New George Martin Biography – Maximum Volume

We have reviewed author Ken Womack’s work previously on beatlesblogger.com

He’s a recognised authority on The Beatles and their enduring cultural influence. His latest work is the first in what will become a two-volume biography devoted to Beatle producer, Sir George Martin.

First published last year in the United States, then quickly followed by a UK edition, the first installment is called Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years: 1926-1966).

Here’s the US jacket:

And here’s the somewhat more tame UK cover

This book is long-overdue. There have been surprisingly few in-depth studies of the life of one of the most influential figures in popular music, a career spanning more than 60 years.

In Womack’s book we learn that George Martin scored his first real job in the music industry pretty much by accident when he joined the recording giant EMI as an A&R man for Parlophone Records and that in the 1950s being in A&R (or Artist and Repetoire) didn’t mean you were a producer – it was more about talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the artists signed to your label.

Martin had a natural musical talent and great training, and he’d had some success with comedy and novelty records for Parlophone. But he needed more than that. By the early 1960s to keep his label afloat George Martin needed to hit it big with a pop group – and soon.

Though he had tons of creativity, drive, and a solid musical background, Martin’s main handicap was that he had little knowledge or experience of the world of Rock & Roll.

Then, into his life walks a young, four-piece outfit from Liverpool.

These guys knew a lot about Rock & Roll, but had no knowledge about studios and how to record their music. The pairing of the two was a marriage made in heaven. What George Martin was able to bring to the table fitted perfectly with what the Beatles needed – and together they went on to make magic.

It wasn’t always plain sailing though, and Martin often had to be tough and give as good as he got because the Beatles were hard task masters. They were ambitious, confident, and didn’t suffer fools lightly. But George Martin had the chutzpah and the musical knowledge and ability to carry it off:

Martin: “Let’s have one more go at the backing, then we’ll record your voices separately. This time, we’ll get it exactly right.”

McCartney: “Why—what was exactly wrong?”

Martin: “The tuning sounded wrong. And you, George, should be coming in on the second beat every time instead of every fourth beat.”

Harrison: “Oh, I see.”

In its essence, this brief exchange demonstrated what people in the Beatles’ inner circle understood implicitly: namely, that George was possibly the single most influential person in their world, really the only one who could impinge upon the nature of their music. Even Brian [Epstein], whom they held in extraordinarily high esteem, held little, if any, sway in terms of influencing the direction of their creative lives. At one point, when Brian dared to offer an opinion about their efforts in the studio, John coolly replied, “You look after your percentages, Brian. We’ll take care of the music.” (pg. 252)

In Maximum Volume Womack candidly – and comprehensively – tells the story of George Martin from his very humble childhood and early adulthood, through to the heights of success he and the Beatles enjoyed globally. It’s a great read, a real page-turner in fact as the detail behind that enormous success unfolds.

As one reviewer put it, the book contains enough fresh information and informed insight about the group’s early years to satisfy [even] the most devout Beatlemaniac.

Maximum Volume takes a similar approach to that of Mark Lewisohn’s well-researched and highly regarded multi-volume telling of the Beatles story: there are footnotes detailing where Womack is getting his information and where his quotes come from; there’s an extensive bibliography; and there’s a comprehensive index. All these things point to the thorough research undertaken by Ken Womack and the efforts he’s gone to to put the life and work of George Martin into a context that can be supported by facts.

The importance of this approach to writing about the Beatles, or any subject or person for that matter where so much has been written over many years, is imperative. Sifting through the mass of it to find those kernels of truth about your subject before forming it into an accurate and entertaining narrative is paramount – and Womack pulls it off. For a great reflection on this subject it’s worth a listen to the Something About the Beatles podcast episode called “The Beatles and the Historians“. See too the show’s interview with Ken Womack himself: “George Martin – Maximum Volume“.

Womack’s second and final volume on the life and work of Sir George Martin will be published in September this year. It’s to be called Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016).

In the meantime, enjoy Volume One – Maximum Volume. It is highly recommended.

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McCartney – ‘Man On The Run’ Book

While in Sydney city to pick up the RSD Black Friday McCartney releases we called in to one of those pop-up discount bookshops – and found a hardback copy of Tom Doyle’s 2013 study called Man On The Run – Paul McCartney in the 1970s:

Haven’t read it yet, but it looks to be interesting. There’s a decent review of the book here from the Washington Post. If you’d like to have a sneak read here’s one of those “Look Inside” widgets.

There are some very good photos contained in a pictures section in the middle of the book, some “behind-the-scenes” shots we’ve not seen before:

If anyone has read this work and has some thoughts, let us know. Here’s the rear cover:

(click on images to see larger versions)

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 afficionado, 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 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 “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.

Another Addition to McCartney’s ‘Flowers’ Deluxe Box Set

In the lead up to the release the Paul McCartney Flowers In The Dirt deluxe box set, Paul Sinclair from Super Deluxe Edition was one of the people leading the charge to have a physical CD included instead of the proposed “Download Only” selection of B-sides, Remixes, Single Edits and Cassette Demos.

His role in the protest led to a call from Scott Rodger, McCartney’s manager, who laid out the reasons behind the download only decision.

It also led Paul Sinclair to publish on his site a series of interviews with the producers who, back in 1989, collaborated with McCartney on the original recordings for Flowers In The Dirt. They each gave a unique insight not only into what it was like to work on the project, but also what it was like to work with Paul McCartney.

The reaction to those interviews was such that Sinclair subsequently produced a limited edition printed booklet called In Their Own Words: The Producer’s on Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt:Here’s a typical page (as usual, click on the images to see larger versions):

In a nice touch the booklet is designed to slip in alongside the other four books that come with the deluxe box set:

The booklet is a professionally designed and printed, 16-page document containing the original 9000-word interview feature (as published on SDE) along with 1200 extra words exclusive to the printed edition. Only 500 copies were initially produced and made available for sale through the Super Deluxe Edition site. Each was numbered and signed by Paul Sinclair. Ours is number 347/500:

The initial print run of numbered and signed copies sold out in less than 48 hours. In response to demand, there has been a second print run of this booklet. These are unsigned and not numbered, but otherwise identical. So if you’d like one, get in fast.

See also our solution to the “Download Only” issue.

A Couple of Op Shop Beatle Books

Browsing my local “Vinnies” (St. Vincent de Paul Society) op shop recently turned up a couple of nice Beatle books. Both are very interesting, and both are in excellent condition.

The first is a large and heavy hard back edition of Barry Miles’ The Beatles Diary – An Intimate Day by Day History:

This particular edition dates back to 1998 and is published by Omnibus Press. It has appeared in numerous other forms and has been reprinted many times. It is still available on Amazon.

Barry Miles goes back a long way with the Beatles having first met them in 1965. They became involved in a number of his artistic and literary pursuits (the Indica Gallery and The International Times are just two examples), and he eventually ended up working for them as label manager for their experimental Zapple Records (see one of his other books: The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label for a complete history of what happened there).

Miles is also author of the 1997 authorised Paul McCartney biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, so he’s something of an insider.

In this book, an extensive day-by-day account of the group, he begins his story in wartime Liverpool and ends it in the dying days of the 1960s. The Beatles Diary – An Intimate Day by Day History is chock full of interesting information, facts and photographs – all coming together to form a revealing personal history of the Beatles. I mention the photographs specifically because this book is lavishly illustrated: 

Here’s and example of a typical text page:

And here’s the rear cover:

The second book we found on the Vinnies shelves was an equally thick and heavy hard back called The Beatles – 10 Years That Shook the World

As you can see by the logo top right on the cover, this was published (in 2004) in association with Mojo, the highly respected music magazine people. At first blush the book looks like a compendium of a wide range of articles taken directly from the magazine and simply re-printed in the one place. That in itself would be a fantastic repository of writing on the Beatles, and it is true to a point – but there’s much more to this book as well.

It has a Foreword by Brian Wilson, and appears to have a wide range of specially commissioned additional articles and reviews from the likes of Bill Harry, Keith Badman, Mark Lewisohn, Ian MacDonald, David Fricke and Hunter Davies, to name just a few. Alongside these is a running chronological diary of key events, breakout boxes with a fascinating variety of additional information and facts, and (again) a wide variety of great pictures, labels, record covers, and memorabilia:

The Beatles: 10 Years That Shook The World is published by Dorling Kindersley and Mojo. For an Amazon “Look Inside” click here. In short, this is an astonishing resource and very welcome in the beatlesblogger.com library. 

