New Budget George Martin Collection

Wog Blog is reporting a new budget label release collecting some of Beatle producer George Martin’s output over his many years in the recording industry.

It is a double CD set and there are two Beatle songs included (‘Love Me Do’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’) plus thirty others by a wide range of artists. It’s a pretty good overview of his work:earlyworks_martin

Every track listed (except the two Beatle tunes) is also available on the 2001, six CD set Produced by George Martin. That box set contains 150 titles, but if you can’t find it (or can’t afford it!), this new release from Not Now Music looks like a bargain at just £5.99.

Here, There and Everywhere – Geoff Emerick

We recently purchased a nice, used hardback copy of Geoff Emerick’s fantastic Beatle book Here, There and Everywhere – My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles.

Not having read it before it’s currently our favourite, especially given the release in the last week of the The Beatles In Mono vinyl LPs as a boxed set (and also as individual albums).Here, There 1 Here, There 2Geoff Emerick was George Martin’s right-hand man in the control room at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London. At the age of 15 (on just his second day at EMI) he was present – as an assistant recording engineer – when a scruffy-looking quartet from Liverpool came in for their very first studio session. Emerick progressed from that recording (“Love Me Do” in 1962), to being directly involved with the majority of the band’s classic albums. He confirms on a number of occasions in his book that a lot more time was spent getting the mono mixes correct as compared to the time taken over stereo.

With his ability to interpret the sounds that John, Paul, George and Ringo had in their heads as they worked at getting their songs down on tape, Emerick made a huge contribution to their records. He wanted as much as they did to experiment – to take the recording process into new and un-charted waters. Here, There and Everywhere takes us into the famous Studio’s One and Two at Abbey Road as history was literally being made.

Amongst other things we read about the antiquated attitudes, policies and equipment at EMI Records during the 1960s. Given their strict and old-fashioned rules it’s incredible that the greatness of the Beatles was ever captured at all. EMI management back in the day seemed stuck in the 1940s and 50s. As an organisation it frequently stood in the way of creativity rather than fostering it. It was Geoff Emerick who was willing to go out on a limb and flaunt the studio rules at Abbey Road to capture the sounds we have today.

One of the other big surprises in the book is Emerick’s low opinion of George Harrison. There are frequent mentions of how stand-offish and surly Emerick found him to be, not to mention that he regarded George as a pretty lacklustre lead guitarist….

Here, There and Everywhere was published way back in 2006, but it is highly recommended if you are at all interested in the Beatles and their music. The copy we have is a signed copy. It’s not dedicated to us because this one is second-hand – but that doesn’t matter. There is the signature of Geoff Emerick (and his co-author Howard Massey), a man who had a significant impact on the Beatles legacy.

We wouldn’t have the Beatle canon without him.Here, There 3

Beatles With Records – Part Twenty Four

One of the most difficult items to identify in photographs of the Beatles with records are vinyl test pressings or acetates. These are cut at the studio and often contain demos or finished versions of songs or albums for them to listen to privately to gauge the quality of the pressing or the mix.

At EMI in the 1960s these were pressed onto 45rpm singles or 331/3 LP’s using labels which looked like this: emidisc recording blankThe labels were left blank for the producer or engineer to hand-write or type information about the track including the title, which take it was, duration, name of the artist, etc.

That brings us to this great picture of George Harrison, taken in the studio at about the time of the recording of the The Beatles (or The White Album) in 1968:George with ACETATE 2First thing to say is that is a really cool watch he has on…..

Second point of interest is that acetate or test pressing of a single he has at his left elbow. It’s in a plain white paper sleeve with writing on it, and it’s on the Emidisc label – just like the example in the picture shown above. If we rotate the picture and adjust the contrast a bit we get this:George with Acetate

This makes the writing on the sleeve a little easier to make out. If we rotate it just a little bit more we can see a bit more clearly:George with Acetate 3It is fairly clear that the hand-writing on the sleeve says: “with love  from  Paul McCartney“. His signature is very distinctive – it features on his official website even now – and here we can see that familiar looped “l” in the word “Paul”, and the trailed off “y” at the end of “McCartney”. Here’s another random example:Paul autograph

The tougher task is to identify what is hand-written onto the Emidisc label. We reckon it is this: under the word Emidisc there’s something like a number (maybe the duration of the track), then comes the song title. We think two words and, given this picture was taken during recordings for The White Album, our guess it’s the McCartney song “Honey Pie”. The writing looks a bit like that, too. Under that, just above the spindle hole, are some more letters or code numbers. On the left of the spindle hole it says “45 RPM”. On the right it looks like the duration of the track in minutes and seconds (which is difficult to make out). Then at the very bottom the writing clearly says “The Beatles”.

