producer and recording engineer known for his in-depth knowledge of vintage recording techniques. You can learn more about Jerry at his website jerryhammack.com

Like previous volumes, this book contains song-by-song reconstructions of the session work (for both performance and technical) that went into each of The Beatles’ singles, EPs and albums – from the start of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era to the release Magical Mystery Tour.

Hammack’s reconstructions of what went down come from his painstaking examination of the most reliable and authoritative resources, including original EMI studios documentation; recollections and interviews with the original engineers who worked on the sessions; photographic and film evidence of the band at work; and of course analysis of the actual recordings themselves, including the many out-takes, session recordings and remixes available. Where there’s doubt or conflicting information, Hammack tries to document and reconcile discrepancies and offers well-considered justifications for the views he is putting forward.

The particular period covered in this volume offers rich pickings because The Beatles had recently given up touring in preference to immersing themselves entirely in the recording process and learning to make the studio itself another one of their instruments. As Hammack writes: “Spanning 189 days between November 24th, 1966 and June 1st, 1967 the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era forever set The Beatles apart from any other band in the history of popular music. If Revolver had freed the band from the four-piece format that best suited live performance, Pepper shattered those shackles entirely.”

A good example comes from the first song to be recorded in the Pepper sessions, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. This required work, on and off, over a 35 day period with 12 different recording sessions before it was completed.

What we find for each song is when and where each recording session took place; which instruments were played; what type of microphones were used; what signal processing was in place; what effects units were used; even details on the types of speakers in the studios and control rooms used to listen back to and mix the recordings. The detail here for those who are into the minutiae of this sort of stuff is extraordinary. Added to the detail are informative, song-by-song visual representations of how each song came together:Looking ahead, Hammack has only Volume 4 to go. It will be the final book in the series and covers off the LPs The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) through to Abbey Road (1968-1970). The plan is to release that volume in about 6 months time.

See also our review of Volume 1 and Volume 2 in the series, plus Jerry Hammack’s official Beatles Recording Reference Manuals website for the book, and Amazon’s Look Inside if you’d like to get a better idea of the format and what each book contains.

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)

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.

George Martin Biography – Part Two: Sound Pictures

The second installment in an exceptional two-part biography of Beatle producer, the late Sir George Martin, has just hit bookstores in the US and the UK.

We reviewed Part 1, Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years: 1926-1966), back in January and have been hanging out to get our hands on Part 2 ever since.

Now, Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016) is finally here.

Like the first book in the series, there are different covers for each market. Here is the US jacket:

And here is the cover for the UK:

Author Kenneth Womack really has created the definitive biography of the man widely regarded as The Fifth Beatle. In this second volume he takes up the story from 1966, when the Beatles have just released their Rubber Soul album to huge audience and critical acclaim: “At this point, the Beatles were in the midst of riding a winning streak in the UK, with eleven consecutive number-one singles – the latest being the double A-sided “Day Tripper” backed with “We Can Work It Out”, which was released in December 1965 and had rung in 1966 atop the UK charts. The pressure was definitely on to maintain the Beatles’ commercial dominion in their home country, and the group’s principal songwriters took the competition very seriously indeed, with John and Paul regularly vying to see who could land the next A-side.”

In those sentences Womack sums up the huge weight of expectation that was on the band, not only to keep on coming up with the goods in the form of hit records, and to maintain their hectic performance and appearance schedule, but also internally to keep moving forward creatively, to stretch themselves, try out new sounds and new ways of doing things.

In Sound Pictures we get a birds-eye view of the Beatles at their most creative. With the decision in late 1966 not to tour anymore but instead to use their albums to talk to their fans, they set a course that led to the release of four consecutive LPs that always make it into any ‘Best Albums of All Time’ lists: Revolver 1966, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967, The Beatles (The White Album) 1968, and Abbey Road 1969. When the Beatles decided to use the studio as their instrument it was Sir George who was there to guide them – and we’re all the luckier for it.

Add to that amazing list of LPs a string of Number 1 singles (like ‘All You Need Is Love’/’Baby, You’re A Rich Man’, ‘Hello, Goodbye’/’I Am the Walrus’, ‘Penny Lane’/’Strawberry Fields’, ‘Lady Madonna’/’The Inner Light’, ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’ and ‘Something’/Come Together’ to name but a few) and you start to get an idea of the wave of creativity being unleashed between 1966-1969. George Martin was central and influential in each and every recording.

Sure, as the Beatles became more confident in the studio the dynamic between the band and their production team changed throughout this period – especially around the time of The White Album (and Womack goes into this in some detail) – but they usually found their way back to George Martin for guidance in some form or other. It’s a trend that continued right through the eighties with the release of the Beatle catalogue on CD for the first time; the huge Anthology project; and right up to more recent releases like the Beatles Love, where many of their songs were remastered and radically remixed. As well as having helped create it, Martin was closely involved in caretaking the legacy too.

Throughout the timeframe of Sound Pictures, Sir George was working as an independent producer, arranger and composer. He started up his own company called AIR, and established his own recording studio facilities as well, so in the book we get to learn about the huge catalogue of artists he collaborated with alongside some of the significant musical productions he was associated with. George Martin has worked with performers as diverse as Cilla Black, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck, Kenny Rogers, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney as solo artists, America, Celine Dion, Jimmy Webb and John McLaughlin. It extends right up to his passing in 2016, and goes well beyond his work with the Beatles.

This is an excellent book, a great read, and Kenneth Womack should be congratulated for the depth of his research and the engaging way he tells the story of one of the greats of the music business. Highly recommended.

If you are looking for a soundtrack to accompany these two volumes as you read you could do worse than getting hold of the six CD set, Produced By George Martin – 50 Years In Recording. It was released in 2001: