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)

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McCartney ‘Wild Life’ and ‘Red Rose Speedway’ Unboxings

We all greatly appreciate the many fans putting up “unboxing” videos of the latest Beatle and solo releases.

But Paul McCartney has gone one better by inviting the writers who contributed the main essays to his latest Paul McCartney Archive Collection deluxe edition reissues, Wings Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, to talk through what they think of each album and in the process unpack the contents for us. Brilliant stuff.

First up is David Fricke, senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine who penned the Wild Life essay:

And then Amanda Petrusich, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine who wrote the essay that accompanies Red Rose Speedway:

McCartney Red Rose Speedway – Deluxe Edition Unboxing

Paul McCartney has now issued an “unboxing” video of the forthcoming deluxe edition of his album Red Rose Speedway. This accompanies a similar video released last week for Wings Wild Life:

Red Rose Speedway and Wild Life are the next two titles in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection series, and both are due for release on December 7. Full details are contained in the official press release.

The Red Rose Speedway video reveals quite a bit more about the packaging, and just what will be included in the deluxe box set – even a short extract of the never-before-seen, fully restored The Bruce McMouse Show video in its own special folio. 

Really looking forward to this one!

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.

Wings Wild Life – Deluxe Edition Unboxing

Paul McCartney has issued an “unboxing” video of his forthcoming Wings deluxe edition of the album Wild Life:

Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway are the next two titles in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection series, and both are due for release on December 7. Full details are contained in the official press release.

There will be multi-disc deluxe box sets for both titles, as well as 2CD editions and 2LP Archive releases as well. Red Rose Speedway gets an additional 2LP release that re-imagines the album as it was originally submitted to the record company, but rejected as a concept and the original single LP issued instead: If you wanted both deluxe CD box sets paired into one very limited edition box, along with an additional bonus Wings Over Europe 20 track CD, photo book, facsimile 1972 tour programme all housed in a special 7 colour screen printed box, inspired by the 1972 Wings Over Europe tour bus, then that was available too – for a time. The website is saying the first edition is now completely sold out. No news of a second edition – yet. The 11CD super box set is called Paul McCartney and Wings 1971-1973 and the details are here

Meanwhile on Instagram McCartney has shared some comments from Abbey Road mastering engineer Alex Wharton about his experiences working on the reissues of both Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway:

“It’s always an absolute honour and pleasure to work with Paul and the team at MPL. Working on Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, there were so many nuggets such as the psychedelic jam ‘Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)’ and ‘When The Wind Is Blowing’. These are incredible portals in my opinion! It’s amazing to see how much Paul cares about music that he has already put out into the ether – to go back to the original tapes and create a sound that both Paul and we believe will touch people in a deeper way. The song ‘Wild Life’ is a real highlight for me. It’s a great sounding record, but the lyrics cover real awareness and the relationship between ourselves and other animals – themes that are more relevant today than ever.”

Black Friday RSD Blues

Record Store Day and Black Friday for us is definitely a hit-and-miss affair.

Today we were of course on the hunt for the Paul McCartney RSD double A-side single ‘I Don’t Know’/’Come On To Me’.

On Black Friday last year it had paid off to get up bright and early to be somewhere near the front of the queue at the biggest and best independent record store in Sydney – Red Eye Records. This time around we got there so early the store wasn’t open yet and were actually the very first in line! Our massive fail from Record Store Day proper in 2017 wasn’t going to happen this time around, oh no…..

…or was it?

That sense of euphoria at being very likely to secure the new, limited-edition single was soon brought crashing down when we saw, much to our disappointment, this sign posted on the front door:

That was a blow. We’d checked their website earlier in the week and there’d been no indication of a delay. So we decided to stick around to see if the sign meant they hadn’t got all of their order, but possibly had received some.

When 9 o’clock rolled around and the doors finally opened the staff were very apologetic. They had in fact got zero of their entire Record Store Day order. No Paul McCartney, but nothing of anything else either. None. Zilch.

The only bright side to the story was that they were expecting the new Paul McCartney. It’d been confirmed from the supplier that the single was definitely included in their order and so, because we’d actually come into the store, they were prepared to take our name and put one aside. When will we get it? ‘I Don’t Know’. But we’ve got one!

UPDATE:  Seems that there are two different pressings of this single, one for the US market and one for the UK. The US version is hand-numbered on the rear (from a total of 5600 copies) and comes with a non die-cut inner sleeve: 

While the UK/Europe version is not individually numbered on the rear, has no FBI anti-piracy logo on the rear, and comes with a die-cut inner sleeve that reveals the labels: 

Just one more collecting wrinkle for those completists among us!

(Click on iamges for larger versions)

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)