Was this a test cut for George to take home and have a listen to “Honey Pie”? Any further insights, thoughts or suggestions are very welcome.

There is one fly in the ointment with theory though……It is this photograph from the web of Ringo Starr, clearly taken at around the same time, also holding an acetate/test pressing:2RingoWithGetBackAcetate

The person who posted this says it is Ringo holding an acetate recording of “Get Back” -which would place it in early 1969, not 1968. We’d prefer to go with this website that clearly places it as a photo session from September, 1968. It is pretty likely therefore that this is the exact same disc as the one seen with George. The plain paper sleeve has the same greeting written in the same position: “With love  from  Paul McCartney“. It is difficult to make out the writing on the label, but it has a very similar set-out to the previous one….again, thoughts and theories are welcome!


Fundraiser Book and CD Fair – Some Good Beatle Finds

Almost a year ago to the day I posted on a big book and CD fair where I found a couple of Beatle-related items of interest. This fair is held by a local classical music/jazz radio station (2MBS-FM) as a much-needed fundraiser. It has now become a well-established annual event.

This week saw the opening of the 2013 fair and again I got in on the very first day. Once more there was a huge selection of CDs and books on offer, especially good quality music books. This time around I tackled the CD tables first and after just a minute or two of browsing the first Beatle item I found was this:

George best of frontGeorge Best of CD

The Best of George Harrison was released in 1976 and is a CD I don’t have. It’s one I’ve been on the lookout for for some time though so the evening was definitely off to a very good start. It was released in a number of countries, and has a unique cover. This one is the Australian pressing:

George best of rear

Next came George Martin’s In My Life, from 1998. I’ve been aware of this CD since it was first released but, until now, I didn’t have a copy in the collection:

George Martin frontGeorge Martin CD

In My Life is very much Beatle-related. Their producer invited into the studio a wide range of what he describes as his “heroes and friends” to record versions of Beatle songs. It has to be said the results are patchy at best, but at just $5.00 it seemed like a good time to finally get it.George Martin Rear

The final two CDs I found I already have four versions of….

The Beatles 1 gathers together 27 of their number one singles. It was originally released in 2000, and I have a UK CD copy, a Taiwanese CD version, a copy on vinyl, and it was remastered and re-issued again in 2011 in a gatefold cardboard cover. However, at the fair I found two Australian pressing CD’s of the disc (the jewel case version) from 2000. One had a black sticker on the front, the other had a white variation:Beatles 1 black frontBeatles 1 white frontBeatles 1 rear

Of course I had to have both. I know. Do I really need another two copies? Call me crazy. Enough CDs already!

From there it was over to the book section of the fair and as 2MBS-FM is a classical and jazz music station their book stall always seems to have a wide selection of music books on offer. This year did not disappoint. They had stacks of sheet music too, and in one of the piles I found some practically mint copies of two Beatles songbooks – one large thick one for the Beatles “blue” album, The Beatles 1967-1970:

Beatles 1967-1970 bookfrontBeatles 1967-1970 book rear

No, I didn’t pay $41.99 for this!

The other find was a much slimmer songbook, one which I’d never seen before. It was published only in Australia and New Zealand by Northern Songs. The Colourful Beatles – Souvenir Song Album contains the sheet music for twelve of their songs and, despite its age, was in near-new condition:

Colourful Beatles front

Here’s the index page:Colourful Beatles index

Next it was across the room to the books proper, and this one caught my eye immediately. It’s a really thick paperback called Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles, Britain and America by US author Jonathan Gould. It was published in 2007.CBML Book frontCBML Book rear

Again, I didn’t pay $45.00, or anywhere near it. The New York Times book review of Can’t Buy Me Love says in part: “Gould aims to meld the three primary, often distinct strands of Beatle bibliography — biography, music appreciation and pop sociology — into a single volume, a mother ship of Beatles books, with, as the subtitle implies, a special emphasis on the divide between the country that gave them birth and the country that arguably loved them best….Happily, the effort paid off: Gould has written a scrupulous, witty and, at times, appropriately skeptical study, which drew me back into a subject I thought I was sick of. The book lacks the intimacy of a full-fledged biography — if you want to know who John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr really were, you’ll do better elsewhere — but it compensates with an imaginative intelligence and a lively breadth of knowledge.” You can do one of those Amazon “Look Inside” reads to get a taste of Gould’s style and insights if you want.

Well, that was just about it. I was headed to the counter to pay, already thinking I’d probably gone overboard a bit on the purchases, when I saw this 1993 large-format book.

Illustrated Harrison front

Inside are lots of great photos of George Harrison, including many unusual ones:

Illustrated Harrison1

I tossed up whether to get this book as I know author Geoffrey Giuliano has a mixed reputation amongst Beatle and other fans (see his entry in Wikipedia for more). In the end it was the broad and eclectic photo selection which did it for me.

So, a successful Thursday evening trawling for Beatle treasure. Even by my standards I probably went a bit overboard this time – but how could you leave this sort of quality behind? And they were all at fantastically low prices (well, thats what I keep telling myself…..)

Produced by George Martin – DVD, BluRay and Six CD Box Set

We’ve really been enjoying the newly-released BBC-Arena documentary “Produced by George Martin“. And it has been getting some very good reviews too. You might recall a little while ago we gave away a copy of the DVD to a lucky Beatlesblog reader, Eric Leon in France.

Produced by George Martin BR FrontProduced By George Martin BR rProduced By George Martin DVD

The DVD and BluRay contain the extensive documentary, plus over 50 minutes of extended interviews with Martin, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and many others. But it is not just Sir George’s work with the Beatles which is featured. “Produced by George Martin” is a history of Parlophone Records, which is a division of the huge recording conglomerate known as EMI. George Martin was the boss of Parlophone and so alongside the Beatles (by far his most famous signing) he was responsible for recording some of the top hit-makers in Britain (and the world) including Cilla Black, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Rolf Harris, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey, and of course Wings. Many who see the doco will be wondering if there’s a way to get hold of some of the great music and comedy featured which Martin produced. There is – it’s a six CD box set of his work that came out way back in 2001. Interestingly, although it was released more than ten years before this latest documentary, it carries a very similar title to this year’s DVD and BluRay: “Produced by George Martin – 50 Years in Recording”:

Produced by George Martin Cov F

Each CD set is individually numbered (mine is 08750) and comes in a fold-out, long-box length holdings which holds the six CD’s and a book. Here’s the rear cover and some of the inside fold-out panels:

Produced by George Martin Cov RProduced by George Martin Cov2Produced by George Martin Cov 3

The CD’s themselves contain tracks that date back to Sir George’s earliest work, beginning in 1955 and then traversing his entire career up to his post-Parlophone days recording acts like America, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Webb and John McLaughlin. Whoever designed the set decided to give each CD an authentic and historic Parlophone label. It’s a design idea that the Beatles themselves decided to copy in the their latest series of remastered re-issues of their own work, both for the 2009 CD remasters (mono and stereo), and for the LP box set which has only just been released:

Produced by George Martin CD1Produced by George Martin CD2Produced by George Martin CD3Produced by george Martin CD4Produced By George Martin CD5Produced by George Martin CD6

Glued inside the fold-out package is a 35 page book, with liner notes by Mark Lewisohn (who will be well-known to Beatles fans as the band’s most knowledgable and respected biographer). In it Lewisohn details the background to Sir George’s life and the multitude of artists and styles he produced over a 45-year span in the business:

Produced by George Martin Book Front CoverProduced by George Martin Book 3Produced by George Martin Book 4

For those who were not able to fork out the considerable outlay for the full 6 CD box set, EMI/Parlophone also produced a “Highlights” single CD version containing 24 tracks:

