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lot of detective work to figure these facts out, and a number of popular sources for the information are in conflict, out of date, or just plain wrong.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

The Beatles ‘The Singles Collection’ – First Unboxing Video and Review

Once again* every other reviewer and music writer has been beaten to the draw by US critic Michael Fremer of Analog Planet website fame.

Fremer has not only the first review of The Beatles new The Singles Collection box set, but also the first unboxing video showing in detail what the box, the 23 seven-inch singles and booklet look like. This box set is not officially released until this coming Friday (22 November), but Fremer uploaded his unboxing video on November 16:

The review, which followed the unboxing, is not kind.

Fremer, who had hoped the laquers for the singles had all been cut direct from the original analogue tapes, says: “The new box sounds dry, flat and boring. All of the voices reside on a flat plane, attack is stunted, sustain minimized and decay almost non-existent—all of the telltale signs of bad digitization—obvious even on the early “primitive” tracks. After comparing a few I moved forward to “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and after that comparison I stopped to write this.”

He went on to compare these latest singles with those from the 1978 World Records/EMI box set containing 25 Beatle singles. These he writes “…sound alive, exciting and packed with transient details and depth. The top end sparkles where appropriate—like on “Ticket to Ride”, where the guitar jangle is intense and Ringo’s toms have depth and texture.” 

“To say I’m disappointed with the sound [of this new box] is an understatement. It’s as weak as the packaging is strong. As a souvenir or attractive shelf item this set gets an 11. As something you’d want to play it gets a 5: middling. I don’t know what happened here but it produced a dull top, rubbery bottom, congested midrange, flat, dry perspective and heavy dynamic compression.”

This has re-ignited the hot debate about whether or not these new singles are indeed all analogue (AAA), or if they have been digitised and then cut to vinyl. You can read Fremer’s full review here.

* Fremer did the same with the 50th anniversary re-issue of Abbey Road in September this year, and The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) in October last year.

Some Unusual Asian Beatle Items – Part Five

Well, it seems that all good things (eventually) come to those who wait.

You know what it’s like in this Beatle collecting business. You have titles and versions on your list you’re on the lookout for and they just never seem to appear during any of your travels, or in searches online….

That’s what happened here. Way back in 2010 we had a holiday in Vietnam and found a few interesting Beatle items along the way. Amongst them, in a Hanoi CD store, was a series called The Beatles Double Golden Collection. This is a series where two, separate Beatle albums have been issued in one double CD box, each with an outer cardboard slipcase. You can read more about what these look like here.

The sets on display in the store were Magical Mystery Tour/Yellow Submarine; Please Please Me/Sgt. Pepper; Revolver/WIth The Beatles; Help!/Rubber Soul; Abbey Road/Let It Be; and Hard Day’s Night/Beatles For Sale. I know, odd pairings.

These all seem to have been pressed around 2009, the same time as the then-new Beatles Remastered CD reissues because each disc in these sets also had mini-documentaries included.

One album from the canon has been obvoius by its absence. Missing from the shelves in Hanoi was the legendary The Beatles (or The White Album). It just wasn’t in the store when we were there. So, every now and then since 2010 we’d have a quiet look at eBay to see if anything like The Beatles Double Golden Collection popped up in searches. It never has….

Until last week.

After nine long years this has finally been added to the collection:

That’s the front cover of the outer cardboard slipcase. It’s not an exact match (it doesn’t say Beatles Double Golden Collection, for example), but this is clearly from the same company that produced the other CDs as just about every other detail is identical. Here’s the rear of the slipcase: Inside is a larger than usual plastic CD jewel case. Not sure why, but it is bigger:This jewel case holds two discs, one each side of one of those flip-over trays:And inside is a booklet that contains no real text (except for photo location details), just lots of images of The Beatles, most but not all of them time relevant to the the recording dates of the The White Album! The rear cover of the booklet is from the Let It Be sessions:So, not sure what the moral of this story is. Patience pays off? Finally, after nearly a decade, the basic set of Beatle albums in this sereis is complete. Also, after a lot of research on these, we’re pretty sure they are not official.

As usual click on the images if you’d like to see larger versions.

See also: Some Unusual Asian Beatle Items – Part One; Some Unusual Asian Beatle Items – Part Two; Some Unusual Asian Beatle Items – Part Three; and Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Four.

Unusual New Zealand ‘All Things Must Pass’

We scored an unusual example of George Harrison’s 1970 solo triple LP All Things Must Pass the other day.

It’s an original, early pressing from New Zealand, and a couple of things set it apart.

Firstly the box. It has the familiar photograph of George and his gnomes in the garden of his home at Friar Park on the front, but the hinged box itself is not black, but a lovely deep blue colour which I hope you cane pick up in the images below:

As you can probably see, the front cover photo isn’t in great shape, having had something removed from the top left-hand corner, but otherwise the box itself is in reasonable condition. This box set is quite rare as only the first run of this album was shipped with the box made in New Zealand. After these ran out HMV NZ imported the Australian triple gatefold version of the sleeve.

Here’s the inside of the lid listing song titles and credits:

The three LPs inside come in the familiar inner lyric sleeves. However, these too are different in colour to other international versions:

And the orange Apple labels are also unique, done in that slightly washed-out colour tone common to New Zealand pressings:

These Apple labels don’t have the “cut” Apple on the flip side, while the third Apple Jam label is particularly nice:

Here are two close-ups of the New Zealand manufacturing credits:

And finally the box spine, with the gold lettering – this time on a deep blue background:(As usual, click on the images to see larger versions)

We also have an unusual Singaporean copy of All Things Must Pass that’s worth a look.

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)

 

 

 

My Love – McCartney’s Wings

Back in 1973 when Paul McCartney and Wings released the vinyl single ‘My Love’, in most places around the world that’s how it was credited on the label: Paul McCartney and Wings.

For example, here’s the UK pressing:However, in a couple of territories they obviously didn’t get the memo detailing just how the band should be credited on the label.

We’ve just picked up a New Zealand pressing which is interesting for a couple of reasons. Number one is that it’s on the green Apple label. The other is the name of the band – McCartney’s Wings: Seems that this mistake may have been caused back in England when a few copies of ‘My Love’ also escaped into the public arena there with that very same band credit – McCartney’s Wings. Here’s a UK pressing that was probably quickly withdrawn and replaced with the proper band credit (seen on the UK pressing above):

And it looks like at least four other countries (Sweden, Israel, France and Venezuela) also stuffed up:In the rest of the world it is definitely Paul McCartney and Wings that performed ‘My Love’……..but we’re glad to have a unique New Zealand pressing now in the collection.

As usual, click on the labels to see larger versions. And if you know anything more on the back story to this one, please use the Comments section to let us know.

Pro-Ject – The Singles Collection Turntable

As part of the forthcoming The Beatles: The Singles Collection box set due on November 22, Apple Records has once more teamed up with the Pro-Ject turntable guys to produce a Beatle-themed turntable so that you can play your new 45rpm box set discs.

In a Beatle USA webstore exclusive to celebrate the release of The Beatles: The Singles Collection, Pro-Ject Audio Systems will be releasing the “Singles Turntable”.

The record player deck will be a collage of all the original Beatles single sleeves. The unit will be based on Pro-Ject’s award-winning Debut III model but will feature the following upgrades:

  • Electronic speed change (33/45)
  • 8,6” Aluminium S-shaped tonearm with two SME headshells, each with its own pre-calibrated cartridge so you can easily change headshells to switch between a mono and stereo cartridge for playback
  • The two included cartridges are a new Pro-Ject designed Ortofon manufactured Pick It Mono cartridge for mono record playback, and an Ortofon 2M Red for stereo record playback
  • Heavy acrylic platter

This turntable will only be available on the official Beatles web store, and on Pro-Ject’s website, and will only be available for order and purchase through to December 31 this year.

Check out our article for more on all the other Beatle-related turntables that Pro-Ject has produced.