Rare, Vintage and Signed Beatle Photo Book on Offer

Following our article about the new David Magnus exhibition which has just opened in London, we received an email from his wife Janice with some further interesting news:

Hallo,

You will have all seen in the press over the last week the very exciting news that photographer David Magnus has opened his first exclusive Beatles Unseen Exhibition at Proud Galleries in The Kings Road Chelsea in London. To view the photographs go to www.proudonline.co.uk.

The exhibition by David celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the live recording of The Beatles song ‘All You Need Is Love’. This was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London over the weekend of the 24th and 25th June 1967. This unique recording was the UK’s contribution to a special worldwide satellite broadcast put together by the BBC called Our World and included 14 other countries, the programme was seen by over 400 million people worldwide. More information on this can be found on Davids Website davidmagnus.com

In 1997 a book called All You Need Is Love The Beatles Dress Rehearsal was published by Tracks Ltd with some of the photographs taken by David at Abbey Road Studios over that weekend. David has a number of limited editions of this very rare and unique book for sale at a cost of £195 which includes postage within the UK or for overseas sales it is plus postage. Your book will be personalised for you or your readers with their name and the date, and can also include a personalised notation specially for you.  
 
If you would like any further information about David’s book and photographs please see his website at davidmagnus.com  

Any queries please do contact me at david@davidmagnus.com

Warmest good wishes

Janice Magnus

Also, here’s an article from a British photography magazine about the exhibition’s official opening, including a photo of David and his wife Janice.

And if you’d like to see a few more of the amazing David Magnus images from the Beatles Unseen Exhibition then click here.

The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four – A Review

One of the most impressive compendiums of concise Beatle information comes in the form of a book called The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, by Kenneth Womack.

Womack’s book has been out for a number of years now as a comprehensive, two-volume set. That set is very desirable, but prohibitively expensive for some.

Now comes a brand new, 2017 edition which is completely up to date – but in a condensed, single-volume version that is far more easy on the wallet. This latest edition is designed more for the general reader (and for the many students who now study the Beatles as part of their curriculum at secondary, post-secondary, and more advanced study levels). However, it’s a book that will more than satisfy the avid Beatlemaniac too:

beatles-encyclopedia-frontbeatles-encyclopedia-rear

The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four is just that. It focusses entirely on the band and its output across the ten or so years in the 1960s when musically and creatively they were at their absolute peak. It features a host of biographical information about each band member, as well as their immediate family and the key personal relationships they had – for example there’s biographical material associated with the many creative and business partners among the Beatles’ circle. Womack goes into real detail on every every album and key songs. In order to provide an expansive portrait of the group’s life and times, attention is also devoted to the numerous locations associated with the band’s career, as well as to important concerts, venues and events pertinent to their amazing story.

This condensed version of The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four offers some other helpful additional features, including an alphabetic list of all the entries included in the book; a timeline chronology of the Beatles, detailing the milestones in their lives, performances, and recordings; a thorough discography of the band’s official UK and US singles and album releases from the early 1960s through the present; and a bibliography of recommended resources with both print and online resources. There is also included something I always appreciate greatly in books of this nature: a comprehensive general index. This makes locating specific information on a topic or subject so much easier.

Across its 650-odd pages Womack covers off some 360 topics, ranging from Abbey Road to Zapple Records – and these are all arranged alphabetically by entry.

Entries on songs and albums have a specific structure designed to give as much detail as possible. For example, each song entry will include: authorship and background; inspiration; recording dates and places; who played what – including specific reference to the instrument makes and models used. There are track listings for each album; details on the cover artwork; chart performance for both the United States and the UK; and comments and observations around the legacy and influence of each as a work of art.

This a key reference book to have at your side. It is a comprehensive work containing a wealth of information – all at your fingertips. I’d say it’s a must for students of the Beatles and for die-hard fans alike.

Now for a little on the author, Kenneth Womack. This is worth mentioning as he is so very well-credentialed not only as a Beatle scholar, but also as an author and literary critic:

womack-bw1

Kenneth Womack is Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University, where he also serves as Professor of English. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles (2007), the Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (2009), and The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four (2014). He’s also the author of three award-winning novels, and serves as an academic editor and critic for a number of literary institutions.

If you are curious and/or would like to order this new, condensed 2017 edition of Everything Fab Four you can have a “look inside” at Amazon.

Or, you may like to go the whole hog and get the expanded, 2014 edition in two volumes, also available at Amazon.