Prodused by George Martin Highlights CD FrontProduced by George Martin Highlights CD RearProduced by George Martin Highlights CD

And there was also a promo CD produced. It came in a simple cardboard slipcase with a further reduced selection of material (14 tracks). This would have been  sent to radio stations, and reviewers at magazines and newspapers to promote the box set:

Produced by George Martin CD Promo FrontProduced by George Martin CD Promo Rear

Produced by George Martin Promo CD

This 2001 box set from 2001 forms a great companion to the filmed “Produced by George Martin” DVD and BluRay documentary released in 2012.

produced by george martin

“Produced by George Martin” – We Have a Winner

Our competition to win a DVD copy of “Produced by George Martin” in the previous post asked the question:

George Martin was never just about one band. There was also comedy, and in 1965  he produced and arranged and conducted the accompaniment for a mock, spoken version of the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”.  Who was the performer? 

The correct answer was Peter Sellers, the famous British comedian and actor who in 1965  released a single which was a comedy version of the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”. In it Sellers recites the lyrics to the song in the style of Laurence Olivier in Shakespeare’s “Richard III”.  The Sellers version became a UK Top 20 hit:

There were lots of entries and the first person through with the correct answer  was Eric Leon in France. Congratulations to Eric (who is a huge Beatles fan), and thank you to everyone who entered the competition.

And a very big thank you to Eagle Rock Entertainment for providing the prize.

Produced by George Martin – Win Your Own Copy

In our last post we brought you the details of a terrific new documentary out now on DVD and BluRay about the life and work of George Martin.

The film is called simply “Produced by George Martin”.

It’s a fascinating journey through the amazing output and influence of a record producer who changed the world.

By answering the question below you could be the lucky owner of your very own copy, courtesy of Eagle Rock Entertainment. And the question is:

George Martin was never just about one band. There was also comedy, and in 1965  he produced, arranged and conducted the accompaniment for a mock, spoken version of the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”.       Who was the performer? 

The first correct answer to me at will win a DVD copy of  “Produced by George Martin”.

By the way, there are two great reviews of “Produced by George Martin” here and here.

Produced by George Martin – New DVD/BluRay

He’s arguably the man who has most right to the title “The Fifth Beatle”.

George Martin produced, played on, and helped arrange the instrumentation for just about every Beatles LP. His influence on the band cannot be understated. But his talent wasn’t limited to just the greatest band of all time. George Martin was, and is, an amazingly prolific, varied and talented producer – and a new documentary about the totality of his work is on DVD and BluRay shelves now.

Called simply “Produced by George Martin” this documentary is a feature-length profile of Britain’s most celebrated record producer. Sir George talks about his childhood, his war experience, and his early days as a music student. The film was originally broadcast in 2011 as part of the BBC’s “Arena” series, but this version contains over 50 minutes of additional interviews not included in the TV broadcast.

George Martin really has had a career like no other. In the early ‘50s, he joined EMI/Parlophone and started working on orchestral music, music for children, and pioneered a range of hugely successful comedy records with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Peter Ustinov and many others. Then, in 1962, he signed a band called the Beatles and everything changed. Together, George Martin and the group revolutionised pop music and recording techniques, forging probably the greatest producer/artist collaboration there will ever be.

“Produced By George Martin” features numerous classic clips of the artists he produced. It has new interviews with many of them including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Michael Palin, Jeff Beck, Rolf Harris, Cilla Black, Millicent Martin and Bernard Cribbins. A fascinating man, and a compelling film: 

Eagle Rock Entertainment has released “Produced By George Martin” on three configurations: DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Video.


We’ll be running a competition. All you’ll have to do is answer a simple question about the great George Martin and you could win. Just check back in a couple of days for details on how to enter.

“A Hard Day’s Night” Chord Cracked – Maybe…

The  Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian news providers are today (via the Press Association) reporting on one of the often-mentioned Beatle mysteries – the opening chord of the song  “A Hard Day’s Night”:

The SMH says:  “It is one of the most famous sounds in the history of rock and roll. The clanging, opening chord at the start of the 1964 Beatles hit A Hard Day’s Night is instantly recognisable. Yet, as many musicians have discovered, every attempt to reproduce it seems to sound wrong.

