50 Years Since Abbey Road – Podcast

Back in 2014 the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) began hosting an ongoing series celebrating the 50th anniversary release of each British Beatle LP.

As each album reaches its anniversary ABC Radio presenter Rod Quinn speaks to US John Lennon biographer and Beatle expert Jude Southerland Kessler. Jude is the author of the extraordinary (and ambitious!) nine-volume John Lennon narrative biography. The latest instalment in the series is Volume 4: Should Have Known Better (to see the details for this volume scroll down after clicking).

The pair spoke about the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road late last year, but it has taken them a while to upload that episode onto the web. They’ve finally done it though, and you can now find it here, or just click on the Abbey Road Apple label below:

Like all the other podcasts in the series, this one is also very insightful – and really well worth a listen.

Previous broadcasts/podcasts have covered Please Please MeWith the BeatlesA Hard Day’s NightBeatles For Sale and of course, Help! – which is in two parts: Side One here, and Side Two here.

You can hear Rod and Jude talk about Rubber SoulRevolver; and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by clicking here.

And they tackle Yellow Submarine, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), and The Esher Demos disc here.

Two Books, Two CD Variations, and One DVD – Beatle Finds

We attended the quarterly fundraiser for a Sydney community radio station last week. About every three months the classical music station Fine Music 102.5 set up a hall full of tables loaded with donated books, CDs, DVDs, sheet music and a small number of vinyl records.

In the book section there was a very interesting Beatle-related book and a John Lennon book too. In the CD section we found two CD’s – both variations of titles already in the collection – by The Beatles and Paul McCartney. And amongst the DVDs a fun item featuring one Ringo Starr…..

First up, the Beatle-related book:Derek Taylor front

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today came out thirty years ago as part of what was then the 20th anniversary of the 1967 Summer of Love. It uses the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP as a stepping off point to build an historical appreciation of what was a fairly wild and crazy year in music, art, fashion, politics, religion, relationships and generational change.

Written by a genuine Beatle insider (former Apple press officer Derek Taylor), this book is also associated with a television program of the same name released that year.

Derek Taylor is witty, erudite and clever at pulling together a massive amount of information to give a detailed impression of what was going on around the world in a year of countercutural change. The book includes lots of archive interviews, observations, and photographs as well as extensive transcripts from the Granada TV documentary. Really interesting.

Jump ahead about twenty-five years and you have the second book we discovered. It’s also a reminiscence of times past, evident in the title: Days That I’ll Remeber -Spending Time with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Author Jonathan Cott has been a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and has written for The New York Times and The New Yorker. He is the author of 19 books on a wide range of topics, including works on Bob Dylan, classical music, children’s literature, and poetry – but especially music. Cott’s relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono dates back to 1968 when he went to interview them in their London flat. 

During that meeting a friendship was born that lasted for the rest of Lennon’s life, and continues today between Cott and Yoko Ono. It was Jonathan Cott who conducted what was to become the final Lennon print interview before his death. In Days That I’ll Remember Cott is presenting – for the first time – complete versions of all his significant interviews with the pair, and as such this is an important and significant work to have in the collection.The other finds are probably of lesser importance or interest, but we’ll detail them here for you anyway!

First up a CD version of The Beatles’ compilation album from 2000. Simply called 1 it contains (as the hype sticker on the front states) “27 No.1 singles on 1 CD”. Millions of these were sold around the world. So what’s new/different here? Only that this copy comes from South Africa, and there are a few distinguishing differences, namely the words “Made in the RSA” near the bar code on the rear:

There’s also a different, country-specific catalogue number there (CDPCSJ (WE) 7213), and it is also printed on the CD inside:

Plus there’s a really small logo on the left at the bottom. It has a musical note in it’s design, with some lettering that is tiny and difficult to read, but it says “A.S.A.M.I. Seal of Approval”. We’re guessing that is (or was) some sort of South African recording industry association that vouched for the autheticity of the pressing:

Otherwise all other presentation and content will be very familiar if you already have this CD:

Also on the CD tables was Paul McCartney’s 1997 large-scale classical recording, Standing Stone:

Above is the front and back of the outer cardboard slipcase which holds the CD jewel case and thick booklet with lyrics, photos, reproduced artworks, and an essay about the compostion and performance of the work. The one we found here is the UK pressing (we already have US and Canadian pressings of this which both have small variations on what you see here):

Here are the front and rear covers of the booklet:

The beautiful cover images are by Linda McCartney, and here is a peek inside. This artwork is by Paul:Finally, to end on a lighter note, a little kid’s DVD called Thomas & Friends:

If you look closely at the credits you can see listed there as Storyteller – Ringo Starr:

It’s great to have an example of Ringo’s work narrating this classic kids animation series. He did the voice-overs for the first two series only.

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

McCartney Black Friday RSD Single – Finally

Sometimes being a Beatle collector in Australia requires patience…

Look what has literally just arrived:

It’s the Paul McCartney Record Store Day Black Friday 2019 double A-side picture disc single, ‘Home Tonight’/’In A Hurry’.

It certainly wasn’t in a hurry to get here though. RSD Black Friday was on November 29, last year. Our trusted local supplier somehow missed the boat on getting their supplies of the single fulfilled way back then and have only just now got the disc in-store. They’re usually very good and it’s unclear as to why it has taken so long. The store was citing “production delays”, though we’ve seen extensive coverage of this single being in stores in the USA right from the Friday of its release. Has anyone else experienced supply issues?

We must say it does look good in real life though. In the image above the yellow and red central label is actually a sticker on the outside of the clear plastic sleeve. Here’s a shot of the rear of the sleeve:

And here is the picture disc single iteself – firstly Side A:

And Side AA:

And the front of the carboard insert (with the disc taken out of the sleeve):

It’s a great design all round. Ferry Gouw and Gary Card, the two guys who did the spectacular Egypt Station LP and CD covers are responsible. You can read more about the design for the single here.

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

Ringo Starr – Playing For Change

We must have been living under a rock because we totally missed this one when it first came out in September last year.

It’s Ringo Starr guesting on a terrific Playing For Change 50th anniversary version of The Band’s classic, ‘The Weight’:

It really works, don’t you think? Composer Robbie Robertson and Playing For Change producer Mark Johnson talk about the making of the track here and, like Robbie says, “It gives it a very special soul to me, seeing music come together like that.”:

Playing For Change have also recorded and filmed (in 2011) a version of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’:

Playing for Change grew from a dream to make the world a little brighter, and now supports musicians all over the world. For $5 a month you can become a member and enjoy the entire PFC music catalogue (with exclusive content), receive a 25% discount in their shop, and know that 20% of your membership is donated directly to the Playing for Change Foundation. Just click on the Become A Member button on the site.

A Happy Christmas to All – And a Beatle Podcast Discovery

Thanks to all our followers and readers – it has been a hectic 12 months, but here we are at the end of another year, and another decade!

Wishing you and yours a very special holiday season, with lots of good things to eat, drink and of course good music to listen to (especially Beatle music)!

One small gift to leave you on this Christmas Eve – the discovery of a great podcast.

This one has been around quite a long time but has, until now, flown under our radar. There’s a lot to catch up on!

It is simply called I’ve Got A Beatles Podcast! and it’s great fun. Hosts Dave and Chris deliver content that will be right up your alley if you like our blog. Their aim is to be “an educational, informative, and irreverent look at all things Beatles“, and this podcast delivers. It’s terrific and well worth a listen.

If I’ve Got A Beatles Podcast! is new to you too, and you don’t know where to begin, then why not start this Christmas by checking out their Annual Holiday Gift Episode.

Beatles 2019 The Singles Collection Unboxing – Super Deluxe Edition

If you’re looking for the definitive unboxing video of the recent Beatles The Singles Collection box, then you’d be hard pressed to go past this one.

Paul Sinclair is the editor of Super Deluxe Edition, a terrific website dedicated to detailing and discussing all sorts of box sets and re-issues. As his website strapline says, it’s “the box set and reissue music site for fans who love holding the music in their hands”.

Note: this video is about the box set presentation, not about the sound quality of the vinyl.

The Design of McCartney’s RSD Release – ‘Home Tonight’/’In A Hurry’

One of the most striking things about Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station LP from last year was the amazing cover design – both for the initial release, and for the Explorer’s Edition which came later.

The art directors hired for those projects were Ferry Gouw, an illustrator, graphic designer and video director, and Gary Card, a set designer, illustrator and artist. Both are based in London. They took an original McCartney painting and extended out its themes and style across many panels (for both the CD and the LP) in colourful and spectacular ways.

Turns out the latest McCartney vinyl single, the limited edition picture disc just issued on Record Store Day Black Friday with two tracks recorded during the Egypt Station sessions but never released, is also designed by Card and Gouw. Again, the design looks fantastic.

Ferry Gouw posted this message on his Instagram account over the weekend: “Made this for @paulmccartney for his Record Store Day release (really great songs). This was based on a card that my dad bought me some time ago, you spin the wheels n the faces get jumbled up.”

The official press release says that the design is also inspired by the parlour game/collaborative drawing method known as Exquisite Corpse.

It seems however that there’s now some bad blood between Ferry Gouw and collaborator, Gary Card?

Card has messaged Gouw on Instagram saying: “Love how you bastards have completely cut me out now. I’ll be talking to my lawyers.”

Hmmm. Clearly not a happy camper……wonder what is going on?

The White VW Beetle and Abbey Road

In the big marketing lead-up to the release of the 50th Anniversary editions of The Beatles Abbey Road a couple of months ago a number of companies jumped on the advertising bandwagon.

Probably most prominent among them was the car maker, Volkswagen. After all, apart from the four Beatles striding across the road on the famous front cover, one of the company’s cars is also on prominent display – a white VW Beetle, just behind George.

Well, to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road Volkswagen Sweden has produced – in limited numbers – a reprint of the album cover, only this time minus the fab Four but with the white Beetle correctly parked up against the gutter instead of up on the footpath/sidewalk as it was in the original:

The album cover is called The Beetle’s Abbey Road – Reparked Edition. Volkswagen did it to advertise a feature available on their latest models called Park Assist that automatically helps you get the tricky task of reverse parking done just right.

Here’s the rear cover (as you can see, ours got almost bent in half of the long journey from Sweden to Australia!):

The LP cover was available for mail order only through the VW Sweden site. All proceeds raised are going to Bris – a children’s rights organisation.

There’s no vinyl inside – you’ll have to provide that yourself – but it’s a cute advertising gimmick. A lot of other people must agree with that because the first run sold out in no time. We kept checking back and there was a second print run which also quickly sold out. At present the site is again showing as “SOLD OUT”, but it’s probably worth checking back from time to time to see if they do a third print run.

The good news is that if you’d like a CD-sized version of The Beetle’s Abbey Road – Reparked Edition to print up for yourself, you can download a pdf file of the front image for free from the VW Sweden site here.

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

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.