A British mathematician now claims to have got closer than anyone else to solving the decades old musical mystery. Dr Kevin Houston, from the University of Leeds, used sophisticated software to split up the sound on the record into its component frequencies.

Presented on a computer screen, a pattern was revealed showing which notes were most prominent. The results suggest a much simpler solution than one proposed four years ago by another scientist from Canada.

Professor Jason Brown, from Dalhousie University, maintained that missing guitar notes were replaced by Beatles producer George Martin playing a piano. Buried in the background behind the guitars, the piano is hard to hear. Yet according to Prof Brown it provides the vital musical spark that makes the chord so distinctive. Dr Houston does not dispute that the piano is there, but challenges its importance.

His believes George Harrison was playing a straightforward F add9 on his 12-string electric Rickenbacker guitar, rather than the unusual fingering indicated by Prof Brown. At the same time, Harrison appears to have had his thumb curled round the neck of the guitar, pressing down the bottom E string at the first fret. This is a common technique among self-taught pop and rock guitarists.

Dr Houston also established that John Lennon was playing the same chord on an acoustic guitar. On the stereo track, Harrison and Lennon are heard on different speakers.

The wonders of music and mathematics! Dr Houston takes us through it all in detail here:

The SMH continues:  “The opening chord to A Hard Day’s Night is a mystery,” said Dr Houston, who was speaking at the British Science Festival. “It turns out that nobody really knows what it is. People who do know are a bit cagey about it. George Martin probably knows quite well but I think he’s quite happy not to tell people. “I wouldn’t like to say that we’ve definitely got it right, but I think we’ve put the record straighter. It makes mathematical and musical sense.”

Both are implausible, according to fellow mathematician, teacher and guitarist Ben Sparks who was taking part in Saturday’s presentation. “It beggars belief to say George Harrison was dodging the first string; its laughable,” he said. “Trying to play four strings in the middle of a 12 string is bloody hard, and most musicians would think it’s ludicrous to have John Lennon play just a high C.”

A question mark still hung over the role of Paul McCartney’s bass guitar, said the mathematicians. Whether he was playing a full note, or a harmonic, or both, remains a puzzle.” (ends)

Meanwhile….Paul McCartney has been in France being presented with France’s highest cultural award, the Legion of Honor, by French President Francois Hollande:

Paul looked pleased. Nice tapestry in that room, too!

The Beatles Discomania – A Great Book

Time for another gem found during my recent brief visit to Paris (see the previous France visit posts here, and here).

At the Gilbert Jeune bookstore I found this wonderful book by French writer and Beatles fanatic Francois Plassat:

“The Beatles Discomania” is a fantastic career-spanning summary of the Beatles output as a band and also as solo artists. It brings the story right up to the end of 2011 with details of the John Lennon Signature box set and his other re-issues, the Paul McCartney “Archive” series gets a mention, Ringo’s “Y Not”, and the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World“.  As you can see in the images below this is a lavishly illustrated with extensive album cover images and memorabilia spanning a wide range of releases. It is a very attractive book to own – even though I don’t speak French!

It turns that François Plassat works in graphic design and it shows as the text and image layout throughout this book is excellent. He created an agency called China Night which he led for more than twenty years . After writing a book about  Paul McCartney (released in October 2010 – see below), Plassat’s most recent work “The Beatles Discomania” is about  fifty years of the Beatles releases.

The book is a large format, soft-back  which has been stylishly and sensibly laid out. It was published by JBz & Co in France in 2011. The book is full of information on all the recordings released by the group as well as the solo releases of each band member. There are sections on Apple Records, George Martin, etc. This is a true guide to the complete musical output of the Beatles, a carefully laid out goldmine of information. Bring on the English translation!

Here are some images giving just a taste of what’s inside and the attention to detail in the illustrations and photographs:

Author Francois Plassat has also written another book “Paul McCartney: L’empreinte d’un Géant”, which translates as “Paul McCartney: The Footprint of a Giant”:

If you speak French (and we have some followers of the Beatles Blog in France) then you might be interested in these two interviews with author Francois Plassat about his amazing book “The Beatles Discomania”.

Here’s the rear cover: